Guide to Indians coming to Brussels - Part I

Living in a country where English is not the widely spoken language, can be intimidating at times.  The initial settlement time can be quite long. Unlike the US and UK where atleast 2 Indians can be pointed out on any street at any given time, in Belgium it is not common. Not that it matters even if you locate Asians because no smiles are exchanged except for some cold second glances.
1.       Weather:
They say Belgium weather is ‘mild’. I wouldn’t classify it as mild for one reason that the weather here is never predictable and this winter was quite harsh on us. Even weather forecast you can see predictions only for 3 days ahead. You cannot plan for a weekend trip a week in advance, based on the weather. Apparently in Belgium it should not snow but due to global warming the country is facing colder winters.
We have seen so far the coldest is -10 C during November/December. Snow is random followed by rain.
2.       Travel
After arriving at the airport you can either take a taxi, train or bus to reach the city. Taxi can cost you 30-40 € to reach the city centre. Train is 5 € from city to Rogier, a station in north of Brussels capital region. Once you reach Rogier you can take the metro to any other place. Bus connects the airport and the various parts of the city. We live in Schuman, where you can see many Europe union buildings. The following buses connect to the airport from here.
Bus 12: Express with very few stops
Bus 21: airport to Luxembourg station via Schuman.
a.       Train: trains are outgoing railway connections and they are there in the following stations. All Train stations are maintained by SNCB. Sometimes the Metro Stations and the train stations are in the same underground holes like in Schuman.  The Luxembourg station is also called as ‘Luxembourg’ so initially it can be confusing with the country Luxembourg. The tickets are not sold everywhere. I have seen them only in grand central station. Once you get the ticket, make sure you write the from and to places of travel along with the date as soon as you board the train. Ticket checking is random and you can get fined if you have not written the travel details on it.
                             i.      Schuman             - Train and Metro in same place
                            ii.      Grand Centrale - Train and Metro are separate but both are very close.
                            iii.      Gare du Midi      - Train and Metro
                            iv.      Rogier                  -  Train and Metro in the same place.
                            v.      Luxembourg      - Only Train. The closest station to this place is Troone.
b.    Metro: There are Metro rails which run around the Brussels City. They are maintained by STIB. There are kiosks and vending machines in every underground where you can buy travel cards of various denominations like one time travel, 5 jumps , 10 jumps. Each time you travel you have to swipe the card at the entry points and it is valid for an hour. Some stations like Rogier are modern and to enter or exit out of the station you need to swipe the card else you can get stranded there. There is random checking here too.
c.    Trams: Trams run along the roads again maintained by STIB. The Metro Travel card works here.
d.    Bus : They are maintained by STIB. The Metro Travel card works here too. The timings of the bus is also published at the bus stops. You can pay by cash for a single trip in the bus(driver collects them). Inside the bus there is a monitor which shows the current and coming up stations. When the stop of your travel destination is the next stop then don’t forget to press the blue button found on the handle rods. Once you press the button a light near the exit door is lighted and this tells the driver to stop at the coming bus stop. Sometimes they will not stop at all if the button is not pressed.
e.   Cycles: There are cycle kiosks ‘VILLO’at some specific places where you can pay and chose to ride around the city. Once done you can leave the cycle at the kiosks.
3.       Housing/Accomodation: you can contact estate agents to show you the house and provide him/her with the specifications.  It is always good to take a fully furnished apartment/house and have a checklist of items you would definitely need.  Alternatively you can check for houses on websites( as well. If you just walk around in the city, you can find pamphlets stuck on walls reading ‘A Louer’ and ‘A Vendre’ which means ‘For rent’ and ‘For sale’ respectively. There will be contact information on the pamphlet and you can call and choose to see the house as well.  Good thing is the agents are paid by the owner so you do not have to pay them anything. One month rent is paid as booking and 2 months advance is deposited at the bank as guarantee. This will be in the bank and when you are leaving the house, your owner needs to sign to release the amount.
4.      Residence permit: Within one week of landing in Belgium you need to find a house, make the house agreement and go to the commune (based on the location of your house) and register there. List of documents are published on the Brussel website.
Communes are open on weekdays between 8 to 12 pm only and there is a huge queue to take the token. So people go early morning like 7 AM and stand in line though the window for token opens only at 8 AM. Once you get the token, you are called serial number wise for giving the documents and registering.  You will get an acknowledgement letter on day 1. Next there will be a police verification at your residence. If you are there at home when the police comes then that is easy, else either they will leave a note for you to come to the police station or check with your neighbours. Or sometimes without verification the report is sent to the Commune. Once commune receives this report they send a letter to us at our residence to visit the commune at the specified appointment time. You have to go there and again take token and you might be questioned about your stay etc and if all is well you will get the card based on how much cash you have. To get the card within one day, you have to shell out 200/- and if you do not choose to pay anything then you might get the card in another month’s time. The whole process end to end can take 2- 3 months.
5.     Grocery store
a.    Garam Masala : this is in Ixelles  and you get almost all Indian groceries, masala and vegetables here. Maggi, south Indian sona massorie rice, bitter gourd, all kinds of masala and spice powders, puttu powder, Dosa mix etc.  Almost all the pulses and masala packets are of the same brand – a lady wearing a red veil and grinding pulses with the grindingstone. ‘Chakki peesing’ J.
b.    Green Pepper:  this is also in Ixelles and close to the first shop.
c.    Compte De Flandre : this is a metro station, 3 stations to the west of Grand Centrale station. (grand central > Debrockere > St Catherine > compte De Flandre). Ask anyone for the Fortis bank and just opposite to this there is a store where you get all Indian/pakistan stuff. There are other shops in the same street where you get the roling pin, cutlery, Indian kadai and tawa.
d.    Alimentation general stores: they are found at every corner and they too keep Indian Masalas and stuff which are priced highly.
6.       Other household items and groceries
a.    Colruyt : is the cheapest  good store with fewer branches.
b.    IKEA : there are two stores: one in zaventem(East of Brussels) and one in Ceria(south west of Brussels)
c.    DELHAIZE : found almost everywhere.
d.    GB Carrefour and Carrefour express : found almost everywhere.
e.    Lidl : at Ixellles is also very cheap.
7.        Prayer place
a.    Centre for Bhatki Yoga:  Rue Royale 185, 2nd floor, Brussels
This place is somebody’s house where they do bhajans and devotional reading on saturday afternoons only.
b.   Radhadesh : Château de Petite Somme,6940 Durbuy (Septon) 
8.      Chocolates
       You get lots of varieties of chocolates. Neuhaus and Leonidas stores are there almost there everywhere. Out of these known brands, Leonidas is comparatively cheaper. Cote d’or chocolates are found in most of the general stores.
For part II click here 
Useful Links:


Anonymous said...

Are there any vegetarian eateries within walking distance to Royal Windsor Grand Place? Does the Center for Bhakti Yoga have a contact name and phone number? Thanks!

Giri said...


I am an Indian living in UK and looking to work in Belgium (Brussles). Is there anyone who can help me to know about life in Brussles.

Your help would be very useful.

thank you

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...