Life in Brussels

When working for the European Commission, the odds are that you will spend a large amount of time in Brussels. Your only way out is to move to Luxembourg (which I believe can be assimilated as a harsh and inhuman treatment), join one of the Agencies (preferably the one in pleasant cities) or work for the External Services in a Delegation.

For the large majority of us, we are confined in Brussels, in the European Quarter.

Well, you will always complaint about the shitty weather around here (one week of summer per year, the four seasons in a day, etc), but as a matter of Brussels is a very pleasant city in so many ways. It is relatively small and not crowded compared to other European Capitals. It is also cheap (though prices have adjusted the last five years), and accommodations remain at a great value-for-money. Transport is very decent with lot of public transport, little congestion and now better cycle lanes. The Belgian health system is also well above the European average, and education is of quality for no money...

In short, it is a small city, but with all the benefits of a big one and none of the disadvantages: great diversity of people and food, lot of entertainments, cultural activities and shopping, but you can still live in the center or have a decent commute.

One other big plus for Brussels is that Belgians are a nice and open people. They bear nicely with us, arrogant and indecently paid Eurocrats...

So what? Shall we just pray for Global Warming so we can actually have a real summer (apparently this August was exceptional)?

It is not yet heaven... You can actually go completely Cuckoo in this charming little city we call Bruxelles. You will realize, very little time after settling, that the city is highly dysfunctional. And after all this time in Brussels, I really need to get my frustrations out!

The Public Services
  • To become a resident, you have to formally register with your "Commune". Well I can only advise you to use the EC Protocol Office (when you work at the EC, otherwise, good luck to you). Some "Communes" will drive you nut for some papers, other are more easy going...
  • If you want to subscribe to a public utility (gas, water, electricity, telephone), then you have to wait for at least half a month and take half a day of leave. You set the appointment for a particular day and they tell you that the technician will come between 9am and 12pm... And some time they don't and you just wait for nothing!
  • If you want to go to the Post Office or to the Train Station, I really suggest you go during office hours (excluding Lunch Break). They staff their desks so that the bigger the queue, the less counters you have.

The Shops
You might think that most of Public Services are similar in other EU Countries, but the private sector will convince you that it is a systemic issue!
  • Get a technical advice on a item (if you can get a vendor in the first place): then you probably want to ignore it. Shop attendants have very little knowledge of what they sell and basically has no commercial skills. I am not sure that they understand who has the money. Having say that, you can find a very knowledgeable seller... beware, he will just bore you to death with the little details of his personal life (very often in the Computer department)
  • Get the Warranty to work: That is a tricky one. Be ready to lose a lot of time, a lot of patient. Whatever explanations you give to the shop, it will be ignore and the repairer will send it back as it is because he does not understand the problem.
  • Get a package from Fedex, UPS or DHL: well if it is sent at home, you better take a day off (because they come between 9am and 5pm), and sometimes they don't as well!

And the cherry on the top: The Flemish/Walloon issue!
Some says it is like an old couple breaking up... but it is worse! The country is basically schizophrenic and loves to scare the heck out of itself. Flemishes just want to end it because they got the money and the jobs. Walloons claims that the Flemish pension bill is too high and the Flemish need the Walloons for retirement. And at the last European Elections, a Walloon Party wanted to get Brussels and Wallonie to join France.

This is just way above me, because we live in a extremely diverse country (Europeans, Turks, Arabs, Africans, Asian, Latinos, etc.), and the locals are fighting each other.

I just wonder how such an international city can run like that...


  1. Only the tertiary sector is lousy, is it? Well, if private and public services are run as medieval guilds, what is the proportion of agriculture and industry in the capital of Belgium? ;-)

    Is there no hope for reform of the service sector?

    The daily EU meeting circus must bring in loads of highly qualified visitors from member states with liberalised retail sectors and functioning public services. Is there no way to transfer knowledge?

  2. luxemburg is not so awfull as you think

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