Top 20 Signs You’ve Been an Expat in Brussels Too Long

By - June 1, 2010 (Updated: December 1, 2014)


Manneken Pis, Brussels, BelgiumBelgium is a quirky little country. After five years of living here I’ve come to love, or at least accept, its eccentricities.

Lately I’ve noticed I now take for granted many things I found strange when I first landed here.  Maybe you’ve had a few of these experiences too. The following is a list of signs that you may be ‘going native’ in Belgium.

Top 20 signs you’ve been an expat in Brussels too long.

  1. You forget words in your native language and use French or Flemish words at random.
  2. You consider grey a colour and consider it a flashy alternative to your entirely black wardrobe.
  3. You’ve just spent over an hour in line at the commune to have one document added to your residency card file. You consider that a successful trip and anticipate you’ll only need  five more visits this month to get your paperwork.
  4. You’ve finally located a grocery shop near your home that’s open on Sundays.
  5. You’ve stopped ordering water in restaurants because it’s too expensive. Now you order beer or wine.
  6. You can walk to the Night Shop at the end of your street without watching every step and still avoid stepping in dog poo.
  7. You think 10am is an acceptable time to drink beer.
  8. You know the French and Flemish names for the major roads and cities and use them interchangeably.
  9. You haven’t eaten in the same restaurant in two years but you still haven’t made a dent in your “Places I Must Eat in Belgium” list.
  10. You don’t think it’s odd to see horse meat for sale at the butcher.
  11. You know that filet Américain is raw beef (although you still can’t fathom why it’s called filet Américain).
  12. You’re not surprised when the shop you are in starts turning off lights 15 minutes before closing time and the shop attendants are standing by the door waiting for you to leave.
  13. You’ve become highly suspicious of people who smile at you on the street.
  14. You can no longer drink coffee without a cookie or piece of chocolate on the side and can’t imagine life without Speculoos.
  15. You get your bread from a vending machine outside the bakery after hours.
  16. You know the difference between a Brussels waffle and a Liège waffle.
  17. You know exactly where to go to get the best: Polish Vodka, Mexican chilies, British cheese, Indian curries and Lebanese Falafel and they are all within walking distance from your house.
  18. You’ve given up looking for a ‘legal’ parking spot and simply abandon your car at night. Acceptable places are: side-walks, cross-walks and loading zones.
  19. You’ve taken every member of your family to see Manneken Pis and the Atomium (and all of your friends from back home to the Delerium Bar).
  20. You’ve added your own sign you’ve been an expat in Brussels to long to the comments section below.

Looking for more resources for living in Belgium? Check out our Expat Resources page.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 2 days ago
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