Type of Ray
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Brussels , Belgium
Why and how I ended up in Belgium
Although I graduated as an economist , my career in South Africa was first in finance. management , then in real estate.Some of the best days of my entire life , certainly : were in Transvaal , 1975 and onwards !
It was around 1990 , when for the first time : something strongly prompted me to eventually persuade my wife , that we should try life outside South Africa ; she already was a GB-passport holder , so the later red tape for my U.K visa was not much of a hassle.
We duly sold up our lovely , recently dolled-up Jo'burg Parktown North house and the cars and some of the furniture.The rest of our stuff was put into storage , as we were going travelling - to look for another place to live ; first we visited family & friends in Harare , from where we got to Frankfurt ; it was end of Feb.1991 , I remember still how cold it felt , having just arrived from the warm sunshine of Africa - apart from which , we found the place quite reassuring , noticing its functionality , polite service , not ovely-expensive etc.Good , this could always be Plan B , I thought then ( yes , I do speak Deutsch !).
Next , some days later : we flew to Toronto , where we had some family and various acquintances. Cold again , but we were able to find out a lot and liked the city a lot , it seemed a very enticing proposition , to settle there.
However , the paperwork was quite daunting , and , in case , we couldn't progress with it , from there...
So , the grey morning of 10.April 1991 saw us landing at Heathrow , getting some pound-coins and quickly squandering heavy lots of them , just by phoning around from a BT phone-booth ;
we then stayed on in London ( Hampstead NW3 first ) for a while , had our belongings brought from S.A. , my residence paperology progressed , we then got ourselves a cute home in Surrey , made some good English friends and met a few nice South Africans - but I struggled getting any reasonable employment and was not happy in "jobs" I did , always feeling insultingly-reduced to lowly , underpaid , exploited slave labour , on which brutal greedy capitalism feeds...as is these days much more visible in Anglo-Saxon lands , I seem to observe;
so , in December 1995 we were back in Joeyz , and family and friends accommodated us and showed us around ; the new Year 1996 we saw in : at a jolly party in Hout Bay - yet , somehow , after years away , we suddenly didn't find it all as hugely attractive i.e. to return and live there , as we had previously thought , in the bleaker moments of our U.K. days...
so , back to Blighty we went , and low and behold :
some days later , "The Daily Telegraph" carried an ad for a financ.services people to work abroad - I apllied , got interviewed ( at The Atheneum in Piccadilly ) and was one of a dozen chosen ones , to see the newly-emerging jewels of the middle-and-Far East and make life , glitz , success and , hopefully :
some Big Bux again in those there exotic places ...
a few days after , "Emirates" Airbus brought me to Dubai and a happy period followed : interesting , well-remunerated work , excellent living conditions , travel and exploration of places : Abu Dhabi , Hong Kong etc , let's just say : the things really were looking up finally ; as my wife joined me , we bought nice new cars and stuff , moved into a 200sq.m. freezingly-Air-Conditioned villa and enjoyed some of the spoils of "good life" ; she loved the endless sunshine and all the heat and the great fruit in markets and supermarkets and Arab souks and the total absence of crime and the ever-obliging Asians , on every step! I liked shawarma-sandwiches , Lebanese and Thai grub , the clubs , the marina , the dynamism of the growing miracle-place , the work and the social intercorse it afforded us , communicating with able and can-do people from many lands.We'd go to London a few times a year , any excuse would do , for this - and we would escape those scorching-hot Gulf summers , to France , Croatia , Switzeland , Prague...the trips became the highlights of this existence , as in spite of great standard of living I was missing the european lifestyle a lot!
Then a colleague from work approached me , to join him at a new venture : a branch of the firm , to be newly-started and got off-the-ground , "in Benelux" ; we went "to look-see" , spent the summer of 1999 touring , from Vienna via Zagreb , Ljubljana , Graz and all the way up Germany , via Koelln and Aachen to Liege , then Bruxelles - there we stayed a week or so , got shown around a little and made some enquiries , received enough reassuring input , then took a few weeks holidays , through France , before getting back to Dubai ; it took a few weeks to get organised , wrap-up ongoing business , and have the villa and the car packed up , for shipping...and then we left.
In Bruxelles ever since , the positives , for sure , by far outweigh the negatives so far !; the place is crawling with expatriates , from EU-community , NATO , and every UN-acknowledged country seems to have a mission or four , around the corner ; despite Belgium being officially tri-lingual ( Dutch , French and German ) the language of business is predominantly English , as it is true for diplomacy , and also for most of switched-on Belgians , or others , in any given field of activity.
Although securing the accomodation , going about one's work , getting around and most aspects of daily life here are incomparably much easier , more affordable and less stressed than they would be in England , not all was plain sailing : both my wife and I encountered health problems , nothing unusual after the Big 50 , I'm sorry to have to accept...luckily for us , the medical care/service in Belgium , if not The World's Best , has just got to be in world's Top 3 or 5 , at incredibly affordable rates ; a very strong point , when considering one's so-quickly approaching older age and possible drastic future plans.True , a common Francophone in the street can sometimes be the rudest , knock-out deserving non-gentleman you've ever encountered !The "service" in many shops can be hopelessly unobliging , ignorant , arrogant and without a hint of a smile ! It is national pastime for little ( and big , and medium and anysize ) dogs to mess up the pavements , weeing and pooping at any given chance , as if this was their top-most duty!The driving manners of many natives : aggressive , selfish , reckless , dangerous or just plain : mannerless - can drive you mad sometimes , but : there's no point getting angry , hey?
The public transport is plentiful , good , safe and cheap ; all foreign press, CDs , books , DVDs : easily obtainable , as are most movies in original soundtrack-versions ; the cable-TV has over 40 channels , incl. 2 BBC ones and 2 German , and in Bruxelles , you don't pay for this pleasure.
The excellence of chocolates , beer , jazz , cultural life here : deservedly are legendary !
Belgian many fine (free) motorways are so brightly lit at night , they can be seen from space.Although pickpockets fleece tourists gaping at UNESCO-regosnized historic Grand Place , in most parts of Bruxelles and of most Belgian cities , violent crime is not really a serious consideration , what : with 20 murders per annum ( per 10 mil inhabitants ) , and most of which seem to result from relationships' complications , as opposed to criminal intentions.
My dentist , the medical doctors and surgeons I had the pleasure(s) of dealing with , my ( Irish! ) car-service manager and other , whose services I rely on , are all highly accomplished international experts in their fields , informed , organised , efficient and cooperative - as are a myriad of others one comes in contact with , and the police and municipal staff and public servants one gets to deal with : always and again are all very kind and helpful! The quality of life , ( incl. but not limited to : great gourmet food and booze , chic apparel , easy travel by planes , cars , 320km/h trains etc among others ) predominantly , is truly great and then there is also that undefinable thing : La Joie de Vivre ( Joy of Living ) , where people care for taking time off , assuring quality time and fun time and having it better , rather than chasing just more of the latest materialism , which sane and logical approach to times of one's life , I fear , is not anymore the case in many other , more Rat-Race-infected , places.
As I specialise in confidentially advising expatriates ( on how to optimise , protect and improve their financial position ) , from many Brits , Skandies , Germans and others , virtually daily I hear and share similar comments , on our blessed Life ( with a capital L ) in ( so hidden-secret , comfy little ) Belgium.
And I agree again with Hagar's remarks , one easily finds some local people maybe treating you horribly - and yet , still the ( many ) others welcome you : with brotherly love , untold patience and warmest assistance !!! Couldn't be more true !
Which all , as "sampled" above , should go some long-ish way in explaining why , for the foreseeable future , there are no plans to search for promised lands or pastures anew.