Moving to Belgium from Los Angeles, CA
August 16, 2010 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Moving soon to Belgium, to married to a Belgian native. Anything I should know about, moving from Los Angeles, CA, to Belgium?

It's a fairytale story. Girl meets girl, girl loses girl (for 9 years), and girl re-meets girl and decides to go on a beer tour to Belgium for two weeks plus. Girl meets girl again, and they fall in love and decide that they belong together. Any logistic things I should know? From a moving standpoint, any good international moving companies I should know about? Any good advice? I've been a member of this community for a long time now, and have saved any questions till it was imperative I needed one answered. I really need your advice now. Please help, if you have any experience with moving to the EU in general, or Belgium in particular. Thanks in advance.
posted by seancake to Travel & Transportation around Belgium (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Yikes. Hate typos. Please insert a 'be' in there, between 'to' and 'married'.
posted by seancake at 6:14 PM on August 16, 2010

Do you have to move in one fell swoop? It might be wise to go there and live for some time (months), and only then make any final and/or irrevocable decisions. Presumably, you can store some of your stuff in LA until you've had a chance to acclimate. That way, you're a lot better prepared for the challenges ahead. Just from general experience, from the many people I knew over the years who moved from one country to another (including Belgium), I found that it's somewhat age-related. Young people seem to do best just by plunging in - up and move and go for it without looking back. By contrast, folks in their late 30's and older, seem to do better when they can live for a while in the new country without one big immediate wholesale move.
posted by VikingSword at 7:04 PM on August 16, 2010

Best answer: Get rid of every possible thing in your house that you can -- and then get rid of more. Don't bring furniture, household electronics, kitchen utensils, clothes you haven't worn in over a year, knick-knacks that aren't super-sentimental, even books unless they're rare or valuable. Everyone knows "the less you have to move, the better", but it's hard to really stick with that unless you're totally ruthless. And I guarantee you'll look around a few weeks after arriving and think "why the hell did I ship all of this stuff?".

You can ship small items ahead fairly cheaply using USPS flat rate boxes. The boxes aren't very big but they can weigh up to 20 pounds, so if you can pack a box well, it's a good deal. Don't ship anything fragile this way, because there are no guarantees that the box won't be semi-flattened when it arrives.

Carrying most of your belongings in your luggage is actually a good way to move; pound-for-pound, it's much cheaper than mailing or having a company move. For example, Continental Airlines will charge you for a suitcase that's over 50 pounds, but the maximum they'll accept is actually 70 pounds. They charge $50 if you go over 50 pounds. So if you can pack a suitcase to weigh just under 70 pounds, you get that 20 pounds shipped for only $50. Same with an extra suitcase; it can be up to 50 pounds, and the fee is only $150.

Start familiarizing yourself with the language now (Dutch or French, depending on where you will live). The longer you wait, the more it sucks. You can start with practical things that will benefit you anyway, such as learning how to read train schedules and buy tickets. Look up restaurants with web sites and see if they have their menu online; this is an easy way to start learning food-related words without having access to a Belgian grocery store.

Assuming you know exactly where you'll live -- start reviewing a map of your neighbourhood and town.

Double-check everything you need for the legal aspects; paperwork gets harder and more expensive to obtain as soon as you leave the U.S., and there's a lot of stuff the embassy can't help you with. Make sure you have an official birth certificate and check if you need an apostille for it.

I don't know about Belgium, but I know that in the Netherlands, getting a bank account as a new immigrant can be a real pain in the ass. Be sure you have cash in your American account and check that you can use your debit card at foreign ATMs.

I recommend keeping an active checking account, credit card, mailing address, and drivers license in the U.S. It makes travelling easier.
posted by neushoorn at 10:24 PM on August 16, 2010

Flemish and French are the languages you need to be concerned with, not Dutch.
posted by nestor_makhno at 1:06 AM on August 17, 2010

Many congrats!

One data point. I've been surprised by the number of English speakers among the general population in Belgium, more than France, less than Holland. A comfortable number so that making friends should be relatively easy.

Secondly, do not underestimate how grey and dreary the weather is as you head into winter and look out for signs of SAD. Coming from a sunny place to Belgium will be quite a transition. People have a certain amount of transition shock which in your case could be exacerbated and this may be challenging to the relationship.
posted by Wilder at 4:00 AM on August 17, 2010

@nestor: Dutch and Flemish are the same language. Speakers of the latter have a funny accent, that's how it's distinguished.

You will need extra vitamin D supplement to compensate for the lack of sun in winter.
posted by knz at 5:04 AM on August 17, 2010

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