Cost of living in Brussels?
March 31, 2008 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Migrating from Los Angeles to Brussels: My girlfriend is entertaining a job offer in Brussels; is she being offered enough to live comfortably there?

My girl has been offered 80K/year Euro for a job in Brussels. The company is willing to pay moving expenses and so on, but is 80K/year enough to live there? I'm seeing wildly different prices on apartments and am unsure of the general cost of living in Brussels. I guess my question is: what wage does one need to earn to live comfortably in Brussels, Belgium? We don't wanna starve :)

Bonus questions: The company is in the area of the Belgian Parliament & Brussels Park. How is public transit in that area? Also, how difficult is it to find work in the IT industry in Brussels?

There were some great tips on this thread, but I'm looking for a bit more info. Thanks :)
posted by starscream to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to the wages, but the public transport in Brussels is generally quite good. You can get a complete network map here. That area is particularly well served, since it's right near Arts-Loi (or Kunst-Wet, depending on your linguistic preferences) which is perhaps interchange between the three subway lines. It's also a short walk to one of many, many tram lines that have very excellent coverage city wide. Living downtown might be pricy, but there are lots of nice parts of town that are easy to get to from that area. I lived on the south side on Ave. Roosevelt and really enjoyed the neighborhood. You can take the 94 line from that area all the way into the Park area in about 30-40 mins max.

Although I was paying ridiculously low under-the-table rents when I was there, cost of living was very reasonable five years ago. Transport is cheap, there's reasonably cheap food (and also wonderful, more expensive food). But this was right before and right after the euro switch and the dollar's subsequent melt down, so I don't know what it's like now.
posted by heresiarch at 12:19 PM on March 31, 2008

Will she starve on 80K Euro? Uh, no.

Look, translate the money into US dollars. Use the exchange rate before the meltdown if you want. Would she starve on that in a US city? Now, factor in that Brussels is a major city, but not an especially expensive one. And we're all goddamn commies over, so you'll get public transport and free healthcare. 80K is fine. If she's supporting the both of you, obviously that will impact your standard of living but really - you're fine.

As to the latter part of your question, there's a reasonable amount of IT and contracting firms operating out of Benelux. Get on the web and look some of them up. They may not be interested until you get there, but there will be work.
posted by outlier at 12:47 PM on March 31, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers, both of you! :)

Outlier, we were concerned about the 80K since, as was mentioned in the ask question I linked, that "the taxes are amongst the highest in the world." If we figure 50 percent in the worst case scenario, 40K left over is potentially not very livable if rent and transportation costs are high. I did forget about the free healthcare though!

I did look for IT staffing firms in Brussels, but I'm not certain who the reliable firms are. Could you recommend any in particular?
posted by starscream at 2:18 PM on March 31, 2008

Hell, taxes aren't that high. People raise families on much less than that.

I did look for IT staffing firms in Brussels, but I'm not certain who the reliable firms are. Could you recommend any in particular?

None that I'd recommend. That is, I'd don't have enough experience with any of them to make a call. Progressive has a big outfit there I believe - they're absolute sharks and all about the money, but if they can make a profit placing you in a job, they'll be your best friend.

Now, work visas - that's a different question and one better answered by an expert.
posted by outlier at 3:48 PM on March 31, 2008

I worked for S.W.I.F.T. for a year - they run the world's financial network, and are based about 30 mins drive outside Brussels. I'd say EUR80k would be fine. It was about a decade ago now, but rents were very cheap compared to many other capital cities.

If you're looking for an IT job anywhere in Europe, I'd hit up JobServe first (and make sure you click the "Europe Africa North Asia" part of the map). Be sure to specify 'Brussels' as your location (or maybe 'Belgium', but then you'll get listings for Antwerp etc).

One final thing to think about: are you legal to work in Belgium? If in doubt, probably not.
posted by lowlife at 4:17 PM on March 31, 2008

Speaking as a Belgian/Dutch hybrid living in the comparable (cost-wise), perhaps slightly more expensive, Amsterdam and with three friends living in Brussels, 80K in euros a year is a very good wage, and probably close to double the average income. You can both totally live on that and if you get a job as well you'll be living the good life.
posted by Skyanth at 2:42 AM on April 1, 2008

Additionally, a belgian with an 80K income will be paying something like €35K in taxes (rough estimate). Not sure how that translates to expats, but the dutch wikipedia article on belgian taxes says it's about the same. That leaves 45K net /12 = over 3k a month to spend on stuff. I believe rent on a flat will be 1000-1500. You'll be fiiiiiiiine.
posted by Skyanth at 2:54 AM on April 1, 2008

80k is in the middle-upper range of comfortable for Belgian standards (not sure what you're used to of course). Median Belgian income is about 1200 - 1400 € take home, although most will have two earners. If your take home will end up > 3000 / month, you'll do fine, although you won't qualify as "rich".

Rent for a decent to excellent small 1 bedroom in the centre of Brussels costs about 900 - 1200 € a month, it's cheaper the further you move from the centre. The place to look is If you search through dedicated expat channels, you're bound to pay more, I'm afraid. Expat = $$ for many home owners.

The metro lines are excellent and fast, though not always hyper safe at night. My advice is to buy a second hand scooter to get around town (if you'll live in town), it's the only way to travel. Additionally, the park / Parliament is right next to the Central Station (which also has metro lines running through), so your SO can presumably commute by train as well if you don't want to live smack in the center of Brussels.

Not sure about the IT sector in Belgium, but I believe there's generally a shortage of qualified workers in IT, so finding a job should not be prohibitively difficult.
posted by NekulturnY at 5:26 AM on April 1, 2008

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