Expatriate welcome programme launched by Brussels border cities

Expatriate welcome programme launched by Brussels border cities

Expatriate welcome programme launched by Brussels border cities

In an attempt to minimise the ‘teething problems’ endured by new expat arrivals in Belgium’s Flanders region, three municipalities have launched a welcome programme.

Relocating to the Dutch-speaking Flanders region of Belgium can be stressful and confusing for new arrivals, especially because of language problems and the issues involved in integrating into the local community. However, help is now easily accessed, as three Flemish municipalities have banded together and produced the Expat op Pad (Expats Explore) pilot project including a multilingual website and local welcoming teams.

All three municipalities of Hoeilaart, Tervuren and Zaventem are home to a high proportion of expatriates from across Europe, with the website available in English, French, German and Dutch as a result. Easy to access information on key phone numbers, voting rights and much more as well as, importantly, info on language classes can be found in this ‘guide to local life’. The intro page for each language gives information about the volunteer Welcome team and invites confused expats to contact members with questions about aspects of daily life.

At the launch of the initiative, ministry official Ben Weyts said his office is supporting the programme financially as well as planning to roll it out in other Flanders regions, all of which are a congenial melting pot of locals, newcomers and established expats. One newly arrived German expatriate told the media he’d been very surprised such a massive effort had been undertaken to ensure new residents are made welcome.

Expats make up a total of 22 per cent of Tervuren’s population, with long-standing residents offering details about social and sporting events as well as providing friendly faces. One British resident volunteer said the most-asked question was about the city’s complicated rubbish disposal scheme, involving recycling, sorting and different collection days for each bin. She feels it’s difficult for newly arrived resident o find their feet, especially due to language difficulties, and is happy to help the local community any way she can. Another long-term expat resident pointed out that EU employees get help form their workplace, but those without such a framework can find integration a lot more stressful.

Related Stories:

Latest News: