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  • I attended grad college in Belgium years in the past and met my now-husband.
  • He got here again to the US with me later, however final yr we determined to maneuver again to Europe.
  • Most of our prices have been slashed, from housing and meals to healthcare and childcare.

My first time dwelling in Belgium was in 2006 after I moved to attend graduate college after leaving my lively obligation army service. What I assumed could be an 18-month stint for college ended up turning into a six-year journey in Europe, with 5 years dwelling and dealing in Brussels and a yr in Stuttgart, Germany. 

Whereas dwelling in Brussels, I met my husband, who was born and raised in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He adopted me to america after I took an project as a civil servant for the Marine Corps on the Pentagon and nonetheless served as a Marine Corps Reserve officer.

Nevertheless, I retired from the Marine Corps Reserves final yr, and we determined to maneuver again to Europe. We settled in Brussels for varied causes: near my husband’s household; a vibrant worldwide neighborhood; and affordability. 

Earlier than I clarify why our life is extra reasonably priced in Brussels, I wish to caveat that we stay within the native financial system with none expat advantages or particular perks. My husband is salaried at a tech firm, paying round 50% in earnings tax. To offset the excessive tax charge, many corporations in Belgium use totally different incentives equivalent to firm vehicles, a stipend for meals, and reasonably priced healthcare. I’m a contract author, content material creator, digital advertising and marketing educator, and strategist, and I’m at present within the strategy of organising my enterprise in Belgium. 

All that stated, our life is far more reasonably priced right here for just a few causes.

Housing

Within the US, we lived in Brookland, a quiet residential neighborhood in Northeast Washington, DC, a 15-minute drive to downtown DC and on the metro line. We paid nearly $3,000 a month in mortgage prices on our 1,500-square foot hooked up rowhome. 

In Brussels, we discovered an condo related in measurement, and we at present pay 2,000 euros (round $2,000). Our condo is situated in a neighborhood just like DC’s Logan Circle, with outlets, eating places, and quick access through public transportation to the town heart of Brussels and the European establishments. An identical condo in Washington, DC, prices nearly $5,000 month-to-month. We’re at present trying to buy a similar-sized condo, and the mortgage prices look just like our present hire.

Childcare

We have been lucky that our daughter began kindergarten in Brussels, thus saving the price of full-time childcare that used to price us $2,000 a month in Washington, DC. Aftercare was additionally dear in DC, with a mean price of round $1,000 a month. 

Our daughter attends a Dutch-language public elementary college, and we pay the equal of $60 a month in aftercare. As well as, we obtain round $150 equal stipend from the Belgian authorities to assist with the price of having a toddler. So technically, our childcare is free. 

Through the summers, personal and public establishments provide camps, averaging 100-150 euros a month. This summer season, my daughter attended swim camp for 150 euros every week, and we have been eligible to obtain a small refund of 20% from our medical health insurance.

Healthcare

One other issue influencing our transfer to Europe was entry to reasonably priced healthcare. My husband’s advantages package deal features a medical health insurance complement protecting hospitalization and dental for round $55 a month for our complete household. 

Common apply medical doctors cost round $30 for a session, however we get 95% of that price reimbursed nearly instantly. 

In Washington, DC, I had Tricare (army insurance coverage supplier) by the Marine Corps Reserve and paid $250 month-to-month for a household plan, thought of reasonably priced in america. After I labored for the federal authorities as a civilian, we paid $425 for my household plan.

Foods and drinks

Whether or not consuming at house or consuming out, meals prices are nonetheless extra reasonably priced in Brussels regardless of inflation on each continents. 

I journey backwards and forwards to america usually and have the chance to check costs. I discover vegatables and fruits particularly reasonably priced in Brussels versus america. Seasonality is essential, and provided that Belgium shares a border with 4 international locations (France, Germany, Netherlands, and Luxemburg), we get high quality merchandise from a 200-mile radius. 

For instance, a 10-pound bag of potatoes grown within the south of Belgium goes for 4 euros (round $4.50) on the grocery store. In DC, the identical bag prices $10. Farmer’s markets might be discovered all through the town and, not like in america, costs on the farmer’s markets are extra reasonably priced than the supermarkets more often than not.

Free commerce by the European Union makes the wine extraordinarily reasonably priced. You will get a superb bottle from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and past for lower than $8. 

I additionally discover eating out extra reasonably priced, given the decrease prices of wine and beer. A dinner for 2 at an upscale restaurant in Brussels averages $60 per particular person. A comparable restaurant in Washington, DC, will price nearly double, particularly while you consider a 20% tip. Tipping shouldn’t be frequent in Belgium because the service cost is already included in the price of the meal. You may spherical up your test or give 5-10% to the server when you get distinctive service.

Transportation

I haven’t got a automotive in Brussels and do not plan to have one. I’ve three supermarkets and two farmer’s markets inside a half-mile radius, and loads of eating places, cafes, and outlets. 

I stroll our daughter to high school (10 minutes away), and I both stroll to the town heart (half-hour) or take the tram or bus. Public transportation for kids underneath 12 is free, and I purchase my public transport passes in bulk to avoid wasting 25%, making it lower than $2 per trip. 

My husband has an organization automotive, a standard perk for individuals in Belgium who work in center/higher administration, consulting, and gross sales roles. He solely pays a tax charge (because the automotive can be utilized for limitless personal mileage) of $350 a month. In Washington, DC, we shared a automotive, and between automotive funds, insurance coverage, and gasoline, we spent $600 a month.

Journey

One of many perks of dwelling in Brussels is the proximity to many European locations by rail, automotive, or aircraft. I hold my eye out for gross sales on the Thalys rail system, which takes you from Brussels to Paris in 75 minutes. We will get them as low-cost as $65 roundtrip if we ebook prematurely. 

I’ve flown from Brussels to Madrid this yr for $80 and to Oslo, Norway, for $100 through Brussels Airways. I additionally skip chain inns and keep at locally-owned boutique inns and guesthouses, which normally embrace free breakfast, averaging 80-120 euros relying on the vacation spot. Home flights throughout the US on an everyday provider can vary from $250-500 per particular person for a similar distance. 

How we really feel about our transfer

Can we get homesick for Washington, DC? Completely! Brussels shouldn’t be excellent (anybody who has handled the Belgian administration can attest), however we’re pleased with our selection as we’re gaining a lot for our household. 

We’re a brief drive/prepare trip away from my in-laws, we’re saving cash, and our daughter is rising up in a multilingual setting. Once we get bored with Brussels, we are able to hop on a prepare to Paris, London, or Amsterdam, or drive to the Grand Est area of France or the Mosel Valley in Germany. For a household who likes to journey and eat good meals, Brussels is the right place for us.