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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: Aussie on April 10, 2014, 06:16:54 AM

Title: Mustachian life in Belgium
Post by: Aussie on April 10, 2014, 06:16:54 AM
I just got offered a post-doc position in Brussels, Belgium paying 2,500 euro net per month which I've been told that it is a reasonable salary for the city, but I'm looking for a Mustachian view.  My wife and I have about $280,000AUD net worth and we are looking to keep up our high savings rate.  If I take the position, she will likely stay in Australia for several months while I get settled in.  She has a very good job in Oz, but it might be a little tough finding work in Belgium with only English.

Can anyone comment on the general cost of living in Belgium.  I know Europe typically has expensive bars/restaurants/cafes, but that is not really a priority for us.  I would also love the opportunity to live without a car if possible.  They have given me nothing but trouble for the past two years (getting smashed/broken into multiple times).
Title: Re: Mustachian life in Belgium
Post by: Eurotexan on April 10, 2014, 07:11:07 AM
Congratulations on the job offer! My cousin lives in Antwerp, Belgium and finds it very affordable. He is not a mustachian however (I plan on converting them one day!). The main savings is definitely going without a car, they bike everyone but even public transportation is cheap and excellent. I lived in Frankfurt, Germany years ago and I love the Mainland European traditional mindset of cooking at home, walking/ biking instead of driving, returning the recyclables for a couple of Euro returned etc etc,  the savings are definitely there if you chose them. If you want to explore the rest of Europe whilst you're there it doesn't have to be expensive, jump on a train and stay in youth hostels. Good luck in your decision!
Title: Re: Mustachian life in Belgium
Post by: Ayanka on April 10, 2014, 08:32:50 AM
I live in Antwerp (Belgium) so not Brussels. In fact it has been a while since I have been in Brussels. In comparison to approximately every other country outside of Europe it has excellent public transport.  I honestly would dis advise owning a car in Brussels, because it is a city with a lot of trafic problems. I did a (very quick) check on immoweb (which is one of the biggest RE websites in Belgium) and it gives something like 500-600 Euro rent for Brussels as a starter. This may not be close to your work though as Brussels is a pretty big city (1 million inhabitants).

What kind of job does your wife do? It will not be as easy to find a job only speaking Australian English, but in Brussels it shouldn't be unfeasible. There are quite a lot of ex-pats there, so a lot of places where speaking any of the Belgian languages is not a necessity.

We do have a lot of bars/restaurants, but as TexasBrit said a tradition of cooking at home. Eating out is kind of a treat inhere or just something to do when there is no time/you feel like it, not a habit as it appears to be in the US.

2500 euro a month is a pretty good wage inhere, combined with watching the rent and adapting to some of our own moustachian habits, I think you should be able to keep a pretty good life combined with a high savings rate.
Title: Re: Mustachian life in Belgium
Post by: Aussie on April 10, 2014, 05:02:03 PM
Thanks guys,

Immoweb seems like a pretty good indication of prices.  Just curious, what are monthly charges?  Is that for utilities? 
Also, how does the health system work?  Do I have to buy insurance, or do I get it through work/the government?

I've read a lot about Belgian employment contracts and I had to stop because it got really confusing (holiday bonuses/pre-tax payments etc).  Probably better to wait until I get my actual contract offer to figure all that stuff out.

My wife is in a management position for a government department here in Australia.  She obviously can't work for the Belgian government, but hopefully her skills would be transferable to some international organization.  My offer is from VUB, which is a Dutch University, but it sounds as though French is the more useful language in Brussels?  She knows a little bit, but not nearly enough to work in a French environment.
Title: Re: Mustachian life in Belgium
Post by: Ayanka on April 22, 2014, 01:30:24 PM
Monthly charges can include utilities, or just maintenance of the general parts of the building, however when it is not specified, I would assume it is utilities, as they generally are. But if they charge 15 euro a month, it is not utilities.

You have to inscribe in the general system, which is obligated, by one of the "ziekenfondsen". You can also check to get hospitalisation insurance through that. All together my health insurance cost, including basic hospitalisation insurance is less than 250 euro a year. The link following is of my own insurer, which is the biggest and so the easiest to access.

The basic system is as following: you get told a before tax wage, they take 13 something % off for social security and then income tax. The next year they will count out what you would have to have paid and they will give you money back or ask for more. We have 2 standard bonusses, in june and in decembre, which are regulated by law.

The VUB is the Dutch speaking university of Brussels, speaking French there would be useless. There are btw, 7 million people speaking Dutch/something else and only 3-4 speaking French. Nearly every European organisation has a seat in Brussels, so in some areas, you are more with English than with any of our official languages because of that, I would try that. She would probably not be able to work for any of our national government positions, because they do require to speak at least Dutch or French (or German, but not in Brussels).

Sorry for my late reply, I hope it still serves a purpose.
Title: Re: Mustachian life in Belgium
Post by: belgiandude on April 22, 2014, 02:13:25 PM
I have lived a prety mustachian life close to the VUB myself.

Our total expenses (including extensive travel) were around 1500 eur for two (grossly overestimated ;).
- Rent was around 700 including electricity, heating (gas), and internet. This is normal price in the studenty-neighbourhood around the VUB area. (Make sure to have heating included!).
- We spent on average around 80 eur / month on groceries. Buy them in Aldi or Colruyt (both are very near to the VUB).
- Our employers paid for public transport within the Brussels region  (ask!), but I cycled to my office (11 km). Do not be daunted by traffic. There are really nice side roads :) (see the map here: )  I would either invest in a very good lock (more expensive than the bike), park your bike inside, or use villo. ( ) 

Your salary is typical for a post doc. If your wife is dependent on you, it should be higher.
Your wife can most likely find work with either an international company or one of the European institutions. Most local companies require that you speak 3 languages (French, English, Dutch).
Note that it might be frustrating for her. In our group of friends (post-docs, phds, and expats), the wifes/husbands were usually unemployed for more than a year (due to language issues).

Luckily, you can take free Dutch classes (close to VUB, ask) and almost free French classes ( ). My wife spoke French fluently within one year, while Dutch took her 3 years.
At university, you are going to speak English.

If your wife finds a management position, she should earn between 3k and 5k after tax (depending on the level).  I suggest that you or your wife works as a contractor on the side for extra income. You can typically charge between 50 and 130 per hour (depending on the domain, of which government eats at least half).

Your yearly after-tax income should be somewhere between 13 and 14 your monthly income.

Your health insurance works as explained Ayanka. Your employer (university) most likely offers (almost) free hospital insurance (ask). If that is the case, take the normal health insurance with one of the Flemish mutualities (e.g. ), as they are cheaper than the ones of Wallonia. I paid around 60 euro each January.

W.r.t. retirement: verify whether there is an agreement between Australia and Belgium about retirement contributions. If that is the case, you can transfer the years worked in Belgium (as a post-doc) to your home country. If that is not the case, you probably will receive a token amount from Belgium after age 65. (My wife can transfer the years worked).

Belgium is not a good country to become rich, but it is a good country to be rich. There are no taxes on capital gains (but there is a 25% tax on dividends). Open an investment account with binck (
Use a smaller bank like argenta to do your banking (the most well known ones - ING, BNP Paribas, KBC, etc. - are expensive, while the other ones are free (check here for a comparison: ).
If you have any questions related to Belgium, Brussels, phds, post-docs, or international companies, just ask. Both my wife and I have a phd. She decided to stay in academia, while I left for an international company.