Live the good (expat) life in Flanders

As the northern region of Belgium, Flanders attracts citizens and professionals from around the globe, including thousands of expat employees from UK-based multinationals. Flanders’ capital – Brussels – is even home to 182 nationalities – making it the world’s 2nd most cosmopolitan city (2015 World Migration Report) and Europe’s #1 expat destination (2017 Skyline Europe report). Antwerp, one of Flanders’ main cities, isn’t far behind with more than 150 nationalities.

High quality, affordable prices

What do Flanders’ expat destinations have in common? They offer high quality of life at a relatively small price tag. Brussels, Flanders’ capital, provides a telling example. The multicultural hotspot comes in at #27 worldwide for quality of life according to Mercer HR Consulting, yet only ranks 67th in the list of most expensive cities.

Tax benefits for expat employees

In Flanders, expatriate employees, researchers, managers and executives temporarily posted in the region can benefit from a whole range of tax incentives. The tax-free expat allowance is just one example. It covers the additional costs of living and housing in Flanders.

The unlimited tax reimbursement of expenses, such as installation, moving and education costs, is another perk. In addition, foreign executives temporarily assigned to Flanders – usually managers or highly specialised profiles – may qualify for a special tax regime.

Excellent healthcare and (international) education

With up to 75% of healthcare costs reimbursed in Flanders, healthcare isn’t simply excellent – it’s affordable too. The same attributes apply to the region’s education system. What’s more, you’ll discover many top-ranking international schools in Flanders, including several British schools.

Cultural heritage

There are many historical and cultural ties between the UK and Flanders. British expats and travellers who are familiar with the region spontaneously associate Flanders with harbours, historic buildings and cities, and natural scenery.

The region’s historical background – Flanders was one of Europe’s main battlefields during both World Wars – and its artistic scene are also top-of-mind. The same goes for tasty food and drinks, particularly beer and chocolate.

Did you know?

  • The popular game of cricket is thought to have originated in Flanders. Recent research has unearthed a reference to the game in a poem from 1533. The poem links the cricket game to weavers from Flanders who settled in southern and eastern England, referring to them as “kings of crekettes”. Even to this day, many cities in Flanders have their own local cricket clubs.
  • Many football players from Belgium and Flanders have risen to the top of the English Premier League, including the likes of Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Simon Mignolet.
  • Each year, martyr town Ypres in West Flanders attracts thousands of World War I commemorators from the UK. Every night at 8 pm, a moving ceremony takes place under the town’s Menin Gate. The ‘Last Post’ ceremony has remained a daily ritual in Ypres since 1928.
  • Many UK citizens can trace their ancestry back to Flanders. In Scotland, for example, it is estimated that a third of the population came from Flanders. Between the 11th and 17th centuries, people from the Low Countries made up the largest immigrant group in England, Wales and Scotland – especially highly skilled weavers and textile workers from Flanders. In 1527, for example, England’s population of five million included tens of thousands of people from Flanders.