One more moving to Brussels :)

(462 Posts)
ShutterNutter Mon 13-Dec-10 21:51:14

Hi everyone! Found this site a few days ago and I see that some of you live in Belgium :-)

My husband has been transferred to Brussels for 3 years, which is great and we are looking to move early next year. We have 2 little girls 5 & 6 .
We have been in Brussels for 8 days now school & house hunting. I tell you it has not been easy. We just can't decide were to live. After looking at quite a few houses we have come down to two.

The first house we are deciding on is in Ixelles near all the shops, it has no garden (not even a little patch) and no parking which is a bit of a pain driving round and round trying to find one after a long day of work. On the plus side the house is near Tenbosch Park and another big play ground that I can easily walk the girls to, also all the restaurants and shops.

House number 2 is in Watermal-Boitsfort, it is bigger and newly renovated, plenty of parking but the nearest shop (which is 2 supermarkets) is 1.5km away. Not crazy far, but far enough not to make the area very exciting or have anything fun to walk to.
One of the things that appeal to me coming to Europe is the fact that you don't have to get into your car just to get milk. I really enjoy walking and was looking forward to be able to walk to the corner store to get milk or whatever. Also living in a quaint, pretty european style street is very appealing.
DH understandably wants it to be an easy commute to work (Auderghem) and back and to the girl's school (we are deciding between BEPS and ISB) and the Watermal house would certainly provide that. It also has a garden for the girls. The downside is that this house is just surrounded by big offices and buildings and some embassies.

So, after all that rambling ... having lived in Brussels for a while, would you go for the more lively location and walkable locations, but smaller house and no garden, or the bigger house with a garden but not very exciting surroundings but closer to work and schools?

I probably won't have car for the first 6 moths or so but will probably get one later. DH will have car and will be traveling quite a bit with his job. I'll be a stay-at-home mom.

Thanks for any input!!

Signed, indecisive Crazy Rambler ;-)

I don't live in Brussels, we are in Antwerp. Personally I'd go for the house with the garden. Our DD spent hours in our tiny back garden either on her trampoline or in her paddling pool. Tis great to just throw her out there when the weather is kind enough. Doesn't happen that often TBH, I bought a hosepipe and it is the most redundant bit of kit I've ever paid money for.
Enjoy Brussels, Belgium is certainly one of the better places we have lived in.

natation Tue 14-Dec-10 08:51:07

Hi there

welcome to Brussels. It's a great place for families.

It's just my opinion, but although the Tenbosch area of Ixelles is nice and popular with international families, they tend to put their children there in the local school or in the other international schools in that area, not ISB or BEPS. I do know an ex-member of staff from BEPS, she says be wary, but I don't know why.

Watermael is not quite as nice as the more southern Boitsfort area, so it would depend exactly where the Boitsfort house is, I'd want to be on the 94 tram route if I lived down there.

Personally I would go and look in Etterbeek, some parts of Schaerbeek, Woluwe St Lambert and Woluwe St Pierre, or even Wezembeek-Oppem and Kraainem, these are areas which are easily accessible to international schools AND also have some fantastic local schools. A 3 bed house would cost between 800 and 1500 in these areas, if looking yourself and not being led or DECEIVED even by a relocation agent.

But have you not considered local schools? Your children are very young, at BEPS or ISB, they will not learn much more than "ca va" and "bonjour" unless they do a heck of a lot of activities in French too, they will make friends with children who are also likely to leave after 2 or 3 years, they are very unlikely to make Belgian friends or long term Belgian residents as very few Belgians go to these schools. Our own school contains now around 30 English speakers who are from all over the English speaking world, the school has over 30 nationalities. our other consideration with international schools is that most children there never make use of the local activities, due to the language barrier. For example, our children are in a swim club, yearly fees are 225 euro for 400+ hours training, compared to a single hour lesson in English at 7,50euro . A local gym club charges 95 euro for the whole year, contrast this with Little Gym which is frequented by children at international schools, I think it is over 20euro for one hour there.

Portofino Tue 14-Dec-10 08:58:35

Hmmm, difficult one! I know we lived 2 years in an apartment when we first moved. It had a little park and playground right out back. It drove me mad not to have a garden in the end. When it's a nice day you have to get ready and GO OUT! I personally prefer to have the garden and drive to the park/for milk.

Do you have to choose between one or the other now, or can you do a bit more searching. Oh and if you are still here at the weekend - it is MN Xmas Meet Up Night grin

Portofino Tue 14-Dec-10 09:28:55

How about Here?

natation Tue 14-Dec-10 09:47:25

That house is ideally situated for ISB, not for BEPS, but also ideally situated for BJAB, British Junior Academy of Brussels. There are also 2 schools nearby, highly regarded St Hubert, Blackedelle-something, or further awaya a smaller school in Watermael-Boitsfort called la Sainte Famille which is really really friendly, I know one of the teachers there, quite a few international families there. I'd personally prefer that Auderghem house to the ones you describe - it is near a large Carrefour, the metro, 2 sports centres, a swimming pool not too far away, the forest, Rouge Cloitre playground, there are even 2 indoor play centres in that area.

natation Tue 14-Dec-10 10:06:14

OR how about this house in Woluwe St Pierre Chant d'oiseau area, close to Petillon metro, convenient for BJAB school or BISB British International School of Brussels, or for local there is Notre Dame des Graces, Chant d'Oiseau or Paradis des Enfants withing walking distance. This area is close to the city but also quite leafy at the same time, very very popular with expats around here.

Portofino Tue 14-Dec-10 11:19:58

Gosh it's scary how much the rents are now within Brussels!

think The Chant d'Oiseau house is on a busy road (well busy for that area) though. We live in Auderghem so could help provide info for there (or some parts of Woluwe St Pierre and Etterbeek as my dd goes to school on the border of those two).

We live right next to a metro stop which is wonderful. We also have plenty of shops nearby. However, we are also overlooked by big office blocks. The properties in nicer areas tend to be further away from the metro though actually there are some nice properties in quiet streets near Pétillon.

Think I'll try and send you a message to your inbox...

(Don't know where that rogue "think" came from at the beginning!)

Romanholiday Fri 17-Dec-10 14:17:51

I live in Brussels. I really like the Tenbosch area but parking there is really complicated. It's a really good area for restaurants and bars, and I've extensive experience of driving around and around looking for somewhere to park. It's relatively expensive rent wise, but v.central, Tenbosch park is very nice, and you're close to Bois de la Cambre too. On the other hand, I like having a garden. If I were you I'd keep looking for something in Ixelles or the top of Uccle, but with a garden.

I agree with the point on local schools - what greater gift to give your children than bilingualism? Most people seem pretty unimpressed with the international schools here, but I don't have experience as ours are at French school.

ShutterNutter Mon 20-Dec-10 19:10:04

Gosh gals, thanks SO much for all your input! Really appreciate it.

I'm sorry I didn't reply sooner, but the internet in our hotel broke down or something and I couldn't log on anymore. Then once we got back to the US it was a line full of activities with the kids for school Christmas parties and such.

Anyway, we left without making a decision on which house to choose. I'm still really drawn to living in the Ixelles area and we did actually find a house that has a garden and parking but it's a bit older inside (which I don't mind so much) but DH likes it modern and clean lined. I really don't dwell on that too much since we are only going to be there for 3 years and it's not like we are buying the house. It is close to the Uccle border and there are trams nearby.

We are hoping to make a decision sometime today (hahaha - we say that everyday!), if not then maybe keep looking, but time is running out. We were hoping to be there early February (another good laugh!).

Apart from the stress of house hunting, I really enjoyed the days we spent in Brussels and look forward to the move.

If it helps I can post some of the listings we are considering.

Thanks again for all your replies!

natation Mon 20-Dec-10 19:21:00

Glad you liked Brussels.

If commuting time is important,do consider that driving at rush hour in the centre of Brussels or on major routes is really really not recommended(Ixelles to Auderghem might be included in that, it depends exactly where in Ixelles and Auderghem you are talking about), so the viable option for a commute is public transport. Check the transport route AND typical time before committing. If you say roughly where in Ixelles and Auderghem, I could tell you the best public transport route and give you a typical travel time.

Have sent e-mails!!

rushingrachel Tue 28-Dec-10 14:47:06

Hey shutter,

Just seen your post and thought I'd add my thoughts in case you haven't made up your mind. I actually am not crazy about being in Brussels after 4 years. But I LOVE my house, and the fact the city is easy to get around (and out of) so that's the angle my views come from.

Personally, no parking and Ixelles would be an absolute no no for me. That's because I'm not very good at parking and you need to be able to park on a postage stamp with 2 or 3 beeping idiots up your backside in Ixelles. I'd also find it kind of stressful knowing that every time I moved the car I was going to have to park when I got back. Also I think it could make DH grouchy, if he has to drive around the area for 30 minutes to find a parking spot before he can come in the door!

On the other hand I really really like the Tenbosch area (I have a couple of friends with apartments out that way), love the architecture and I sometimes feel when I visit my friends that I am kind of missing out on the authentic art deco Brussels experience being out in my suburban house.

Parking aside I think no garden would be a shame with the kids when there are so many houses with outdoor space in Brussels. I have a sense that Ixelles can be very claustrophobic and hot in summer, with the narrow streets and the high buildings so being dependent on the park wouldn't suit me (and BTW the playground at Tenbosch gets really full in summer).

Having said all that I'm not sure I'd live in Watermael either. Nothing wrong with it ... just there are nicer places to be and it's a bit of a wasteland where facilities are concerned and feels VERY suburban.

If you are looking on that side of town I would be sweeping my eyes towards Auderghem area but I am biased as that is where I live. I suspect I live very near to Longtime, as I am in Auderghem myself near Petillon metro and as a location I love it. There's a nice sense of community, metros and buses galore, lots of proximate shopping options (I would have a choice of 3 cornerish shops and 2 supermarkets within walking distance) and I just like it. In the recent snow I must have said "I'm soooooooo glad to live in the city" about a thousand times to DH, it means I am never stressed about not being able to get from A to B, as I am always within walking distance of the milk!

One last thing I would say is beware if you are being assisted by a relocation agency. We had Sirva relocation helping us when we moved here and they were USELESS. Like unbelievably useless. They showed us 4 houses in 2 days and none of them corresponded with our criteria. The fact they had shown us 4 things with walls and a roof seemed to them to discharge them from their duty. The property market in Brussels moves very quickly and there is always a lot of choice, so make full use of Immoweb and any contacts to check out what is on offer before you go for anything definite.

charltonchick Tue 28-Dec-10 20:51:07

Rushingrachel you must live really near me too! I'm 5 mins from Petillon metro towards Etterbeck. Do you (or longtime!)know of any ballet classes nearby I could send my DDs to (5 and 3)? Here's hoping our Jan get-together happens as I'd love to meet you all.

natation Tue 28-Dec-10 22:48:19

Susan Heron in English at the American gym, on "petite ceinture" not far from VUB, reasonably priced considering it's English

www.ballet-brussels.com/Timetable.html

Créadanse
www.creadanse.be/classique.php

Balletomania
www.balletomania.be/Presentation/presentation.html

dessen Wed 29-Dec-10 11:05:42

shutternutter - my vkew is take the house with the garden outside of the city. After a few days, weeks of being in a citycentre house with no garden, lots of rain, pavements & parks full of dog shit you'll wish you had your own outside space.

rushingrachel Wed 29-Dec-10 11:35:49

Hadn't considered the dog shit issue, but very true. It's everywhere in Bxl. Get's on your stroller, on your tyres, on your shoes ... and owners have no qualms about letting their dogs foul right outside your front door without cleaning up. And they let dogs into lots of playgrounds (not Tenbosch) so they can do their shit in the play sand. Go for a garden.

dessen Wed 29-Dec-10 12:24:39

shit on the doorstep happens with every city street house. No easy parking, pavements hard work with a stroller, roads in bad repair. That stroll for the milk will be one of shit, rubbish & spit on the street avoidance.

The dogshit issue isn't nearly as bad as when I first came here 25 years ago. I can't tell you how awful it was then.

Charltonchick, my dh took my dd to Balletomania (really close to you)on an open day but said it was run like a military camp. Dd, who was only little at the time, couldn't get out the door fast enough!

natation Fri 31-Dec-10 10:14:25

I know another ballet school boot camp near us. But when my daughter went to look, she actually liked it!!! I did wonder about the similarity when the website is full of what the teachers have achieved, just like the one that I visited near us.

I do know a girl at Susan Heron in Ixelles and a few more who go to the Tervuren classes, they speak very highly of the school, but it is very strict on uniform.

If you were looking for very informal dancing, Vitamomes have classes from 3 years held in WSP's secondary school on Rue au Bois, but perhaps a bit of a treck from Pétillon.

ALeo Fri 31-Dec-10 14:31:42

Wow! Only just found this forum and I didn't realise there were so many expats here. We live in WSP, easy walking distance to many shops, post office, library etc. I would second looking for a place with a garden - my two spend a lot of time outside. I would also second sending the children to a local school. My two started at ages 6 and 4 and are both bilingual - what a gift! I have taken many many lessons and still struggle to make myself understood sometimes.

There are some local websites which you could ask questions on, eg. xpats.com, expatica.com. Sometimes the answers are useful, sometimes not.

Hope you get everything settled and the move goes well! I'm sure you know all about the differences in voltage and measurements etc, but would just like to share a house moving trauma - we moved from TX to Brussels with an agency. When we got here the screws for the beds had gone missing and of course, finding replacements was really hard because they were metric screws and the holes weren't!! (So get the movers to put the screws in baggies and watch them tape the baggies to the furniture!) Good luck!

natation Fri 31-Dec-10 14:51:20

Ooh where do you live ALeo? I'm as far east in WSP as you can get. Have 3 children at local schools, mainly positive, certainly better than the school they were at in the UK.

ALeo Fri 31-Dec-10 20:08:26

I'm near the 'centre' of WSP. Also mainly positive about the schools - just wish I could chat more easily with the teachers. I can communicate in French but with no regard for subtlety or nuance!

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