Expats take the floor on Europe Day

9 May is Europe Day. For the occasion, we went to the Wednesday afternoon open-air market in Elsene to allow European expats to have their say about Brussels. What do they like about the city, and has life changed a lot after the March attacks? We also quizzed some about their language skills. (interviews Rik Arnoudt and Michaël Torfs)
  • Name: Ilse
  • From: Thüringen in the former DDR
  • Expat: since 1974
  • Work: German language division of the council of ministers
  • Brussels: "I like the diversity and the openness of Brussels. People are very Multikulti." Comparing Berlin to Brussels, she says that the Belgian capital is "less stressy". About the terror attacks: "I don't think it's finished. Next time it could be Berlin, Munich or Frankfurt."
  • Language skills: a real European: "I speak French, German, English, fluent Spanish, and a little bit Greek and Italian". 
  • Name: Ksenija
  • From: Serbia
  • Expat: almost 5 years
  • Work: a consultancy company dealing with European Commission funds for development aid
  • Brussels: "I like living here when the weather is like this" (smiles) - we were there on a very sunny day in late April, red. Ksenija also likes the multiculturalism and the melting pot feeling of the capital. Speaking about the attacks, she thinks that people "are coping very well".
  • Name: Hanne
  • From: Denmark
  • Expat: since 2015
  • Work: "I moved here with my husband, who works for an American company"
  • Brussels: "I like the food and the people are very kind. I also like living in a place where the whole of Eurpese is together." About the aftermath of the attacks: "It's a bit more quiet now. But the police are sweet and kind. It's allright. I'm not afraid."
  • Name: Victor
  • From: Spain
  • Expat: 12 years
  • Work: interior designer
  • Brussels: "I like the different nationalities and the ambiance."
  • Language skills: "I speak French and English and I am learning Flemish too. However, I am a beginner. First the colours and how to say my name. Ik ben Victor. But I will continue after my present 5-week course."
  • Name: Vera
  • Country: Spain
  • Expat: Brussels for almost 3 years, after Bruges spell for Master studies
  • Work: consultancy company dealing with EU development aid
  • Brussels: "I like living here. I find it a bit small, because I am used to bigger cities. But it's nice: it's not too big, and it's not a village. It offers you what a city should have to offer you." 
  • Language skills: "Usually English at work. In my private life, French, English and Spanish, because the Spanish community in Brussels is quite big."
  • Name: Pasquale
  • Country: Italy, UK
  • Expat: since 15 years
  • Work: consultant
  • Brussels: "I adore the city. Life is nice here. The food is good."  About the aftermath of the March attacks: "Life has changed. You have to think in a different way. You have to be more careful. I travel a lot, so I experienced the changes at the airport. (...) "Things will get back to normal. But the government will have to make an even bigger effort."
  • Language skills: English at work, French with friends, and I speak some Dutch too."
  • Name: Andrew
  • Country: New Zealand, Britain
  • Expat: 10 years (recently moved to Brussels after 9 years London)
  • Brussels: "I love the markets, the nightlife, there is a lot of jazz and theatre going on, and I like the contemporary dance." About London: "The city was a lot bigger, which involved a lot of commuting. Here, I can get on a bike and be on the other side of the city in 15 minutes." About the attacks: "It seems to me that the spirit of community has got stronger. People make sure everyone is okay around them."
  • Name: Dennis
  • Country: Italy
  • Expat: 3 years
  • Work: market vendor
  • Brussels: "I like the different nationalities and cultures here. It's a good mix. It's fun." Has life changed after the blasts? "Yes. A lot! People were already stressed, e.g. because of the immigration issue. (...) Things have turned for the worse for the local commerce. Many people come for window shopping, without making a purchase. For me, life has become a lot more difficult."