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18th Jan 2020

EU officials feel little love for Brussels, survey says

  • Place Luxembourg next to the European Parliament is a popular going-out area on Thursdays (Photo: FallacyFilms)

Expats who work for EU institutions in Brussels have few Belgian friends, think the city is "dirty" and plan to go home when their job ends.

Municipal authorities in the EU capital published the findings on Monday (8 July) after polling 8,000 people out of the 100,000 or so who live in the "Brussels bubble."

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They noted the typical expat has been in Brussels for less than 10 years, works for the European Commission, comes from Germany or France, is part of a couple and lives in the city centre or in the districts of Ixelles, Etterbeek, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert and Schaerbeek.

Just six percent said they will stay in Brussels when their contract ends.

Almost 40 percent said they have three or fewer Belgians in their circle of friends, while 12 percent have none at all.

Around half prefer to send their children to international schools instead of Belgian ones.

Compounding the isolation, few expats watch Belgian TV or vote in Belgian regional elections, with most saying they do not take part in the votes due to naked "disinterest."

The biggest complaint - by almost 80 percent of people - is that Brussels is "too dirty."

Another 78 percent said the city should do more on road congestion, while half said the city feels "unsafe" to live in, following a string of muggings in the EU district in 2009 and 2010.

One in four said bad service by Belgian telecom companies and shop staff also get on their nerves.

On the plus side, almost 75 percent said they "like" living in Brussels.

Many said property is quite cheap, that healthcare is good and that Brussels has plenty of parks. Many also voiced fondness for its arts and restaurant scene.

Opinion was split on whether Brussels is the best place in Europe to host the EU institutions.

But 74 percent said the city should make more of an effort to beautify the EU district, while 73 percent agreed with the statement "the international community lives in a separate world with few contacts with other Brussels residents."

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