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6 months later… are we happy here?

So far, so good. In July we traded the large, bustling city of Antwerp for the smaller and quieter Arlon. Our children quickly had to learn French and we had to adapt to living and working in a ‘different country’. Every day we’re still amazed at how good our decision feels. Looking back on six months of ‘expat life’ during this special ‘corona period’.

Did we move to another country?

Yes and no. We live in the south of Belgium. But before we moved, Tijl told everyone we were moving to another country, Wallonia. I used to correct him, feeling a bit awkward. Because Flanders and Wallonia are both parts of Belgium. But honestly? Now that we live here, sometimes it really feels like another country. The people, the habits, the culture and yes… some rules are totally different.

For instance, the health insurance fund does not automatically move with you. Meaning – as long as we don’t ask for the transfer our insurance to the Luxemburg branch. We still have to go to Flanders for our retributions. Another example: in Flanders, the mandatory vehicle inspection was postponed until November as part of the corona measurements. In Wallonia, this postponement did not apply and we had to pay extra for being late. The assistant remarked laconically: “Well, you know that Flanders and Wallonia do not always agree”. That’s something I admire: people just shrug it off and go on, complaining about things not being fair, just isn’t what they do.

Onze twee kinderen Daan en Tijl

Corona: a blessing or a curse?

Moving during this crazy corona year… Sometimes I wonder if that makes it harder or just easier. We were very lucky that our plans followed the measurements in Belgium. We made the bid on our house only two weeks (!) before the first lockdown. I took all my leave part-time during that lockdown. We moved at the end of June and received a lot of help from friends and family. This was right during the one period in 2020 when it was allowed. And we chose (fortunately!) a good school nearby trusting the internet.

Of course, we miss our friends and family in Antwerp. But what more could we do than wave at their front door? The same with making new contacts: people are very friendly and welcoming, but more than that is not really possible right now. And also, most of the things the boys really seem to miss, are just not possible or very difficult to do due to the (second) lockdown.

“C'est génial!”

Our biggest concern when we moved, was that our two sons, Daan and Tijl, would be unhappy. After all, the move is our decision and not theirs. But they are doing remarkably well and they seem genuinely happy here. Daan told us the other day that he wished we’d moved sooner. Their French is not perfect yet, but they understand quite a lot and can already express themselves. Both boys are getting extra tutoring at school. Sometimes it’s funny how they use French expressions in Dutch like “c’est génial”. Other words are pronounced with a French accent like covied, googell, bacón and cooll.

Where's the b&b?

If you’ve been reading my blog or know our story personally, you might know that I’ve been dreaming of my own guesthouse for years. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a suitable location so far. The house prices are quite fierce in Arlon, so we’re still looking for that one hidden gem. We’ll keep working on it and I’ll certainly keep you posted.

The many questions I get about learning and improving Dutch language skills did get me thinking. So I’m looking into whether I can help people improve their Dutch online and I want to set up my own podcast. If you’ve got advice, interesting webinars, experiences, or anything else you’d like to share with me on this matter, please let me know in the comments below or via a pm!

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