Teaching English in Brussels, Belgium – A TEFL Teacher’s Story

What brought me right here?

Once I began my 5 week TESOL course again in 1997 I had no concept of the journey it will allow me to take. I used to be definitely not aiming to be educating in the capital of Europe a number of years later and at that point, nor would I’ve chosen to be doing so. Brussels is perhaps the capital of the European Union and residential to the European Parliament where certainly English is needed nevertheless it doesn’t have a popularity for an exciting life, certainly the other is more more likely to be heard.

Having completed my TESOL, I spent a yr in Moscow studying the ropes and exploring the intricacies of the English language before leaving for Italy to spend a couple more years educating. This experience led me to volunteer as an EFL instructor for 2 years in Rwanda earlier than returning to Italy for a short time. All this time spent educating motivated me to proceed with my own studying curve, I accomplished my degree in psychology earlier than happening to graduate with an MA in TESOL from Brighton College.

The place to go from there? With no specific plans I jumped on the probability of shifting again to Europe, newly married, my husband’s supply of a job in Brussels appeared like a really perfect opportunity for each of us to start out work overseas, for him to embrace studying French and for me to place my information of the language into follow again.

Apartments in Brussels

Initial impressions and finding a place to reside

Sadly, Brussels does have a fame for being slightly uninteresting but on arriving right here I felt that to be largely an injustice. The architecture is beautiful, the large amount of parks and green areas, museums, monuments, live shows, restaurants, bars and stay music venues mirror the distinctive importance given to scholar and family values alongside a mess of cultures.

The town itself is relatively small, like all metropolis there are areas to be prevented resembling hanging around railway stations and a few districts to the north, general though it has a allure that’s distinctive and enthralling. The general public transport system is efficient and not too costly with buses, trams and an underground. It is a cycle friendly city with an growing variety of cycle lanes in addition to bikes to lease with stations across the town. I happily cycle across the city to my numerous courses. Individuals are unobtrusive but pleasant in the event you ask for help, while the official languages are Dutch and French, it’s stated that English is probably the most spoken language in Brussels and nearly all of individuals converse a minimum of just a little.

The preliminary problem is to seek out lodging, while sharing a flat or ‘kot’ as they name it right here is an choice, we needed to reside alone. We researched the varied districts with the help of a good friend who had moved here several years earlier, in style and protected areas embrace Etterbeek, Ixelles, St Gilles and slightly further from the centre Woluwe St Lambert, Woluwe St Pierre and Uccle.

This search shouldn’t be with out challenges, notably in case you are nonetheless in the UK at this point, flats are left on the location long after they’ve been taken, most lodging comes unfurnished which invariably means no fitted kitchen and now and again the photograph is randomly positioned and is not the condominium you will notice. The best choice is to return to Belgium, make an appointment with an agent who can take you round in addition to individual appointments with personal house owners. A lot of the accommodation is beautiful and a pleasure to view with high ceilings, balconies or terraces.

If you do find a place to call house, the subsequent step is to pop alongside to your native ‘commune’ or town corridor to register in your Belgian id card. This will take a number of visits and should require a sense of humour if you end up asked for increasingly more documents but it’s all value it in the top if you lastly receive your card. A little information of French could possibly be helpful for this a part of settling into Belgium.

Teaching necessities and working circumstances

Nearly all of language faculties here don’t employ academics, they work on a self employed foundation with the faculties as their shoppers. Though initially this could be a little daunting as it’s essential to set yourself up as self-employed or ‘indépendant’ it does provide the flexibility of choosing what sort of courses you favor to teach, working for multiple faculty, taking holidays once you select to and managing your time as you please. On the down aspect nevertheless, you by no means actually understand how a lot work you’ll have and inevitably there are peaks and troughs.

To register for a BCE (Banque Carrefour des Entreprises) number, displaying your self employed standing, you have to have a recognised university diploma and to pay an preliminary sum of around 70 Euros to a public business coordination centre . Current modifications in legalisation mean that academics are additionally now required to have VAT number, this may be acquired from the Administration Générale de la Fiscalité by finishing a simple type. Increasingly, paperwork and administration is accessible in English however a information of French or Dutch is actually useful to completely understand what is going on.

There are several language faculties in Brussels, the most effective factor to do is visit their web sites and ship your CV explaining your state of affairs. Academics come and go so it is value persevering if at first they don’t appear to have any be just right for you. A few of the faculties are involved with ‘Actiris’, the unemployment company in Brussels which presents free individual courses to job seekers and much more free courses once they find work. Maybe because of this, for the primary couple of years I discovered myself educating solely one-to-one courses specializing in enterprise English, basic English and of course English for job seekers – writing CVs, cowl letters and interview expertise. Satisfaction guaranteed when the scholars find work! It is value mentioning here that not all the faculties have language educating assets or books, they do usually provide a photocopier and internet connection but this isn’t all the time assured. I’ve steadily built up my own resource financial institution and with web assets it’s really not a problem.

As anticipated in such a multi-cultural city the students come from numerous backgrounds and cultures making educating all of the extra fascinating. There’s additionally the potential of working for the European fee although finding a chance is much less straightforward, some academics work ‘in the black’ for tax free money where they might be charging around 20 to 30 Euros per hour. In distinction, most faculties pay between 20 and 25 Euros per hour, somewhat self discipline is required to place a proportion apart to cowl your tax at the finish of the yr. Relying on what number of hours you’re employed, around a third of this could greater than cover your tax expenses.

Dwelling prices

Teaching English in Brussels won’t make you wealthy and as with all nation, the cost of dwelling is determined by your way of life. Coming right here from Scotland, the most important variations have been the high worth of lodging and in addition coming to terms with a decrease wage. As I already talked about, public transport is cheaper as is alcohol so it isn’t all dangerous information!

Supermarkets can seem costly, there’s not the identical degree of competitors as in Britain to keep to prices low. This depends very a lot on the time of yr with recent meals, in case you buy native produce which is in season then in fact it really works out less expensive. In case you are not educating in the mornings it is value testing the native markets – additionally a good way to practise your language expertise. Many Belgians drive to Lille in France, about an hour away, or to Aachen in Germany, to do their bulk supermarket purchasing as it’s significantly cheaper.

Consuming out varies, there are some actually good restaurants at common costs and some not so good over-priced ones. Avoiding the town centre immediately surrounding Grande Place and any waiters who try to drag you in off the street is a reasonably good guideline to comply with. Tipping is usually not expected as service is included in the bill however it’s all the time appreciated and price doing in case you get notably good service or intend to go back at some point.

Stilt walkers on Belgian day

Way of life

A part of the attraction of educating English in Brussels is in fact its proximity to the remainder of mainland Europe. The often efficient practice service means you may be in Holland, Germany, Luxembourg or France in next to no time and most trains will take bikes too. To journey slightly further afield Brussels has two airports with low value airlines flying from Charleroi airport, about an hour from central Brussels with a daily bus service there and again.

Nevertheless, while this can be the attraction initially, there’s additionally a lot to explore in Brussels and Belgium itself. The fascinating political state of affairs with the Walloons, French speaking Belgians, in the South after which the Flemish, Dutch talking Belgians, in the North adds to the range of the country. There are numerous lovely towns and cities to visit, from the touristic Bruges in the north to the maybe lesser visited yet equally as charming Liege in the South. The small cities and villages additionally hold a sure appeal and there’s definitely lots to discover.

It goes with out saying that Belgium is renowned for its fantastic beer, most of the time an ideal praise to traditional Belgian dishes reminiscent of mussels and chips, carbonade – beef slowly cooked in ale, or stoemp – a sort of mashed potato dish with different yummy things added. Then there’s the delicious chocolate, waffles – the odor of which can comply with you across the country and oddly sufficient, Australian ice cream which appears to be out there all over the place.

Brussels comes alive in the summer time with outside live shows, festivals, a short lived seashore by the canal, cafes spilling onto pavements, outside cinemas and infinite brocantes across the city. Fascinatingly, a brocante includes everybody in a certain neighbourhood putting all their unwanted belongings from clothes to previous report players, out on the street to sell. It’s great for neighbourly spirit, recycling unwanted goods, finding an occasional discount and there’s often a burger van, crêpe stand and once more, oddly sufficient, a guy selling mojitos protecting everyone pleased.

All in all, Brussels has thrown plenty of challenges in my course however overcoming every one and finding my place in this charming metropolis which I’ve grown fonder of as every season goes by has been a pleasure. I’ll not keep here for ever but for now I’m pleased and even proud to have the ability to name it residence.

By Victoria Hebden

When you have any questions for Victoria or also have expertise educating English in Belgium and want to add some further recommendation for prospective academics please depart your reply in the comments section on the bottom of the page.

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