Working in Brussels



As the EU's hub of administration, Brussels’ economy is largely service-oriented and dominated by regional and world headquarters of multinationals, European institutions, various administrations, and related services.

Its job market has been continuously expanding, with recruitment of foreigners being notably more vigorous lately, especially for tourism-related jobs. Employers mostly hire tourist guides who are paid higher when they come with a good knowledge of the place and marketing managers and telecommunications engineers for huge warehouse facilities.

Work Visa and Other Requirements

When coming over to work in Belgium, a work permit will be required and applied for by the employer instead of the employee. In most cases, the employer appoints a law firm to do the task and, at the same time, guide the employee through the entire immigration process (work permit and visa, residency, social security, and housing). This is how most working expats in Belgium begin and the process is basically easier for them compared to expats in other countries who usually have to go through everything unassisted.

Business etiquette

In Brussels, punctuality is always necessary and arriving late may brand one as unreliable. All meetings are formal, although first appointments are often more socially oriented than business. This is because Belgians prefer to do business with those they know. Men generally wear dark-colored, conservative business suits or coats, white shirts, silk ties and polished leather footwear which is an integral part of the Belgian executive's professional image. However, they only wear laced shoes, never loafers or other slip-ons which are considered too casual. For women, business suits, coats or any conservative dresses are the norm. The jacket or coat should never be removed while a meeting is still going on. Business cards are exchanged without any formal rituals but one side of it has to be in French or Dutch as a sign of respect and understanding of the linguistic heritage of colleagues. However, at the workplace, everyone is expected to be fluent in English, Dutch and French.

Working hours

Four factors affect working hours for Brussels employees - the employer, the position, the industry and the regional or industry collective agreements that concern the employer. While many companies implement flexible work hours, people are expected to put in about than 39 hours of work a week, after which overtime rates apply. It is usual for the office to open at eight in the morning and close at five in the afternoon. Lunch breaks take about an hour while coffee breaks run for about ten minutes. On weekends and special holidays, business starts from 9am to 11am or until 1pm.


Industry collective agreements and age can have a profound effect on workers' salaries. In job advertisements, a preferred age range is often specified and used by job hunters to gauge how much an employer might be willing to pay. The average salary in the city is about 2.1 M BEF (53,593 Euro) annually for those employed on a monthly basis. 

When considering suitability or acceptability of a job offer, expats usually take into consideration taxes, which can be rather high in Belgium - often higher than how much they would pay in their home countries, including the UK and the US. However, the law mandates that wages be regularly adjusted annually to suit increases in cost of living. In the end, expats still enjoy life in Brussels the way they did the first time they arrived in Belgium's largest urban center.


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