What is Belgium known for?
Belgium is known for many things, from being the “center of Europe” through the presence of the European Institutions, to its delicious chocolate, gaufres and beer. You can find more information about Belgian culture in our City Guides (ask your recruiter).
What are Belgium’s main cities? What can we visit in each of them?
Belgium’s main cities are Brussels (the capital); Antwerp and Ghent (the biggest cities in Flanders - the Northern, Flemish-speaking side of Belgium); Liège and Namur (the biggest cities in Wallonia - the Southern, French-speaking side of Belgium). Additionally, you should visit Bruges (a World Heritage Site of the UNESCO and very romantic city), the Ardennes (a beautiful, green region of Southwest Wallonia) and the Belgian Coast (Knokke, Oostende) when the weather is good.
How can I travel within Belgium?
Belgium is a small country with very wide network of highways connecting the whole country, so you can quickly get around and travel between cities. Otherwise, the train is always a great option and the main cities of the country are very well connected and easily reachable. You also have 2 international airports connected to most of the world, located in Brussels (Zaventem) and Brussels South (Charleroi).
What is Brussels known for?
Brussels is famous for many things, among which the fact that it’s the capital of Europe, the multicultural and cosmopolitan vibe, its historical center, the art nouveau style architecture and many other things. There’s plenty to see and do, and you can find detailed information in our City Guides (ask your recruiter) as well as in the next couples of questions.
What can I visit in Brussels?
There are many things to see in Brussels, such as the famous Manneken Pis, the Grand Place, the Atomium, the Comic Strip Center, the many museums around Monts-des-Arts, and many more. You can find some more information in our guides (both Living in Brussels and the Guide for Newcomers), as well as through an online search.
Where can I look for apartments in Brussels?
Immoweb is the website where most Belgians look for apartments/houses as it displays a wide array of offers catering to all sorts of needs. The website is http://www.immoweb.be/en/. Be aware that although these are rare, there could be some fake advertisements. Never send a payment to anyone without meeting them in person first, seeing the apartment, and signing the lease. Contact our HR Manager if you have any doubts.
What neighborhoods would you recommend within Brussels?
It depends on what you’re looking for. However, overall, we can recommend Ixelles, Etterbeek, parts of Brussels City Center, Woluwé-Saint-Pierre, Woluwé-Saint-Lambert and part of Saint-Gilles as the overall. Depending on your priorities, these are a bit more expensive than the average but they should have you covered in terms of proximity to work, raising a family, neighborhood with good nightlife, and more.
What's the cost of living in Brussels like?
You can find more information about this in our guide Living in Brussels (ask your recruiter), but here are some basic every-day life examples you can consider:
  • A public transportation subscription will cost 50€ per month.
  • A sandwich at lunch will cost about 4€
  • Dinner at a restaurant costs about 15-20€ per person in a “normal” restaurant.
  • A standard beer costs in general about 2-3€.
  • Where can I go if I want to learn French and/or Dutch?
    You can look online for private tutoring or go to your local administration (known as communes in Brussels) and ask when they hold French or Dutch lessons. Alternatively, you can look online for language schools that provide French and/or Dutch classes, such as the Alliance Française.
    How much do schools cost on average in Brussels?
    Public schools are subsidized by the state and come at no cost. Private schools are however paid, and range from 6.000€ a year all the way to 30.000€. We highly recommend the public system as it is one of the best in Europe. If you prefer the private system though, we recommend enrolling children at least 6-9 months in advance of the relocation, to ensure there’s enough space in the school.
    Can I enroll my kids in a public school in Brussels?
    Yes, as a resident of Belgium, you can make use of the Belgian public school system. However, be aware that there can be a waiting list in the most popular districts and that the earliest you sign them up, the better.
    Even if I arrive after classes have started?
    This issue will have to be taken up with each individual school to see their specific policy on the issue. However, if your children do not speak French or Dutch they will most likely need language classes, so we recommend enrolling them for the next school year and using the delay to get them up to speed.
    What international schools can I find in Brussels?
    The larger ones are the European Schools, the British School and the International School of Brussels.
    What are the different European Institutions?
    There are many different institutions, of which some of the most important are the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. It should also be noted that the European Commission is actually composed of multiple departments called Directorate-Generals (DGs), each with a different size, purpose and budget. Additionally, you have multiple other bodies such as the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank, the European External Action Service, as well as institutions closely linked to the EU, such as NATO and Eurocontrol.
    Where are they located in Brussels?
    The institutions are located in various places in Brussels, but they are mostly concentrated in the so-called European District, around the Schuman roundabout and along the Loi and Belliard streets.
    What experience do you require your employees to have?
    Experience is based on the needs of the client for specific requests. Our consultants range from Juniors with little more than 1 year of experience and up to Seniors with more than 30 years in the field. The key thing is that requirements are not negotiable when it comes to public institutions, because it is public money that they are using. Therefore, when you see that a Degree, a certain number of years of experience or a certain Certificate are required, this means that you are automatically disqualified in the event of not having them – and as much as we would like to, there’s nothing we can do to change this.
    What CV format do you require?
    The standard we would always like to receive is the Europass CV format. You can prepare your own at the following address: https://europass.cedefop.europa.euThe most important thing is, whichever format you use, we always need as much detail as possible on the roles and responsibilities you’ve had along your career, and in particular, the full and complete list of technologies used in every project. This is the main way we assess compliance with our positions, so missing a technology on your CV, even if it’s an obvious one, can lead to mistakes being made and applications being wrongfully discarded. Please pay particular attention to this.
    Why do you need to know all the technologies and tools I have used in previous jobs?
    The client puts out a request with specific criteria requirements that it wants candidates to have before they are presented to them. When we ask you for an exhaustive list of the technologies you used, it is firstly for us to make sure that you meet the criteria and, secondly, as an argument that we can present to the client validating your claim to the position. We know it is a bit time consuming to write down all technologies for each professional experience, but it will make the difference between getting the interview or not getting it.
    What will be the project, size and composition of the team, and other details?
    Usually we will already have a job description that our recruiters will send you before or after your first call, containing information on the tasks and requirements of the positions. This is already a good place to start, however, a more detailed explanation of the team’s composition and size are usually only known by the client, so our recruiters cannot help you with this at the earliest stages. Therefore, we recommend asking as many questions as you have during the first interview.
    Who will I have a contract with?
    Your contract will be with Digitera, or in a few exceptional cases, with one of our partner companies. While you will be working at the institution’s location, you will be our employee working there as a consultant.
    How are salaries defined?
    Each position is defined by type (for example, Application Architect) and by level (for example, Senior), and for each level of each type there is a fixed rate. The rates are fixed by contract with our clients, and are therefore not negotiable in any way. They are usually defined by your years of experience and objective criteria. You can, however, receive an upgrade to a higher level after some time in your mission, or even be transferred to a different mission with another client and a higher rate over time.
    How long do contracts last?
    Contracts last between 1 and 7 years, with 2-3 years being the average length of a mission. This does not mean that you need to stay that long though: you can stay less time if you wish to, or stay longer by being transferred by other assignments in case your project ends. If the mission is particularly short, or if it requires an exceptionally long commitment, we will always inform you of the situation.
    Can I work remotely or does this job require me to work on-site?
    Our positions at the European Institutions require that our consultants work on-site. This is because they will need to work within the secured network provided for the job and so, unfortunately, it is not possible to work remotely or partly on-site.
    How long is my notice period?
    Some of the projects our consultants are working on impact 500 million Europeans and/or 28 (soon 27) national governments, and an interruption of services can have dire consequences. In case you ever wish to leave us, we usually ask our consultants to warn us three months in advance, because it takes about a month to find a replacement on very specialized profiles, about 1 month for the recruiting procedure to be finalized, and then the candidate usually has a 1-month notice to leave the private sector. To ensure a proper and documented handover is done, we therefore usually need about 3 months. However, we always commit to managing this situation on a case per case basis, meaning we will do everything in our power to shorten the notice as much as possible in case this is required for your next opportunity. The key thing we emphasize is that open communication and trust are essential in this process.
    What is a freelancer contract?
    A freelancer contract is a commercial contract between two commercial legal entities, Digitera and another company. This can either mean with you as a physical person, in case you register yourself as a freelancer/independent worker and obtain a VAT number assigned to you (the terminology varies by country), or with your company, in case you have a one-person VAT registered company which is a separate legal entity from yourself as a physical person.
    Why are EU citizens the only ones that can work as freelancers?
    The European Union is a single market for labor, services and goods, enabling people to work freely among European Union countries. This does not extend to all countries outside of this single market, and non-Europeans therefore need a work permit to work in a country part of the EU. If you are a citizen from outside of the EU, the only viable option in order to obtain this work permit is for you to be recruited as an employee. Technically, non-Europeans can also establish themselves as freelancers, but this is a procedure which takes up to 6 months. You can therefore consider this as a potential evolution down the line, but in the beginning, you need to start as an employee of Digitera.
    How does this contract work?
    A freelancer is paid a fixed rate per day of service, which is invoiced on a monthly basis. So for example, if the position’s rate is 200€/day and the freelancer worked 20 days that month, the company will invoice Digitera 200 x 20 = 4.000€ for that month.
    What will the taxation be?
    The taxation of your company is impossible for Digitera to estimate because it depends on too many factors. We recommend that you speak to a qualified accountant to guide you in these matters.
    How many days of holidays do I get as a freelancer?
    As a freelancer, your contract is usually for an average of 220 working days per year, which leaves 40 working days per year free. About 10 of these are national holidays and/or days of closure for the Institutions, meaning this leaves about 30 days forecasted for holidays.
    What is a Belgian employee contract?
    An employee contract is an open-ended contract of employment between you and our company. This contract grants you social security, including healthcare, retirement savings, family allocations from the Belgian government, as well as the salary and benefits provided to you by Digitera.
    What benefits am I entitled to with a Belgian employee contract?
    It’s important to start by distinguishing the benefits that are mandated by Belgian labor law and inherent to the system, from those provided by Digitera at our own discretion.

    Those inherent to Belgium are as follows:
    - Access to healthcare by signing up at one of the Mutuelles in Belgium, the semi-private-semi-public institutions which receive budget from the state for your healthcare. 80-90% of medical expenses are reimbursed, and the Mutuelle you choose will provide more information on this;
    - Access to social security, such as unemployment benefits, coverage in case of work accidents, prolonged illness, etc;
    - Family allocations, which are amounts paid to you by the government to help raise your children;
    - Access to retirement savings after one year working under a Belgian employment contract;
    - 2 extra salaries per year (see below);
    - Legal holidays (see below);

    The additional benefits provided by Digitera are:
    - Meal vouchers (chèques-repas) which you can use to buy food;
    - Eco-vouchers (écochèques) which you can use to buy ecological products;
    - A monthly allowance for professional expenses such as internet, phone, etc;
    - A life insurance policy which adds additional amounts to the retirement savings already provided by the government;
    - A hospitalization insurance policy which covers what is not yet covered by state healthcare in the event you are hospitalized;
    Why do I get 2 extra salaries and how do these work?
    To be precise, in Belgium you receive 13.92 salaries per year. The first extra salary is received in June, akin to a “holiday bonus” (double pécule de vacances), in order to help you pay for your main holidays of the year. Its gross value is 92% of your monthly gross salary. The second extra salary is received at the end of the year, akin to a “Christmas bonus” (allocation de fin d’année), to help cover the costs of this special season. Its gross value is 100% of your monthly gross salary.

    There is a big difference between the two though: the holiday bonus is calculated based on how long you worked during the previous year, whereas the Christmas bonus is calculated based on how long you worked during the current year with a minimum of 6 months.

    To exemplify: imagine you join Digitera on the 1st of April 2017 and you stay 2 years until the 31st of March 2019. You will have worked 9 months in 2017, 12 in 2018 and 3 in 2019.
    - In 2017 you do not receive any holiday bonus (because you didn’t work in 2016) and you receive 9/12 x 100% of your gross salary as a Christmas bonus;
    - In 2018 you receive 9/12 x 92% of your gross salary as a holiday bonus and 12/12 x 100% of your gross salary as a Christmas bonus;
    - In 2019, when you resign, you receive 12/12 x 92% of your gross salary as a holiday bonus from 2018, 3/12 x 92% of your gross salary as a holiday bonus from 2019 and 3/12 x 100% of your gross salary as a Christmas bonus;

    If you had started after the 1st of July 2017, the only thing which changes is that you would not have received the Christmas bonus in the first year, since you worked less than the minimum of 6 months. The rest of the logic would still apply.
    How many days of holidays do I get as an employee?
    Legal holidays in Belgium follow the same logic as the holiday bonus in the previous question, meaning you earn them for the following year by working in the current year. The legal amount of holidays is 20 days, meaning that if you worked in Belgium only 6 months during 2017, in 2018 you will have 10 days of holidays.

    Additionally, since we work 40-hour weeks, you get 1 extra day of holidays per month, which can be taken immediately during the current year. And to compensate for this complicated legislation (although it’s really not our fault!), Digitera also gives you the European Institutions’ days of closure as additional holidays during the first year. You can also take unpaid leave if you need to be absent more than this.

    So building on our previous example, here’s how it would work:
    - In 2017 you would have 9 days of holidays for the 9 months worked + about 10 days of Institutions closures;
    - In 2018 you would have 12 days of holidays for the 12 months worked + 15 days (which is 9/12 x 20) for the months worked in 2017;
    - In 2019 you would have 3 days of holidays for the 3 months worked + 20 days;

    At the time when you resign, the unused days will be paid out to you.
    What other countries does Digitera work in?
    Digitera occasionally also has missions in Luxembourg, France (Valencienne, Lille, Strasbourg), the Netherlands (Petten, the Hague), Italy (Ispra), Ireland (Grange), Germany (Cologne), and sometimes others. These missions are less frequent and 80% of our positions are in Brussels, but we can inquire about these possibilities with us if you’d like.
    Do you also have information about these other countries?
    Yes, and although it’s not always easy to know everything without living there ourselves, we provide relocation assistance on a case per case basis for these other cities as needed and to the best of our ability. We also have people working in most of them, so we can put you in touch with them for additional support and general questions about their life experience there.
    What kind of contract will I get if I work in one of these other countries?
    For all these other countries, you can choose between a Luxembourg employee contract or a freelancer contract. In case you choose to be an employee, if you are living in Luxembourg then it will be a normal employee contract, and if you are leaving in any of the other countries, it will be an employee detachment contract.
    What is a detachment contract?
    A detachment contract is a normal employee contract in every regard with the specificity that you “detach” the relevant employee to work on a mission for the company in another country. This means you will be a Luxembourg employee, receiving all benefits from the social security system of Luxembourg because you are employed by Digitera in Luxembourg and paying social security taxes there, but sent in detachment to work in one of these countries.
    What if I decide to be a freelancer in these other countries?
    As a freelancer, you either have your own company or you are a physical person acting as a commercial entity (see section about Contracts for more details). In both cases this wouldn’t make any difference, it will be the same logic and mechanics as for Belgium. The only thing to keep in mind, naturally, is that your company needs to abide by the specific laws and regulations of each country, so your obligations, benefits and taxation might vary from one country to the next.