A poll was recently conducted by the Europe-Brussels Liaison Office to gather information and invaluable insight into the opinions of Brussels’ reportedly aloof expat community. But survey respondents supported and upheld the longstanding supposition and any hopes of dispelling what many believed to be a widely held misconception have now been dashed.
9,000 European expats provided startling feedback on June 8th when asked if the image of the Brussels expat who lives on an elitist island actually reflects the truth and apparently, the overall answer was yes, with almost three quarters (74%) admitting that they kept themselves to themselves and actively avoided interaction with Brussels’ native residents.
Up to four fifths said they had few Belgian friends or acquaintances, although this does drop to three fifths when we discount expats who have tread Belgian soil for less than two years; they actually stated that they had no Belgian connections whatsoever. Somewhat surprisingly, the same is true of 6.6% of Belgium’s expats who have spent a decade in the Western European federal monarchy.
Reflecting the findings of a similar 2009 survey, this poll was commissioned by the Brussels regional government in an effort to establish a typical expat’s interests; one startling statistic showed that 80% of expats believe that the streets are far too litter-filled. The research also aimed to learn more of their willingness to participate in events such as local elections, in which 13.7% of expats voted.
The Europe-Brussels Liaison Office’s President Alain Hutchinson commented on what is still a largely segregated community: “Many Europeans still live among themselves in some parts of the city without necessarily showing willingness to integrate … they’ve a tendency to live among themselves in luxury ghettos around the European district.”
Many of Brussels’ visitors are generally thought to be young, career-minded expats who only intend to enjoy a short stay. Despite half of the polltakers saying they enjoyed a high quality of life, most survey respondents spoke negatively of the city, describing it as dangerous, dirty and deprived in comparison to other EU capitals, so perhaps there’s little wonder why few choose to stay.
By Anthony Standring
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