Survey shows expat students and young professionals are extremely satisfied with their experience in Belgium

Survey shows expat students and young professionals are extremely satisfied with their experience in Belgium
The expat dense Place du Luxembourg

96% of young expats who work or study in Belgium are satisfied with their ‘expatriate’ life. More than 8 out of 10 state that their decision to relocate to Belgium gave a positive turn to their career. These are among the revelations of a survey by the Belgian bank BNP Paribas Fortis. The survey was executed by the ThinkYoung think tank, among expats in the 18 - 28 age group residing in seven European countries.

Many people dream of living and making a career in a foreign country. Every expatriate has his/her own reasons for relocating and will have specific expectations of the host country. The purpose of the study was to find out what those expectations are and also the drivers and barriers expats experience during their stay. “Millennials are the driving force behind this contemporary intra-European mobility, with more and more young expats in Europe seeking new academic and professional experiences elsewhere,” points out Salvatore Orlando, Head of Expatriates at BNP Paribas Fortis. In total 6,349 young expatriates between the ages of 18 and 28 were surveyed in 7 countries, namely Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom. It enquires into the expectations they had before leaving their home country and their subsequent experiences during being an expat.

Reasons why students and young professionals relocate to Belgium

The most common reason for expatriate students to leave their home country and come to Belgium – given by 53% of those polled – is that there was an opportunity provided by their university or school in their home country, while 39% said they wanted to experience another culture. Also 39% of the respondents gave the desire to learn another language or improve their language skills as a major reason for leaving, and 37% of the young interviewees said they went to study in Belgium in order to improve their CV and thus maximize their career opportunities. 

More than 80% of the expatriate young professionals polled moved to Belgium because of the career opportunities available, while more than 50% had taken up the challenge for reasons of personal development. Other reasons for leaving were the opportunity to learn another language, the standard of living and the quality of life in the host country. Contrary to what one might have expected, less than 10% decided to relocate for mainly financial reasons. Salvatore Orlando: “Financial motives are the least important ones for expats to move to another country.” Andrea Gerosa, founder of ThinkYoung, agrees: “It’s a meaningful move, driven not by the desire to have fun but by the willingness to learn more, improve skills, and enhance career opportunities”. 

Experiences in Belgium

Once in Belgium, expat students experience above all a more developed social life (63%). Nearly 6 out of 10 surveyed students praise the quality of the Belgian education, and half of the polled students found that they have a better quality of life. Affordable education (30%) and affordable living costs (21%) are important benefits that expatriate students get in Belgium. Only 7% talk about an increase in financial savings.

Asked about the benefits of their relocation to Belgium, 82% of the young professionals stated that they had been able to advance their careers as a result of the move. Some 43% said that they have a better social life, while 42% have a bigger personal spending and disposable income. About 36% of the young professional expats in Belgium state that their quality of life improved. Other advantages of their relocation are affordable living costs (26%) and an increase in financial savings (17%).

Although 96% of the young expats (both students and young proffesionals) polled reported being generally satisfied with their expatriate life, only 28% stated that the living costs in Belgium are lower than at home. The same trend is discernible for the cost of renting or buying property. The monthly disposable income is higher than 200 euro for nearly 20% of the young expats. For 16% that is even more than 1,000 euro.  

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