Living in Brussels
There are a number of facilities and services inside NATO Headquarters which will help you during your employment with NATO. As indicated below, Belgium also has a lot to offer in terms of education, transport, accommodation, cultural and social life. All this together will contribute to an enjoyable and successful employment with NATO.
The NATO salary is paid into the local bank account of the staff member's choice. For staff members’ convenience, there is a branch of the ING Bank within NATO HQ main building, and the Banca Monte Paschi Belgio is located at the Staff Centre. An account may be opened at either bank after taking up duties at NATO. (Expatriate staff members may also have up to 50% of their salaries paid into a bank account in their home country, if they so wish.)
In the NATO building itself, various services are available:
- Belgian Post Office
- Hairdressing salon (m/f)
- Travel agency
- Newsagent (which sells chocolates, greeting cards, books, newspapers and magazines)
- Dry cleaning, laundry and shoe-repair service
- Insurance companies
- Estate agents (rental/purchase of properties)
NATO facilities also include a coffee bar, a self-service restaurant and a table-service restaurant. There are also a bar and restaurant in the NATO Staff Centre which is situated in an adjacent building. (see Staff Centre Facilities below for more details).
During school holidays, daytime activities under the supervision of professional staff are organized for staff members’ children aged between 3 and 12, at the Staff Centre, under the aegis of the Human Resources Personnel Support Service. Various other holiday programmes are available for older children (e.g. tennis, IT training). All of these services are available on the payment of a nominal fee.
School in Belgium is only compulsory from the age of six years, which marks the start of primary education, but many children start nursery education from the age of two and a half. Various types of child care can be found in and around Brussels, some of them subsidized by the Belgian authorities, but in any case the quality of the activities, the safety standards and the level of the service provided are always regulated by the Belgian authorities.
Although there is no housing service at NATO, new staff members who require temporary accommodation on arrival in Brussels should contact the Personnel Support Officer (telephone 00.322.707.4657) for information on hotels and ‘apartment hotels’ and other advice.
Furnished and unfurnished accommodation is fairly plentiful. “Le Soir” and the English language weekly “The Bulletin” carry advertisements, and popular websites include http://www.immoweb.be/ and http://www.vlanimmo.be/. There is also a weekly newspaper called “Le Vlan”, published in the various communes of Brussels, which advertises accommodation for sale or rent. In addition advertisements for furnished and unfurnished properties to let, as well as properties for sale, can often be found on the NATO notice board outside the cafeteria, and on the internal NATO intranet system.
The capital of Europe has excellent facilities for children! From nursery classes to secondary education, the various possibilities offer practically unlimited choice in terms of quality and quantity, even including institutions that teach in languages other than French or Dutch.
There is no special NATO school, but several international schools exist in the Brussels area, such as the European School, the British School, the International School of Brussels, etc. There are a lot of other private and official schools in Belgium; some of them are organized by the municipalities and provinces while others are privately organized and subsidized by the education authorities. Today Belgium's level of education is one of the highest in Europe, as is the percentage of children attending school.
All students with an upper secondary education certificate can enter higher education in universities and other establishments. The choice of establishments in Belgium, and in Brussels in particular, is practically endless. The most reputable institutions therefore welcome an increasing number of foreign students. Further information on schools and education in Belgium can be provided by Human Resources.
NATO has a Staff Centre in its grounds which, on payment of a membership fee, offers staff and their families a wide range of services and sports facilities:
- Restaurant, bar and function rooms
- Bowling bar
- Fitness centre with sun-bed
- Indoor swimming pool and sauna
- Beauty centre
- Tennis centre (winter/summer)
- Multi-purpose sports facility and football pitch
- Perfume/cosmetic shop
A number of clubs operate under the aegis of the Staff Association. Amongst these are clubs for tennis, squash, flying, sailing, riding, philately, arts, football, fencing, triathlon, yoga and table tennis enthusiasts. There is also a Music Club, which includes a NATO choir and various instrumental groups.
An institution known as “Welcome to Belgium”, which caters particularly for expatriate staff members and their spouses, organizes various activities such as visits to places of interest or cultural outings, and makes theatre reservations and so on.
The “NATO International Club” is made up of spouses (m/f) of civilian and military staff and of members of the national delegations. They organize visits to exhibitions, gatherings and trips and have regular meetings. The spouses of newcomers are contacted individually and all members regularly receive a newsletter.
Sport occupies an important place in Belgium. There are professional sports such as football, cycling, judo, volleyball, tennis and motocross and any number of amateur sports. There is a lively and varied range of club activities. The Ardennes are easily accessible if you want to climb, abseil, ski, go mountain-biking or enjoy a very long walk. Artificial slopes and climbing walls in towns also cater for such activities.
Using public transport, NATO Headquarters can be reached on buses N° 65, 21 and 12. Car drivers are advised that the Headquarters is situated on the Brussels-Zaventem (Airport) highway. There are parking areas on the NATO site.
Public transport is well-developed in Belgium, with trains, buses, trams, underground (metro) lines and taxis providing regular service in most districts. In the Brussels area almost all routes are operated by the STIB/MIVB; in Flanders they are mainly operated by De Lijn while TEC is the major operator in Wallonia. Bus/tram tickets may be obtained from the driver but it is cheaper to buy them in advance at metro stations or from suppliers such as newsagents.
All newcomers are required to report to the Vehicle Registration Office as part of their arrival formalities. Expatriate staff members can obtain Belgian registration plates through this service, and for this purpose should provide all the usual vehicle documents as they would in their home country. A vehicle registration guide describing the necessary formalities is available on request from this office.
It is advisable to be aware of the Belgian Highway Code, which can be purchased at most bookshops.