95% of young expats who work or study in Belgium are satisfied with their expat 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 6,349 young expatriates between the ages of 18 and 28 living in seven European countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom.
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 Europeans seeking new academic and professional experiences elsewhere,” points out Salvatore Orlando, Head of Expatriates at BNP Paribas Fortis.
Why students and young professionals move 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”.
Behaviour of expats students in Belgium
Once in Belgium, expat students experience above all a more developed social life (63%). Nearly 6 out of 10 praise the quality of the Belgian education, and half of the polled people pretend 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.
Was it worth it?
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 95% of the young expats 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.