An expat event by Community Gent called “Living And Working in Gent” took place the 6th of October at the Bijloke Muziekcentrum. About 200 guests came to speed date with organizations supporting expats to feel more at home in Gent. Expats are defined as people from abroad living in Gent in this context.
Top challenges for expats in Gent
Due to hearing a lot of frustrations, especially regarding registration procedures and seemingly a lack of opportunity to meet other expats, the organizers from the Expat working group of Community Gent wanted to offer an event tailored to the needs of the expats. To figure out the main challenges of expats in Gent a survey was conducted before the event. The survey results based on almost 120 responses revealed the following top 5 challenges for expats:
- 52.1% – Sorting out your paperwork (visas/registration to be allowed to live in Belgium)
- 51.3% – Learning the language (taking a course, finding locals to practise with)
- 47% – Meeting new people and leisure time (making friends, joining groups, sports/hobbies)
- 37.6% – Finding information in another language than Flemish
- 36.8% – Employment (job ads, interviews, CVs, contracts, fitting in with the culture)
Representatives from various organizations were invited as hosts to help expats tackling these top 5 challenges. In the end around 30 different hosts signed up.
For 3 x 10 minutes people moved around talking with any host in an informal speed dating setup. After the speed dating rounds were finished, all expats mingled casually over a drink and an appetizer.
Here is a list of all the hosts by areas corresponding to the five top challenges:
Moving to Gent & practical arrangements
- City of Ghent – International Relations & Networking – Digital welcome guide in English
- Relocation Belgium
- Banking: BNP Paribas Fortis
- Ethias Insurances
- Health insurance: Partena Ziekenfonds
Living in Gent
- Belgian Cooking Classes
- Business club: International Club of Flanders
- Parenting in Gent: Gentse Spruiten
- Volunteer: Gent4Humanity Calais refugee support
- Community Gent: A meeting place for people and organizations with the goal to make Gent an even nicer place to live and work in
- City of Ghent – Sportdienst
- City of Ghent – Culture
- Ask Me Anything: Senior Expats
- Ask Me Anything: Musicians
Learning Dutch in Gent
- Taalcafé Mundial: Biweekly meetings for international (language) exchange
- Huis van het Nederlands
- University Language Centre
- Berlitz Language Center Ghent – providing also private Dutch lessons
- VDAB: NT2: Dutch as second language
Working in Gent
- Look for a job: Co-Searching, Talentree and VDAB
- Multilingual jobs: Showpad, Teamleader
- Start a business: Partena Professional (administrative information) + Entrepreneurs Anonymous (monthly networking events for entrepreneurs in English)
- Gent University & Post Doc Community encourage Postdocs to develop their career path and to build a bridge with the non-academic job market
Studying in Gent
Launch New Digital City Guide
The new digital city guide in English for newcomers in Ghent was introduced at the Expat Event.
It is available at www.stad.gent/expats and answers the most common questions a newcomer might have upon arrival in Ghent. The guide therefore contains information such as registering at the city hall, info on living, mobility, leisure, culture, sports in Ghent.
The not-for-profit organization Community Gent was the organizer of the event. Community Gent is a collaboration platform between the City of Ghent and various organizations and individuals active in the following sectors; culture, sports, economy, science, education and healthcare.
The working groups of Community Gent are:
- Wijze Vrouwen (wise women)
- Jong & Wijs (young and wise)
- MAN-talks (Management Assistant Network)
- G100 (city influencers getting together to make Gent a better place to live and work in)
More information about Community Gent is available at http://decommunity.be/. For people who want to receive invitations to future events or receive updates from the Community Gent and the expat group can write to email@example.com
More about the Expats working group
Around 10 volunteers, mainly expats, organize events where all internationals in Gent can meet each other, exchange knowledge, share experiences and engage with the city. According to the mission of the Community Gent the main aim for the Expat working group is to create a dialogue between the city and expats and other internationals.
“We do this because we want to use our own experiences as expats to make new residents feel more welcome. We all love Gent and want to bring more diversity, new knowledge and innovation to the city”.
Because of the feedback given by the attendees:
“My overall impression of the evening was very positive and I hope to attend more evenings like this one in the near future.”“Keep doing this kind of events! Really useful for everyone!”“Similar events should be organized on regular basis (monthly, quarterly ….)”
Photo credits: Natasa Ahacic
About the author:
Jenny is originally from Finland and moved to Ghent in 2009. Now she works as self-employed organising events, supporting businesses with marketing and helping people starting their own businesses by being a community manager of Entrepreneurs Anonymous & co-organiser of Freelance Business Day. Find out more and connect with her on LinkedIn.