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Moving to Ghent

Skyline of Ghent ©Rebecca Bramlett

Are you thinking about moving to Ghent, Belgium? Perhaps you already have a date for your move, and now you’re looking for tips on how to go about it exactly? Or maybe you’ve just arrived in Ghent and you’re wondering where you can learn Dutch, how to get around the city, or make new friends. TheSquare.Gent is here for you! This is your one-stop-shop for information on moving to Ghent.

TheSquare.Gent was set up in 2016 by three expats (from Finland, Slovenia and the UK) to help others in the same situation. Our goal is to provide you with lots of useful information. For free, online, and in English. To help you plan and prepare for moving to Ghent. And settle in once you’re here… We get a lot of questions from people who are in the process of moving to Ghent, but we also have lots of ‘senior expat’ followers. These are people who moved to Ghent many years ago but love it so much that it’s really become their new home.

Planning on Moving to Ghent?

The most important and urgent topic for any expat is where to live in Ghent. But like any city, it’s really hard to know where to start if you’ve only visited the city once, or perhaps not even at all. Ghent is a small city, but it still has different neighbourhoods, each with their own character. So our advice is always to book yourself some temporary accommodation (a hostel or AirBnB) for at least a few weeks when you arrive. This gives you time to get to know Ghent and find out which part of town might be the best for you. We’ve also got tips on getting around Ghent covered too.

Finding Somewhere to Live in Ghent

Once you know where you might like to start your house hunt, we also have plenty of tips to share on how to find an apartment/room in Ghent. In Ghent, a lot of house or apartment rental contracts tend to be for at least three years, so watch out for this if you’re only planning on staying in Ghent for a year or so. If you break the contract before the three years is up, you can incur quite some costs. So it’s already smart to think about this in advance.

Even if you do want to stay longer, or it’s a permanent move, you might want to try and find a one-year contract to get started. This way you’re not committed for too long in case it doesn’t work out. When you find a place you like, you will need to pay a deposit. But there is also another cost which is a detailed inventory description. This is done to protect both you and the landlord in the event that the property is damaged.

Another ‘good to know’ about Ghent is that a lot of rental properties are unfurnished. So you’ll need to be prepared to buy new or second-hand furniture to really make yourself feel at home.

Learning Dutch in Ghent

One of the reasons we set up TheSquare.Gent was because it was very difficult to get official information in English about Ghent and how to build a life here. Things have improved a lot since 2016, and now there are lots of places where you can find basic Ghent information in English.

But we definitely recommend trying to learn the local language, which is Dutch (or Flemish, to be more precise). You will get so much more out of your time in Ghent if you can at least understand Dutch. The locals speak really good English, but you’ll make friends a lot quicker if you learn Dutch.

Banks, Health Insurance and Other Life Admin When Moving to Ghent

It’s true, Belgium can be very admin heavy! From our own experiences and talking to a lot of expats in Ghent, we know that the hardest thing to get your head around is the process of registering in Ghent. Without official residency here, and the residence card to match, it’s very difficult to do simple things like open a bank account, get health insurance or pay your taxes.

A lot depends of course on which country you’re coming from and whether you’re coming as an employee, spouse or you’re looking for work. This is why TheSquare.Gent can’t give out specific information. We always advise you to contact your embassy or local authorities to determine what visas or other paperwork you might need to have in place. Another tip is to to use Relocation Belgium’s Immi service. You just need to answer a few questions and it will advise you which documents, visas or permits you need to have for your move to Ghent.

One common problem for all expats arriving in Ghent is that the process can take a long time. In some cases it can even take up to 6 months to get registered. And that’s not counting any time you need to wait before you arrive. So our top piece of advice is be prepared for it to seem very slow and frustrating. Do not plan to be up and running with everything in a matter of weeks.

Moving house is difficult enough when it’s in your own country, but when you’re having to do everything from move your pet with you to set up internet in another language, it’s good to get some tips from those who’ve been in your shoes.

Making Friends When Moving to Ghent

Once you have somewhere to live and all your ‘life admin’ things sorted out, it’s time to start enjoying Ghent! As a university city, Ghent is young, vibrant and extremely friendly. But actually knowing where to meet new people can be hard. You might also want to meet people from your own country. Just being able to chat in your own language to get some tips on building a life in Ghent can be extremely reassuring.

Moving to Ghent with TheSquare.Gent

Our content is organised in categories to help you find the most relevant information faster:

Just Arrived

All about the basic information for people who have just landed in Ghent. Also useful if you’re still in your home country and are planning your move. These are the essentials you need to know about to make your move go as smooth as possible.

Life in Ghent

This covers all those things that are good to know about once you’ve got yourself settled. Things like where to buy essentials, how to see a doctor, get a driver’s licence or even get your haircut! These are all sthings that you might take for granted in your own country but take a bit of getting used to when you’re in a new country.

Families with Kids

This section contains lots of tips from parent expats in Ghent. From schooling for your kids, to finding a babysitter, and activities for children.

Work & Education

This category is one to browse through if you’re looking for tips on how to find a job. Or perhaps you want to become an entrepreneur or freelancer. Or maybe it’s time to learn something new?

Leisure

Leisure is all about what to in Ghent in your free time. We cover sports, day trips from Ghent, exploring Ghent, eating and drinking, shopping and events…

My Gent

In this section we highlight the locals and expats who share their projects, views and plans related to Ghent

If you’re looking for something in particular, use the search icon in the top right corner of our website to access the search bar.

The search icon (magnifying glass)

 

Clicking the search icon brings up the search function – type in your search

The right-hand side menu on the homepage contains a link to TheSquare.Gent Facebook page. Below it you can subscribe to receive an automatic e-mail whenever a new article is published:

Links to our Facebook page and subscription option

Do you have any suggestions how else we can make your life in Ghent easier? Leave us a comment below!

Nina
Nina came to Ghent many years ago via several other countries, ditching the big city lights for the towers and rivers of Ghent. She has lived in Vienna, Cantabria (Spain), Maastricht, Luxembourg and Brussels. Now she enjoys creating beautiful design, exploring space and talking to people. She is also on a mission to make Ghent and Belgium more welcoming to expats. You can contact her at nina@thesquare.gent

2 thoughts on “Moving to Ghent

  1. Hi Nina, Compagnie amai, improv troupe from Ghent organises English improv shows in Ghent. Would you like to write something about our upcoming event the 3th of november?

    1. Hi Katrien, this sounds really interesting! We won’t be able to write up a full article for this event, but we are happy to share it via our Facebook page. Could you send us more details and a link to your event to our e-mail address hello(at)thesquare.gent?

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