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Top Challenges For Expats In Ghent Addressed At Speed Dating Event

This is a picture from an expat event in ghent

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 to address the top challenges for expats in Ghent. Expats are defined as people from abroad living in Ghent in this context.

Top challenges for expats in Ghent

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 top challenges for expats in Ghent, 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)
This is a picture of Gentse Spruiten Jovita and Emma Lawrence
Senior expats were available to answer any questions which didn’t fall under any specific category. They gave advice about hairdresser recommendations, finding a dentist or where to find a babysitter.

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.

This is a picture of the speed dating at the expat event gent


Here is a list of all the hosts by areas corresponding to the five top challenges:

Moving to Gent & practical arrangements

Living in Gent

Learning Dutch in Gent

Working in Gent

Studying in Gent

This is a picture of Nina Jere and Heather Sills presenting at an expat event in Ghent
Expats Nina Jere (Slovenia) & Heather Sills (UK) presenting the survey and hosts at the expat event. They recently launched the online magazine for expats in Gent called The Square.Gent

Launch New Digital City Guide

this is a picture of Els Uytterhoeven presenting at expat event in Gent
Els Uytterhoeven from Ghent City International Relations and Networking presenting the new city guide.

This is a picture promoting the city guide of Ghent in English

The new digital city guide in English for newcomers in Ghent was introduced at the Expat Event.

It is available at 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.



Community Gent

This is a picture of Community Gent logo

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)
  • Expats
This is a picture of Bart Vandesompele
The managing director of Community Gent Bart Vandesompele saying “Community Gent has two roles; to increase the dialogue with the aim of connecting organizations and share knowledge and act as a city challenger taking actions to improve Ghent”

More information about Community Gent is available at For people who want to receive invitations to future events or receive updates from the Community Gent and the expat group can write to

This is a picture of Jenny Bjorklof presenting Community Gent Expat working group
Jenny Bjorklof describing why Community Gent has an Expat group: “Moving abroad is one of the biggest adventures in life, we are happy to make it easier and more enjoyable for expats. “

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 ….)”
it seems the expat event was all in all a great success!

Photo credits: Natasa Ahacic

About the author:

Jenny BjorklofJenny 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.

Guest author
Guest authors are expats and Gentenaars who enjoy spreading the word about Gent to the world. If you'd like to join us, contact us at

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