Money spent: $0
For two days in a row now, I’ve been waking up at 5.30am, to the beat. My eyes fly open and I’m wide awake, an hour before my alarm goes off.
Trying to trick my body back into sleep, seems useless, so I just get out of bed and get ready… which is all quite alright, but that means that for two days straight now, I’ve been getting to work at 8am, and not at the usual 9.
My office at 8am – the incubator where my company rents a space – is still empty when I arrive that early. I also noticed that the last person never turns the light off… or the lights just never go off. Funny thought, though. I always figured that all those bright lights behind glasses in the middle of the night, belonged to those workaholics beating deadlines. Turns out someone just didn’t find the light switch.
In comparison to what I remember from paying in Belgium, utilities are relatively inexpensive over here. The taxes alone make a solid 12% difference.
Last night, I was talking about these differences to someone, as the question was posed where the quality of life was better: here or there. So I made a little review. Just in case you were contemplating moving to Brussels in the near future.
- The weather.
My Facebook feed always – always! – gets an overload on weather reports, and mostly they are complaints: the weather in Belgium is generally to be described as ‘grey and wet’, and often times, a year feels like one stretched fall, with occasionally a good day, and if the Gods are truly finding them in a festive mood, that might even translate in a good week.
Although the winters are extremely cold, and the summers on the more humid side: I dig the 4 seasons in New York.
- Work Ethic.
Topic yesterday as well. I’ve gotten used to life never fully stopping here on the East Coast, but if you were to tell someone in Belgium they’d have to work on a Sunday – or a weekend – they’d scream blood murder, call in the entire village and hunt you down with axes.
There’s always a strike or the threat to go on a strike, and in most cases it’s to complain about workload just being too much… I guess there’s only so much you can do in 36 hours a week, right?
Nah… there’s pride in actually working for your reward.
- Health Care.
I did applaud our social security system. I mean: if you go to a doctor and pay 35 euro for a visit, and you get 30 euros back from your health insurance… you basically have nothing to worry about, right?
But the system got disproved by my companion, who stated that ‘yeah… but nothing is ever free, right? So how about taxes?’
Taxes on groceries are 6%, but on all other things – whether it’s a house, a car or a computer – are a solid 21%. To calculate your net income, the rule is to divide your gross in three, and multiply by two… or also: you easily pay 33% income taxes. If you’re lucky, that’s it… but most people I know – including myself – get an extra bill to contribute a little more at the end of the year.
So, bottom line, it’s not all that bad over here…. It’s not all that bad over here, either. There’s always room for improvement, of course, but in general, I think it comes down to this: wherever you settle down: just go with the flow, change what you can change, live within your means and just make the best of it.
PS: Coincidentally, I ran across this article in my Facebook feed… it would have made for a fine point 5 on the above list: the horrible (truly awful) traffic in Belgium, and why that is so.