Brussels, the capital of the European Union, has a large number of people who speak French. It is the second most populous city in Belgium, after Antwerp, and it is also home to many international organisations, including NATO and the European Commission.
There are so many people speaking French in Brussels because the city was once part of the Netherlands, which was ruled by the Duke of Burgundy. The Duke of Burgundy was a French-speaking ruler, and he made sure that the people who lived in his territory learned French.
In addition to this historical legacy, about half of the population of Brussels is French-speaking today because it's close to France and has received a lot of immigration from that country over many years.
7 reasons why it is important to speak French as an expat in Brussels
If you are an expat in Brussels, it is important to be able to speak French. Being able to speak the native language of your new country not only shows respect for the culture but also opens up many opportunities for business and personal relationships. If you are planning on moving abroad for work or for pleasure, being able to speak the native language will help you get settled into your new home much faster than if you were relying solely on English.
Another reason why it is important to speak French is simple: Brussels is a bilingual city. That means that even if you don't speak French at all, you need to be able to communicate with people who do.
Even when you're just trying to get around town, it's important for you to be able to make yourself understood for example by taxi drivers and waiters—or else risk getting lost or confused on your way home.
If you want to really thrive as an expat in Brussels, though, there are lots of reasons why being able to speak French can help you make connections and find success in this city.
1. French is the official language of Belgium, so if you want to get around Brussels and understand what people are saying around you, it makes sense to learn at least some French.
2. If you're going to live in Belgium long-term (or even just as an expat) learning French will help you make friends with locals who might be more likely to want to hang out with someone who speaks their language fluently.
3. The country has a rich culture and history that is worth learning about! By learning the language, you'll be able to read about their history, art, and literature—and have more access to these things than if you didn't know any French at all.
4. Learning French will help you understand what’s going on around you in Brussels, whether it’s on TV or radio or even just walking down the street.
5. Being able to speak French is a boost to your professional career. Learning a new language can help you get ahead in your career, and French is no exception. It's the official language of many countries and is spoken by over 75 million people worldwide. As an expat living in Brussels, you'll be able to use it to communicate with clients and colleagues from around the globe.
6. You will find a job easily. Belgium has a large number of companies that require employees who speak both English and French, so being able to speak both languages could increase your chances of finding a job. Even if you don't currently live in Belgium, learning French might be beneficial if you plan on moving there later on down the line!
7. You'll have access to a whole new world of experiences and opportunities—from attending events and festivals where most attendees speak only French, to traveling abroad and feeling like you're truly immersed in another culture (or at least partaking in its traditions).
Can you live in Brussels without speaking French?
You can absolutely live in Brussels without speaking French.
With over 200,000 expats living in the city, there are plenty of people who have made Brussels their home without learning French. The city is filled with plenty of resources for expats who want to learn the language, though—and it's not as hard as you might think.
In fact, expats who want to learn French can even find language courses at their local library. If you don't feel like going through all the work of finding a class and making sure it fits into your schedule, however, there are several online options available as well.
If you're looking for a more immersive experience while you study French, then consider taking an online class with an instructor who lives in Belgium itself. You'll get personalised feedback on your progress and be able to ask questions about things that may not be covered in a typical classroom setting.
Keep in mind that it's true that English is spoken pretty widely in Brussels, and there are plenty of places where it's spoken exclusively. But if you want to get the most out of your time in the city, it helps to learn some French. The more you learn about the local culture, the more interesting your trip will be—and there's no way to do that without learning at least some French.