Expats lifestyle and buying behaviour in Brussels




The city of Brussels is the capital of Belgium and also the largest city in the country. The city has a population of over 1 million people and it is considered one of the most multilingual cities in the world. The expatriate community living in Brussels consists of different nationalities who speak their native language with each other. However, many expats choose to learn the French language as well as the Dutch language while they are living here due to their similarities with the English language.


The expats living in this city have an important role in shaping its economic growth by contributing to its economy through their skills and expertise. They also bring new ideas along with them which help them become more productive and competitive in their field of work.

According to research conducted by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), it was found that expats play an important role in shaping the economic growth of Brussels by contributing to its economy through their skills and expertise.


In this article, we will focus on one of the most interesting groups of expats: The ones living in Brussels!



The City of Brussels has been growing economically thanks to its expat community. In fact, according to a study conducted by ING, expats are responsible for bringing more than €2 billion euros worth of investments into the city every year!


Brussels during after work traffic Source: Unsplash

Here are some facts about expats living in Brussels:


1. 20% more likely to live alone than Belgians


2. 50% more likely to rent their home than Belgians


3. More likely to live in residential areas close to shopping centres or supermarkets (like Woluwe-Saint-Pierre)


4. More likely than Belgians to travel internationally at least once per month



The expat community is an important part of the economy of Brussels. The city has a high concentration of international organisations, most notably NATO and the European Commission. These organisations have brought with them thousands of foreign residents who live in Brussels for business or employment.



Expat spending behaviour in Brussels


Expats spend on average more than Belgian consumers on travel, insurance, technology and clothing. They also invest more in their children’s education. Their spending profile is influenced by their age and the length of stay in Brussels.


Expats are more likely to be affluent than Belgians: they have a higher purchasing power, own more assets and have stronger creditworthiness than the local population.


The average expat household income is €38,400 per year, which is above the national average by almost 20%. In terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), expats earn nearly €6,000 more than Belgian households.

This is mainly due to a lower tax burden (expat families pay an average of €1,800 less than Belgian ones). However, expats also benefit from higher bonuses and benefits from their employer (such as housing allowances or health insurance).


Expats spend significantly more on travel than Belgians: they are twice as likely to travel for leisure purposes at least once every three months and spend more money on holidays abroad each year. Also, expats tend to stay longer abroad when compared to Belgians and therefore spend more time in an airport lounge or hotel room.


The type of activities expats do in Brussels


Enjoying the afternoon in Brussels Centraal Source: Unsplash


The expats who live in Brussels are a diverse group. They come from all over the world and are here for a variety of reasons. This is one city where you can find people from all walks of life.


Here are some facts about how the people living in Brussels spend their time:

  • The most popular activities for expats include walking, jogging, cycling and swimming.

  • The most popular sport for expats to play is football (soccer), followed by tennis and golf.

  • Many people enjoy going to museums and art galleries, but there are also plenty of other ways to spend your time in Brussels without spending any money at all!


Expats living in Brussels seem to be particularly fond of going out for drinks. More than half (52%) say they drink alcohol at least once a week, compared with 44% across Europe overall. Other popular ways to spend time include eating out (55%), watching TV (50%) and taking part in sports activities such as cycling or running (46%). One in five expats also says they have a garden or terrace at home where they can relax.


Insights on the lifestyle and spending behaviour of an expats


1. Expats are more attracted to a product that is familiar to them and also offers services that they need, such as food and beverage, transportation, health care and retail.


2. They spend more money on food and beverages than on any other product or service category.


3. When it comes to buying new clothes, they prefer locally-made or branded products over those imported from other countries.


4. They also prefer buying groceries in hypermarkets rather than supermarkets or convenience stores because of the large variety of products available there at competitive prices.


5. Expatriates tend to stay closer to home when they go on holiday and visit only nearby destinations like France or Germany instead of going further away like Spain or Italy for their vacations



The type of business that offers products and services for expats


Bakery shop in Brussels where expats often come visit Source: Unsplash



Expat has been a part of Brussels’s history for centuries, and many international companies are based here. The presence of expats has also led to the creation of a number of businesses that cater to them.


Expat-friendly stores

These are shops which have English-speaking staff who can help foreigners find what they need. These stores may also have websites in English (or other languages) so that people can buy online. They often have signs in English too, but not always – this is because many Belgians don't speak much English either!


Integrated restaurants

These restaurants offer menus with pictures so that everyone can see what's on offer, even if they don't speak French or Dutch. They may also have an English menu or someone who speaks some English on staff to help people order from the regular menu if they're not sure what something is called in another language.