The best gifts are the unexpected ones. Which was why I was very pleased when two friends who live in the West End of Glasgow brought me some tea as a going away present. Not just any tea, however, tea from T’Chai Ovna, the currently threatened but extremely popular tea house in Otago Lane.
It’s a welcome reminder of the many days I spent there, wired on caffeine, desperately scribbling notes or racing to type up essays without the distraction of the internet.
Thank you Sara and Chrissy.
There is a saying: the first step is the hardest. In the case of moving to Brussels, I’d be inclined to say that sentiment isn’t terribly accurate. It would be more accurate to say that find accommodation is the hardest step.
Brussels has a high temporary population. Large numbers of it’s residents are stagiaries within the EU institutions, who are there for six months at a time, or attached to MEPs, NATO, the branches of foreign governments or the many diplomatic establishments. From investigation on Expatriates.com and Appatager.be, there is certainly enough supply to meet the demand from the constantly moving population.
That doesn’t make flat hunting any easier. After all, you have to deal with a multi-lingual country, which is not easy when you’re only just learning to speak French and only have a loose grasp of Flemish. There are, of course, translations services available online, but it’s hard to put faith in Google Translate and other such services when they cannot accurately account for grammar changes.
There are also risks involved. Flying to another country in order to ensure that a flat is suitable and actually exists is an expensive business. The alternative, arriving and staying in hostels or hotels until you can find a place to rent also has the potential to be expensive and carries the risk of not being able to find something suitable in a reasonable time. Which leaves the easiest, but probably riskiest option, putting down a deposit without visiting a flat or meeting the owner.
The advantage is that you arrive knowing you have somewhere you can call yours, but on the other hand you have no idea if you are subject to one of the old cons in the book until you arrive to find the people there have no idea who you are.
Never the less, this is the start of an interesting journey, and hopefully by the end of the week I will actually be sorted out with a pleasant flat near the European Parliament. Then, the work can really begin.