{EXPATRIATED} Jess from Jess in Belgium

Friday 5 April 2013

Sometimes I get the impression that people think we are crazy for leaving all that we are familiar with for a life abroad but we aren't the only ones who have chosen this lifestyle.  In fact, there are a lot of us and many of us blog about it.  Expatriated is a series to introduce you to other expat bloggers.
I'm so happy to have one of my favourite bloggers on Expatriated today.  This week you saw me on her blog speaking about favourites while she's off touring South Africa and today, we'll get to learn a little bit more about her life as an expat.  If you haven't already, meet Jess.

Where are you from and where do you live now?
This seemingly straight forward question is a hard one to answer! I usually answer Minnesota, though I have lived in thirteen states and my parents do not live there anymore. But it is where I went to high school and I loved those years. I now live in Brussels, Belgium.

How did you end up in Brussels and what inspired you to make the move?
The short story is I was following my boyfriend at the time. But what has kept me here is actually the more relevant story. I was a French language and government major in college and had studied abroad in Paris. I was dying to move back to Europe and wanted to live in London or Paris (one of the “dreamier” cities if you will). Finding a job in Europe from the States was impossible back in 2003 (and I imagine has to be even harder these days). So I signed up for a bi-lingual Master’s program in International Politics in Brussels. I had connections in Brussels and some delightful family friends offered me a tiny attic apartment to live in while I got on my feet. The intention was never to say longer than the year-long Master’s programme… but I lucked upon an internship…which turned into several jobs…and nine years later, I am still here! 

What is the best part of living overseas?
The weekend trips. Belgium is very well connected to the rest of Europe (which is convenient whenever its inefficiencies are getting to be too much). I have taken my car to the UK and hopped on the fast train to Paris. I have woken up in the morning and decided to drive to Northern France to visit the WWI battlefields (despite the rather flowery nature of my blog… I fully admit to being a history nerd). But there are also flights to most European capitals from Brussels airport.

What do you miss most about home (besides friends & family?)
The familiarity and ease of finding things out. My apartment has had some unfortunate plumbing disasters in recent months and urgent, basic tasks like finding a plumber can sometimes be the biggest challenges when living abroad – even when you speak the language. If your experience is anything like mine, you end up relying on other expats.

What was the most difficult thing to adjust to in the Belgium?
{Disclaimer – before I answer this question, I would ask any Belgian friends I have to stop reading…I am going to answer this from the perspective of a customer-service spoiled American} INEFFICIENCY. I personally think Brussels suffers from the fact that so many foreigners live in it. This is also going to be my answer for another question below because I simply haven’t gotten used to it almost nine years later…

Any funny 'whoopsies' while adjusting to your new life?
Oh so many. But those moments are what helps you bond with your new country as well as with other expats. 

Saving graces? 
The fact that so many other people in Brussels (especially in the “EU bubble”) have stories like mine. It often unites expats here because we are all from somewhere else, and I think we all find Belgium amusing and oddly charming.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned from your time in Brussels?
That Americans are spoiled when it comes to administration. Everything takes ages here and the sooner you “go with it”, the easier your life will be! I’ve learned to get away from the touristy spots (though the Grand Place is lovely!) and often find myself wandering around the gorgeous Bois de la Cambre on weekends. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that fries are better with mayonnaise…

If you had the chance to move elsewhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I honestly don’t know. Check back in with me again once I am back from South Africa in two weeks! But I have a very big soft spot for London and its arts and culture scene…  

Any advice for the newly expatriated?
Patience. And get out there and explore.


Fries are definitely better with mayonnaise.

Thank you Jess!

Jess' blog is full with great finds be it videos, articles or pictures of beautiful clothes or homes.  Currently, she's in one of my favourite destinations, South Africa, and I can't wait to hear all about it in the weeks to come.  

If you're looking for other editions of Expatriated, you can check out...


  1. I love this series :) I've always felt like an expat everywhere I've ever lived (dual nationality will do that to you) and it's given me the crazy travelling bug. You women are INSPIRATIONAL!


  2. Fries with mayonnaise...now and always! ;-) Loved this guest post, particularly as Jess is one my favourite bloggers too. Thanks for featuring her Jay!

  3. "that Americans are spoiled when it comes to administration." - i love this!! i've learned this too in the DR. i get SO impatient and everyone just thinks I'm the uptight american, haha. Living in Belgium sounds like the ideal travel hub for Europe. I'd love to live some place like that!

  4. OH! I love this series. This is my first time reading it but I'm going to go through them all. I always love finding other expats. Makes me not feel so different all the time.

    It seems that everywhere is inefficient compared to America. I know the Scots are!!! Drives me nuts.

  5. Have the best time in SA. I looove that country!!!!

  6. I love this series! So good to know that I'm not the only expat out there, I'm in good company evidently.. :-) I totally agree with Jess when she says that one of the most difficult aspects of being an expat is the unfamiliarity with administration or "how things are done" in your adopted country. I've lived in London for nearly two years and haven't been to the doctor because I don't know the process and am too lazy to find out!

    1. Thanks Oneika!

      The blog world has been so comforting as an expat!

  7. Wow! I am amazed at you ladies who leave and stay! I'll admit, the THOUGHT actually scares me. Still, I love reading about your adventures. :)

    Fries with just straight mayo? I can't say that I've ever considered that either....

  8. Your photos are beautiful!

  9. i am a fries with mayo convert here in costa rica as well!!

  10. yay, a new (to me) expat to meet! Americans are SO spoiled when it comes to customer service in all areas of life - now that I'm back in the States, I don't know how I coped with it in the UK! I still get some pieces of it with wedding planning, because our vendors all are in England, but I'm much less tolerant of it now that I've reacclimatized to the US - not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing? haha!


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