Brussels is definitely a city of the world. It is the capital of Belgium, as well as the de facto capital of the European Union (EU). Following the end of World War II, Brussels became a center for international politics. The city is home to many international organizations, politicians, diplomats, and civil servants including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), European Commission, Council of the European Union, and the European Council. Brussels is also known for being at the crossroads of two cultures of Europe: the Germanic and the Romantic. Historically, Brussels was a small fortress town, but has now grown to a city with 1.8 million inhabitants that only solidify its reputation as a “melting pot.”
Although Brussels is mainly known for its political background, there are also internships in almost any career field that you can think of.
- Banking and Finance: The majority of Belgian banks are based in Brussels, and a few international ones as well. If you’re pursuing a career in finance, or just want to learn more about the industry, interning in Brussels is a great way to get started. You will be learning from banks that are truly invested in ensuring that all their clients are treated honestly, fairly and professionally.
- Journalism and Media: Brussels is also the media home of Belgium. Whether your career goals lie in broadcast journalism, internet, newspapers, public relations, advertising, or radio, you will find an internship that will help you gain international work experience and stand out in a job search. There are plenty of French-language, Dutch-language, and English-language media outlets and companies in Belgium. Your internship opportunities will definitely depend on your language skills!
- Politics: For interns interested in learning about global politics, there is no better place to gain experience than Brussels. There are many opportunities for political internships in Brussels in various organizations and groups. You could find yourself working at the European Parliament, NGOs, pressure groups, the Belgian federal government, lobby groups, research institutions, or think tanks. One thing’s for sure; with all the buzzing political activity that comes out of Brussels on a daily basis, there will never be a dull moment.
When and Where to Look for an Internship:
Since Brussels is the center of much international activity, internships can be found almost any time of the year. Most internships are located in the boroughs of Bruxelles, Ixelles-Elsene, and Uccle. You may want to consider choosing an internship based in different boroughs depending on your language skills, as some boroughs are more accommodating towards tourists and English-speakers.
Cost of Living in Brussels:
If you choose to live in the main borough of Brussels - Bruxelles - you will be looking at a higher cost of living. On average, rent for living in the center of Brussels will be about €700 a month. On the other hand, living in a more residential suburb of Brussels such as Woluwé-Saint-Pierre or Woluwé-Saint-Lambert, will be about €500 a month. For more information and specifics, visit Numbeo.
Work Culture in Brussels:
- Etiquette: Because there are so many different language and ethnic groups in Belgium, it is difficult to describe a specific culture in Brussels. Overall, family, egalitarianism, and appearances are quite important to the residents of Brussels. The business culture in Brussels is generally quite formal. Handshakes are common as greetings; as you get to know the other person more you may replace a handshake with three kisses on the cheek or in the air. However, men never kiss other men - you will always shake hands. Finally, make sure you use your best manners and are somewhat subtle in the work environment.
- Language: The three official languages of Belgium are French, Dutch, and German. In Brussels, the majority language is French. There are also some boroughs of Brussels that are more prone to speaking Dutch. You will need an intermediate level of French to get around Brussels.
- Networking: Since there are so many expats and visitors in Brussels, there are many networking organizations for English-speakers. Examples include The Network Brussels, and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.
Work and Labor Laws in Brussels
Although an internship (or a “stage” as it would be called in Brussels) is a popular option for students in Belgium, there are no specific laws regarding interns. There are also no specific protections in place for interns in Brussels. However, be sure to obtain an employment contract between you and your employer at the start of your internship.