“I have got a scholarship, they call it the Schuman scholarship, and I am coming to Brussels in the beginning of October. How do I do to get an apartment?”
The question in an email from a friend’s friend made me remember my own first couple of months in Brussels and my first mistakes in this town. Because, working at WebComm Unit at EP in Brussels involves dealing with a lot of practical issues, one of them being getting somewhere to live. So I found my self writing an e-mail in return which turned out to look like a guide “This is how you do it”.
This friend’s friend is just one of many many trainees, or so called stagiaires which is the French word often used, who come every autumn and every spring to start a five months’ period of traineeship in the European Institutions. They will probably all have to go through it, the mistakes, the searching, and the walking up and down the streets with a map. (Of course they will also experience all the good stuff but that is a whole other story).
Anyway so I figure, I tell you (potential future stagiaires) what I told my friend’s friend. Don’t do what I did: I had booked an apartment in Etterbeek, close to the EU-area, which I had found over the Internet and had paid the “guaranty”, one months rent. I arrived in Brussels and went to the apartment but found out that the apartment was a disaster. So I spent a couple of days trying to convince myself that this wasn’t that bad, after all. But one morning when I had my breakfast the ceiling started to leak – the neighbour above had her shower. Well, I decided to get moving. The landlord reluctantly gave me back some of the “guaranty”, and probably quickly put the item out for rent at the Internet again, claiming that this was a “charming apartment”.
So, save your self some trouble. Get here to Brussels, book a hotel or a youth hostel or if you are lucky – stay at a friend’s place for a week or two. Get a map, look at different websites such as www.xpats.com and on the intranet of the Commission and Parliament, ask around and start visiting apartments and rooms. And – don’t forget to take an extra look at the ceiling…