Top tips from Maria, a Spanish expatriate and Greeter
1. I’ve just arrived in Brussels, where should I start?
In the beginning, I would go to international meeting places like the Loft, Place du Luxembourg, Bar Mardi, etc. I regularly consulted the Expats in Brussels live guide, which is very useful for people who have recently arrived, but also for people who have been in Brussels for a long time. After a while I decided that I would participate more in Brussels’ social life to better integrate and not just stay in expat circles.
2. How can you integrate Brussels’ social life?
I quickly decided that I wanted to discover Brussels life and get to know its inhabitants better, so I enquired about doing voluntary work in my commune (ex: citizen initiatives). Volunteering at events such as Brosella (the folk & jazz festival) or the Zinneke parade also introduced me to many interesting people.
I also enquire at cultural centres (both French-speaking and Dutch-speaking) like the GC in Maelbeek or the Elzenhof in Ixelles, which are both very welcoming and inclusive, not forgetting the MuntPunt and the Beursschouwburg!
Thanks to numerous Facebook pages dedicated to Brussels and Spanish groups in the city, I keep myself informed about various activities. The BRUZZ is also very useful for finding out what is going on and coming up in Brussels.
3. Top tips for culture, festivals and aperitifs
La Tricoterie in Saint-Gilles is a place I really like for its variation: it hosts events, culture, training courses, citizens’ initiatives, concerts, an organic market, neighbourhood activities and entertainment.
My latest discovery is the “Guinguette du Parc Royal” but there’s no end of afterwork possibilities in Brussels. An old classic is Place Flagey, which is always busy and there’s always something happening.
Le Parckfarm at Tour & Taxi is a green space that I really like for all the local and ecological initiatives that they promote.
Being observant by nature, I’m aware of my environment when I go for a walk. It’s when I am walking around that I often discover new street art frescoes (ex: Crayon/Créons), but when the weather is overcast I prefer visiting Brussels’ museums, especially when they’re free on Wednesday afternoons or on the first Sunday of every month.
For lovers of culture, there are numerous cinema festivals (Brussels Short Film Festival, Peliculatina, Festival Méditerranéen de Bruxelles, etc.) and music festivals (The Iris Festival, Fête de la Musique, Brussels Summer Festival).
If you fancy exploring a typically brusseleir neighbourhood, I recommend the Marolles district, where you’ll also find the city’s largest flea market. This neighbourhood is bursting with vintage shops, antique dealers, boutiques, bars, etc.
In conclusion, I regularly check the BRUZZ guide or Yelyam’s blog “I’m Not on the Guest List”.
4. Maria is a Greeter
Maria is a Greeter, which means that she’s an ambassador for Brussels. She shows her version of Brussels to visitors, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It’s totally free, she does it solely for the pleasure of sharing her passion for Brussels and the enjoyment of spending a pleasant moment of exchange and discussion with her visitors. The Greeters team is made up of 113 Greeters, so there’s something for everyone and you’re sure to find what you’re looking for!
For more information visit: www.greeters.brussels (bookings on request).