Flemish in the World network helps expats feel at home globally

“I’m moving to another country, to a city I’ve never been to: what’s a good school for my children, where do I find a doctor, which part of the city is best to live in?” These are the questions the foundation Vlamingen in de Wereld (VIW) likes to answer. Since 1963, it’s been helping Belgians to migrate around the world – and to come back home again. On Tuesday, it celebrates its 60th anniversary.

In the early days, it organised working holidays for Flemish youngsters on Canadian tobacco farms, where thousands of young people picked tobacco leaves. Today, with its sister organisation in Wallonia, it helps Belgian expats and provides them with a network in their host country.

About 500,000 Belgians currently live abroad; for comparison, there are 11.7 million Belgian citizens. In 2021, 33,000 Belgians migrated temporarily or permanently, and 20,000 returned. The number of expats is growing, and VIW aims to offer support to them all, both when they leave and when they come home. A return is often less well prepared than a departure, VIW says.

Social and cultural integration

People migrate for many reasons, like a job, a relationship, to study, to retire in the sun… All those people have administrative questions about social security, tax, schools, visas, work permits, legal matters and more. But an important factor for a successful move is how well an expat and their family can integrate socially and culturally.

That’s why VIW is focusing more on “softer issues”, according to director Koen Van der Schaeghe. Consultants help new expats with their administration, but who helps them with the social questions when you move somewhere you know little about? Thanks to VIW's network of Belgians all over the world, new expats can get the most recent information about how to live in a particular city.

Besides the focus on family life, VIW is also prioritising webinars on topics like how to move furniture overseas. Providing online content allows the foundation to reach potentially interested expats all over the world.

On Tuesday, VIW celebrates its 60th anniversary, in the Flemish parliament in Brussels, with a range of famous and less-famous expats. Because over its history, VIW has learned that networking is crucial for every expat.



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