If you’re a traveler settling into a place for substantial period of time, what better way to be submerged in the city’s culture, way of life and language of the streets than apartment searching.
Upon my arrival to Brussels, Belgium in September, I began a rigorous apartment search. For those who have apparent searched before, you know how stressful it is picking the most suitable apartment—one that matches your personality, your habits, and your activities. It's not just picking out candy (although that's also a very difficult decision that requires much thought and decision-making skills), it's picking out a place to retire to and abroad, it is a place that is yours in an unclaimed city.
If I draw out a map, I crossed Brussels north to south, east to west, up and down, covering all districts and communities. I’ve discovered all of what Brussels has to offer, from the good and the bad, the lovely and the stinky, the calm and the terrifying and other hidden secrets. Fifteen interviews with potential roommates later, including people of every side of the personality spectrum, I found my first apartment (and later through the same method, my second apartment, and month later, my final apartment, I hope)!
My roommates were amazing, Simone from Italy and Karolin from Germany. We all got along extremely well, creating an open home where the living room was the most often used. We constantly had guests who filled the home with joy and laughter (and loads of food from all ethnic backgrounds).
It was in a central location 15 minute walk to the main historic center, close to all the youthful bars, close to museums, metro stations, restaurants markets, but unfortunately too close the “red light district” of Brussels. When I walked through that neighbourhood after my 45-minute commute from work, I would get unwanted positive or negative attention, sometimes even uncalled for. Every morning heading to work the exact same, and I tried to ignore this minor flaw of my new apartment, I started wondering whether it really worth it to be paying the amount I was paying (which was quite pricey considering my budget) and the long distance from work when there were other options that would leave me with a more peaceful mind.
On the first weekend of the next month, I moved to my final destination for the next 11 months (or so I thought). It was on the top level of a lovely three-floor apartment in a very calm and happy Flemish neighbourhood. (Flemish and French are the two official languages of Belgium but people speak predominantly one and clique together with those of similar languages.) It was perfect. Big windows, bright and spacious rooms, many plants and flowers, a big kitchen with every appliance necessary to create culinary masterpieces (waffle maker, blender for hummus, cake mixer, coffee machine), a little gold fish, and two wonderful roommates, Loren and Nastasija.
Unfortunately, the reason I had start the apartment search cycle again was because I could not register at city hall as a citizen of Brussels with that address; and this was something I absolutely needed to as a non-European Union Citizen.
I bought furniture from Ikea on the weekend of moving into an apartment just for me and during lunch hour at work my co-worker gave me her bicycle to into town to shop for curtains for my room.
After the walls get painted I will add the final personal touches to make it officially my own! I love that this room is me; it was not handed down to me by previous tenants with their style nor was it heavily influenced by a stressful and overpowering mother. It is all of my own creation, my own design, my own comfort. Let's just say it will be my little escape into my own world every night. A harmonious home is crucial for a peaceful head and I am very happy here; my time here will be of self-revelation, discovering myself, and opening up to new learning.
I am blessed to have met the people I have met and that it one advantage of this messy situation: I have grown my network in Brussels so much that I feel like I have lived here for longer.
Life, like a kaleidoscope, twists in turns in every direction and, depending on what we’ve done with the mosaic of parts, it leaves us with unique outcomes—beautiful outcomes, disappointing ones and ones that you have no clue what to make out of. Life tests our strengths and courage, some manage, and some don’t. In either case, life always teaches us to be ready for any turn.Add this article to your reading list