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3 reasons why Belgium is the perfect place for your New Year’s resolutions
As you prepare to greet 2015 tomorrow with a smile (and maybe an aspirin), you likely have a fistful of good intentions that you have resolved to make a reality in the coming year.
The trick to sticking with a resolution is to make it achievable. So whether you want to be thinner, spend less time at the office, see the world or be more positive, it would be smart to look around and see what Belgium already has to offer that will help you stick to your word.
Here are the top three typical New Year’s resolutions and how just being in Belgium can help you make them work.
1. Ride your way to losing weight
Hop on the biking culture. Belgians are crazy about cycling. Make your hobby your main mode of transportation by leaving the car at home, even just a day or two per week, and biking to work.
By 2020, Brussels and its surrounding areas, spreading out as far as Leuven and Asse, will be fitted with a network of cycling super highways with the aim of reducing the number of people commuting by car to Brussels by two-thirds.
But you don’t have to wait another five years to hop on two wheels. There are already good paths between Brussels and Leuven, Halle, Vilvoorde and other small towns around the capital. Expect this to only get easier in the next year or two, with better routes to Diegem and Zaventem being built as well.
2. Spend more time with friends and family
The start of a new year often has people vowing to work less and give more time to their lives outside the office. One part about living in Belgium that expats often mention liking is the reverence given to free time. While for some it may be frustrating that shops close by seven in the evening and don’t open at all on Sundays, others see this as a welcome respite from the grind of the free market, workaday world.
Besides having a minimum of 20-vacation days, Brussels is filled with pleasant ways to unplug and log off and just be with friends and family. Meet friends for for oysters and champagne at the Flagey market on a weekend morning, for example. Or head for one of the evening markets for a glass of wine and some food truck delights.
Or see the city in a different way, take a tram ride from one end of the line to the other with some friends and watch Brussels as it changes. My recommendation: try the tram 92 which runs from the beautiful Schaarbeek Station through the Rue Royale and Ixelles all the way to Brussels’ chic suburbs of Fort Jaco.
3. Learn something new
Many people put the motivation the new year towards taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill.
If you’re looking for a creative outlet, most of Brussels’ communes have a school of arts and music, like the Brussels Academy of Arts. There you can take courses to learn an instrument, a particular style of music or dance, painting or crafts. Although usually courses are only offered in French, Dutch or both. If you’re looking to learn an instrument in English the Ecole de Musique Tchaikovsky offers courses for adults and children.
Of course, the go-to skill that everyone can use in Brussels is language practice. If you are a Brussels resident, you can learn Dutch for (almost) free from Het Huis van het Nederlands, only paying around €20 for the book. Even if you’re not eligible for fee waivers or reductions, the courses only run around €80 per course.
For French, your best option is EPFC for high quality day and evening courses that aren’t too expensive. They fill up quickly every semester, so if you can’t get a spot, there are countless private French schools and tutors, including the Amira language school and the Alliance Française. To practice your languages, look for language exchange groups on Meetup.com.