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'The multicultural experience sets children up for life': Retired accountant Christopher Thubron on life in Wallonia

08:58 19/02/2020

Become a chartered accountant and see the world: that was the mantra that brought me to Brussels. As soon as I qualified, I left the north-east of England and joined an international firm of accountants in their Brussels office with the opportunity to spend lots of time in their international offices travelling the globe.

My specialisation was based in Brussels because it was the geographic and cultural centre for the Europe/Africa region. Next, setting up a small accounting, tax and business advisory firm was a great opportunity to use my international experience, while spending more time in Belgium, which was rapidly becoming the springboard for US, British and other companies for their European operations. Belgium gave them many advantages – location, highly qualified and multilingual people, financial incentives and, above all, a great welcome. Locals were very patient and would speak English, helping me to master French from a basic English school level.

These were exciting times (even for an accountant!). For clients, setting up a business, managing it, developing a market are never easy in one’s own country, but doing it in a foreign language with different laws, customs and culture is something else. The reward was seeing the businesses grow. Of course there were problems, but the openness and ease of access to the right people at a high level simplified the process. A solution would nearly always be found. Compromise is a powerful component of the local culture.

I met my wife here and life took off. We met through a group of Belgian mutual friends. That was the start of our Danish/British family and we moved to Lasne. Our three children were all born in Belgium and are working for Belgian and international companies abroad, but would be happy to return. The multicultural experience children get here helps set them up for life.

It is very easy to live here, which is why many people stay. All the activities one could want are available, from a world-class opera, theatre and cinema in many languages to sports clubs, arts and crafts and learning opportunities to study almost any subject. Then there is the food, drink and the countryside of the Ardennes where it is like being on holiday. The quality of life is without equal. I came to Belgium for work but am staying for pleasure.

This article was first published in the WaB magazine

Written by WAB (Wallonia and Brussels) magazine