Expat students and young professionals extremely satisfied with their experience in Belgium


Expat students and young professionals extremely satisfied with their experience in Belgium

1 Document

Fully 96% of young expats who work or study in Belgium are satisfied with their ‘expatriate’ life. More than 8 out of 10 state that their decision to relocate to Belgium gave a positive turn to their career. These are among the revelations of a survey by the Belgian bank BNP Paribas Fortis. The survey was executed by the ThinkYoung think tank, among expats in the 18 - 28 age group residing in seven European countries.


Many people dream of living and making a career in a foreign country. Every expatriate has his/her own reasons for relocating and will have specific expectations of the host country. The purpose of the study was to find out what those expectations are and also the drivers and barriers expats experience during their stay. “Millennials are the driving force behind this contemporary intra-European mobility, with more and more young expats in Europe seeking new academic and professional experiences elsewhere,” points out Salvatore Orlando, Head of Expatriates at BNP Paribas Fortis. The BNP Paribas Fortis-ThinkYoung survey focuses on expats between 18 and 28 years of age living in Belgium, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Italy or France. It enquires into the expectations they had before leaving their home country and their subsequent experiences during being an expat.

Reasons why students and young professionals relocate to Belgium



The most common reason for expatriate students to leave their home country and come to Belgium – given by 53% of those polled – is that there was an opportunity provided by their university or school in their home country, while 39% said they wanted to experience another culture. Also 39% of the respondents gave the desire to learn another language or improve their language skills as a major reason for leaving, and 37% of the young interviewees said they  went to study in Belgium in order to improve their CV and thus maximize their career opportunities.

Young professionals

More than 80% of the expatriate young professionals polled moved to Belgium because of the career opportunities available, while more than 50% had taken up the challenge for reasons of personal development. Other reasons for leaving were the opportunity to learn another language, the standard of living and the quality of life in the host country. Contrary to what one might have expected, less than 10% decided to relocate for mainly financial reasons. Salvatore Orlando: “Financial motives are the least important ones for expats to move to another country.

Andrea Gerosa, founder of ThinkYoung, agrees: “It’s a meaningful move, driven not by the desire to have fun but by the willingness to learn more, improve skills, and enhance career opportunities”. 

Experiences in Belgium


Once in Belgium, expat students experience above all a more developed social life (63%). Nearly 6 out of 10 praise the quality of the Belgian education, and half of the polled people pretend that they have a better quality of life. Affordable education (30%) and affordable living costs (21%) are important benefits that expatriate students get in Belgium. Only 7% talk about an increase in financial savings.

Young professionals

Asked about the benefits of their relocation to Belgium, 82% of the young professionals stated that they had been able to advance their careers as a result of the move. Some 43% said that they have a better social life, while 42% have a bigger personal spending and disposable income. About 36% of the young professional expats in Belgium state that their quality of life improved. Other advantages of their relocation are affordable living costs (26%) and an increase in financial savings (17%).

Students and young professionals

Although 96% of the young expats polled reported being generally satisfied with their expatriate life, only 28% stated that the living costs in Belgium are lower than at home. The same trend is discernible for the cost of renting or buying property. The monthly disposable income is higher than 200 euro for nearly 20% of the young expats. For 16% that is even more than 1,000 euro.

Focus on banking 


The survey also focused on banking customs of young expats in Belgium. Some 48% of them have a current account in Belgium. For savings accounts that number is significantly lower (30%). Fully 68% described the process of opening the account as ‘easy’. The most common difficulties encountered were nevertheless the amount of paperwork (27%), the duration of the process (19%) and the lack of clear information (18%).

For almost 40% of the young expats in Belgium, the reputation of the bank is a key determinant for opening a bank account in the country of residence. An online banking system and special offers for young expatriates are also elements that encourage them to open an account in their host country. Many of them esteem the transparency on bank charges as very important.



The survey was administered to 6,349 young expatriates between the ages of 18 and 28. It focused on 7 countries - Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom – with the intention of finding out what life is like for expatriate students, early graduates and young professionals living abroad.

The enquiry focuses on both the drivers of and the obstacles to migration, revealing why students and other young people move to European countries, how long they intend to stay, why they chose a particular country or destination, and the economic impact this has on the host country.

BNP Paribas Fortis (www.bnpparibasfortis.comoffers the Belgian market a comprehensive package of financial services for private individuals, the self-employed, professionals, SMEs and public organisations. In the insurance sector, BNP Paribas Fortis works closely with Belgian market leader AG Insurance. The bank also provides wealthy individuals, corporations and public and financial institutions with custom solutions for which it can draw on BNP Paribas’ know-how and international network.


BNP Paribas (www.bnpparibas.com) BNP Paribas is a leading bank in Europe with an international reach. It has a presence in 74 countries, with more than 190,000 employees, including more than 146,000 in Europe. The Group has key positions in its three main activities: Domestic Markets and International Financial Services (whose retail-banking networks and financial services are covered by Retail Banking & Services) and Corporate & Institutional Banking, which serves two client franchises: corporate clients and institutional investors. The Group helps all its clients (individuals, community associations, entrepreneurs, SMEs, corporates and institutional clients) to realise their projects through solutions spanning financing, investment, savings and protection insurance. In Europe, the Group has four domestic markets (Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg) and BNP Paribas Personal Finance is the leader in consumer lending. BNP Paribas is rolling out its integrated retail-banking model in Mediterranean countries, in Turkey, in Eastern Europe and a large network in the western part of the United States. In its Corporate & Institutional Banking and International Financial Services activities, BNP Paribas also enjoys top positions in Europe, a strong presence in the Americas as well as a solid and fast-growing business in Asia-Pacific.


ThinkYoung (www.thinkyoung.eu) ThinkYoung is the first think tank that focuses on young people. It was founded in 2007 and has expanded to have offices in Brussels, Geneva, Madrid and Hong Kong.It is a not-for-profit organisation, with the aim of making the world a better place for young people, by involving them in decision making processes and by providing decision makers with high quality research on key issues affecting millennials. ThinkYoung conducts studies and surveys, makes documentary movies, writes policy proposals and develops education programmes: up to date, ThinkYoung projects have reached over 600,000 young people. 

Available media

Presentation Expat Survey

Presentation of the results of the expat survey ...



Jeroen PETRUS -

Jeroen.petrus@bnpparibasfortis.com - +32 (0)498 32 14 94 -