Saturday, 25 February 2012

Food Inc

I have read a lot about the how global companies rule the world. But every time I come across new resources I am always like suprized again and again.

Persons who run the regulatory agencies for the food industries are people who used to work for these companies. Does this ring a bell? Weapon industry? Financial Institutions?

Is Europe as sold out as they are in United States? I don't know for the Food Industry. If we are in the financial sector then why not also with thee food industry? At least based on the standarization I see in the super markets I more inclined to believe that Europe is also sold out. Of coarse standarization isn't directly related to what applies to food growing but again it is about food.

Beyond Treason (2005) Documentary

Please take note that this video has some tough and upsetting scenes.
Based on this documentary it is understood that wherever peace and democracy has been enforced by peace keeper force NATO, the land and nation are forever sentenced to death and misery. Not for the current generation, not fot the next but for a lifetime of billion years. 
At the time of the making of this documentary, Yugoslavia, Afganistan and Irak, have been permantly contaminated. It makes sense that Libya will suffer the same fate. Currently there is no forecast for NATO operations to stop using this kind of weaponry. There is also no forecast that NATO won't enforce "peace" to other nations.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Cost of car ownership

Ever since I came to Belgium I have been hearing about how good is the company car and how it is in my financial interest to choose that.
I understand that if you don't have a car it is a bargain.
I understand that if you live half a belgium away from workm it is again a bargain because of the fuel card.

But I have a car. It is not perfect but it is a car that actually runs prety well and does its job. I don't live very far from work so again it is a matter of usage. Ever since I came to Belgium I have this issue of finding out the actual cost of owning a car in Belgium. Just simple ownership.

Today I presented with some numbers. For a 2008 mini car, I was informed about 130€ road taxes and 1000€ for full insurance. Total sum of 1200€ annually.

This is the same cost in my country and we don't have company cars. I am not saying that it is cheap, but why for example is it concidered in Belgium the car such an expensive comodity? I don't understand.

Am I missing something besides cost of maintenance of the car? Is it so cheaper in other countries?

In plain numbers, 7000€ that are kept from the salary are like 3500€ less in net salary because this 7000€ would be taxed with the highest rate, around 50%. 3500€ is not much for the annual cost of buying and maintening a new car, especially if the fuel cost is high, because of heavy commuting. I'm just wondering whether I have been spending this kind of money for my 2004 Renault Clio 1.4. Currently ownership of the car costs me annually around the same as here. Is it really in my interest to choose the company car, especially when there is like a goverment predisposition to increase taxes for leased cars.

If I didn't own already a car I wouldn't even concider buying one. I have already paid a serious amount for my 8 year old car and I would really like to avoid doing something like that again in the future. But since I own one and it is difficult to sell, assuming I could import it to Belgium (I hear it has serious issues), I feel that I have one more serious decision to make.

Cars are a really expensive commodity, regardless if you or the company pays for them. And they are everywhere expensive to have.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Tax Brackets

These are the tax brackets for 2012 income including local tax.
€ 0 up to € 8350 = 25% + 1.75 local (7% on 25%) = 26.75%
€ 8351 up to € 11890 = 30% + 2.1 local (7% on 30%) = 32.1%
€ 11891 up to € 19810 = 40% + 2.8 local (7% on 40%) = 42.8%
€ 19811 up to € 36300 = 45% + 3.15 local (7% on 45%) = 48.15% € 36301 and above = 50% + 3.5 local (7% on 50%) = 53.5%

The local tax is for expatriates that is why it is a steady 7%.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


I have been in Belgium for about four months now and I would like to write about the feeling I get when socializing with people here.

Belgians are really good people or at least this is the feeling I got from the Flanders region. I always receive a kindness and willingness to help me. Possibly, because I'm not from a northern European country, I am not used to the way Northern Europeans behave and treat other people. It can be also possible that I receive some kind of different attitude because I'm not from around. I have seen the same in my county and it is a common characteristic in human behavior

Some examples:
I have colleagues that have never refused actively or passively to help me and some of them the have really gone out of their way to help me.
Whenever I have asked for help in English, most people really try to communicate with me even though they don't speak always easily English. In shops they always try to provide you with a solution even if they redirect you to another shop which is antagonistic to them.

Besides examples like the above, I always feel a vibe of kindness. If I could express this differently I would say that people here have a gentle and kind heart and never leave you with an impression that there is some kind of "exploit" scheme hiding behind the scenes.

A dutch colleague of mine gives me also the same vibe and for the few days I've been in the Hague, I would say that I felt the same from people there. I understand that it is different and no comparison is valid between living and visiting but when I visited Lille, I certainly felt the exact opposite to say the least.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Nigel Farage about Greece

I have the feeling that Mr Farage is the only one who shouts to the European Parliament.
But after watching this video I have to say a few things.
Always have reservations about people who have a history of involvement with financial markets.
Always have reservations from the British when they talk about good. Do not forget that the UK is a country with strong colonial memory.
I'm very disturbed and annoyed that his solution is based on making Greece a cheap tourist vacation. We have seen what has happened in countries such as Indonesia etc. Just read the book The Shock Doctrine.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Human Projector

  1. Focus on the red dot in the girl's nose for 30 seconds.
  2. Turn your gaze to a blank surface (eg ceiling or a blank wall).
  3. Start blinking your eyes rapidly and continuously.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Pulic Transportation

I originally come from a country that doesn't have any understanding of what public transportation should work like. So, my first impressions from the public transportation system in Belgium were extremely good. While I was looking for a job, I was staying in Gent and almost daily I used buses, trams and trains from Gent to various places in Belgium and back. Public transportation in Belgium consists of three major companies, all public at least to my knowledge.

  • stib. This is the metropolitan public transportation system of Brussels. All busses, trams and metro lines belong to stib.
  • sncb. This is for the entire train system network in Belgium.
  • de-lijn. This is for the busses and trams outside Belgium. I'm not sure whether this company services the Walloon Brabant, but for the Flanders part I'm pretty sure that serves everything.

All of the above services provide something like a route planner. For moving in the Brussels area one can use the Google maps transportation integration which is absolutely great. The detail in Google maps but the printable version of a route is so good, that you can easily print it to paper or pdf and get it with you.
For door to door routes just use de-lijn, which calculates the best route from address to address. The problem with this route planner is that it uses another mechanism to display maps, which I would say that is not good.

In general you can find most of the required info on these sites. I would quickly explain things that I understood and found out on my own.

All networks have very good support for smart phones. Most of them have applications for iPhone and Android but since I have a Windows Phone os, I did my job really good with the sites for mobile devices.

Tickets for STIB cost 1.8 euro. This ticket is valid for one hour and a half for all mediums. There are also daily tickets and group tickets. Best thing about STIB is that the vending machines have also an English menu, which is more helpful than the one time I tried to ask a clerk.

Tickets for trains are a bit expensive. Gent to Brussels is around 8 euros when Gent to Luxembourg costs only around 21 euros. Mechelen to Brussels is around 4 euros. Buying tickets for the train is really easy, but always keep in mind that there might be a significant line of people in the queue. Until you get a grip on how the system work, just ask the clerk which train you should take, because it is not always clear.

There are different kinds of trains, which define the time needed to cover specific distances. There are trains that travel non-stop between major cities, trains that stop in towns and trains that stop everywhere. Also keep in mind, that the company provides first and second class service. I was really confused about it, so one time I sat in first class section and the ticket validator kindly explained me that first class wagons are marked with a "1" and second class with a "2". He also told me that first class is marked with an orange line. For me there is no significant difference that would make someone choose a first class ticket over the second one.

Tickets for De-Lijn can be bought in several ways. You can buy them from the driver, by sending an SMS or from De-Lijn stores. I think that I have also seen automatic vending machines in the center of Gent. Tickets from the driver are really expensive. In general, for De-Lijn the fair is based on the distance which is measured in zones. If you don't know the zones, just ask the driver and he will put it on the machine in front of him. One zone fairs normally costs 1.2 euros but you can buy cards that cost 9euros for ten single zone fairs. The problem with De-Lijn is that it is really difficult to buy these tickets, because the stores that sell them are mainly located in central places, like the train station, and also close relatively early. So, I suggest buying the 9 euros card.

There are also monthly cards, but I don't know their cost or how you can get them. I'm not sure whether you can have one if you are not registered with the state.

Always keep your ticket until you reach your final destination. Also, always validate your ticket in each medium. Tickets have a magnetic strip which probably stores info that the machine takes into account, and only if required it makes the charge.

Belgians really think that their public transportation is bad, at least when it is compared to the one in the Netherlands. I would agree that if your starting point is not close to central locations, the frequency of the busses is not good. This doesn't apply for the majority of the STIB network. Regardless, I believe that the trains are excellent, mostly on time or with a few minutes’ delays. I was never late for any interview and I could trust the route planners.

In Brussels every station (sncb and stib) has two names, one in French and one in Dutch. This doesn't happen in the rest of the Belgium. For example Brussels Zuid and Midi is actually the same station in different language. I remember first day I arrived I was really confused if I was getting out on the correct station because of the two names, that nobody has told be about.

One thing that I didn't like was the condition of the train stations, especially Brussels Noord, Centraal and Midi/Zuid. Especially Noord is in a very bad condition. The government should really do something about, because as was the case, every tourist that visits the town. Normally will take the train from the airport and once he reaches these station he will be really disappointed from what he sees.


I originally come from Athens, Greece.
End of the 2011 year found me getting a job in Belgium in the Mechelen area where I also moved.
Until now I kept a blog in Greek for matters regarding Greece, the World and fun.
I thought that it would be a good idea to start bloging in English for subjects such as

  • moving to Belgium
  • expat at Belgium
  • Serious issues concerning The World including Greece
  • and fun, like videos and images like Chuck Norris stuff and demotivators.

Through bloging I will improve my English and I will be able to provide useful info for other expats coming to Belgium. Fun stuff hopefully act as a break to other posts.

One thing I would like to clarify is that in the months I've been in Belgium, I noticed good and bad things mostly by comparing with things that I perceived as granted in my country. Without forgetting that I'm actually a guest in this country and being thankful for that, it is always my opinion that  constructive criticism is a mechanism to improve. So, if at any point you get offended by the comparison or criticism, especially if you from Belgium, just keep in mind that it is well intended.