-Where were you born?
Buffalo, New York, USA
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my Belgian wife and 3 terminally adorable Welsh pembroke Corgis, and 3 loud mini parrots
-How long have you been living in Belgium?
7 1/2 years
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Belgium?
If you own real estate as my wife's father did. The cost for full time care in an old person's home is a staggering 3,500 €uros per month sans medicine. So we pulled stakes after living in southwest Florida for 5 years to look after her ailing father. And at the same time live together as a married couple in Europe.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?
No, except they lost our file. But cheerful persistence won in the long run.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
If you have the geld (money) it's smooth as silk. Our bank AXA had a medical insurance provision.
-How do you make your living in Belgium? Do you have any type of income generated?
I am a cinematographer who had Getty Images represent my stock library footage worldwide. Checks were sent when clients licensed shots. It so happens the owner of an ultimate pampering resort on Ibiza wanted photos taken. I turned Flanders upside down looking to rent professional Hollywood style lights but succeeded. This eventually opened the door to becoming a 'guest speaker' at colleges and schools on the subject of motion picture camera and lighting techniques. The students were eager and very motivated to learn.
-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
It is so enriching to speak another language(s). The smile from the locals is a little bit wider when you can pronounce something of their own native mother tongue.
I had spent summers on the Cote d'Azur attending seminars and could identify myself as a Huck Finn speaking 'avec accent tres American' French. However, once in the Flemish side of Belgium the inevitable hit me like a meatball falling out of the sky. Time to enroll in a school and sink your teeth into learning the difficult Nederlands language. Two years of lessons, 5 times a week finally made it possible for me to answer the phone and barely understand the announcements over the P.A. at the train station.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
No, not at all... er...except the Mexican food.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
For the past 6 years I've actively been learning more Dutch because I take Spanish classes. Now I teach advanced English conversation at an adult school. Seems everyone here likes to speak English and it's fine by me.
Perhaps take the big plunge and settle someday in South America.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We inherited my father-in-law's apartment. However, we rent two big treed gardens across the street for 300 €uros a year.
-What is the cost of living in Belgium?
If you ride a bike, although we have a car but never use it, transportation is a bargain like I've never known before. Buses in Hasselt are free. My wife and I are really into raw vegetables and fruit juicing, the bi-weekly outdoors farmers market is only footsteps away. I find it much cheaper than when living in California or Florida. The variety of food here is sensational. It's fresher and actually tastes superior to the supermarket produce stateside.
-What do you think about the Belgians?
I tend to take a universal approach to my fellow humankind; if you're warm, accessible, friendly then usually they mirror the same sentiments back to you. Perhaps Belgians are only slightly more reserved at first. Belgians are trustworthy and extremely dependable people. At least that's been my experience in Flanders.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Belgium?
Too, too, many gorgeous women. California ain't got nothing over this place. Incredible antiques, crystal vases, paintings. The downside winter months are dull, wet and the audible laughter on the streets dries up.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Belgium?
If you try to taste every Belgian beer then be prepared to have a cork put in your navel and be tethered like a bloated balloon over a kermis (local carnaval). Learn French. Travel the fabulous world great bike paths in Limburg province with a camera.