Alison Cornford-Matheson in Belgium Expat Spotlight

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alisonToday’s Expat Spotlight interview is Alison Cornford-Matheson, a travel lifestyle photographer living in Brussels, Belgium.

Quick Stats:

How did you become an expat, and why?

My husband’s company sent us to the Netherlands for three months, so he could help set up their European office. We fell in love with Holland and with Europe and the European lifestyle in general. We decided we would like to move there more permanently and set the wheels in motion.

About a month before we were set to go, the company was sold. The new company said we could still transfer to Europe but we would have to move to Belgium, a country we knew nothing about. We decided to go for it and we’ve been here for four years.

Where else have you been an expat?

We were in Amsterdam for two three month, and one month-long period and loved it.

Best piece of expat advice you’ve received?

Get it in writing! Even though Belgium is a geographically tiny country, there are endless levels of government to deal with. That means lots of paperwork, but also lots of confusion. We were told different things by the same person in the same office on different days. Every expat I know in Belgium has had similar experiences. I have heard time and time again, if a government worker tells you something is or is not required of you – get it in writing!

Best piece of expat advice you’d give?

Be open to all opportunities. I never in a million years would have pictured myself living in the middle of central Brussels and loving it. This life is totally outside of any experience I’ve ever had. If I had let that deter me, I would have missed out on so much – travel, friends, career opportunities. If something different and interesting comes your way, at least consider what possibilities it could hold for you.

Favorite expat related web sites?

Actually there are so many of them that I’ve posted a few lists on my own website.

Are you planning or dreaming of a move? Are you going home instead? Where to and why?

The door is always open to another move. My husband and I discuss it on a regular basis but as of yet we have no concrete plans.

Tell us more about what you do in your location?

I run my own photography business so I am always busy shooting and editing photos or creating art in Photoshop. I also do some writing and editing work, in addition to maintaining my own websites. Yes, I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. However, travel is my passion so I’m trying to see as much of Belgium and Europe as I possibly can while we are here. I am also ‘Mom’ to four very spoiled Canadian house-cats who like to keep me busy.

Would you recommend your current location to other expats? Does it rock or does it suck?

This depends if I’ve recently had to deal with the local government office! In all seriousness, Belgium, like any country, has days when it sucks and days when it rocks. When the sky has been grey and raining for weeks and I’m far from my family – it sucks. When the sun stays up long into the evening and everyone is enjoying Belgian beer at the street caf├ęs – it rocks. Anyone who tells you that expat life is easy all the time isn’t an expat.

What is the expat community like where you are?

There is a HUGE expat community in Brussels. In fact you can find just about every nationality in the world represented here. It is truly one of my favourite things about the city. There are lots of expat groups, clubs and food from around the world – it actually seems easier to meet expats than Belgians in Brussels.

Anything you’d like to add?

Being an expat has changed me in many ways. It’s forced me out of my comfort zone so many times. I know my Canadian friends and family think my life is crazy but I can’t imagine it any other way.

Thank you!

Thank you, Alison for participating in our Expat Spotlight! We wish you success and happiness in your current location, and wherever your dreams and business endeavors take you.

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