Monday, March 30, 2015

Getting Around Antwerp - Public Transport

Public transport in Antwerp is amazing. The city has trams and buses for getting around town.

De Lijn – the transport company has a dense network of buses, trams, and pre-metro connections in the city and wide area around it. The main bus station - Franklin Rooseveltplaats, is at a walking distance of about 5 minutes from the Antwerp-Central Train Station. Buses and trams are well connected to almost all the corners of the city.

The network is very easy to use with well-signed stations, schematic route maps and aboard the trams the electronic display announces the stations as you arrive.

As for the fare prices: There are a variety of ticket options – Although a single ticket is a bit expensive €3, other discount options like, day passes €6 and 3-days pass €12 are really economic. These tickets can be bought from vending machines, newsagents, supermarkets, De Lijn offices, tourism centres… or even directly from the drivers (but at slightly higher cost).

Personally, Tram is the favourite of me & my daughter!!!. They are more convenient, quick, and comfortable.. above all it feels so nice to see these cute trams running around the city!! Even if we move to any other city in future, wherever we see a tram, we are sure to remind about “Antwerp” J

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"French" Fries or "Belgian" Fries?

I always thought that French fries belong to the French. But it’s not – it’s actually a Belgian!!!.

People here claim that Belgium is the origin of the fries and it’s true that the fries has always been in their food culture. 

The story (?) is that the American military troops had a chance to taste these fried potato stripes in Belgium, during their World War -1 stint ; and they named it as the “French Fries” since majority of the Belgian soldiers spoke French. Till then it'd become a part of American food too, and they made it popular as the French fries !

I also hear from some of the French speaking friends that " it’s just a story" created by the Belgians and the fries were originally invented by the French men only. Also, there’s a talk that the Spanish too claiming the “pride of the fries origin”. 

Whatever it is…, who cares from where the fries came from. We just love tasting the crunchy, salty, tasty fries :P . Is in it ?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Belgium: "One Country - Many Cultures "

Belgium may be just one country in the world map, but you’ll get to see a lot of invisible lines dividing the country into pieces linguistically and culturally!.
It’s mainly due to the numerous invasions all through it’s past. The Belgian land has always been occupied by either one of their neighbors; start from the Roman Empires to Spanish, Austria, France, Holland, Germany…. and the list goes on!.

The first and the big dividing line that I noticed is the Flanders-Wallonia border.
The northern half of the Belgium is called as “Flanders””, bordering the northern Netherlands (Holland region) and north-west France. Dutch is the main stream language here. This includes the main cities such as Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges and Leuven.

To the south is the “”Wallonia””, predominantly French-speaking. Wallonia was rich with Metals and Coal., and was the more prosperous half of Belgium till the World War II. After the WWII, the weightage of heavy industry came down sharply, and there by the Flanders surpassed Wallonia in Wealth.

This difference in economy status & growth has made a huge difference among the people of respective region. I don't find any Flander appreciating the Wallonia, or vice versa.. They are always feel separated :(

Brussels is the capital of the country, which is located on the Flanders side, but most of the people here are not Dutch speaking, it’s primarily French :P . There's also a little German-speaking crowd in the city!.!!!

So naturally, all of these differences make out an extremely complicated government system. There’s a King in Belgium, at the same time it’s a democratic country with a huge parliament!. There are three regional governments, with jurisdiction over the French, Flemish and German areas.

It's actually a bit more complicated than that any alien could think of :) .

Katrathum Petrathum (கற்றதும் பெற்றதும்)

KatrathumPetrathum, is a superb collection of Sujatha’s essays that came as a series in Anantha Vikatan periodical. I was one of the regular readers of Anantha Vikatan at that time, and I must have already read most of Kattradhum pettradhum.

Each essay is unique and from a wide range topics - some from his real life experiences, some are science dissertations, some about literature, history, culture, a few short stories, a little bit of local and politics, books, cinema,… and what not? This book talks about almost all the topics; I could think of. It’s a great compilation !!!

Few lines of the books have made me think about that topic for days and months. And few essays have made me realize, feel, get emotional and even to laugh out loud….. Too many intellectual pieces!!!!

No doubt that #Sujatha is a clever writer and, more importantly, a very knowledgeable in many fields. And so I have no wonder why he was such a popular writer with everyone - his readers, cinema industry people, editors of publishing companies, media, etc.

If you want to read, you can download an ebook here

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Statue Code: Horse and Rider

Read an interesting article claiming, a code in sculpting the statues for the war heroes., they say that the horse’s legs position tells the story of the rider. 
  • If one leg is raised, the rider was wounded in battle.
  • If two front legs are raised, it means that the rider had died in battle.
  • If all four legs are on the ground, then he survived the battle/war. 
I am not sure, whether this is really true or just a myth.

Actually I did a piece of research without even moving out of my deskJ - looked up some famous statues on “Google Images”, and then looked up the biographies of the people depicted to see how they died. And it’s very interesting to see a plenty of statues do follow this rule.However I can’t find any authorized source on it..  Interesting!!! Isn't it?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stadspark, Antwerp - “Something for everyone”

The park is located in the heart of the city and very close to my apartment,..

It’s one of the nicest parks that I have ever seen…. an oasis of calm ... especially after a busy day/week, you’’ll sure to unwind in this beautiful and quiet city park. . The park has a beautiful lake with cute ducks, swans, thousands of pelicans and pigeons. And a fenced part of the lawn gives residence to a number of sweet little bunnies!

You could see many localities come here regularly and  enjoy a leisurely walk or a jog. Kids going wild on the playarea, which features a variety of fun games. Some Daredevils performing a sneaky show with their skate. Some good old couple laying in the grass with a book and headphone. 

The park carries a long history behind. Heard that the park is a leftover from Herentals Fort, a stronghold of the sixteenth century city wall. It was also once the place where the German forces had their Belgian headquarters during the second war. The remains of the bunkers is now burried under the park grounds. There are a few World War memorials and monuments are still standing tall and stunning here.
We love the Stads Park verymuch . It truly has “Something for everyone” #tour_antwerp

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Moving to Belgium (Part-5): Visa for Dependants - processing from Belgium

As I already said, If the primary applicant's already in Belgium, the dependent visa process in very complicated. Along with the re-issue of documents and Legalization, one worry will add-up - that's the quality residence at Belgium. Below are list of documents needed.

1. Belgium Residence ID of the primary applicant
2. Proof House - Sufficient space for the family to live
3. Medical Insurance for your spouse/family
4. Bank Statement - 6 months
5. Salary Slip - 6 months
6. Employee Attestation
7. Request letter for legalisation
8. Marriage Certificate - to be legalized
9. Birth Certificate - to be legalized
10. Color Photos of the primary applicant

You have to move in to a bigger house in Belgium, based on the number of dependents. Their local officials come and check your apartment before they give clearance for the house (Sl#2). It's not only the space, they also check for all the safety (electrical, fire, security, open area....and many). If you’re in Belgium to earn some money, your plans will be gone!. If you want your wife and Kid with you, be ready to spend 1500+ Euros for apartment rental.

My advice is always process your dependent visas along with the primary applicant visa. Never do the mistake thinking that you’ll call your dependents later, which may end-up like you’ll never get your dependents :P

Moving to Belgium (Part-4): Visa for Dependants - processing from India

I don’t want to scare you much, but it’s true that getting dependent visa is not that easy, especially if the primary applicant is already residing in Belgium. I processed  my dependents visas along with mine. It’s comparatively easy, yet I had to go thru’ a lot of surprises and had to sacrifice a few nights sleep with full of tension and worries.

Below is the list of basic documents that are needed , when the primary applicant is in India / your home country. 

1. Birth Certificate - should be issued in the last 6 months & Legalized
2. Marriage Certificate - should be issued in the last 6 months & Legalized
3. Police Clearance Certificate  - should be issued in the last 6 months & Legalized
4. Passport
5. Filled Visa Form
6. Color Photo (both yours and your wife/husband)
7. Medical Certificate

The list may look simple, but what made it complicated was the phrase “ - should be issued in the last 6 months & Legalized” :P

Re-issue of documents:
Belgium consulate asks for all the documents to be issued within the last 6 months. In my case my marriage certificate, Wife/Kid’s birth certificate all of them were 4-5 years old and I had to get all the documents reissued. Actually, the re-issue of documents is not that difficult. All the recent birth and marriage registrations are available online. Corresponding municipal offices reissue them with-in 10 working days from the date you apply.

I also got my Daughter’s and wife’s birth certificate on regular channel within 10 days (still I had to travel 2-3 times to my native which is 14 hours away from Bangalore :(. But it was nothing, I had yet another complicated problem to tackle with.

My marriage certificate was in Tamil Font, when we apply for the re-issue, we actually get a “true copy of the original marriage certificate”., Which means that they just take the copy of the already registered Tamil marriage certificate and put today’s date seal as reissued.  Somehow after a lot of efforts I got my marriage certificate re-issued in English.

Legalization of documents:
Legalization ( a.ka. Apostille) is the process of getting the required documents authenticated by the
Typical legalization process involves many state government and central government offices. Then no need to tell about the delays involved, right? Following-up at every stage was horrible and it's follow-up itself, was taking a big chunk of my office work time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Moving to Belgium (Part-3): Visa for Primary Applicant

Well, the next stage after obtaining the work permit is the visa stamping process.

Visa for the primary applicant is much easy. You just have to submit the below documents to the VFS Global centers and they get you the visa within 5-7 working days, provided all the documents are in place and correct as per the visa requirements.

1. Two Application form to be filled in completely and signed by the applicant.
2. Four Recent (not older than six months) passport-size photographs in color with white background. (3.5cm x 4.5cm)
3. The Passport should be valid for at least twelve when applying for the visa and with at least one double blank page reserved the visa
4. Also all the old passports (if there’s any)
5. Your original work permit/training permit obtained by the Employer
6. Police Clearance Certificate – issued by the relevant passport office.
7. Copy of your Medical Reports (from the authorized hospitals)

Note: All official documents must be recent i.e. not older than 6 months, attested by local, competent authorities and then legalized by The Ministry for External Affairs, Consular Division, Patiala House, New Delhi. In case the original certificates are in any of the local languages, then an official translation in English must be attached which must also be duly attested and legalized by Indian Authorities

Monday, March 2, 2015

Moving to Belgium (Part-2): Work Permit & Visa Guide

Foreign nationals who wish to work in Belgium must need a work permit. However, the nations of the European Union Countries and Swiss do not require the work permit.

There are three different types of work permit:
  • Work permit type A : This is valid for all salaried professions and all employers, for an unlimited period
  • Work permit type B : This work permit valid for one employer for a period of one year, however this can be renewed at the end of every year – typically all the employers will process this category only, as this work permit is bonded with them.
  • Work permit type C: for any salaried profession with any employer for a limited duration. This work permit is issued to foreigners who are allowed to reside here for reasons other than employment.
If you are a potential employee for Type-A & C , you must apply for work permits A and C yourself, have to submit the application file to the provincial Dienst Arbeidsmigratie.

Type-B work permit can be applied and obtained only by the employer. Along with the below documents and applications, your employer will file the petition at the Belgium officials, through their attorneys.

In an ideal scenario, you’ll get your work permit approval in about 2-3 weeks.

Documents Required for Work Permit:
Below are the documents need to be submitted along with the work permit application.
1.       Resume: should be updated from the first project of your career till date.
2.       Project Description – Short Description of the project at Belgium
3.       Degree Certificates
4.       Copy of IT returns for the recent two years
5.       Copy of Bank statements for last 3 months
6.       Color scanned copy of all the pages of the passport
7.       Copy of Medical Reports – only from the hospitals, authorized by the Belgium Immigration
8.       Acknowledgment received from EPFO COC or Employer signed form received from EPFO COC after submission
9.       Photographs – 3 Nos , as per Belgium Visa Specifications.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Moving to Belgium (Part-1) : Work Permit & Visa Guide

When my employer started processing the Belgium work permit, I thought it’s going to be a cake walk ; thought European visas are not that complicated and troublesome as the US – L1 and H1B’s procedures.

It may be true if you travel alone, but definitely not that easy, if you take your family with you. I had to see a lot of surprises at almost every stage. Main issue was my company’s immigration team’s lack of knowledge on Belgium processing, as well due to the lack of  information available over internet.

I’ll try to write about the Work permit and Visa  pre-travel procedures /experiences here, so that it could help the needy ones (someone who’s terribly looking for some information/documents on Belgium visas :P).