I promised this blog would not talk too much about my work life. However, after working as a frontalier (or a cross-border worker) for a month now, I think it is worth sharing what it is like to be like me, working for a company in Kortrijk, West Flanders, Belgium, and crossing the border on a daily basis to live in Roubaix, France, as a non-EU citizen. If this piques your interest, is something you can relate to, or even causes a bit of curiosity, you are welcome to read on. Better yet, ask me questions or share your thoughts in the comments.

So here is a day of my life as a French-Belgian frontalier

I wake up between 5am and 5:30am when my two phones, left strategically on the kitchen table the night before, simultaneously blast their loud alarms, forcing me to immediately get up and run to shut them so that we won’t get any complaints from our neighbours.

I then press a cup of long black coffee (also known as “cafe allongee”) to wake up my brain cells and at the same time put on my sports attire. I remember that, unlike before, I now have only 30 minutes of time to work out in the gym to keep my weight management efforts intact. I have put in so much hard work to lose 7 kilograms and participated in many running events, so I could not afford to slide back to being heavy again.

Fortunately, my gym — the Basic Fit in Roubaix — is located only 800 metres away on one of Roubaix’s best streets, the Avenue de Jean Lebas.

I rush downstairs from my apartment at 5:50am and jog to the quiet streets until I reach the gym at 6am. I arrive at the gym as the first client.

I then fill my water bottle, wear my earphones, and run on the treadmill for 20 minutes with positive music in an effort to raise my heart rate (HR) and burn as many calories as possible… until another alarm hits at 6:30am.

This alarm reminds me to take a quick shower in the gym and be reminded just how hot the water that comes out of the shower is, forcing my entire system to be fully awake. I then leave the gym at 6:45am, feeling refreshed and energized, and ready to conquer the day.

I walk back to my apartment to quickly change clothes for work, kiss my French partner and each of our two adorable chihuahuas, then rush to the Gare de Roubaix, the train station in Roubaix, which is luckily located just 5 minutes away from my apartment building.

The Jean Lebas Avenue of Roubaix with the view of Gare de Roubaix (Roubaix’s train station) at the end of the road.

At 7:23am, I would hop on a cross-border Belgian train to the Flemish city of Kortrijk, passing by the border towns of Tourcoing (France), and Mouscron (Belgium). This train ride leaves from Lille’s Lille-Flandres train station heading for the city of Anvers in Belgium and is very comfortable, quiet, and often only has a few passengers. But that is when my journey occurs on a normal day.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, there are no trains from Roubaix to Kortrijk, so I am forced to take a more adventurous route: I take a metro from Roubaix to CH Dron Hospital in Tourcoing and then a Belgian Wallonian TEC bus, which then takes me to the train station in Mouscron. The biggest problem when this happens is that the arrival of this bus at Mouscron train station does not quite coincide with the next train from Mouscron to Kortrijk, so I am forced to wait and waste time.

Passing by Tourcoing, the last town before crossing the border to the Belgian town of Mouscron.

I often arrive at the train station in Kortrijk at 7:45am on a “normal” day. I hop off the train and rush to the bus terminal to catch my De Lijn bus to work. About 15 minutes into the ride, I alight at a bus stop in front of a McDonald’s in Beneluxpark, known as “the Silicon Valley of Belgium.” This area is quite and full of office spaces scattered across a huge field. From here, I walk across a car park, traverse roads, and then do a long walk until I reach my office building, which is located way far away near some corn fields.

The pathway to my office building.

I would clock in at the office’s gantry around 8:20am, have a piece of croissant and another cup of long black coffee at our empty canteen, then head up to my office to start a long, busy day at work.

Taking a Belgian train from Roubaix to Kortrijk.

At 12pm, I head down with my colleagues to our fabulous office canteen, which offers plenty of dish options and amazing salad choices, all for a cheap price compared to what you would spend in any Belgian restaurant (heck, even at a Belgian McDonald’s). Lunchtime is when I can socialize a bit with my colleagues and exchange interesting or boring life stories.

At 1pm, we would all head back up to our office, except that I would make a small detour to our freely provided, relatively sophisticated coffee machine, to grab a cup of coffee to bring to my desk so my brain cells could tackle the remaining load of work for the remaining part of the day.

Around 5:20pm, an alert would pop up from my Outlook reminding me to pack and leave the office as soon as possible to catch my bus on time. At 5:43am, I would be on a bus back to the train station in Kortrijk and linger around until I caught my Belgian train taking me back to Roubaix at 6:13pm. In between, I would use the vending machines at the train station to grab some quick snacks and a can of Coke Zero.

Time to head back to France after a busy day at work

Stepping out of Roubaix’s train station and seeing the city as I cross the door reminds me just how comfortable my work commute is. It is easily the best work commute that I have ever had without a few headaches — except on occasions when there are troubles with the trains. However, train delays are by far not as bad as what I experienced with Munich’s S-Bahns.

I then leisurely walk to my apartment, located near Roubaix’s amazing La Piscine museum, and I would be greeted by our two ultra-excited chihuahuas as soon as I open the apartment door.

Meet Rêveur, the most adorable chihuahua ever

My French partner then arrives home, and we would prepare our dinner while waiting to watch my favourite French TV journal show — the Le 20H, to update ourselves with the latest buzz in France. The French news often causes my partner to regularly complain about how everything cost-wise is always going up in France.

Shortly, I then spend the remaining time of the night relaxing, often just leisurely browsing stuff on social media or preparing for work the next day, while my partner is occupied with all his favourite South Korean TV drama and talent shows.

Then we hit the bed together before midnight, telling each other how annoying each one of us is to one another, and then the two chihuahuas would join us in our bed. A female cat then sleeps on the right side of my arms.

And that’s the day in my life as a French-Belgian cross-border worker. 🙂

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