Vivre ensemble au Grand-Duché

d'Lëtzebuerger Land vom 11.10.2019

The following is an addendum to the citizenship course required for candidates seeking the Luxembourgish nationality.

Living in Luxembourg is all about getting letters from various ministries and institutions. You might call the ministry, they might demand an email, you might write that email – and then, a week later, you might find two or three envelopes jammed into your letterbox in response. Sometimes, you receive a letter whose sole function is to specify in which future week you will be sent another letter. In Howald, the Bréifdréier drives around in a little solar car.

Living in Luxembourg is all about referring to the Schueberfouer as “the Shoob” because it is otherwise unpronounceable.

Living in Luxembourg is all about discussing Luxembourg. You must relentlessly discuss the country because, it being so small, everyone is quick to define it. Germans will say it’s like Germany but better; the French will say it’s like France but worse. You will hear that it is too rich to be good, too tiny to be bad, too comfortable to be interesting, too unique to be boring. You will not hear much about roadtripping through it on a mysterious voyage of discovery.

Living in Luxembourg is all about respecting your neighbor. Better to respect than to befriend, because friends can always become enemies.

Living in Luxembourg is all about bringing the bill up to the counter because the waiter doesn’t come round very often.

Living in Luxembourg is all about debating whether its internationality unites or divides it. Bridging cultures is second nature in the Grand Duchy, but the question is this: does a bridge connect two mainlands as one, or pass over a vast gulf of meaning below?

Living in Luxembourg is all about laughing at anyone who believes the tram will really fix the city’s traffic problems.

Living in Luxembourg is all about apologizing for your language mistakes.

Living in Luxembourg is all about attending weddings that are oriented towards hooking shy guests up with each other. You play embarrassing games themed for couples, and get your photo snapped in pairs as you exit the ceremony. All summer long, drunken guests carouse at the Orangerie.

Living in Luxembourg is all about running into someone you know at the Findel.

Living in Luxembourg is all about having opinions about Luxembourgish. Some call it a German dialect, some call it a crass language for villagers, some don’t call it anything. Some are champions of its grammar, orthography, and tradition, while others laugh it off as a casual tongue that has no literary quality and probably never will. Regardless of all that, the first question that learners are asked is: why?

Living in Luxembourg is all about knowing somebody who has been on the radio.

Living in Luxembourg is all about picking up words in Portuguese, Polish, and Italian.

Living in Luxembourg is all about buying pastries for tomorrow’s breakfast from bored, annoyed clerks.

Living in Luxembourg is all about finding out from the Luxembourgish teachers at the INL how far they will go to favor Luxisms: probéieren beats versichen, but Stëbssuckeler would be an absolute joke. It is permissible to use dass instead of datt, but you will be told frequently that it is, in fact, German. One teacher ratted out a colleague who says stolz instead of houfreg, and the whole class, aping him, chuckled.

Living in Luxembourg is all about scenes and circles. Expat clubbers run into each other at the same bars, weekend after weekend; merely by traveling the same drinking circuit, they form a familiar community. Meanwhile, Luxembourgish colleagues drive to each other’s flats for dinner parties, introducing friends and cousins who discover other friends and cousins in common. Musicians, joggers, writers, and people who like craft beer see each other at the same events. Everyone sees everyone, eventually, on Bus 16.

Living in Luxembourg is all about dating a foreigner whom you met on Tinder.

Living in Luxembourg is all about believing that the weather is constantly rainy, even though it isn’t. It simply isn’t that bad. Sure, Madrid is sunnier, but Glasgow is devastatingly gloomier. On Sunday afternoons, rays of sunshine filter down through the trees, warming up dogwalkers and their dogs. On rainy weekdays, thirty minutes introduce themselves to your commute.

Living in Luxembourg is all about joining a trail of cars stuck behind a tractor.

Jeffrey Palms
© 2019 d’Lëtzebuerger Land