Earlier this month, I hit the big fat milestone of living in Luxembourg for one whole year.
It’s been very different to what I imagined, but it’s also been quite wonderful, and I’m a very big fan of this country. There are people from all over the world, but it’s still a very small, contained country, with its own ways of doing things, which means that I’ve encountered a lot of smiling and empathetic people. It’s still a city, even if it’s nothing like bustling London/Rome/Paris, so that brings about some “negatives”, since I’m not much of a city-person. However, being in the middle of a city (albeit in an unbelievably quiet area) has its advantages – lots of shops, restaurants, and more options for things to do. I’m close to everything, but after a mere 10-minute train ride or a 15-minute walk, I’m out in the countryside or by a river in the forest. It’s a real treasure of a country.
Since it’s been a year, I’ve compiled a few of my most noteworthy thoughts regarding Luxembourg under a variety of headings:
FURNISHING AN EMPTY APARTMENT
Most apartments in Luxembourg are rented as unfurnished properties. Ours was no exception, and we spent months living in a mostly-empty apartment, until we painfully purchased around a fifth of the IKEA-Arlon showroom, and now our apartment is as cosy as ever. Our kitchen still needs a lot of work (it’s a little too big to be a kitchen but too small to be a fully-fledged living room – we’re working on it), particularly because the kitchen counter, drawers, and cupboards are awful shades of deep blue/awkward red. Why.
Our apartment is nestled in the heart of Bonnevoie, which is clearly (no bias, obviously) the best region in Luxembourg City. It’s got the best panzerotti, the best sushi, and it’s (mostly) quiet and very charming. Lots of restaurants, lots of people walking their dogs – it’s great.
The weather in Luxembourg is Not Good. It’s grey most of the time (very depressing), and rains more often than not (hate it hate it hate it), although last spring/summer were quite beautiful. When it was particularly hot, though, it felt like torture, and ALL FANS WERE SOLD OUT EVERYWHERE. It was tragic. And this country is landlocked, which is a very huge shame (especially for island-dwellers like us). We did manage to go swimming in a lake once in the summer, though, and it was GLORIOUS. Super clean, super refreshing, super beautiful.
Also: it snows here in winter, and that’s beautiful (although it can get really, really cold), and the autumn was also incredible – the seasons are so clear-cut, and they really connect you to the living and breathing world around you.
Luxembourg is notoriously known as being “boring”. I can understand where this might be coming from, especially if you’re interested in a particular type of nightlife or a lot of new/different places to try out. Luxembourg doesn’t offer everything, BUT I still can’t understand how so many people are so quick to label Luxembourg as this boring, nothing-happens-here country. It’s such a popular stop for musicians, for example, so we got to see SO MANY great concerts last year, and there are so many beautiful restaurants to choose from… It’s not as busy or “buzzing” as somewhere like London, but that would – quite frankly – be a bit too stressful for me.
O mon DIEU. The language situation in Luxembourg took me by surprise. I thought I’d strengthen my French in a few months, and off I’ll go, happily ever after. This has not been the case. While French is the general lingua franca in Luxembourg (at least, in Luxembourg City), it’s not something you’re going to hear being spoken everywhere. I hear and read a lot of French in my day-to-day life, yes, but there’s also a huge amount of Portuguese, Luxembourgish, German, Italian, Spanish, English… It’s been quite confusing and has caused me a fair amount of anxiety. My French, however, is moving along nicely, and while I won’t be participating in full-blown conversations anytime soon, my comprehension has improved dramatically (phew). Then again, as soon as I venture out of the capital city, to somewhere close to the German border, for example, it’s tough to find people who can speak any English or French, which has led to some… annoying situations.
Luxembourg.is.expensive. It’s not the most expensive in every single way, but it’s been very expensive for me. The biggest things are: travelling to and from the country (no direct flights to Malta), food (most meals out are double or almost double to what I’d pay back home, and supermarket trips are quite expensive too), and general services (hairdressers, doctors… everything). Also, obviously, rent is very, very high here as well.
Luxembourg has quite a good array of shops that get me excited. LUSH! H&M! HEMA! Sephora! Grocery shopping has been a bit of a problem (mostly due to the next heading), but I’ve gotten used to labels in strange languages, so it no longer takes me an hour to grab a handful of items.
We haven’t gotten a car yet. We don’t need one urgently, but it would be infinitely handy (especially for grocery shopping and for trips around the general region).
I haven’t made a huge amount of friends here, but I’ve gathered a handful of super-special people who I get to call my friends, and I’m eternally grateful to Luxembourg for allowing these beautiful people enter my life.
Not great at all, but at least I’ve had a very successful year with regard to my side hustle (which has been my main hustle in Luxembourg), which is my proofreading business. I’ve also given a few English lessons and written some articles here and there. In March, however, I should be starting a traineeship at the European Commission (très exciting), and there are still a few other hopeful possibilities in the pipeline.
A PET CAT
I have been unsuccessful on this front, and we have no pet cat. I understand that it’s not very responsible to get a pet though, since we might move to a place which doesn’t allow pets, or we might not be at home due to travelling for long periods of time… (I still dream of having a pet cat daily, however).
It’s great. I love taking the train, especially. The only downfall is that buses and trains become scarce in the evenings and on weekends, which can mean a long chilly wait (or a long walk home).
It’s been lovely to host a few visitors at our place last year, and we’ve even gotten a giant sofa bed now. Not many people that I know would opt for Luxembourg as a travel destination, so it’s been great to show some people around this pretty part of the world (and discover more of it myself).
TRAVELLING FROM LUXEMBOURG
It’s both a blessing and a pain. It’s wonderful to be so close to so many European countries, especially Belgium, France and Germany, but at the same time, it’s quite an expensive endeavour to travel back home to Malta, since return flights are usually around the 200-300 EUR mark, and it takes most of a day to get there. That being said, it’s not that bad, and it’s been amazing to visit cities such as Trier, Metz, Antwerp, Riga, Aachen, and so on, apart from the wonders of travelling in Luxembourg itself – my favourite spots are Mullerthal, Mersch, Clervaux, Vianden, the Upper-Sûre lake, and the whole Luxembourgish Moselle region.
BEING A PLANT MUMMY
I’m terrible at taking care of plants. I’ve killed several cactuses this past year, and I’m quite ashamed of it. However, I still have a couple which seem to have survived my treacherous care (or lack thereof)…
THE POSTAL SERVICE (internationally-speaking)
It suuuucks. Things take ages to arrive to/from Malta, as well as from favourite sites like the Book Depository.
CRÉMANT IS THE BEST
It’s the Luxembourgish version of champagne. It’s delicious, and not as expensive as sparkling wine that’s designated as actual Champagne.
This little country has some wonderful traditions, which means that no period of the year is without an “occasion”. Eating a Galette des Rois in January, burning a giant cross with the rest of the neighbourhood in February, the Luxembourg City Film Festival in February/March, buying a pretzel for the one you love in March, celebrating the National Day in June, Rock-a-Field in July, going to the massive funfair in summer, THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN DECEMBER – there’s always some fun to be had.
THE COUNTRYSIDE, THE PARKS, THE GREENERY
They blow me away every day. There aren’t any grand mountains or harsh, contrasting landscapes, but the subtle beauty of the Luxembourgish “wild” gives me so much peace in my soul. There are plenty of places for walks and hikes, and it’s still a HUGE country to me, considering that I come from a tiny, densely-populated island in the middle of the Mediterranean.
In short, I can’t wait to see what Luxembourg has to offer in Year 2… :)
PS: the photo above was taken by me in Clervaux, Luxembourg in October.