An ode to Luxembourg: Why it is the best place to grow up in
Yes, Luxembourgish is a real language
Since coming to uni, the revelation that I’ve grown up in the tiny Luxembourg has got me a few funny remarks – everything from ‘oh, I think I drove through there once by accident’ to taxi drivers simply shaking their heads and muttering ‘tax haven’ under their breaths.
So I thought it was about time to enlighten the masses – yes, it’s bloody expensive, yes, there are a lot of banks – but did you know that it’s the only Grand Duchy left in the world? Or that the city sits on top of a fortress with 17 kilometres of tunnels carved out of its solid rock?
Or maybe you’d like some more practical, non-tourist brochure observations about why growing up in a nation with roughly the same number of inhabitants as Edinburgh was actually pretty amazing?
It’s so easy to get round
Taxi prices in Luxembourg are, admittedly, completely extortionate – but with public transport this good, you never really need to ring a cab. There may only be one proper city in the country, but boy is it well connected – you can live in a tiny village 40 minutes away from the capital, cows in your back garden, and still enjoy an hourly bus to ferry you to and from the bright lights.
Think about how much you pay for your Ridacard, and then consider that in Luxembourg, the modern utopia that it is, all the buses are free on Saturdays, and a little birdy tells me that pretty soon anyone who’s a student won’t have to pay either. Plus, night buses run to almost every commune often twice a night – if you’ve missed the 3am and happen to live near a train station, the trains run pretty much all through the night too.
Ok, so you might not have Luxembourg down as the party centre of Europe – but in reality, it’s a pretty decent place to have a night out. None of Scotland’s fun-destroying alcohol laws here: drinking on the streets is practically encouraged, and from 16 years old you’re free to buy and consume as much beer or liquor as you wish. Nobody who grew up in Luxembourg had to drink their cider hiding in the park – we could waltz into the nearest bar and order a cheeky Strongbow after school if we wanted. The staff in Blue Bar are basically our BFFs by now.
With a reliability similar to the homing of the Pollock resident towards Why Not on a Monday, every Friday the international school kids past and present congregate without fail at (or often just in front of) whatever the bar of the moment is. No frantic consulting the group chat, trying to find out what the squad’s plans are that evening – you can stroll calmly off the bus and into town, knowing that amongst the throng you’ll find at least five people you know, not counting the bartenders, who are probably your friends too.
This proper sense of community is one of the things I love so much about Luxembourg – I see the fact that everyone knows each other as a benefit, and a welcome escape from the isolation and anonymity you can feel living in a bigger city.
You probably know loads of languages
Try not to get too jealous, but it’s pretty normal for people who’ve grown up in Luxembourg to have learnt 5 languages without even trying – a mother tongue, English, and then the three official languages that they throw at you at school. French, German….and yep, Luxembourgish is actually a thing. In this sing-song hybrid of a language, ‘tiptop’ is the favourite way to say ‘great’ and just about the most pronounceable word – a typically Luxembourgish day out might involve munching on some gromperekichelcher (fried potato cakes) at the Schueberfouer (yearly funfair and Luxembourg institution).
They give you a massive student grant that you don’t have to pay back
Applying for CEDIES, the Luxembourg equivalent to SAAS, may seem like an online version of the Spanish inquisition (why do they need to see my lease? and proof of rent deposit? what, I have to send a scan of my grades from last year?), but you can hardly complain when you get a GRANT of €5700 per academic year that you don’t even have to pay back – and that’s not including the means-assessed loan you can take out on top of the rest. Something to do with the government feeling guilty about there only being one proper university in the whole country, apparently.
Everything is close
To give you some perspective, the entire country is roughly the size of Dorset. You could walk from one end of the Luxembourg City to the other in less than an hour – it’s really the size of a fairly small town, but with all the cultural offerings of a capital squeezed into a more compact area. Bars, cafes, art galleries, live music – especially in the summer, there’s no shortage of things to do, and you’ll never have to go far to get to them. And if you (for some reason) want to get out of the country, that’s easily done too – from my house, it’s a 20 minute drive to Germany, and half an hour to France and Belgium. It’s not even beyond the bounds of possibility to take a day trip to the Netherlands.
Oh, and the Schengen Agreement that established the whole open-borders thing? That was signed in Luxembourg. Just as well then that petrol is about the only thing that’s cheap, so we can make the most of it