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The human "fruit salad" that is Luxembourg
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The human "fruit salad" that is Luxembourg

2 min. 23.08.2013 From our online archive
Columnist Dan Franch explores our enduring curiosity with how other expatriate families live in the "bubble" that is Luxembourg.

Some friends were over the other night. The visitors were an Estonian-Estonian couple; friends of ours, or perhaps they are simply people we know. It can be hard to know where we all stand in others’ lives considering the way we’ve all spilled ourselves into Luxembourg over the years. That spillage has led to another phenomenon, the way we label ourselves and others.

Generally, we like to easily categorize people in order to have a reference point for how we relate to them. Since there doesn’t seem to be a wide variety of job choices for us ex-pats (banking or the institutions, for the most part), a convenient way to place people in the Grand Duchy is by nationality. We’re curious to know where we all come from.

When the couple is from the same country, we’re pretty happy with that knowledge and rarely probe further. The real inquisitiveness kicks in if it’s a mixed-nationality marriage. Then we delve deeper: “How did you meet? What language do you speak together? Is it hard to decide where to spend your holidays? Do your kids speak both languages?” It must make those with a similar ethnic background feel momentarily dull.

We even sometimes hit up children with a similar stream of curious questions since their friends come from a kaleidoscope of backgrounds. When the aforementioned couple was over, I asked their daughter about her friends: Where do they come from? “Romania, Estonia, France, and other places.” What language do you speak with them? “French, Estonian, English”. A real concoction.

However, she was unfazed. Such diversity is normal for kids here. Interestingly, there seems to be more of a novelty when kids go back to their home country. Our older boy once explained, “Everyone here speaks Estonian!” when he was back in Tallinn.

That’s not the way things went down when I was a kid. We were all from the same town. We were all American. We all spoke English. At least that’s the way it seemed. And I don’t recall any adults asking, “How long have you been here?” or “Where are your parents from?” or “What language do you speak at home?” There might have been a colorful array of answers, but there was no real reason to ask.

It’s just another way that life is different here in lovely, little Luxembourg. Fewer and fewer of us are from here, yet more and more of us are trying to make it our home. It’s some weird bio-dome, a human fruit salad being tossed around in a glass bowl… or as many like to call it; bubble.