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Expats: How to talk to Luxembourgers about politics

Expats: How to talk to Luxembourgers about politics

by Bill Wirtz 2 min. 02.11.2018 From our online archive
Talking politics in a country you don't know entirely can be tricky, writes Bill Wirtz
Luxembourg is a unicameral system with only 60 parliamentarians. Photo: Gerry Huberty
Luxembourg is a unicameral system with only 60 parliamentarians. Photo: Gerry Huberty

Talking politics in a country you don't know entirely can be tricky. Bill Wirtz gives you a few tips on how to navigate the difficult task of talking politics in the Grand Duchy.

If you want to keep your job, your colleagues, your business partners, and your friends, then just don't talk about politics. That advice is free, and not very helpful. There's reason to elaborate, most notably because we all know that politics does tend to come up when we least expect, or because it is omnipresent by virtue of governing our daily lives.

If you got stuck in commuter traffic because the government decided not to extend the motorway, you'll eventually complain about it to your colleagues, inevitably leading you to talk politics. As in any country, there are some dos and don'ts.

Luxembourgers are very discreet about their political affiliation. Even those who are members of political parties are unlikely to disclose that information, even if they have previously run for municipal office. In a small country where networking is crucial, it isn't considered wise to mess up a career opportunity because of politics.

However, that doesn't mean that Luxembourgish people won't talk to you about politics. They will in fact be more straight-forward towards expats about their political beliefs, because they don't expect immigrants to be offended by their view on national politics.

If a Luxembourger opens up about his or her political beliefs, here are some don'ts to watch out for:

  • Do not ask who they voted for. Luxembourgers are very protective about how they voted, particularly since most people are a fan of the "panachage" voting system, through which they can choose candidates from multiple parties. Very few people would reveal their composition of candidates.
  • Do not prescribe an ideology to their statements. British expats, for instance, could think that a person is a Conservative for supporting low taxes, but simultaneously also a Labour supporter for being in favour of social freedoms, and a Liberal Democrat for massively supporting the European Union. These labels aren't applicable in Luxembourg, as the electorate is rather pragmatic than ideological. People do have some degree of party loyalty, but even political parties change positions over time.
  • Don't belittle Luxembourgish politics. Luxembourg is a unicameral system with only 60 parliamentarians. In comparison to other European countries, the Grand Duchy's political system might seem insignificant, but it's not advised to joke about it unless you're good friends with your interlocutor. You'd be running the risk of it being perceived as ridicule.
  • Especially in the case of business partners, do not show support for a specific politician, particularly if that politician is a member of the government. His or her departments might be in conflict with your business partner's general domain, and despite of you not being aware of it, it might be a set-back for your plans.

Instead, make sure to ask questions and show interest in the happenings of Luxembourgish politics. Luxembourgers will be happy to explain it to you, and you might learn more about their views by politely asking than by going in with your own opinion first.

And of course, for all the latest news on Luxembourg's politics, you should read the Luxembourg Times.

Bill Wirtz is a political commentator from Luxembourg, based in Brussels. He has been published in Le Monde, Le Figaro, Die Welt and The Times of London.