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'Once I spoke Luxembourgish, the country opened up to me'
Wahlen 2018

'Once I spoke Luxembourgish, the country opened up to me'

by Vanessa Challinor 5 min. 08.10.2018 From our online archive
In a series of interviews, the Luxembourg Times speaks with several foreigners who will be voting in this year's national election
Sunita Trivedi Photo: Alena Photography
Sunita Trivedi Photo: Alena Photography

According to the Migrant Integration Policy Index, the Grand Duchy has the largest share of disenfranchised adults of "any of the developed democracies" due to its high proportion of foreign residents who are barred from voting.

Currently, Luxembourg's population is estimated at 602,005, with 288,963 residents being of foreign nationality – this represents 48% of the population.

In 2015, prime minister Xavier Bettel held a referendum on whether to give foreigners the right to vote in national elections, but the Luxembourgish population rejected this with a whopping 78% 'no' vote. The current government has relaxed the law, making it easier to acquire Luxembourgish nationality.

In the run-up to the national elections on 14 October, Vanessa Challinor of the Luxembourg Times spoke with several foreigners who will be voting in this year's elections. Below is the second in a series of interviews we will run over the coming week.


Sunita Trivedi has lived in Luxembourg for 22 years. She is married with two teenage children and runs her own business teaching Indian cooking and Bollywood dancing.

Overall, she says she is very happy with her life in Luxembourg and fully supports the current government. Trivedi has previously voted in local elections, but this will be her first time voting in a national election.

To become a Luxembourger, she had to give up her Indian nationality, since India does not allow duel nationality. She was willing to do this, as her husband and two children have already had been Luxembourgers for 14 years, and she no longer wanted to be the "odd one out" in the family.

Language is a way to integrate. It shows you are open to integration. I believe it is the foreigner who always has to make the first step

Sunita Trivedi

Trivedi had already been learning intensive Luxembourgish for two years at the Institute National de Langues (INL) to take her nationality test. During this time, the current govt relaxed the nationality law, exempting foreigners who have lived here for more than 20 years from the Luxembourg language test. Despite this, Trivedi still thinks learning the Luxembourgish language should be a large part of acquiring the nationality.

"We should respect that Luxembourgish is the language of this small country," she says. 

"With Luxembourgish, I can get a better overview of what is going on in politics. Personally, I feel more able to make an informed decision on who to vote for by having wider knowledge engaging with the wider community and speaking to fellow Luxembourgers.

"Language is a way to integrate. It shows you are open to integration. I believe it is the foreigner who always has to make the first step."

She says the country seemed a different place after learning the national language. 

"Before I learned Luxembourgish, I already spoke French, but, once I started speaking Luxembourgish, I felt the country open up to me," she says. "People were delighted to hear me speak their language and welcomed me with open arms."

It is important and necessary to acquire Luxembourgish nationality to have the right to vote, and I agree that only Luxembourgers should vote

Sunita Trivedi

On the issue of nationality, Trivedi is of the philosophy that only Luxembourgers should have the right to vote. 

"It is important and necessary to acquire Luxembourgish nationality to have the right to vote, and I agree that only Luxembourgers should vote," she says.

"Learning the Luxembourgish language is what has truly allowed me to integrate into Luxembourgish society. With the language, I can be fully integrated in culture and politics. For my children, it was easy to integrate by attending the local Luxembourgish school, where they speak the three languages of the country."

Although her children attend a Luxembourgish school, Trivedi says she is particularly impressed with how the government and education minister Claude Meisch (DP) have opened the local education system.

"The government is giving more options for expats with new public international schools where English is the main language. I'm also impressed with the way the government has managed to control the rising crime rates in the country. Crime has become more of a problem over the past few years, but the government seems to have it under control."

Mobility and affordable housing are two of the major issues in this election campaign, with all political parties placing them at the top of their agendas. Trivedi says both issues affect her personally and that the next government needs to tackle them "urgently".

I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Luxembourg City and would love to have an extra bedroom for my kids," she says. "With the enormous increase in property prices in the city, this is impossible

Sunita Trivedi

"I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Luxembourg City and would love to have an extra bedroom for my kids," she says. "With the enormous increase in property prices in the city, this is impossible. There is no way we can afford a bigger place.

"Many of my friends have been forced to move out of the city. I do not drive and have to rely on public transport, and I don't want to move outside the city. Even in the city, public transport could be better. For example, I would like more frequent buses, especially after eight in the evening and at the weekends."

Whatever the makeup of the next government, she hopes the DP will be a part of it. 

"I am very happy with the current government and fully support [prime minister Xavier] Bettel. I will happily vote for the DP.

"Although I realise there may still be a coalition, I am hopeful the DP will be part of that coalition. I think they have been doing a good job, but I am not sure which party will be forming the next government."