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Taking a Break: Ethnic pockets - from Chicago to Luxembourg

Taking a Break: Ethnic pockets - from Chicago to Luxembourg

2 min. 21.03.2014 From our online archive
Columnist Dan Franch cherishes the memory of the "ethnic pockets" in Chicago where he grew up. In this week's column, he asks why Luxembourg has no Little Italy, Greek Town or Chinatown?

By Dan Franch

Whenever I want to make my wife laugh, I bring up some of the last names of my classmates in high school. It was a real alphabet soup of Italians.

We had Airdo, Bucci, Capobianco, Di Costanzo. Following that was Faldutto, Gargano, Iovino, Lollino, Positano.

Then came Scarpelli, Tirabassi, and Venziano. Topping it off was a sugar coating of cousins named Zucchero. I’m not making any of this up.

Even my two best friends from those days had Italian last names: Maucieri and Ruffino. It got so bad that once in high school my grade school friend – an Irish kid named McNulty - and I parted ways so as not to go against the family. It seemed the smart thing to do.

Ethnic pockets were typical where I grew up. After all, Chicago was (and still is) known as The City of Neighborhoods . To name a few: Little Italy, the South Side Irish, Greek Town, Ukrainian Village, Germantown, Chinatown, the Polish Triangle, and Andersonville, where the Swedes settled. The city’s mosaic background has increased further over time.

More and more, Luxembourg is getting a bit like that, though it lacks cultural "quartiers". Small in size and population – the number of inhabitants in the country is five times smaller than Chicago -- there’s barely enough people to make even one community.

Nonetheless, the Grand Duchy packs a powerful punch when it comes to diversity. From what I recently read, there are 168 different nationalities. None are very big and I haven’t noticed huddled masses conglomerating in any particular part of the country. In fact, it’s not so easy to recognize where we all come from despite being able to find a healthy portion of nation-specific names. Nonetheless, there are people from all over the world gathered right here in this little eyelet of a country.

I have to admit, one day I’d like to see Lux’s different cultures become more alive and thrive, maybe not all living in ethnic specific areas but where we foreigners settle down, develop roots, and more widely share our respective heritage. I’d like to see the Grand Duchy grow into a somewhat cosmopolitan place where the leading culture is Luxembourg itself. I know. I know. It all sounds preposterous.

Just another one of those American dreams, the type of dream that would really make Luxembourg “my kind of town” and country.

Did you know that Dan Franch also co-writes the bi-monthly comic strip Table Manners?