This Saturday, we went to The Luxembourg City History Museum to see an exhibit called “ABC – Luxembourg for beginners … and advanced!” Informative and quirky, this well done exhibit covered all facets of Luxembourg life presented in 26 letters. There were facts for the data heads, photos and objects for the visual learners, and interactive videos and displays for kinesthetic learners (aka young boys.)
So what we learn about our city? Here is a smattering of some fun facts and idiosyncrasies of a nation that has spent many centuries as part of a larger country. Luxembourg may be known as the smallest kid on the playground, but they can talk multilingual circles around many of us.
They are not prudes. “A” stood for “Anescht” meaning different, which was displayed as a series of full size photos of the backs of naked Luxembourg men and women (reminder, no cameras were allowed.) That’s one way to get your attention and solicit lots of questions from the kinesthetic learners who were walking through the panels and studying tushy ages. The average Luxembourg resident is 40-44 years old, works in Finance, earns 37,700 euro per year, drives his own car, and goes to the theater. (Years of Marketing Segmentation work compelled me to write these facts down.)
They super heart their cars. Luxembourg has the 3rd highest vehicle density worldwide after Monocco and Liechtenstein. They also love their cyclists, but not so much the cycling. The country is proud to have produced their most famous world class sportsmen with 5 Tour de France winners (let’s assume we will not later learn that Andy Schleck doped for the purposes of this stat.) However, unlike the Dutch, the bike has not caught on as a means of daily transport. Perhaps that is because it is February 25 and still snowing like mad.
But let’s call an Audi, an Audi. They are able to love their cars, because they filthy rich. Only Qatar has a higher GDP/capita in the world. One of the displays was a fascinating sound collage of seven ways to destroy a 100 Euro Note to illustrate the country’s love of money. In case you are wondering, the seven ways are explosion, chemical burning, freezing, dissection, carbonization, grinding, and whisking. Do not try at home. Or maybe just try the whisking (with a $1 bill) because I’m super curious about that one.
The historic Bockfiels – the fortress that was built into the rock and continually extended by foreign powers over the years was nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the North” by military leaders and “Europe’s most beautiful balcony” by artists. What remains of the fortress is a witness to Luxembourg’s turbulent history, but also a magnificent marriage of building and landscape.
Their love for sport is blind. Luxembourg’s National Football Team has had more defeats than victories, and a 2-3 loss *against a good team* is cause for celebration. This might be good time for a shout out: “This is going to be your year, Mariners!”
Like the US, their educational system needs some tweaking too. After 6th grade, students take a test in Math, French and German and their score on that single exam determines where they carry on to a technical vocational high school or classic general education high school. Writing, history, science? And they wonder why the drop rate is 18%. Most people got abroad for University as Luxembourg didn’t open their first university until 2003 (which happens to be right in our neighborhood.)
The official Luxembourg flag (which is red, white, and blue) adopted a lighter shade of blue in 1845 soon after their independence to distinguish themselves from the Dutch blue. In 2006, there was an unsuccessful legislative movement to replace the tricolor national flag with the “Red Lion” flag from the Coat of Arms of Luxembourg. That would have been fly. Lions belong on flags.
The Grand-Rue is the main shopping street in Luxembourg. I of course already knew that.
130,000 people commute across borders every day to work in Luxembourg City, effectively doubling the city population from 8am-6pm. And because the Europeans love their cars, they are driving in and taking all the available parking places. Not to mention that they’re smoking up the joint. They also have something called “fuel tourism” where people come across the borders to buy the ONLY three things are the cheaper in Luxembourg: gas, wine, and cigarettes.
Luxembourg allows dual citizenship but it’s an arduous process, and there is a language test (they are serious about this multilingual business.) The greatest number of new citizens comes mostly from Portugal. That seems to stem from the fact that after the Second World War, Duchess Charlotte was received so hospitably in Portugal that she opened the doors to Portuguese coming to Luxembourg.
In 2010, foreigners accounts for 65% of the Luxembourg population. We are easy to spot because we can’t speak or understand Luxembourgish and we mistakenly buy our gas in Germany.
Kachkeis is a Luxembourg specialty. It is a creamy, yellow cooked cheese that is spread over bread and topped with mustard. Hmm. Kachkeis vs Camembert. Kachkeis vs Brie. Another reason to feel inferior to the French. Their other specialty is a damson jam and bean soup. Fromage and baguettes, beer and brats, pizza and pasta will beat that every time.
Steel was big in the second half of the 19th century through the 1970s, and now Finance and Banking are the key business sectors. Sounds familiar. RTL Group is Europe's leading entertainment company and is based here, as are many branches of the EU (The European Court of Justice, the General Court, the Court of Auditors, and the European Investment Bank) and a number of multinational companies. In fact, there are roughly half as many people working in the Amazon office as there are in the 1,000 soldier strong Luxembourg Army. I just bored myself re-reading that.
National Day is the Grand Duke’s birthday and is celebrated on June 23. They are fireworks and concerts, a torchlight parade, and food and drink to make it merry (so we hear.) Speaking of drink, there was no mention of the Luxembourg’s production of wonderful, affordable dry white wines and sparkling Cremants along the Moselle River Valley … but I’m studying/drinking up on this and will report back.
“Z” stood for “Zefridden” which means content. Luxembourg ranks second on the EU satisfaction scale at 96% after Denmark. Aside from the Kachkeis, this makes total sense.