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Luxembourg – Basics

Luxembourg is the only remaining Grand Duchy in the world and is a representative democracy in the form of a constitutional monarchy. The crown is hereditary within the Nassau family. The Grand Duke is the head of state and, together with the elected prime minister and the government, part of the executive branch. In reality, his function is purely representative, but he is extremely popular among the people of Luxembourg.

Luxembourg is located in the heart of Central Europe, between Belgium, France and Germany, with an area of only 2,586 square kilometers. Together with Belgium and the Netherlands, it forms the so-called Benelux countries. Luxembourg and its capital Luxembourg City are very well connected to all other European capitals, financial and economic centres.

Multicultural inhabitants

Luxembourg has about 600,000 inhabitants (2018). However, only about 320,000 of them were born in Luxembourg. 48 per cent of the Luxembourg population comes from abroad or has a different nationality. These 280,000 inhabitants are registered as foreigners, even if they have been living in Luxembourg for some time.

Luxembourg City has just over 116,000 inhabitants (2018). Of these, about 33,000 are native Luxembourgers (29 per cent) and 80,788 are foreign nationals (70 per cent). This makes Luxembourg City one of the most multinational capitals in Europe. Its foreign inhabitants come from a total of 163 countries, led by French (19,581) and followed by Portuguese (13,024), Italians (7,821), Belgians (4,617) and Germans (3,925).

If only the working population (15 to 64 years) of Luxembourg is considered (about 403,000 people), the number of foreign workers is 193,000. There are, however, also around 177,000 cross border workers. These are employees or self-employed persons who work in Luxembourg from Monday to Friday – and some also on Saturdays and Sundays; they live in the neighbouring countries France (approx. 50 per cent), Belgium (approx. 25 per cent) and Germany (approx. 25 per cent) and return home in the evening (or at the weekend).

All in all, 370,000 foreigners work in Luxembourg every day. In Luxembourg, you hardly ever interact just with native Luxembourgers but also with numerous colleagues and business partners from many different European and non-European cultures.

This is seen very positively by the Luxembourgers themselves. Luxembourg is a small, proud, tradition-conscious country, but also a cosmopolitan and very European country. The Luxembourgers are staunch Europeans who are proud of both their history and attitude and strongly support the idea of Europe. Luxembourg is the birthplace of Robert Schuman, who first presented the idea of an economic and political community for Europeans in 1950. This guiding principle ultimately led to the foundation of the European Community, the core organization of today’s European Union (EU) with currently 28 member states and more than half a billion inhabitants.

Multinational organizations and companies

Today, Luxembourg is one of the three official administrative headquarters of the EU, alongside Brussels and Strasbourg. Numerous other EU institutions and related institutions are also based in Luxembourg, in particular the European Court of Auditors, the General Secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Commission with administrative units of eight Directorates-General, the European Court of Justice and the European Investment Bank.

In addition to various other social organizations, most private companies are in the finance, insurance, retail, hotel and catering sectors. Numerous multinational companies have chosen Luxembourg as their headquarters for their European activities. In addition, there is an extensive network of highly specialized service providers that operate worldwide.

Luxembourg is not a manufacturing country, but there are still some hidden industrial companies. If you travel across Luxembourg by car, however, you will notice its agricultural character. Green countryside, vineyards and farms as far as the eye can see – the scenery only changes when you drive into Luxembourg City and the skyscrapers of the financial centre become visible.

Multilingualism

Luxembourg’s multiculturalism is also expressed in the country’s multilingualism. Luxembourg has a total of three official languages: Luxembourgish, French and German. Luxembourgish is the national language, French is the legislative language and, together with German, the official EU language. In contrast to other multilingual countries, linguistic usage in Luxembourg is not territorially structured, but functional or according to economic or social areas.

Luxembourgish tends to be more rooted in oral language use and is spoken by native Luxembourgers primarily in their private everyday lives, but also in professional life if they are among themselves. The language is an expression of the national identity of the Luxembourgers and is therefore also used in writing in an appropriate context. However, the written languages are French and German. From primary school onwards, schools only teach in French and German, with English being taught as a fourth language.

Due to the presence of many French and romanophone immigrants as well as cross border workers in Luxembourg City, French is particularly present in everyday life. Portuguese is also widespread due to strong Portuguese immigration. In the financial and European districts of the city, with its many multinational companies and institutions, English is also widely used as a lingua franca.

Which language is spoken in which company or department is usually not regulated but depends on many changing factors. On the one hand, of course, is the question of what nationalities a team is made up of? With the exception of the public sector, which is firmly in the hands of trilingual Luxembourgers, teams or departments of a private company or institution are almost always made up of several nationalities. It is also important whether it is a traditional Luxembourg company, a company from one of the European neighboring countries or a multinational company with a foreign parent company or foreign executives.

But various industries also have language preferences in Luxembourg. The service sector, the hotel and catering industry as well as trade are generally very French-oriented. English and German, on the other hand, dominate the manufacturing and financial sectors.

If someone answers the phone in Luxembourgish, it is common practice for foreigners to ask briefly whether they can also switch to German, French or English. If the other person does not speak the desired language, someone will usually be found quickly who can take over the conversation. In the case of purely Luxembourg companies, German or French may be of more use than English. Most people who grew up in Luxembourg speak either German or French. And in larger companies, there is almost always someone who can translate for people who do not speak a common language.

During a longer stay in Luxembourg, it is advisable to learn at least some French or German in order to be able to communicate in one of the official languages. Luxembourgish itself is much more difficult for foreigners without any prior knowledge of German, Dutch or French to learn; as a foreign language, it is also less attractive, since it is spoken only by about 300,000 people in the world. A few phrases, such as the typical “Moien” for “good morning” can easily be learned and will show your interest in the country and its people which will be greatly appreciated by the Luxembourgers.

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