Luxemburgensia (1): Corruption

I have been postponing a new series of posts on this blog for quite some time. In an effort not to sound too negative and grumpy I have avoided the subject and suppressed the urge to criticise and complain. Unfortunately I cannot resist any more and therefore here is the first of a series of posts about the ills and (hopefully) attractions of living in Luxembourg.

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Luxembourg a sort of country nestled between a loud neighbour that wants the world to think it’s big, an economic giant that doesn’t need to shout to be heard and a schizophrenic nation that cannot elect its own government. The population of the not-so Grand Duchy is a little under half a million and most of the people claim to speak a language called Luxembourgish that sounds like garbled German and French and Dutch to the untrained ear. To the trained ear it still sounds like garbled German, French and Dutch only the trained ear no longer makes an effort to understand it.

After the liberation of the tiny nation by the Yanks (to whom they will ever be grateful by naming most of their roads after people like Patton, Roosevelt and cetera) the nation of farmers and steelworkers set about reconstruction with a lazy laid back savoir-faire until one day someone hit upon a bright idea. First there was the attraction of companies and banks thanks to deviously attractive tax schemes. Then, thanks to a slip somewhere in the negotiations, Luxembourg found itself host to part of the European Parliament, the European Commission AND the European Court of Justice.

The combination of these two events meant that this hitherto forgotten patch of land would attract (a) money, (b) settlers in search of employment – the combination of which meant many, many foreigners passing through the hallowed turf of Kirchberg, Limpertsberg and Oberpallen. And the Luxembourgers DO NOT LIKE FOREIGNERS.

And that is where the reason for this post begins. Because much as you try to fit in and meld with the culture. Much as you accept the fact that you have no other choice but to work in Luxembourg because the European Court of Justice happens to be there and in no other place. Much as you try to ignore the fact that given the choice between working in Luxembourg, London, Rome, Madrid and Athens you would not even look at the word with an X in it. Much as you do all that… you still notice that Luxembourg does nothing… NOTHING AT ALL… to make the foreigners living on its soil feel anything close to being welcome.

And these posts will be a documentation of all that is twisted in Luxembourg. This country that runs on the questionable motto of: “If you don’t want it, somebody else will come along and take it instead”. Where services are hopelessly inadequate because monopolies thrive and everyday business is rendered irrelevant by the gold mine that is taxation of businesses and renting of property.

Deal with a Luxembourger and you deal with someone who looks down on you almost immediately. Whether its M. Losch selling you the paper or J. Godaerts selling you your car. God forbid that you have to deal with an estate agent and try to negotiate a reasonable price for a hovel… (you don’t want it… someone else will take it)… And it’s not just if you are Maltese (implying arab looking)… no it’s the same with the French, the English and the Germans. They’re rude to everyone. They think everyone owes them a living. When it should be bloody obvious that the contrary is true.

Luxembourgers are LUCKY to host all these companies, consultancies, fonctionnaires etc. These companies and their employees are what make Luxembourg rich and Albania poor. unfortunately they take this for granted and spend most of their time trying to milk every last cent from their guests – and this without a smile.

So it comes as no surprise when you open L’essentiel and read that a survey by Transparency International has discovered that Luxembourg is perceived as the most corrupt among western European countries. About time someone started to open their eyes!

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16 responses to “Luxemburgensia (1): Corruption

  1. LOL! I’ve been to Luxembourg… it’s quite a nice country though – It can be quite charming too… but from what I just read it doesn’t really sound nice!

    Luxembourgers DO NOT LIKE FOREIGNERS.

    Hmmm… it’s not like people in Malta do either!

  2. It’s difficult being an immigrant anywhere. Suspicion is immediately raised when you’ve got a bizarre accent.

    I never really felt that in Lux – I had Luxembourgish friends. Bruxellois are brasher and seem to actually LIKE (sometimes) the idea that 75% of their population is composed exclusively of first and second gen immigrants, but as far as bothering to befriend or mingle – well, that’s another story (there’s no racism though – they’re just very private people).

    Hope u won’t take this the wrong way but quite a few maltese aren’t arab-looking. You certainly are though. There’s obviously nothing wrong with that. I have never, ever, ever been thought an arab – italian, prtgse and, especially, spaniard yes – but algerian, moroccan never. I’m very happy and thankful I don’t have to deal with people mistaking me for an arab and suffering the ensuing prejudice (some of it warranted, most of it not). You know, arabs – the ones who burn cars, play music on their mobile phone loudspeakers on the tram, subjugate women and, particularly, fly commercial airliners into buildings. Things you (hopefully) – and nearly all your countryfolk – don’t do. I can empathise.

    I live in a brazilian/portuguese/andalusian/latino neighbourhood – I blend in quite well thankyouverymuch…

    Mir wölle bleiwen wat mir sin? It’s high time someone added “…maaer mit völle geld” to that motto.

  3. Cheers Gyb. I mention the “arab” because it is the most obvious one that comes to mind. Unfortunately I have more of the mixed Med look – I can blend with Italians, Portuguese, Greeks, Turks, general Maghreb and Middle East and Albanian. The main link is FOREIGNER insofar as Lux is concerned.

    And my complaint is not about mingling. It’s about the basics. About not making life difficult. About appreciating the fact that there’s half the people living in your country who are here as guests and it would be good if you don’t treat them like outcasts. Don’t get lost on the “arab metaphor” as I said it goes much much further. Suffice it to say that Luxembourgish arrogance goes so far as treating Ze Germans in much the same way as they would treat your average hybrid Maltese … 🙂

  4. David Friggieri

    Hmm, there’s an urban myth about all Belgian service providers being rude and unhelpful. In fact I find that things vary hugely from the outright rude (in particular, Tout Bon on Place Luxembourg) to the incredibly charming via the merely polite. Luxembourg seems to be a hell-hole of hostility in comparison. With the largest ‘foreign’ population in Europe I wonder why that’s the case. Or maybe that IS PRECISELY the reason for all the hostility.

  5. David Friggieri

    Just to add to the Melting Pot of Features game, I am generally placed in the Italian basket within seconds but have been mistaken for an Indian a couple of times. Generally after a week or two in the sun. And strangely enough it was other Indians doing the mistaking so there must be something to it. In terms of odd reactions, my weirdest experience was in Turkey where a couple of border guards had a good laugh on seeing my Maltese passport and kept me waiting for a good half an hour while my German and Greek colleagues went through controls without much ado. Just in case you were wondering this was before the Malta-Turkey qualifier when the Great Seige chestnut was brought out for all the world to behold. No particular problems to report a Bruxelles.

  6. Italian? bollocks Friggieri and you know it. :p

    The second I saw you I thought you should be serving curry kormas or selling expired chocolates and rancid samosas in a night shop in Etterbeek, not doing I-don’t-really-know-what-it-is-you-do chez the European Commission :p

    You Sébastien Folin lookalike, you.
    ( http://www.rtl2.fr/radio/animateur.asp?animid=61935 )

    As far as the surliness of shop assts goes (that asshole at Tout Bon should be massacred for ramadan – halal stylee) Brussels ranks highly in the “I fucking hate you you fucking customer fuck” stakes. And that’s just the manager. For the young-ish Belgo-Moroccan girls who work at call centres, customer service desks or helpdesks (isn’t the irony sweet?) the concepts “customer service” and “seething contempt” are interchangeable.

    They also seem to have a hard time understanding my accent sometimes (the native Belgians don’t). odd. I bet they do it on purpose. Halazubbi.

  7. David Friggieri

    U hallina ja Portugiz minn qiegh Setubal l-int gybexi! 😉

  8. qisek naqra inkazzat Jacques…xi servizz ġdid tal-coditel jaqaw? 😉

  9. Toqghod tahseb, forsi dik hi t-triq li miexja fiha Malta darba ssir ic-centru ta’ eccellenza u tas-servizzi li jitkellmu dwaru l-politici, u aktar u aktar jekk ninzertaw iz-zejt eleusiv. Bhala ksenofobija, dawn l-ahhar 5 snin kienu tahrig tajjeb…bdejna bil-facli, suwed/Gharab/Misilmin…imma mbaghad we’ll probably up the ante bhal m’ghamlu hawn fuq, u jibda jdejjaqna l-Ingliz, il-Germaniz u t-Taljan…

  10. Well, talking about Luxembourgian inhabitants putting foreigners in a bucket, you just do the same with the whole local population. How xenophobe is that? I am one of these Luxembourg guys you mention, and I don’t feel being hostile towards foreigners at all. But maybe I got your message wrong. Please feel free to explain what other countries (not shops in these countries) are better in integrating foreigners. With no social problems with 33% immigrants living here, there must be something done right by the locals. I know what I’m talking about, my grandfather was Italian, and he felt well integrated in a country that opened its doors for him to earn some money he was not able to earn in his homeland.

  11. Hey Jerry, Welcome to the blog. I will be more than glad to document the different instances when this “not feeling at home” occurs. Actually, I do not even want to go so far as to have to feel at home… it’s simple courtesy and flexibility that could suffice. Anyways, look out for more Luxembourgensia on J’accuse and you will know what I am talking about. I don’t want to be INTEGRATED thank you very much… I just want to lead a normal life and not feel like I owe anyone here a living. Once again… I did not choose Luxembourg I chose working for the ECJ,….. Luxembourg was, and remains, an inevitable factor in the equation.

    A little teaser: Have you tried asking for a product in BATISELF or HORNBACH without being able to speak German or Luxembourgish? Good luck.

  12. Thank you for welcoming me. After reading your last sentence in your response to my thread, I will stop contributing to this blog, as I see that you have absolutely no clue about the country (and its complex workforce and linguistic situation) you live in. It feels that you expect the rest of the world should adopt to your own personal needs, while not willing to make efforts yourself contributing to make your life easier. Make sure your problems don’t occur mostly because you don’t know the local languages (and please don’t forget any language besides Luxembourgish is a foreign language for most locals too). I sense you mostly (and repeatedly) complain about your employer having decided to make you work far away from your homeland… I’m sure you would find many things to complain about if you were working in any other country as well. No one is actually waiting for you JR. Find some Luxembourgish friends and learn more about their social environment, and meanwhile stop biting the hand that feeds you. Wish you (honestly) a nice day.

  13. … oh I forgot to add this. Of course I welcome your critics about local businesses, and be assured, I just renovated my house and boy I often got angry about the places I was supposed to leave my money. And I am a local speaking German and Luxembourgish…hope that gives you sort of a better feeling that your not treated bad just because your a foreigner… I thought I was treated bad because I’m an arrogant local. See it’s all an perspective issue. Bye.

  14. Funny. And we often feel like the foreigners don’t care about Luxembourg, its language or traditions anyway. They’re just here for the money (fair enough) and expect everyone to speak their mother tongues all the time …

    I’m sure though that if both sides would make compromises we could meet somewhere in the middle and actually communicate.

    And Jerry is right, most foreigners don’t understand the complexity of the language situation in Luxembourg. No, French is not our mother tongue. Nor is German or English. So every time we use them (and we have to of course) we’re speaking a foreign language. And it’s weird if you have to use foreign languages all the time in your country since a lot of the foreigners are too lazy to even learn a few basic words.

    I always wonder if they would act the same if they were in Spain, Italy or China? Yes, English is the lingua franca and that’s good. But is it asked to much to learn a little of the language of the country you’re in?

  15. We might disagree on whether it is asking too much. Maybe not. Maybe in certain situations it would not be (back to the issue of whether the choice to immigrate was the country or the institution). What worries me… and after three years here I feel quite sure about it… would learning a little of the language of the country make a difference in the case of Luxembourg?

    Will the mentality of the Luxembourgers towards the foreigners change? Will they stop thinking that the foreigners owe them their life and money? Will they stop thinking in the same terms as Jerry… that they are the “hand that feeds” the foreigners.

    Frankly. I doubt it. But I’d be so happy if I was proved wrong.

  16. Si tu continue, je vais appeler Luc Frieden. Il va te renvoyer direct dans ton ile paradisiaque. Ou alors, il va dire au Bombeleer de venir faire péter l’appartement de Monsieur… Adi !

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