Luxemburgensia (2): The Hand that Feeds You

I won’t take too long on this one… can’t afford to clog my blog with too many rants at one go but a reply by a local to my first Luxemburgensia post cannot be left unanswered. Mr Klein did not take too kindly to my criticism of his country – and I am very sympathetic to his cause. I do not like reading criticism of my country either. In one of his replies to my post, Mr Klein stated the following… and I quote the whole comment not to be accused of quoting out of context (my bold):

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. – Jerry Klein

For the record, the last sentence in my blog referred to the inability (or rather unwillingness) of many shop assistants to attempt to communicate in a language the customer can understand. But that is not my main gripe here.

What Mr Klein, and many of his fellow countrymen, fail to understand is that most people in Luxembourg did not choose Luxembourg. They chose a job. Luxembourg is the country that claimed to be the perfect place for the persons who work in that job. The day Luxembourg stepped forward and said “I can host the European Court of Justice, I can host the Parliament and the Commission too”… that day it chose to be a host. Persons applying to work in these institutions had NO CHOICE but to move to the Duchy. We cannot be compared to the Englishman who complains about the locals at the Costa del Sol. He chose to go to Spain for the sun. If he does not like the way of life then he should move on – true (although not completely).

The fonctionnaires on the other hand have no choice but to live in Luxembourg if they want to pursue the career they chose. Now that would not be a problem if the host country acted in that way. What we have here is a people who act like the world owes them a favour for having accepted a “bunch of foreigners on their land”. And here comes the coup de grace… the statement to end all statements… WE HAVE TO STOP BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS US!!!!

The Hand that Feeds Us??? Jerry, Jerry, Jerry… you inadvertently exposed exactly what is wrong with the mentality of your country. Generalising may be stupid but I will willingly fall into this trap of generalisation until I find at least ten Luxembourgers who do not think the same way you do. What bloody hand that feeds us? You do not get it do you? We earn our money from the European Union. We are paid by the European Union. “The hand that feeds us” is, if anything, the European Union taxpayer… and have I got news for you… that’s the Slovene, the German, the Frenchman, the Maltese, the Pole AS WELL AS the Luxembourger.

On the other hand, what the aforementioned Slovene, German etc do not get but what the Luxembourger does get is an opportunity to milk those salaries once they are received in the fonctionnaires pockets. And boy are you good at it! Just think for one second… every fonctionnaire “working away from his homeland” needs a roof to shelter his sorry foreigner backside from the lovely sun that would otherwise beat down too frequently on his head from Troisvierges to Esch. So all fonctionnaires fail to see at least (and I stress the at least) one third of their salary because it flies directly into the pockets of a Luxembourg landowner. In one fell swoop, my dear Jerry, one third of the money coming from the hand that feeds us (the EU not Juncker and Co) is not even sniffed on our side but materialises in the coffers of this poor country of yours.

And that is just the fonctionnaires. Same goes for the Investment Banks, the Companies, and the general trade that has gravitated around the simple formula of tax advantages. The point is, dear Jerry, that at the end of the day you’ve got the works the wrong way round. It’s not a Luxembourger hand that is feeding the thousands of poor immigrant workers that have invaded your country (as it seems you would have it)…. no sir…. it’s a European Union handout that is benefiting the economy of your country on a daily basis….

…and forgive me if I am still baffled how you cannot see that happening. 

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10 responses to “Luxemburgensia (2): The Hand that Feeds You

  1. I’m trying to follow, but it’s difficult because I don’t share your anguish. I had Luxembourgish friends and spoke some Letzebuergesh (just a few words). I didn’t find the Luxembourgers nicer or nastier than the Bruxellois, Maltese or Portuguese (:p). At the risk of sounding like a misanthropic grumbler – people suck everywhere. Only your friends don’t.

    You might ask yourself “well, why should I make an effort” – why should I learn a pointless language only spoken by a few souls or mix with the locals? Well – fair enough, but wouldn’t we call that situation “taqta l-bajd biex tinki l-mara” in Maltese? (tinkwetax, nifhem x’qed tghid – imma hija sitwazzjoni tipika ghal kwalunkwe immigrant nassigurak – ma jimpurtax il-kulur tal-gilda jew kemm ghandu flus fil-karus)

  2. David Friggieri

    I tend to agree with gybexi on the language issue. I’m practically sure that Brussels would appear to be a much less welcoming place if I didn’t speak French. The most striking proof of this was Bruges – not speaking Flemish there was a real barrier (of course in this surreal country, folks gave you Medusa-like stares when you spoke French and were friendlier when you spoke English). Nowadays we take it for granted that everyone “should make an effort to speak English” because we assume that it’s everyone’s lingua franca – at least for basic communication purposes. Paradoxically, this assumption is reinforced when you work for an international organisation.

    I’m not sure to what extent your troubles would be tempered if you spoke Letzeburgish and German. My guess is that it would have a more positive effect than eliminating your goatee. Allez…des cours de langue as a New Year’s resolution!

  3. Just to avoid similar comments in the future. I am really not the kind to not try to get used to the local culture and try to mix in. Gyb it’s really not the case. If it were so I would not have waited almost four years before startingto complain. I think four years is fair enough time. UNfortunately what before I used to dismiss as problems of settling in are now turning out to be permanent issues. Permanent chips on the shoulder. “People suck everywhere”… well true but again not true. New York, Geneva, Brussels… all host international institutions… none of them act as though they resent their presence on their soil. Even if a New Yorker will do his best to charge a profitable rent and try to cream off some money off the system… at least he will admit that he is benefiting and maybe (even mayb) give the service with a smile.

    So please… no more.. make the effort and learn the language… what the fuck for? So I can say “Vanschklieft” whenever the metaphorical pole is rammed far enough up my behind without so much as a thank you very much?

    Call me sadistic but I prefer being ripped off by a Sicilian/Neapolitan/Gozitan any day… at leats he makes you feel like you are king and master while getting ripped off… not like he’s doing you a favour and remember… IF YOU DO NOT LIKE IT SOMEONE ELSE WILL TAKE IT INSTEAD… moien to you all!

  4. P.S: David. Thanks for reminding me of Bruges. My year in Bruges was heaven. True Dutch was an easier language to cope with for basics. On the other hand Bruges is not a good example. You chose to go to the college there… you know of the language barrier. it’s the college that chose Bruges and not Bruges that insisted on the college. And I still felt that the basic amenities were accessible without much resentment towards foreign students. Luxembourg is different. It wanted the deal and then treats the foreigners that come with the package like shit.

  5. You can always leave the place xbin. No one is forcing you to stay there.

  6. No way Alex. That’s defeatist. Is it possible you cannot see it? I want to work as a référendaire at the European Court of Justice. I like my job. Alot. This is the only place I can do that job. It is the only place because Luxembourg chose to host it… not out of my choice. Your option makes no sense at all – does it mean you agree with the local mentality that we owe them a living?

    Another reader just told me another story (over the phone). A lux woman skipped a whole queue at Cactus. A man tried to point out that she should queue like the rest of the people. She just shut him up… she then got served by the Cactus personnel (obviously) and then, once she was ready, turned to the queue and said (I translate here) “It’s enough that we have to suffer your presence in this country all that we need to do now is wait in the queue behind you”…

    Obviously your solution is to leave …. bollocks I say…. the EU is my Union too and until they take the rational decision to move the ECJ somewhere decent and welcoming I am not going anywhere.

  7. Sorry to say this but I think that Cactus story is as believable as any of the stories featuring illegal immigrants spitting food on benevolent, caring AFM guards everyday.
    If it IS true she was being a prick, but it’s quite a thorny issue (etc etc). :p

    I dislike my mind-numbing job (to put it mildly) – but like the city I live in. Care to swap for a week or two to see which is worse?

    keng symapthie fuer den Jacques!

  8. Moving the ECJ to some other place just because foreign (should this term still be used when referring to E.U. nationals who visit / live in other EU countries ?)workers in Lux are treated stupidly by the local fauna is as stupid is as having EU institutions all over the continent….

    Actually…a good idea would be to bring it here to Malta…

    Pros of such a situation: 1. The ever entrepreneurial Maltese contractors will finally be able to sell their empty apartments.
    2. Newly graduating lawyers finally realise that there is a chance for them of practicing what they learnt here in Malta…

    Cons…

    1. More apartments will be built to satisfy the demand….
    2. Having to listen to Luxies grumble how they didn’t really need to queue with lesser minions when they ruled the world

  9. Richard Bernard

    I completely agree with jacques..I was only there for 3 months but still managed to get a taster of the warmth of luxembourgish service..I rented a little studio flat through an agency (to whom i obviously paid a hefty agency fee) but got treated with that typical non chalant attitude…not to get into the nitty gritty of it all, when i finally spoke up I was told…….ahh what else….those magic words of warmth which every tenant longs to hear from his agent…”if you don’t like it, someone else will take it”… this definately isn’t the sort of treatment i expected after parting with 1000 euros for their services..I mean I never got as much as a smile let alone proper service…admittedly im no businessman but its not a difficult concept to grasp..or is it??

  10. No Jaqcues, i didn’t mean it the way you understood it. We all have different priorities. The first week I arrived in Luxembourg I knew I didn’t particularly like the place. And not because the customer service is abysmal and the rents are astronomical. I simply found the place dull, and after Malta’s tiresome ambience I found it unpromising as a new home. As I once heard Mark exclaim at The Tube in response to some gripe about Lux: “From the frying pan into the fire!”. Pretty accurate. In my case the job was simply the excuse to leave Malta. In your case the job is clearly more important. So I guess your problem is serious. While I could leave, and left, without any regrets, you are clearly in a fix. 🙂 hehe

    I doubt that Luxembourg will change any time soon though. It seemed set in its ways to me that year and a half I spent in its frigid bosom.

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