“Isn’t Luxembourg a region of Germany?” or “Right, Luxembourg-the tax haven”; these are only two among the stereotypes about Luxembourg. However, the least really know what the country of Luxembourg has to offer, thereby can its political role in Europe barely be omitted: the very origins of the European Union are to be traced back to Luxembourg, with one of its founders being a Luxembourgian statesman, Robert Schuman. Moreover, it is the location of the European Court of Justice and of Schengen where back to 1985, the Schengen Agreement was signed creating an area free from internal borders. What really defines Luxembourg, and how does it preserve its individuality between the geographically and  politically dominating countries of Germany, France and Belgium?

Just as the United Kingdom, the Luxembourgian government is a constitutional monarchy, with Grand Duke Henri as the chief of the state. The democratically elected Prime Minister of Luxembourg, currently Xavier Bettel, represents the head of the government. In fact, the elections of 2013 reformed the country’s government into the first post-war three party coalition, formed by the Democratic Party (DP), together with the Social Democratic (LSAP) and the The Greens (Déi Gréng).

For every Luxembourgian citizen of the age of eighteen, voting is compulsory. However, a fundamental difference between Luxembourg and Britain represents the Luxembourgian voting system. In the United Kingdom, the contentious “First Past the Post” system, predominates which implies that a member for the parliament is not elected by the overall majority of votes, but wins the race with the number of votes per constituency. The voting system in Luxembourg, similar to France, follows the majority rule. Theoretically, this system ensures that each party is proportionally represented in the parliament; in fact, not only one vote is necessary, but as many as there are seats to fill. All the votes can go to a particular party or divided to individual candidates.

Another striking contrast, sadly responsible for a biased view of the country, is its geographical size. In fact, Luxembourg’s surface is approximately fifty times smaller than England’s. Moreover, the country’s overall population of 537,000 people cannot compete with London, not to mention England. However, even with one of the smallest populations worldwide, the country sets itself apart by its high percentage of foreigners: 44.5% of the population are immigrants, among which Portuguese fairly dominate. With a figure of 5,700, as well British people seem to be drawn to the country. In that regard, especially the capital city of Luxembourg-City has evolved into an appealing city with a cosmopolitan touch.

In terms of the country’s economics, based on the Gross Domestic Product per Capita, Luxembourg represented in 2013 the world’s second richest country. The main sectors in Luxembourgian economy are, as most suggested, banking, steel and industrial. Luxembourg represents one of the world’s largest financial centres, with 150 banks of national and international background. The modern plateau in the north-eastern part of the capital city, Kirchberg, is the main location of the banking institutions.

The prevailing belief among foreigners that French or German are the native spoken languages of the country are wrong: Luxembourgish is a proper language and hence the mother-tongue of Luxembourgian citizens. However, their assertion cannot entirely be rejected, as the country finds itself in an unique linguistic situation. In fact, Luxembourgish, as well as French and German are the three official languages of the small country. They do not solely serve as the administrative and judicial written languages, but as well in spoken life. In fact, this variety of languages is to be traced back to the numerous working border crossers from Belgium, France and Germany. This mixture often catalyses debates about the preservation of Luxembourgish itself, which is increasingly being replaced by these other languages. Even so, the high immigration figure of Portuguese people triggers a promoted use of the Roman language of French, instead of the Germanic language of Luxembourgish. To that extent, Portuguese and English, especially in the capital city, progressively increase their impact on the overall language system of Luxembourg.

Luxembourg also distinguishes itself from its neighbours with its facilities. As a matter of a fact, even if small, Luxembourg sparkles by its diversity, covering an enormous range of interests. On the one hand, during spring and summer, the breath-taking landscapes enable a perfect environment for sportive activities. For instance the “Upper-Sûre-Lake” offers overwhelming natural sceneries for water sports, a promenade along the vineyards of the Moselle or hiking through Luxembourg’s Little Swiss; the Mullerthal Trail.

A last but essential prejudice which needs to be unravelled relates to the view about Luxembourgian people. Many outsiders release fairly biased statements about Luxembourgers, sealing them as cold and boring. It is somewhat true that Luxembourgers leave a more introvert and bitter impression than many other nations. However, the decisive difference consists of the fact that people are more likely to engage with their fellow men if they truly mean to build a relationship in any sense.  Luxembourgers, ignore people about who they are not concerned from the outset.

For that matter, it isn’t a tough task to entangle Luxembourgers: with a hearty “Judd mat Gaardebounen” and a good glass of wine in cheerful company, every one will be a welcoming guest.

By: Laury Schaack