Crossfire

15 Dec
2010

Non-smoking readers used to smoking bans may not realise they’ve become accustomed to waking without coughing up a lung and having to sterilise their smoggy hair and clothes. Having happened to me far too many times since returning to this otherwise freshly laundered land, I was very excited to learn of a non-smoking bar called Crossfire.

Located on Rue Dicks, one of the more unfortunate but also memorable street names in Lux, Crossfire is a small Scandinavian bar whose wooden ceiling beams and benches, and blue/red colour scheme conjures up a cosy Nordic feel. They serve Scandinavian food at lunchtime and in the evenings until nine o’clock. Despite its small size there are large screens throughout showing European football and other sports.

We stood at the bar for a few minutes but it wasn’t staffed – there was a man deep in conversation in the stock room whose wobbly stance and loud gesticulation made us despair we’d ever be served – but five minutes after we settled on a bench we were visited by a very friendly bar woman. They didn’t stock the wine I usually drink however their suggested alternative was very nice. All our orders were taken at our table and often before we caught her eye which we appreciated.

It had all the hallmarks of a great pub and an enjoyable night; a small but perfectly formed pub, friendly and attentive staff, reasonable prices and, don’t forget, no haze of smokeno streaming eyes and no choked conversation. However, the music was just too awful to ignore. It lurched from Eurovision entries, to barbershop tunes, to a medley of The Beach Boys cover songs, to (I assume) Swedish techno, and back to more ear-maiming Eurovision.  The sheer absurdity and cacophony of the playlist suggested that it was put together by tipsy stock room man. We tried to drown it out by frantically prattling about anything that entered our heads, but the volume was too loud; eventually all we could do was sit and stare at the tv, our minds ransacked by the din. We eventually left to seek out better pastures.

I’m determined to go back again in case the music was an aberration, but until then the night is a perfect example of why the atmosphere in a pub is as important as the quality of its drink and food. If more bars in Luxembourg took the time to select better playlists, instead of putting eight CDs on random or sticking on the radio, it might give them an edge when the smoking ban is eventually brought in here.

Website: www.crossfire.lu
Address: 15, rue Dicks, 1417 Luxembourg
Phone: +352 49 84 31
Sports: Four screens. Check website for fixtures and events
Opening hours: Open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday, otherwise varies day to day, check the website for detailed hours
Prices: Diekirch 50cl €3.70, Diekirch 30cl €2.20, glass of white wine €3.50
Buses: Any that stop on the Avenue de la Liberté

Moving To Luxembourg

26 Nov
2010

I supposed you’ve heard the old adage that moving house is up there with divorce and bereavement in the high stress stakes. Having just moved house myself twice in one month, I can declare that not only did my body produce enough adrenaline to power a small town but that I also became a bit of a moving expert. Here’s a few moving to Luxembourg pointers that I picked up along the way.

Moving to Luxembourg

Once you’ve made the decision to move to the Grand Duchy, you’ll want to set that removal machine in motion as soon as possible to keep your stress levels down.

First, do some de-cluttering; decide which items you’ll bring with you and which you’ll bin or donate. Be ruthless and you’ll save yourself a lot of money and packing/unpacking time. Then work out what items you will need straight away (which will go in your suitcase) and which items that you can do without for a few weeks (which will be shipped with the removal company).

You’ll be required to register at your local commune (county council) within three days of your arrival in Luxembourg, so make sure to pack your identification documentsmarriage certificateswork contracts etc in your suitcase and not in your removal boxes! Visit our registration guide for a list of what you will need. If you’re short of any paperwork now is the time to get replacements, as once you move it’ll be more complicated.

Ask around for removal company recommendations, especially ones with international removal experience. If you’re using a relocation service they will have a list of recommended removal companies. Once you have a shortlist, request that each company to do an onsite survey so you can get an accurate quote. With most international deliveries you have two options: direct delivery, where you can name your preferred delivery date (most expensive) and part load delivery, where your items are stored until delivered on the company’s schedule. They may also offer a packing service, which may not cost much more but the time and stress saved is considerable. The cheapest quote is not always the best, so enquire about the cost of their removal insurance, their experience with international deliveries and if they have delivered to Luxembourg before.

Once you’ve picked a removal company, your next step is to make a list of your belongings and their value for insurance purposes. If you are doing your own packing mark what items are in which box.

You may need to arrange a parking area cordoned off outside your new place that is big enough for the delivery truck , especially if you are moving to a city centre location. Many apartment blocks in Luxembourg either have very small or no lifts so external lifts may be need to be installed. To arrange both contact your local commune or the Service de la Circulation department of Luxembourg city.

If you have already found accommodation in Luxembourg double-check with your landlord that the utilities will be connected when you arrive. See our renting guide for more information.

Moving within Luxembourg

I can’t tell you that moving within the country is easier than moving to it, but there is one big plus – most employees in Luxembourg are entitled to two days paid holiday when they move! Unfortunately with the sheer amount of paperwork involved you may not have much downtime but hey, it’s a nice gesture.

If you are renting you will have to give notice to your landlord, usually three months (check your contract) and by registered letter. Arrange a meeting with the landlord and/or the estate agent to have your meter read, the property inspected in your presence and the keys exchanged.

Cancel your utilities in your current accommodation and arrange for electricity, gas, water (and if relevant a telephone landline and internet connection) to be connected and transferred into your name in your new place. This can take weeks to arrange so contact the different companies as soon as you decide to move. For a list of utility companies see here.

You can find removal companies in the Yellow Pages under déménagements. Find out whether you will need to reserve a parking area outside of the apartment or an external lift; if so let the removal company know and ask them to include it in their quote. Make a list of your belongings and their value for insurance purposes.

Before you move, contact your insurance company and ask them to update your cover to suit your new accommodation. Home insurance is obligatory in Luxembourg and if you are a tenant you may not receive your keys before you display proof of insurance.

You will need to de-register in your old commune and re-register in your new one – see our registration guide on how to go about this. Make sure to pick up some registration certificates as you may need them when changing your address, and ask them how to update your tax card.

Within a month of moving you will need to attend one of the SNCT centres with your grey card (carte grise) and a certificate of residence; in return you will receive updated paperwork for your car.

Last but not least, make sure to take some time to explore and enjoy your new place and neighbourhood, you deserve it!

Happy Thanksgiving! As I’m typing this, not only are 300 million Americans frantically chopping, mixing and chugging bourbon (or if you’re like me avoiding the actual work and going straight to the chugging) but the 7 million living abroad are doing the same while feeling lonely for home. For the expats here the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg (AWCL) helps them make Thanksgiving like the ones they had back in the US.

The AWCL is a great support and resource to English-speaking expats of all nationalities; their fortnightly welcome mornings have not only talked many culture-shocked down from taking the next flight home but are also a good laugh. Their clubhouse is staffed by their friendly and welcoming volunteers and is stuffed with American and English groceriesDVDs and books. The club is very active and well organised, arranging social and charitable events including French conversationbook clubsmum and kids mornings, monthly brunch meetings, and charitable events. I’ve been reliably informed that their hiking Fridays are not for the faint hearted and a great way of exploring Luxembourg’s gorgeous countryside.

Most of their events are during the day as many “trailing” spouses from outside of the EU cannot receive work permits; a lot of social life in Luxembourg is centred around the office so the AWCL is a welcome social outlet for many non-working women and full time mothers. But they also have evening and weekend meetups such as fortnightly TGIF drinks in various city bars (partners and friends welcome), trips to neighbouring towns and restaurant evenings.

The AWCL also publish the Living in Luxembourg guide which covers absolutely everything from getting settled, transport, accommodation, shopping and essential services. I’d recommend the book to anyone planning to move to Luxembourg to make your transition as smooth as possible.

Membership to the AWCL is currently €50 which includes access to their clubhouse, activities, meetings and a subscription to their very informative and friendly newsletter. The support and friendship that the club provides is well worth the fee in my opinion. Visit the AWCL website or call them on +352 44 84 77 to find out more.

And if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, may you have a great day with friends and family!

Newcomers to Luxembourg not only struggle to understand the sheer variety of languages spoken here, but also the seemingly random way that they are used: your German might get you a ticket on a bus but a blank look in a clothes shop, while English might get you an account in a bank but absolutely nowhere with setting up your Internet connection. Maybe you got top marks at school for French or German but are flummoxed by unfamiliar accents or machine gun delivery. Never fear – here’s an introduction to the whys and hows of making yourself understood in the Grand Duchy.

Luxembourgish, French and German are the official and most used languages in Luxembourg. Luxembourgish is a Germanic language and is mainly spoken by the native population, while German tends to be their second language and widely used in local schools. There are also many Germans who live across the border but work in Luxembourg. French is the official written language of the country and is spoken by the large numbers of French and Belgian cross-border workers. English and Portuguese are also common as many companies have selected English as their working language, while the Portuguese are the largest minority group in Luxembourg.

Luxembourgish

Luxembourgish tends to be spoken by civil servants such as post office clerks, bus drivers and staff in government departments. You’ll also hear it in local bakeries, newsagents and butcher shops. It’s possible to get by with German, French and even English as Luxembourgers are usually proficient in many languages, but its always handy to have a few Luxembourgish phrases on hand. Your effort might help untangle some of the red tape and speed up any requests. The written form was only officially standardised in 1975 and isn’t used as much as French and German.

Here are some Luxembourgish teaching websites to get started:
Omniglot
BBC Quick Fix
Letzlearn (video lessons)

French and German

In the cities you’ll need some French in most restaurants, clothes shops and supermarkets. This is mainly because a high proportion of service and retail employees are from border towns in French and Belgium, or from elsewhere and speak French as their second language. If you can read French you’ll have a welcome advantage as many contracts, legal documents and forms are written in French.

Outside of the cities German is more commonly spoken especially in the towns near the German border. Most of the national media like the Wort newspaper and the radio stations are in German, however there is the weekly English news magazine News 352.

Get Prepared

It obviously depends on where you’ll be living but you could do worse than to learn some French and German before you move over. Get a translation dictionary or two as they’ll be handy if you get stuck. Once you’re here you can take one of the many language classes available or your employer may offer free classes to their staff.

Tips on Making Yourself Understood

You’re bound to have a few panicky moments when your plumber can only speak French or your German is just getting you stonewall stares. Just take a deep breath, swallow your pride and act out what you want – might not be the most dignified way of making yourself understood but chances are the person you’re dealing with will have been in the same position themselves.

You may be delighted to encounter an official in your commune who speaks English but doesn’t seem to understand your requests. Believe it or not, in Luxembourg it is possible to ask the wrong question – just try rephrasing your question or explaining why you are asking for xyz.

Perhaps you’re having a problem with your mobile phone but no-one in their call centre speaks English. Instead, try emailing them or visiting one of their stores and you might get lucky. Otherwise get the translation dictionary out or use Google Translate to get some French or German vocabulary together. Chances are someone will have enough English to fill in the blanks.

Practice your German and/or your French absolutely gratis by reading the free newspapers l’essentiel and Point24.

In short: think ahead, don’t forget your smile and your sense of humour, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and keep trying!

One of the more enjoyable features of Luxembourg’s winters is the International Bazaar, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. On Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th December the LuxExpo in Kirchberg will host 60 stands representing 53 countries offering abundant goodies such as local delicacies, traditional dishes, holiday decorations and Christmas gifts.

Need more persuading? Well, you can graze and guzzle to your heart’s content while simultaneously polishing your halo, as all proceeds from the event are donated to charity. There are tombolas galore too; gambling never felt this saintly.

The Bazaar will open its doors on Saturday 4th December from 11:00am to 7:00pm and on Sunday 5th December from 10:00am to 6:00pm. Parking at the Luxexpo is limited, so consider taking the free Navette (shuttle bus) that will run every 10 minutes between the Bouillon P&R, the Gare, the Centre Hamilius and the Avenue de la Porte-Neuve.

To learn more about this worthy event and its history visit the International Bazaar website.

Everest Restaurant

22 Nov
2010

Only I would book a table at 6:30pm. True to form, when I and two mates rocked up to the Everest restaurant we were the only souls in there. We mumbled amongst each other for five minutes, conscious of our voices echoing around the bare room, but a drink helped restore our usual bolshie selves. (Our default position in Indian restaurants given that we’ve usually consumed Indian food after midnight while half-cut).

It took us a while to get through the generous menu and surprisingly thick wine list. A smiling waiter took our order, asking us which level of spiciness we preferred which we thought was a nice touch. He then brought us complementary papadums with tasty dips that we demolished with noisy acclaim. Meanwhile the restaurant was filling up, adding a welcome buzz to the atmosphere. The house white was very good but my mate found his Cobra beer to be a little warm and switched to Mousel. We moved onto the assorted starters which we unanimously found to be greasy and tasteless, and worried a little about the main meal on its way; a bugbear of ours is to waste a hunger and we were ravenous.

Luckily we had nothing to worry about. My pungent Rogan Josh was spiced with a delicate hand, the heat building pleasantly on my taste buds, and the beef was tender. My escorts attacked their lamb Biryani and Vindaloo with the enthusiasm of the half starved and proclaimed both to be delicious. Our bill was just shy of 100 euros for a large starter, three mains and generous helpings of booze, which we agreed to be excellent value. The decor may be a bit rough and ready (though points for the framed posters of the Himalayas throughout) but the attentive, friendly service and enjoyable mains more than compensated. We wobbled into the cold night to a chorus of goodbyes, extremely full, centrally-heated and more than pleased with ourselves.

Cuisine: Indian
Website: www.restauranteverest.com
Address: 8 rue Bender L-1229 Luxembourg
Phone number: +352 49 33 55
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 12:00 to 14:00 and 18:00 to 23:00. Closed Sun
Prices: Meat Samosas €5.50, Beef Rogan Josh €13.75, white wine €2.50, small Mousel €2.50
Public transport: any bus that stops on Avenue de la Liberté, a ten minute walk from the Gare train station.
Delivery: Yes, check their website

The Britannia Pub

19 Nov
2010

The Silver Fox and I were on one of our Sunday walks around the Grund, and as usual we were gasping for a pint after all that leisurely strolling. The bars we passed were all shut but thankfully the lights were on at The Britannia Pub. Not only that but they were showing the F1 final and the football.

We settled down beside one of the huge single paned windows overlooking the bridge; they open on summer days which helps to make up for the lack of terrace. Two big screens and two small ones were placed around the L shaped room so every table has a good view. Bar service only but the barman was very friendly and attentive; beers on tap included Diekirch, Strongbow and Magners, and there’s also a small wine list and a cocktail menu. The food was strictly snack fare only, grand for beer soakage but if you’re looking for something more substantial both the Mousel Cantine and Chez Bacano are close by.

The decor is traditional English pub, down to the aging patterned carpet, dartboard and stained glass door. It could do with a lick of paint and an update because the overall impression is of gloomy familiarity. The shouts and groans from the patrons watching the screens helped lift the ambiance though; there were lots of free tables but it was positively buzzing for a Sunday afternoon in Luxembourg. We found the toilets clean and well stocked, but their small size must see long queues during busy periods.

All in all we had a pleasant few drinks there, the Silver Fox even swapped a bit of banter with a Luxembourgish Arsenal supporter. With a bit of love it could be a favourite of ours but the rundown decor lends a slightly sad quality to the experience. On the plus side though the Silver Fox is delighted to be finally living in a country where he can wear his English colours without risking a dig or worse – high praise indeed.

Website: http://britpublux.com.
Facebook page
Address: 69 Allée Pierre de Mansfeld, L-2118 Luxembourg
Phone: +352 433 233
Sports: Four screens, dartboard. Check website for fixtures and events
Opening hours: Weekdays 5pm to 1am, weekends 1pm to 1am (can vary though so call ahead if in doubt)
Prices: Pint Diekirch €4.00, 25cl bottle Pinot Gris €4.40, 25cl bottle Chardonnay €3.00
Buses: Numbers 9, 14 and 19, Rives de Clausen shuttle bus

Eating out in Luxembourg is a huge part of its culture – restaurants have one lunch and one evening sitting so you can really savour your meal and enjoy your company. Having sandwiches at the desk for lunch may be gaining in popularity but one or more hour lunches is still the done thing. In the evenings it’s obligatory to meet with friends, take your time over multiple courses and sample the wine list. Restaurants are everywhere; even the smallest village will usually have a restaurant or good cafe giving sustenance to the population. In fact, a great way to discover Luxembourg is to get a restaurant recommendation from a friend, hop in the car and enjoy the scenery before tucking into a gorgeous meal in a picturesque little village. (Then if you’re like me go home and have a nap.)

Cuisine

Luxembourgers have high standards when it comes to food, whether it’s a perfectly-spiced 100% beef hamburger in a cafe to a delectable nine course meal in a Michelin starred restaurant. Traditionally Luxembourgish cuisine is of the hearty, meat and potatoes variety which can still be found in many restaurants, either as originally prepared or in fusion with other cultures. Otherwise popular cuisines are French, German, Portuguese (who make up a large percentage of the population), Italian, Indian, Japanese and Chinese.

Lunchtime

If you’re working in Luxembourg you’ll probably get a pack of luncheon vouchers a month (known as either cheque repas or ticket restaurants) which you can use to pay for your meal in restaurants, cafes and even your groceries in some supermarkets. Restaurants generally open 12am-3pm in some supermarkets. Restaurants generally open for lunch, and offer a plat du jour (dish/menu of the day) for a discounted price alongside their a la carte menu. Supermarkets in Luxembourg often have one or two restaurants or a food court where you can eat cheaply and well at lunchtime. If you’re in a hurry, bakeries carry a range of sandwiches and some butchers do sausages and hamburgers in rolls for takeaway.

Evenings

Restaurants in Luxembourg tend to open from 6pm to late and close once a week, usually Sunday or Monday – make sure to check their opening times before you head over. It’s advisable to reserve a table on Friday and Saturday nights as eating out is a popular way to catch up with mates and wind down after the work week. Menus can often only be in French and German so if you’re a beginner, bring a bilingual friend or dictionary along or ask the waiter for help. The wine menu may be vast; if you’re not a wine buff an option is the usually good house wine in different sized carafes. If you don’t fancy leaving the house, some restaurants in Luxembourg offer delivery: try mister-resto.lu and delivery.lu for a list.

Websites

Looking for a particular cuisine, location or budget? Try resto.lu or gastronomie.lu. Don’t want to waste a hunger on a bad meal? Our restaurant reviews are here, and Tripadvisor is also very useful.

Working in Luxembourg

18 Nov
2010

Unless you’re planning to be self-employed, a full-time parent, or to meet a sugar daddy/mummy in Luxembourg (which by the way isn’t the worst place to find one, judging by the amount of people in their 60s driving Ferraris) you’ll probably be working in Luxembourg.

Banking is the largest sector in the Luxembourg economy, being a tax haven and all, so most of the jobs are in banks and financial institutions. Other big employers are the various European Institutions located here, including the Commission, the Secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank and the Official Publications Office.

Private Industry Jobs

For private industry jobs, companies will either advertise directly or employ a recruitment agent. Most applications require a C.V. and a cover letter. A good start is checking out some online job sites:

Monster.lu
Jobs.lu
Luxembourg Expat Jobs
The Wort

It’s worth cold calling or emailing agencies as some positions are not advertised. You can also keep an eye out for positions advertised in international newspapers like the Financial Times, or news supplements/publications about your industry.

European Institution Jobs

European Institution jobs are advertised on several different websites, a good place to start is here. Expect a much longer application process which can include aptitude tests (which may remind you of school) and copying your C.V. into an online form (which may drive you to drink).

Salaries

Salaries are usually advertised as gross but there’s a very handy net salary calculator here. Some jobs come with extras and bonuses such as a company car, luncheon vouchers, bonuses, a thirteenth month (an extra month’s salary usually paid in December) and so on. All of these have tax implications, check out this pdf for further info. The company may offer to cover your relocation expenses too.

Interviews

If you’re overseas and called for an interview, it’s common for companies to pay for your flight and accommodation. Phone interviews are also common, especially with agencies. Don’t expect things to move quickly; sometimes you won’t hear back for a month after an interview even if they’ve said they want to make a quick decision. Expect to be asked personal details such as your date of birth, your marital status, and if you have children. The interviewer may also ask you why you want to move to Luxembourg, this is to gauge how much you know about the culture and how serious you are about the move.

Languages

Many jobs in Luxembourg require several languages, the most popular being French, but some companies work primarily through English and another language is just a nice to have. I’d recommend you take a few French or German lessons once you start looking; it can only help as it shows that you are interested.

Networking

If you know anyone in Luxembourg get in touch – it’s not what you know it’s who you know. Get the word out that you’re looking for work and something may come back to you. Online social networks like Linkedin and Xing are handy too for making connections with agents and learning more about potential employers.

Luxembourg Airports

17 Nov
2010

Until recently, Luxembourg’s airport was a dinky outfit that wouldn’t look out of place in a seventies Lego set. Now it’s a steel and glass multi-storey, but the amount of flights doesn’t seem to have increased as it often looks like a good location for a post-apocalyptic film.

But I digress. Luxembourg airport is located in Findel, 6km from the city centre. Luxair is the national airline and Luxair Tours is its package holiday section. Other airlines that use the airport are Air France, British Airways, KLM and Swiss. Benefits apart from the location is online check-in for Luxair flights, previous day check-in and baggage drop-off if you have an early flight the day after, and good restaurants and bars to choose from. Luxair flights are seriously swanky – leather seats, good in flight meals, no baggage charges, etc.

However you’ll soon discover that there’s a high price to pay for all this convenience and luxury; flying from Luxembourg airport can set you back a huge amount, unless you’ve found a discount or some special deal. So many Lux dwellers fly from the Ryanair dominated surrounding airports, Frankfurt Hahn (one and a quarter hours drive) and Brussels Charleroi (one and a half hour drive). Both airports are a good standard, cover a wide range of destinations and are served by the Luxembourg based Flibco bus which takes two hours for both journeys.

Other nearby airports are Brussels and Frankfurt, which serves destinations outside of Europe, but both are over two hours drive away. Taking the train from Luxembourg is an option, however the Frankfurt train has several changes and the Brussels train can be quite slow. But a good option if you’re destination is further afield and/or if you think Ryanair is a coach with wings (which I do, but my stinginess trumps my need for comfort).

Tip: If you’re on a budget, sign up for Luxair’s email newsletter as they regularly do special offers.

Tip: If you’re a nervous flyer, you may find the small crop dusters that Luxair favours for certain destinations a white knuckle experience, as they tend to find every gust of wind in the vicinity. And you thought flying with Ryanair was hairy.

Tip: If you’re planning to drive to Hahn or Charleroi and your destination serves both airports, Hahn is closer and a more attractive drive, but the Charleroi route has better roads which can be preferable in the winter months.

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