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!

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

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.

The 2010 Winterlights festival schedule is out, and there are enough markets, concerts, exhibitions and weird Christmas traditions to cheer up even the biggest scrooge.

My personal favourite is the famous Christmas market on the Place D’Armes, where you can blow your Christmas bonus on wooden toys, mulled wine and gromperekichelcher while the bandstand hosts bands and choirs galore. It’s a wonderful festive atmosphere which should not be missed.

To find out more, visit the Winterlights website or download the pdf.

Alcohol in Luxembourg

16 Nov
2010

If you are anything like me, a big draw to moving here is the cheap and good quality of alcohol in Luxembourg. And it’s everywhere. Walk into any supermarket, corner shop or petrol station (not sure what message that’s sending but hey, it’s not for me to judge) and you will be faced by enough beer, wine and spirits to sink a good few battleships. No Tesco Value vodka on offer either – prices may be low but quality is high.

Luxembourg has a spate of vineyards producing dry white and sparking wines, and way more breweries than you would expect from a small country.

Wine

The majority of Luxembourgish vineyards are along the banks of the Moselle river, mainly Rivaner, Auxerrois, Pinot Gris and Riesling. If you like good value tasty wines, these should suit you down to the ground. Luxembourgish sparkling wine is called Crement. House wine in restaurants tend to be served by the glass or quarter, half and (full) carafe, while Crement is served by the coupe (flute).

Wines from other countries are also very cheap here, French being the most popular and wide-raging. The sheer variety of wines available can be overwhelming (the two shelves of Jacob’s Creek down the local corner shop it ain’t) but every supermarket selects and labels their favourites of the season which is a good place to start. Buying in bulk is the done thing so if you find a wine you like, you can pick up a crate of it next time.

Beer

So many beers, so little time…the local breweries tend to produce lagers, including Mousel, Diekirch, Battin, Bofferding and Simon Pils. You can also get your grubby little mitts on unpasturised beer, dark (dinkle) beers and, when that special time comes around, Christmas beer. Most pubs and restaurants will serve only one brand of lager by tap.

If you’re a keen beer drinker I suggest you familiarise yourself with the supermarket Drink Shops – warehouses stocked to the rafters with crates of beer, more beer, and some wine and soft drinks. Enjoy the beer in the privacy of your own home, then when you’ve finished, bring the crate of empties back to the Drink Shop for a refund! Sigh…what a great country.

Spirits

Prefer hard liquor instead of the soft stuff? You’re in luck, spirits are also as cheap as chips. Local spirits include eau de vie, which if you value your liver and stomach lining I’d avoid (but my judgment is clouded by a bad experience which I won’t disgust you with) but there’s plenty of vodka, whiskey and gin from around the world to delight you.

Renting in Luxembourg

16 Nov
2010

So you’ve decided to move to the Grand Duchy. You’re not put off by its tiny size, in fact you think it’s cute and cuddly. But then you start looking into renting in Luxembourg. Suddenly the country has transformed into a vast, tangled thicket of weird names and strange terms. What do charges mean? Why does this neighbourhood have two different spellings? How in Jeebus’ name am I supposed to pick a needle from this haystack?

Never fear! First, take comfort in the fact that nearly every area of Luxembourg is a pleasant and safe place to live. There are very few “bad” areas chockful of, let’s say, drug dealers, prostitutes and hoodies. So unless that’s a vibe you’re looking for, you’re best to concentrate on priorities such as closeness to the city centre, location of local school, bus times, and so on.

Next, arm yourself with a map of Luxembourg. (Google Maps is a favourite of mine.) The majority of people live in the south of the country, also known as the Gutland. If you fancy living it up in the capital, get to know the names of the areas around it; however if it’s more important that you have a big place and/or a garden, or you’re on a budget, you might want to look further afield.

Then, take a look at some accommodation websites in Luxembourg. A non-exhaustive list is:

Athome
Immotop
Luxweb
Immofinder (includes ads from the Wort newspaper)

Accommodation agencies are called immobilieres, sale listings are under “acheter” or “vente” and rental listings are under “louer” or “location”. You may have to visit the agent’s website or contact their office to learn the exact address, and you could be asked to sign a letter beforehand stating that you will not approach the landlord directly. Most apartments in Luxembourg are unfurnished and come with a cave (cellar) where you can stash your booze, suitcases, chest freezer and so on. Some also include a communal laundry room (blanchisserie) with a spot for your washing machine and dryer.

Parking

Most houses and some apartments will have a garage or parking space for your car. If you’re living within the Luxembourg city limits and there’s no parking space you can get a vignette (sticker) which allows you to park for free in the area you live. Ask the Biergercenter for this when you register.

Contracts

Rental contracts in Luxembourg can be one, two or three years in duration. If you do not have a permanent job, ask for a diplomatic clause to be added to the contract; if you move country you can break your contract without penalty. They are usually in French; if you’re concerned about what you’re signing, contact an English-speaking notaire (solicitor) to go over the contract with you.

Charges

If you’re looking for apartments, you will probably see mention of “charges“. Most Luxembourgish apartment blocks charge each apartment a flat fee for the use of heating and hot water; this fee is paid alongside the monthly rent. At the end of the year your use of the facilities is tallied, and you may receive a rebate or be charged extra. These charges can change yearly therefore they’re advertised separately to the rent.

Deposits

Most landlords require two or three months’ rent as a deposit, which is a huge amount to hand over all at once! However you probably won’t be asked for landlord references etc. Not much of a comfort when your bank balance is wiped in one day I know.

Agent fees

Unfortunately, for some reason which makes as much sense to me as Justin Bieber’s massive popularity, it’s the tenants who are expected to pay the agency fees. Expect to pay a month’s rent plus VAT, and to live off baked beans for the rest of the month. You can avoid this fee if you go the private route, where the landlord hasn’t employed an agent and instead advertised their property directly.

Dealing with agencies

If like me you’ve come from a country where a hard sell goes hand in hand with customer service, you might find it strange when agencies don’t return your phone calls for days or aren’t flexible with their hours. Yes, you might need to work on your nagging skills but you’ll rarely feel pressurised into choosing a place fast. You will usually be offered first refusal if someone viewed the property after you is interested. Don’t be surprised if the agent has invited other people along to your viewing, it’s quite common here.

Signing the contract

The exact depends on the agent and the landlord, but you will need to show your passport, work contract and proof of residence before you sign a contract. You’ll be given the agent or the landlord’s bank details to transfer the deposit, first month’s rent and the agency fee, you’ll have to show proof of these payments to get your keys. Ask your agent or landlord to have an inventory present so you can go through the property together and make note of any issues. Have the meters read at the same time.
Home insurance is obligatory in Luxembourg; shop around for a good price, but make sure that you are covered for contents and “risques locatifs”. If you have any concerns or questions, check with the agent or landlord.

Management agency

Some apartment blocks will have a management or service agent who takes care of the common areas, known as solugers. Ask the agent or landlord for the name and contact details of the company.

Utilities

Depending on the property, you will either need to have electricity, gas and water connected or be transferred into your name. The main supplier for electricity, gas and water in Luxembourg city is Leo Energy. For elsewhere a list of gas and electricity of suppliers is here, while for water contact your local commune. Some companies require a week’s notice to transfer utilities, so if you have any concerns discuss them with the agent or landlord before you sign the contract as communication may be slow after that.

Tip: If you will be dependent on public transport you might want to check out the area’s timetables for the local bus/train before you move there. Luxembourg city limit bus timetables are here, other area bus timetables are here, and national train times are listed here.

Best of luck with your search!

If you’re from a more laisse-faire country (with, dare I say it, a healthier attitude to bureaucracy) you might be surprised to learn that you’re expected to register with your local county council (known as communes) within three days of moving to Luxembourg. But luckily with a bit of forward planning, registering in Luxembourg, also known as your first major scuffle with the vast, constricting swathes of Luxembourgish red tape, can be a painless experience.

Bureaucracy-ho!

The paperwork required to register varies from commune to commune, but generally the following docs are:

  • Passport
  • Letter confirming the authorisation to stay (if you are non-EU resident)
  • Proof of residence (either a rental contract or a letter from your landlord/friend confirming you are living at xyz address)
  • Work contract
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce certificate
  • Passports and birth certificates of your children

If you’re living in Luxembourg city you can register at the Biergercenter at the Centre Hamilius, also known as the bus terminus. Look out for the tall brown building. If you live elsewhere, go to the local Biergercenter (administration office) or Hotel de Ville (city hall). It is always advisable to contact the commune before you arrive in Luxembourg to double-check the documents required.

Once you register you will receive an Attestation d’Enregistrement, also known as a wallet-sized piece of paper stating your name and address. Congratulations! Now you’re on the Luxembourg residence database. You’ll wonder how the hippie country you moved from possibly functioned without required registration (probably).

While you’re registering, ask for one or more certificates of residence. Each costs a small fee but you will need one to open a bank account, rent an apartment, buy a car and generally every time you sign a contract. Also, ask about your tax card, registering your drivers license, and anything else you think you might need. They will either be able to help you there and then or will provide you with the contact details of the people who can.

Moving within Luxembourg

When the Silver Fox and I first arrived in Lux, we moved to another commune within three weeks. Yep, this meant we had to deregister with our previous commune and then re-register with our new one. Cue deranged looks and nightmares staring murderous bureaucrats.

When you deregister, you’ll receive a deregistration certificate that you should bring with you to the new commune, along with your passport, proof of residence, work contract etc…yes, apparently each commune deeply distrusts the previous’ ability to check your paperwork so you need to bring all the IDs and docs again (le sigh). Once you’ve re-registered your Attestation d’Enregistrement will be updated with your new address.

Tips

If you’re not a resident of the EU you will need to apply for a resident permit (Title de sejour) with the Immigration Department within 90 days of arrival.

Google the area of Luxembourg to which you’re moving for the local commune website. Chances are it will be in French, but if you email them in English someone should be able to advise you of the paperwork you need to bring.

If you are moving within the Luxembourg city limits and own a car, ask for a vignette (sticker). This will allow you to park for free in your area.

After your first taste of Luxembourg bureaucracy make sure to go for a nice meal afterwards, and don’t forget the large wine/beer. Ahh liquid valium…

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