Many of the big European countries have a wide variety of different people within their boarders. Firstly on the individual level, secondly in the groups they belong to. Beside human barriers ? language, religion, habits, wealth ? these differences are often caused by natural reasons. Landscape, climate and the presence or absence of natural resources exercise major influences on the way people in a certain area behave.
The north and south of Italy are like separate countries, Bask country is completely different from Spain and even Finland is marked by a psychological border that decides where `the North` starts. Luxembourg is a lot smaller than the above countries, has fewer inhabitants and a rather homogeneous landscape. Still, a Luxembourger from one area is not the same as a Luxembourger from another area. The major differences are Luxembourg-Ville (the city) compared to the rest of the country, and North versus South.
`Within Luxembourg, commuting by train is often easier than by car`
City versus Countryside
Luxembourg City is the heart of the country, even though it is situated way south of the middle. It provides most of the jobs, houses most of the people and serves as a gateway to the world. To Shamsanh (24), of Indian descent, Luxembourg-City provides easy access to drugs. Most people visits to Luxembourg for professional reasons.
Christine (23) lives in a village next to Luxembourg-city and most of her travels are between her village and the city. She explains that Luxembourg doesn`t have any major cities. Even Luxembourg-City itself is small compared to an average European capital. Compared to the other cities in the country, the City definitely is big. Only Esch-sur-Alzette, Echternach and Diekirch would actually qualify as cities, everything else is villages or even smaller than that.
`I do go to the countryside every now and then to visit friends or to an icecream. I sometimes do a small round tour to visit friends all over the country in one day. But it`s more likely that they will come to the City so we can meet all at once`, she days. People who live in the area south of Luxembourg-City have no need to travel North, so most of them don`t. Christine thinks the accent in the North is quite funny.
Christian (25) doesn`t like the City so much, `because everybody speaks French there all the time`. He prefers to be in the North, where everybody speaks Luxembourgish. Christian also explains me that very few villages where people speak German among themselves. Even villages with names that have a German sound to them are unlikely to have German as main language of conversation. In much the same way, a French name does not indicate that people speak French. Christian is from a small that is internationally referred to as Clervaux. That name may suggest that the locals speak French, but among themselves they do not, and they call their city Kli?rf.
If the true and pure Luxembourgish culture exists, you would be most likely to find it in the north of the country. The rest of the country has a variety of other nationalities mixed in. Most of them arrived after the second world war. The Portuguese were the first to arrive, followed by Spaniards and Italians, all attracted by the mining industry. In later years, and as a result of the creation of the EU and establishment of the bank secrecy, international corporations and rich individuals found their way to Luxembourg. They brought Luxembourg money, employment opportunities and, in French, Dynamique.
Allowing others to benefit from its safety and stability, Luxembourg opened its doors to limited numbers of Yugoslavians who fled the Balkan war in the 1990s. The national government tried to spread the immigrants over the country, which causes some villages to be marked by the dominant Yugoslavian nationality.
Alex (52), mixed Italian/Yugoslavian himself, mentions Esch-sur-Sure the most Yugoslavian city of Luxembourg. `Esch-sur-Sure is rather isolated village, making it a perfect place for the state to observe the newly arrived.`, Alex says. He claims the government was right in doing so: `The arrival of the Yugoslavians brought a short term wave of criminal activity, because the immigrants were not used to the different standard of living. They first needed to learn that you can`t buy a car if you have no money, and that you don`t get rich without working for it. Most of them have improved their behaviour afterwards. They now work as bus drivers or start their own business. Some are also sent home. War is over and if they don`t have a job here, they are sent back to their home countries.`
Most Portuguese have been in Luxembourg for more than two generations already. The initial immigrants usually Portuguese families have usually grown along with the Luxembourgish developments. Their children went to Luxembourgish schools and
Wiltz, the village I am visiting today, is home to many people with Portuguese origins. Nevertheless, most were born in Luxembourg and consider themselves as much Luxembourgish as they feel Portuguese.
Carla (25) was not born in Luxembourg but lived here since she was young. She was born in Germany, child from Portuguese parents, having lived in Luxembourg and married to an Italian with whom she has been speaking French since they met, she speaks Luxembourgish, Portuguese, French, Italian, English and German. Since Wiltz is inundated by holidaymakers from The Netherlands during summer, she also understands a little Dutch. Her three-year-old daughter learns Luxembourgish in school, but already speaks German as well, and, to Carla`s surprise, even understands French.
Johnny (19, photo), born in Luxembourg but also with roots in Portugal, sheds a light on the high mobility of people in Luxembourg. `Many people from the North take the train to Luxembourg in the morning. The ticket is very cheap and it will save them the hassle of ending up in traffic jams caused by the Frontaliers, the cross-borders commuters who tend to arrive by car`, he says.
Luxembourg-City is however not the only part of the country that has a lot of daily cross-border traffic. The country may not have big cities, but every corner of Luxembourg has a big city across the border nearby. Trier (Germany) to the East, Bastogne and Arlon (Belgium) to the West, Thionville and Metz (France) to the South.
Pascal (36) is no longer one of the frontaliers, but he too has been doing border crossings for a while. He is now having a house built just across the border in Belgium. `Salaries are high in Luxembourg, but so are the costs. Many combine take the best of both worlds and take the daily return trip for granted`, he explains.
The accessibility of Luxembourg from everywhere, within the country or across the borders, culturally, linguistically and physically, helps in evenly spreading financial resources over the territory. The state also helps, by subsidising mothers who get children, providing financial assistance for people to pay their heating and electricity bills, and basically doing everything within its reach to keep disparities in income as small as possible. Each region has a well-developed infrastructure and no regions are substantially less affluent than others, even though some are mainly agricultural while others have banks. A nice example for other countries and a good proof that governments can improve the situation in a country, which is not a common belief in many other, especially Southern, European countries.
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