Luxembourg City, Luxembourg Report of what it's like to live there - 09/15/10

Personal Experiences from Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg 09/15/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have lived in Taichung, Taiwan; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Moscow, Russia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Ohio. No direct flights from Luxembourg to the US, so we go via Paris or Amsterdam or something. Figure an hour to fly to hub, and then about 8 hours to get to the US east coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Arrived February 2010.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Accompanying spouse.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Townhouses. Single family homes. Apartments. Prices are better than my last post (Moscow), but not cheap. Surprisingly for such a small place, traffic can be an issue. We picked a house based on kids' and spouse's commutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

After Moscow, I find this place a bargain. But I have lived in Europe before. If you are paid in dollars (like we are), you are always aware of the rate of exchange. But I have lived in MUCH more expensive places. Two Big Box-style grocery stores (Auchan and Cora). They have everything I need.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nope. Can't think of any. Biggest problem I have is getting clothes for my tall and slim husband.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's. Pizza Hut. Subway. Quick. Chi-Chi's. Lots of local pizza places (but I haven't found much good pizza). A LOT of Michelin-rated restaurants here. That said, prices are high.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We have some spiders in the basement. No screens, so some mosquito issues given all the rain. I have those plug-in things.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The local post office (P&T) is wonderful.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I see ads for people looking for work and people looking for help. I have not used a housekeeper here.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but they don't open until 9:00 a.m. This is an "after work" place. Very odd.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I have an American account and a local one. ATMs everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Not sure.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

We have Sky.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Luxembourg is an amazing blend of French/German/Luxembourgish. A LOT of people speak English. I speak a little French, and I get by just fine.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Seems like standard European city issues. Stairs here and there.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are expensive. Local buses are reliable and cheap. There is also a rental bike system here called Vel-Oh! I haven't used it, but friends have: it seems very convenient.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Well, smaller is always easier for navigating. But we bought a used Peugeot 807 (mini van) because we need to haul kids and bikes around. I can park anywhere.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes: we have a high-speed internet/free-long distance/local cable TV package. Can't remember the price, but I want to say about $70US/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I got a local one through LUX GSM.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No. But they need to be chipped. Standard EU drill.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I have two cats. I have a local girl who cat sits for short periods and there is a cat hotel (www.cathotel.lu) I used for the summer. I have a vet on the corner.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I am told there is more than you think. However, as an American, I suspect I would have competition from the UK. I am not EU, so it should be difficult for me to find work (as a writer).

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

What I would call "European." Folks here are conservative in their dress. They like what I would call tasteful sportswear. Women's shoes are more Germanic (lower heels) than in Moscow.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Had my GPS stolen from the car, but I had left the car unlocked. Read the local news at the ARA City Radio website. Yes, they edit/select the more amusing stories, but it gives you an idea of the crime here. Folks are more likely to wrap their car around a tree. Now and then someone gets drunk and throws crockery. Since my kids speak French, I am much more comfortable letting them go out and about on their own.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Local health care is excellent. We have the national insurance (and a supplemental coverage which picks up the difference . . . very reasonably priced, too). You get reimbursed by the insurance companies if the cost isn't paid in full in most cases. Husband spent ten days in hospital after surgery for a broken arm: no charge. Care was excellent. I have also seen a local dentist, and we have a local GP. I don't wait to take care of health issues while in the US anymore. This is cheaper and better.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Excellent.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It rains. A lot. But in general, the weather is mild: not too hot in the summer (most homes/apartments do NOT have AC and you don't need it but a few days a year), not too cold in the winter. The rain makes things lush. That said, if the weather is nice, take advantage of it NOW! Think England.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We are Americans, but my kids go to the French school here. They have been in the French system for three postings now, and we have been pleased. Tuition also tends to be (relatively) very reasonable.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Seems to be.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

About 50% of the population here is from somewhere else.

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2. Morale among expats:

Seems good to me. This is a lovely place to be. A nice place to be an American. They like us.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Movies. Parks. Restaurants and pubs. Festivals. Lots of concerts (jazz, classical, rock).

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Very family-friendly. Lots of movies and outdoor activities (excellent bicycle system in the country . . . this IS home of the Schleck brothers). The culture leans towards boring: shops close early, nothing open on Sundays. Anti-noise ordinances. I think there is night life in the Grund area, but I have not yet explored that.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I suspect it is fine.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Seems very ethnically mixed. About half the population of the country is from somewhere else.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Being driving distance from France. Exploring Luxembourg. Vianden Castle. The Family of Man exhibit.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

We love the opportunities for bicycling here. Paris is a few hours away by train. Metz (France) has the new Pompidou Centre. Wine tasting. Trier (Germany) is less than an hour from here. Patton is buried here . . . lots of WWI/WWII history in the region.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

I'm not a big Villeroy & Bosch fan, but there is that. Wine. Belgian chocolates. I bought a lot of bird whistles are the annual festival on Easter Monday. Excellent regional beers.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is so pretty and charming and CLEAN. Excellent national health care (hubby broke an arm and spent ten days in the hospital). Great "jumping off point" for touring Western Europe.

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11. Can you save money?

We are. It is all relative, I guess.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I have never been so thrilled to be in a country in my life. First time I went in the local grocery store, I cried because the fruits and vegetables were so lovely and not expensive (this after life in Million Dollar Moscow).

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

US doctors/health care.

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3. But don't forget your:

Camera. Lots to see here and in the region. I wish I had a second refrigerator: mine is small and stocking for weekends or (God help me!) a three-day weekend is a challenge. I shop every day during the week because I don't have a place to store things.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I hope we get to be here for a long time. I usually spend the entire summer in the US. This year I only went for a month because I wanted to get back here. Yes, it is a little quiet here. But it is such a great location. So close to so many interesting places.

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