Luxembourg City, Luxembourg Report of what it's like to live there - 06/14/17

Personal Experiences from Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg 06/14/17

Background:

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

No. We've lived in: Stuttgart, Germany; Maputo, Mozambique; Doha, Qatar; Abuja, Nigeria; and Washington, D.C.

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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?

We are from Los Angeles, California, USA. British Airways on the LAX-LHR direct, a layover in London, then LHR-LUX. This routing takes a total of 14-18 hours depending on layover duration at LHR.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have a very nice apartment near the center of town. Our unit is a single level and is about 150 square meters, which puts it on the larger size for an apartment in this part of town. It is an older unit and many newer construction units are much smaller. Many properties in or near the center or town are going to be row house style units, 2-4 levels, and narrow. Single family detached residences in or near the center of town (neighborhoods of Limpertsberg, Eich, Centre, Grund, etc.) are generally quite expensive and are snapped up quickly once on the market.

Many families with children choose to live in the neighborhoods of Bel Air, Merl, or Strassen, where detached single family residences will often have front and/or back yards, are closer to the International School of Luxembourg (where many expats and diplomats send their children), and be significantly larger. Homes in these neighborhoods have a lower price per square meter than those closer to the center of town however they will necessitate taking public transit or driving, which is a 10-20 min commute to Centre.

Kirchberg is also a popular neighborhood since many companies are locating here. Kirchberg is the location of the new hospital and the EU school, where many EU diplomats and staff send their children.

Luxembourg is a pretty small city and you can get pretty much anywhere in town in less than 30 minutes depending on your origin and destination.

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

Luxembourg is expensive to live in. Cost differences vary wildly from our home city of Los Angeles but on the whole we find it to be about 30% more expensive to live here.

Car repairs for European make automobiles are much less expensive (yay! but not surprising I suppose) while detergent for laundry and dishwashing machines seems expensive. Ice cream is double-triple the cost. Bread is cheaper but automobile fuel is more expensive, but since we're from California, not by much frankly.

Household electricity is 25% more expensive but domestic water is 40% cheaper.

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

Salsa, pasta sauce, laundry detergent, preferred soft drinks, Bounce fabric softeners, and salad dressing.

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

There are many different options from a host of nationalities and food types/styles, too many to name.

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

The use of screens on windows isn't common here so in the summer when you open the windows to cool the house off, you may find that bugs fly through the house at times.

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Daily Life:

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

We have used Luxembourg Post & Telecom (POST) as well as the diplomatic pouch service. Both have been adequate for our needs.

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

Household help is expensive and comes with the liability of ensuring you are complying with local labor law, which is extensive. Hiring a company to clean your home will cost 25-35 EUR/hr; hiring "under the table" will cost 15-18/hr (or so I'm told).

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

There are 6-8 and they vary in quality and style from very high end (300 EUR/mo) to CrossFit/muscle head type places (60-80 EUR/mo) to pretty basic but sufficient (for my purposes) gyms for (20-30 EUR/mo) depending on location and amenities you desire.

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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?

Yes to all.

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

All sorts - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, LDS, Greek Orthodox, etc.

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

Locals are required to learn German and French in school and many take English now as well. Knowing either of those first two languages is very helpful for grocery shopping, dining out, however most professionals speak English.

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

Yes. They are a decade or more behind where they should be. Many buildings do not have elevators, stairwells are often narrow, and many streets are cobblestone.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, all a safe. Buses are cheap (2 EUR/2 hrs, no restrictions) and the city is installing a tram line. Taxis are plentiful but expensive. Uber and Lyft are not operating here at the moment.

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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?

All the roads here are paved and in good condition, any type of car would be fine. European brands are cheaper to maintain/service (obviously) but Korean and even Chinese cars are becoming more common here. Subaru and Toyotas are rare. American makes are expensive to maintain.

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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. There are several options. We pay 65 EUR/mo for cable and internet and it works fine for streaming Netflix, Skype, etc. It is a long time to get it installed, six to eight weeks during the busy summer expat transfer season.

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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?

We brought unlocked iPhones with us and bought local plans for 25 EUR/mo.

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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?

This varies wildly depending on the qualifications of each individual. Local pay scales can swing as much as 30% higher than some places in the US, however they seem to be about 30% lower than high cost of living areas like Seattle or Los Angeles. Fluency in French, German, Portuguese, or English (more is better) would be required to get a job on the local economy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Red Cross or similar organizations.

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

Luxembourg is heavy on finance so most men wear suits and ties to work, women often wear dresses, nice slacks, suits, or similar.
Most workplaces trend towards the formal rather than the casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

No health concerns. Doctors are knowledgable and plentiful. There is a new hospital where pretty much anything you need can get taken care of however for major surgical operations it is often still recommended to travel to France, Germany, or Switzerland since Luxembourg does not have a long history of doing this work in-house. This is slowly changing and things like labor/delivery of children, knee and ankle repairs, etc. are done routinely and performed well.

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2. 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?

Air quality is good although there is a high percentage of smokers here. As a non-smoker from a country where the use of cigarettes is decreasing/nonexistent this was surprising and unpleasant, but certainly not the worst thing in the world.

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3. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) could be a potential issue although we are from Los Angeles and didn't want to jump off a bridge or anything so there's that. But I could see how someone might want an anti-SAD lamp or something.

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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?

Cold and wet normally. But when it's nice, it's REALLY nice.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are many to choose from. The largest and most popular is ISL, the International School of Luxembourg, but beware - they require in person interviews for any child, from as young as four, and at least one parent. They won't do Skype or phone interviews.

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

ISL has a Learning Support Group that can work with children who require some additional assistance in reading or math and have been very good. They are extremely understanding but they will not take responsibility for developmental or learning disabilities and if your child needs specialized services like speech therapy, etc. you should be prepared to find it on the local economy.

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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?

It seems like there is a "creche" on every corner. They run the gamut in price, level of care/services offered, and style (Montessori, etc.).

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

Yes, everything from martial arts to soccer.

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Expat Life:

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

Significant. The country's population doubles in size each day from all the people who come in to work. As for expats living in Luxembourg, it is very expat heavy; 46% of the country is foreigners from 170 countries live here.

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

There are lots of groups you can join, it varies with your interest and are not hard to find.

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

Great for families since it is the safest country per capita in the EU and Luxembourg spends a lot of money on public parks, so there are tons of cool places to hang out with your children. Single people may find it too 'quiet' for their taste. Bars and clubs close at 0100.

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

Yes, it is a very open country. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are both married to same sex partners.

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

No, very tolerant.

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

Day trips to surrounding countries, weekends at the awesome parks, great food, extremely safe, and people from all over the world make this a really fantastic place to live.

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

Too many to list. Seriously.

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

No. There are lots of designer stores, but otherwise, no.

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

Day trips to surrounding countries, weekends at the awesome parks, great food, extremely safe, and people from all over the world make this a really fantastic place to live.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Bone up on your French, English is not as widely spoken at the daily life level as is made out.

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

Absolutely.

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

Idea to save any money, it's pretty expensive.

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4. But don't forget your:

Rain jacket and umbrella!

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