-On one of my early mountain bike rides here, I was asked what I knew of Luxembourg before I arrived. I said I knew almost nothing about it and that I thought Luxembourg and Lichtenstein were the same place. Being a fan of pro cycling, I did know of Fränk and Andy Schleck, but that was about it. Oh, and another pro cyclist, Kim Kirchen, I knew of him too.
(It just occurs to me that when I was about 25 and moved west to Seattle, I knew almost nothing about Seattle either. Only that Jimi Hendrix was from there and I had this vague notion than Seattle and Portland were sorta the same. But I digress …)
During my subsequent Luxembourg studies at the University of Wikipedia (UW), I’ve been surprised to find that Luxembourg City’s population is only about 100,000, which isn’t much bigger than Bellingham’s 80,000. But it feels waaay bigger. Luxembourg City is a banking, finance, insurance, European Union, etc. hub and every day about 150,000 people commute here, most of them from nearby France, Germany and Belgium. So every day, the Ville de Luxembourg goes from being a city not much bigger than Bellingham to one the size of Tacoma. (That would mean something to you if you were from the Northwest.)
-In general, when I’m with a group of people here who speak multiple languages (and that would be just about everyone I’ve met here), they’ll switch to English out of respect for me, by far the group’s weakest language link. Sometimes though, it’s fun when they forget I’m there and switch over to their mother tongue and I try to follow their train of conversation. I did this a few weeks ago on a hiking trip with some Germans and surprised myself with how much I could understand. I deciphered, for instance, that sangria gave this one woman migraines. Another hoped that when she had kids she would have twins. And another really liked the city of Cologne, but found that people in Munich were too “chicky-mickey.”
-When my mountain-biking friends speak to each other in Luxembourgish, I can tell when they’re agreeing with each other (“Jo, jo, jo, …”—prounounced “Yo”), disagreeing (“Nee, nee, nee, …”) and, when we come to an intersection, when we’re to turn left (“Lénks!”). I don’t, however, recognize the word for ‘right’ so a lot of times, I find myself continuing straight as everyone else turns right.
-On the Luxembourg facebook group pages I check out (biker.lu, 26pouces.lu, etc.), people usually write in Luxembourgish which I can follow far better than listening to it. However, some of my Luxembourgish friends have told me that while they spoke Luxembourgish at home and in the early years of school, they didn’t really learn to write it. Thus their spelling can sometimes be all over the place. But it does seem to be mostly phonetic. (For instance, there’s none of this nonsense like we have in English wherein you take a word that is pronounced ‘ruff’ and spell it r-o-u-g-h. Or, as in French, a phrase that is pronounced Kess-keh-say but is spelled qu'est ce que c'est.)
- People in Luxembourg sometimes seem surprised that we would move here from America. And several, after I tell them that we live in the Seattle area of the Pacific Northwest—with its spectacular mountains, forests, waterfalls, rivers and wildlife, not to mention its world-class mountain biking—wonder why the heck we’d choose to be in Luxembourg. Here’s my answer: Luxembourg may be small but IT’S FRICKIN’ EUROPE! WE’RE LIVING IN FRICKIN’ EUROPE!
To me, that’s the coolest thing ever and even after four months, I still can’t believe I’m living here!