Whether you’re traveling through Luxembourg or just curious about this little grand duchy, it’s time to brief yourself on the unique culture of this rich but rural nation-state. This small entity, landlocked by Germany, France, and Belgium, blends country and cosmopolitan vibes into a well-groomed tourist destination without losing its local flavours. Luxembourg culture reflects the heavy influence of its neighbors France and Germany, as well as the “Low Countries” (Belgium and the Netherlands). Because the grand duchy was strategic from a military standpoint for most of its history, Luxembourg is a crossroads, a place for international diplomacy and exchange. There is a sense of proud tidiness that resides in Luxembourg culture. Consider the following tidbits about this tiny nation as a brief introduction.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Even in constitutional monarchies with mostly ceremonial royalty, citizens take pride in regal titles and the lifestyle of the nobility, and Luxembourg is no different. Luxembourg is actually the last grand duchy in the world, meaning that it is the only nation still headed by a grand duke, a title that (once upon a time) was considered greater than a duke but lesser than king. Since 2000, when Grand Duke Jean abdicated the throne, his son Henri has been the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. As is the case throughout Europe, the grand ducal family of Luxembourg is connected to other royal families, with this specific lineage linked to the House of Bourbon. Grand Duke Henri has four sons, all of whom are young and in line for the throne. Prince Guillaume is the heir apparent.
In Luxembourg, brushes with royalty are not uncommon. In a nation of less than 700,000 people, nobility is slightly more accessible, though still just aloof enough to keep citizens amused. There are numerous online forums in which Luxembourg’s citizens gossip and chat about their duke, duchess, princes, and princesses. Many citizens of Luxembourg follow the children’s lives as fervently as Brits have followed Princes William and Henry, although (thankfully) Luxembourg royalty manages to eschew much of the paparazzi due to the nation’s smaller scale.
Luxembourg’s Role in the European Union
Luxembourg was one of six founding member states of the European Economic Community, which eventually became the European Union. Though Luxembourg is one of the smallest members of the EU, it plays a hosting role well beyond what its size would suggest. In fact, Luxembourg boasts several branches of EU operations, bringing frequent media attention, visits from diplomats, and a pan-Euro feeling that permeates Luxembourg culture. International attention regularly turns its eyes to Luxembourg for summits and other important meetings that bring exposure, revenue, and business sensibility to an otherwise rural country.
Luxembourg has the world’s largest gross domestic product per capita, hovering around $70,000. Part of Luxembourg’s wealth (and accordingly, part of its sophistication) comes from continued development of its banking industry. The EU’s financing entity, the European Investment Bank, is headquartered in the Kirchberg area of Luxembourg city. It provides funding for projects which develop cohesion among member states, especially in the realms of transportation and energy. In addition to this financing arm of the EU, Luxembourg also hosts the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors. For a country with fewer people than the city of Albuquerque, this international presence leaves a substantial mark on Luxembourg culture.
Like Switzerland, Luxembourg recognizes multiple official languages. The Grand Duchy considers German and French functional official languages, but the real day-to-day vernacular of citizens is the third official language: Luxembourgish (or LÃ?Â«tzebuergesch, as known in its native tongue). An odd blend of German and French, Luxembourgish has syntax similar to the former but many, many words and pronunciations reflecting the latter. Most people in Luxembourg speak Luxembourgish as well as additional languages. Adding extra diversity, there is a sizable (almost 10 percent) Portuguese minority.
Though you may be familiar with Radio Free Europe, you may not know about Radio Luxembourg, which was broadcast from the Grand Duchy for decades. Operating outside of the restrictions placed upon radio in nations like the United Kingdom, Radio Luxembourg used a super-powered tramsitter to broadcast its programming all over northern Europe, most notably during the 1950s and 1960s. With an interesting history of programming (including a short stint of Nazi propaganda spewing during WWII occupation), this Luxembourg station used innovative formatting and content approaches to make a name for itself in the world of anti-regulation broadcasting. Many advocates of “pirate” or “bootleg” radio cite Radio Luxembourg as a defiantly successful example of airwave freedom.
Food and Drink
As you might expect, Luxembourg blends French and German cuisines. Popular German-inspired dishes include ham-and-rolls, buckwheat dumplings, potato pancakes, and a bratwurst-like sausage known as Thuringer. Pate, flaky pastries, and plum tarts represent French influences. Overall, meats, cheeses, and potatoes take center stage. Belgian-like chocolates are a common sweet treat and should not be missed.
When it comes to alcohol, Luxembourg touts the best of both worlds. The French influence is seen in the broad wine selections at most restaurants and the frequent presence of wine with meals, while the German culture is represented with beer. Many bars, especially in the capital city, are well-stocked with both deep wine lists and a broad selection of Luxembourgish, German, Belgian, and other imported beers.