Being an upstanding citizen in Luxembourg
Blogger Libby of Lovely in Lux traded life in Luxembourg City for "the boonies" and found that village life holds some surprises.
We've been living out in the boonies for over a year now, and I can honestly say that I LOVE it. It's great. It's wonderful.
I do have to admit, however, that there are certain things that are better about city apartment living:
1. You usually have an elevator that can take you - and your groceries - up the stairs.
2. You don't have to shovel your own driveway or take out your own garbage.
3. You don't constantly have random people showing up at your door asking for stuff.
The last one - seriously - is getting a tad ridiculous. Sometimes it feels like a week doesn't go by without someone knocking on the door with a hand outstretched, looking at me like I should know exactly what that person is asking for. And speaking Luxembourgish to me.
It began the very week we moved in. We moved in on the 15th, and on the 17th I was already greeted by a group of 15 people carrying musical instruments and a huge bass drum, blocking the street on the way to my house.
How nice! I thought. How exciting! I thought. This is village living as it should be! The band moved out of the way so I could drive down the street, but by the time I turned in the driveway and shut the garage door, they were right outside our house, beating their drum and playing the Hämmelsmarsch!
The Hämmelsmarsch-the only song you need to know how to play in a Luxembourg marching band!
Panicking, as I knew that the band directly outside my front door was probably expecting something from me that I didn't have - like Schnapps or money or beer - I did what any other lifelong city dweller would have done - I hid in the basement and waited for them to leave, hoping that they wouldn't have seen me turn into the driveway.
The band eventually marched on, and I was convinced that I had therewith ruined any chance of popularity or friends in our new village. I had IGNORED the marching band, for cripes sake! But really - the place was full of moving boxes, and I had no idea where our schnapps was. And we were spending scads of money on the move. Besides - they were slightly out of tune.
But alas - that wasn't our last chance to participate in village life. We've had many, many chances since then.
There were the volunteer firefighters, who came around to collect eggs and bacon for the local Buergbrennen.
There were the volunteer firefighters (again) who came around selling their Viez.
There was the lady passing around boxes to fill with food for the Ukraine.
There were the garbage collectors who came around to say "Bonne Fete" with their hand outstretched, like Ron Schneider in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.*
And then there were the 15 or so kids who came to the door on a Friday evening carrying lanterns (while I frantically Googled everything I could think of to figure out what holiday they were celebrating and what I would be expected to do).
In Germany, lanterns are carried on the Feast of St Martin, which is in November. So I knew it couldn't be that. My lights were on and Baby Lovely was crawling around, so I couldn't very well hide...besides, I've been here for a year now, so my hiding-in-the-basement days are over.
I picked up Baby Lovely, who was rendered speechless by the kids and the lanterns and the singing (a song in Luxembourgish) and listened politely until they finished. And since I knew they would very well want something, I had to suck up my pride and politely say (in German), "That was wonderful! I'm sorry, I'm not very familiar with this tradition. What are you singing for?" And since all of them spoke perfect German (because Luxembourgish kids are always multilingual) they explained to me that they were like Sternsinger. Whereupon I asked, "What can I give you?"
Kids are honest, bless ‘em, and so 10 voices chimed in with the answer.
Followed by a lone voice in the back row:
"Or you can give us money if you want."
[Sigh] Again, bless the kids for being honest.
I managed to find 3 3-month-old English candy bars in the cupboard, which my husband had brought back from the Heathrow Airport after a business trip, and luckily had €10 in my wallet (lucky thing I had picked up some cash that very evening).
And so ended yet another opportunity to contribute to my lovely little community.
A word of advice if you plan on moving out of the city in Luxembourg: keep lots of liquor, candy, eggs, bacon, and cash on hand at all times. Because people talk.
But they don't necessarily give advance notice.
* When they unabashedly came around asking for tips I thought, "Hey, you guys earn more than I do!" But then I thought, "but they do take your recycling bins even when they're filled to overflowing." And besides - it's a good rule of thumb to never piss off a garbage man.
** For more info on the Luxembourg holiday Liichtmessdag, see also http://www.352luxmag.lu/edito-15948-tomorrow-is-liichtmessdag.html
A native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Libby moved to Germany after finishing college and enjoyed four years there. In 2008, she left Germany for itty-bitty Luxembourg. Follow her adventure and her journey to happiness - no matter where on Earth she may find herself - on Lovely in Lux.
Photo: Foreignaffairs.co.nz (Luxembourg flag).
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