Expat voices: Katy Hanson on living in Luxembourg
American expat Katy Hanson wouldn't change a thing about Luxembourg but rather she would change herself – by learning French.
Name: Katy Hanson
City of residence: Luxembourg City
Date of birth: November 22, 1972
Civil status: Married
Occupation: SAHM (Stay At Home Mom)
Reason for moving to Luxembourg: My husband’s job gave us the opportunity to live here for two years.
Lived in Luxembourg for: 1 year 2 months
What was your first impression of Luxembourg?
My first impression of Luxembourg was that is was a formal country – the people, their dress, their manners, demeanor, and all the procedures. After one year of living here, I still think Luxembourg is a formal country.
What do you think of the food?
To be honest, I haven’t tried the national dish of Luxembourg – Judd mat gaardebou’nen (smoked collar of pork with broad beans) but I have enjoyed lots of other good food here. There are more Michelin Star restaurants per inhabitant here in Luxembourg than in any other place, so it is not difficult to find truly exquisite food. There are French, German, Italian and Portuguese restaurants. It is also quite easy to find a delicious curry. Needless to say, I’m not going hungry.
The best restaurant I’ve been to so far is Tour pour Toi. It is incredibly romantic, perfect for an intimate dinner. Oberweis is the king of bakeries here in Luxembourg. Their breads are phenomenal.
What do you think of the shopping in Luxembourg?
I’m really not a shopper, but I do like Peter Pin located in the centre. It has a great French shabby chic vibe. Generally the prices here in Luxembourg are pretty high. There are lots of luxury and high-end stores. There isn’t a department store here in Luxembourg but one need only to drive to Metz in France or Trier in Germany to find one.
What do you appreciate about living in Luxembourg?
The two things that come to mind are the greenness and beauty of Luxembourg and the bus system. It is a gorgeous country. There are miles and miles of walking trails here and lots of wooded areas. There is an abundance of parks as well which is great to keep the kids busy. Luxembourg is immaculately clean and well cared for.
I also appreciate the bus system. I find it extremely convenient and reliable. My kids love to take the bus too!
What do you find most frustrating about living in Luxembourg?
The language barrier. I’m taking French lessons but my progress is slow. It can feel isolating not to be able to make small talk with store clerks and neighbours. The importance of small talk is something I never noticed until I moved to a country where I don’t speak the language.
When I’m out and about in town, I always have a certain tension or nervousness about me because I don’t speak the language (or languages: Luxembourg has three national languages – Luxembourgish, French and German) Although most people do speak at least a bit of English, there is always that awkward interaction when they realise I’m a foreigner. So far, though everyone has been very polite and helpful.
What puzzles you about Luxembourg and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
What I miss? That is easy – friends and family, people who know me.
I also really miss being able to move freely about. It’s hard to explain. At home I can read all my mail, I can ask for help, I can ask questions of strangers, I can take classes – I know how to navigate all the ins and outs, forms, tests, permits, fines associated with living there. Here, seemingly trivial things can take a day or so. I miss the feeling of competence and independence that I have at home.
How does the quality of life in Luxembourg compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
I’ve only ever lived in one other country: America. I think the quality of life here in Luxembourg is exceptional – the beauty, parks, healthcare, family allowance. Luxembourg is a special little country.
If you could change anything about Luxembourg, what would it be?
I don’t think I’d change Luxembourg, I’d change myself. I’d be able to speak fluent French. The language barrier is the biggest challenge in living here for me. I may have mentioned that before.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Join the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg - AWCL (open to all nationalities) or the British Ladies Club. Read the book Living in Luxembourg put out by the AWCL. If you are an English speaker, read 352 so you know what is going on in the city. Take risks. Take advantage of Luxembourg’s central location in Europe – TRAVEL! Ask questions when you’re confused.
I’ve been keeping a blog that chronicles our time in Luxembourg. It may be a helpful resource to a newcomer. www.sycamorestirrings.blogspot.com
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