Scene from Working Girl

Luxembourg in a time capsule: The teenage years

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Remember being a teenager, going to the 'big school' and finding a driver for Saturday night? Did you too do it all with big hair in the eighties? Mindful Mimi recalls life as a teenager in Luxembourg.

After having spent a quiet childhood as a kaaskop (see part one), I was heading for the 'big school' (high school or Lycée) at age 12. There was none of those in my small village, which meant we had to take the bus to a bigger town 15 km away. That alone is quite an adventure and quite frankly a bit scary when you have led a sheltered life so far.

I found it pretty confusing at first but, as every human being confronted with a new and challenging situation, I got used to it, I adapted, I made friends.

I was a 'nice girl', never much trouble. During recess, I never ventured out towards the smokers’ corner – that was for the real rebels, the 'bad boys', although in retrospect, they were pretty harmless.

My friends and I started going out around the age of 14. The trouble was always to find a chauffeur to get us to the Saturday night 'ball'. Balls took  place (and still do) in old barns, commune's festivity halls, big party tents: you name it. They usually have a live cover band. One of our favourite bands was Challengers (and yes, they still exist!) and we would follow them, groupie-like around the country, sometimes driving for an hour to get to where they were playing.

Challengers play a ball in Luxembourg
Challengers play a ball in Luxembourg ©

Luckily my best friend had a brother who had a driver's licence and a car (remember, in Luxembourg you can only drive when you're 18). And if he wasn't available, our neighbour or some friend or friend-of-a-friend would be begged (we were very convincing girls).

Once at the place, we'd usually dance a lot, look at boys and get drunk. Yes, you can't drive a car, but they let you drink. That hasn't really changed much since...

Getting back home was usually a bit of a challenge because either the chauffeur was busy snogging some girl and didn't want to go home yet, or he himself was drunk. Very little police control in the 80s. Usually the cops would come and close the place down by having a beer at the bar themselves, watching the youngsters zig zag their way out.

I must admit having put myself into cars of people driving under the influence of alcohol. But it seemed the normal thing to do. I am not even sure that has changed that much. There are more alcohol tests done, but people still drink and drive.

This was the 80s with permed hair à la Working Girl, shoulder pads, neon colours and crucifixes like Madonna, but also the German music trend Neue Deutsche Welle and we were all singing Nena's 99 Luftballons.

I was allowed to stay up and watch episodes of Dynasty. It was also the first time I went to the movies. I had a date. I took the train and went to Luxembourg City, 40 km away, to watch Beverly Hills Cop. What an adventure!


Scene from Working Girl
Big hair in Working Girl

Those were the days, my friends, but don't ask me to show you a picture of my hair of that time for it was all wrong and forever changing, which probably wasn't all due to the 80s but also to being a teenager trying to find out who she is.

During the summers we could mainly be seen at the outdoor swimming pool or the local camping site. I was selling ice cream or working in a souvenir shop in a nearby tourist town to make some money to buy my first stereo.

I remember reading and writing a lot. It was the time of penpals. My first penpal was from Germany which seemed far away. Her name was Petra and I actually got to meet her once.

My first 'exotic' penpal was from the US. Her name was Amy and I would write to her although I had not yet learned English in school (you would start that around the age of 13/14). Every word was looked up in the dictionary and she must have found me weird or probably just as exotic as I thought her to be.

We didn't have much money, books were expensive, and there was no library to be found in our small town. But someone very ingenious set up the Bicherbus, a little library in a minivan which was touring the rural villages every week. I loved that thing and could be seen running towards it as soon as it tooted its horn. This service still exists, though it's a huge truck now, and my kids love it too.

The Bicherbus
The Bicherbus today

There was no university in Luxembourg at the time and young people mainly went to Brussels to study. Coming from a not-so-well-off, not-so-well-educated family, the question of university somehow just never came up. There was no school advisory service to help you choose your career or send you on the right path. So after high school I was sent to the Netherlands to attend a business school for one year which was supposed to 'land me my first job', which seemed to be important to my Dad.

Being in Holland for a year was strange. In a way it was exciting to live in a new place (even though I stayed with my grandmother), to cycle everywhere, get a first taste of independence. On the other hand it was sad, because all my friends were back home in Luxembourg. It was the first time I kind of 'lost touch' with the secure haven that is home.

Upon my return from Holland, I managed to land my first job working as a telephone operator at Hotel Intercontinental (now the Hilton). Dad was happy and actually so was I. I was 17 and the job included working shifts (which, come to think of it, was probably illegal for someone under 18), and hence I 'had to' start living on my own because public transport would not get me home to my parents at the odd hours I was working.

Ingenious Dad managed to find an apartment right down the hill from the hotel so I could walk to work. He found it by just ringing every doorbell he could find in Dommeldange, asking people if they knew of a place to rent. Maybe that is how you got lodging when he was young and the people in what was to me 'the big city' must have looked at him funny. But he did get housing for me.

Money falling on woman

My first salary was LUF 36,000 and I thought I was rich, and owned the world. At the hotel, I found a Swedish girl called Monica who was willing to share 'my' apartment with me and a year of discovery, partying and silliness started. Monica was a girly girl who painted her room pink. I was brought up a tomboy and my room was filled with second hand clunky furniture my Dad had recuperated God knows where.

We would steal toilet paper, soap and other handy things from the hotel, go for drinks in Scott's pub in the Grund and usually end up dancing at Casablanca, Melusina or Club Nicolas until closing time and walk home underneath the red bridge.

After some time, I developed an itch: not a medical condition, but more of a call for adventure. I wanted to see the world and even though Luxembourg City was a big step up from the little rural village up North, I wanted more.

So I started sending out resumes via snail mail (no internet at that time) and at age 19 landed a job in Paris. Woohoo Paris! Here I come!

Look out for part three of Mimi's story, 'Luxembourg in a time capsule: The working years'.

Mindful Mimi

Mimi is a working mother of two little boys, who likes to out her creativity through writing, painting and photography. She blogs about self-improvement, creativity, her hobbies and much more at Mindful Mimi.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • David Paulin - Campbell posted:

    on 15th August 2013, 18:03:06 - Reply

    A pleasant trip to adolescent nostalgia and a quaint look at how " Mummy
    grew into womanhood.