We didn’t do anything wrong, so why are they treating us like we did?
By Wise Expat Sage
Dear Wise Expat Sage,
Six months ago, my husband and I moved to Luxembourg with our two children. No matter how many times I’ve tried to be friendly to my neighbors, no one ever smiles at us. Is this normal?
Such frustration is common among the newly arrived, and I wish I could say that the cold treatment is not your fault — but it probably is.
I presume you have failed to respect the sacred tradition of the Leavin’ of the Potato, or Loossdegromper as locals call it. (Seriously, didn’t you read anything about this place before you moved here?)
First of all, you need to get potato costumes for everyone in your family. You can buy them at Cactus or most locally owned hobby shops, but it’s better to make them yourself.
Next Sunday evening, just before sunset, put on your costumes and go around knocking on doors. If someone answers, sing, “Nice to meet you, we’re new here, so here’s a potato to give you cheer.” Learn the song in Luxembourgish if you wish, but there’s no shame singing in your mother tongue.
When the song is over, place a single potato on the doorstep and run away. I suggest a good Charlotte potato, preferably one grown in the north of Luxembourg. Make sure it’s washed or it might be mistaken for a turnip and your kind gesture will be taken as an insult.
You need to repeat this song-and-offering routine every Sunday for a whole month or until every family in your neighborhood gets a potato. Then you wait. At some point, an elder known as the Gromperboss will convene a secret meeting. If two-thirds of the neighbors rate your potato as “gut” or “ganz gut,” you are accepted into the community.
Afterwards, you’ll notice that everyone’s behavior towards you drastically changes: friendly slaps on the back, affectionate nicknames for your kids like “kleng Gromper.” Also, you’ll sometimes find that amazing potato recipes have been stapled to your door during the night. If you’re really lucky, in 30 or 40 years you might even get to be the Gromperboss.
A word of caution: if your costumes don’t look authentic, if you give French potatoes from Auchan instead of good ones from Luxembourg, or if you linger too long near a doorstep after making your offering, you’ll be forever shunned. No one will ever talk to you, let alone smile. One day you could wake up to a huge mound of potato peels on your doorstep: a sign it’s time to move.
In that case, don’t worry. Pack up and relocate, perhaps over the border to a city like Arlon, which is not all that bad considering how easy it is to integrate there. Basically, all you have to do is share a cheap bottle of maitrank with your neighbors and get drunk.
Wes is a wise expat sage who has lived in Luxembourg for precisely eight months longer than you, and therefore knows more about life here than you ever will.
Want to read more? Check out his other responses.