In what is being cited by integration officials as a new record, an expat couple has managed to forge a genuine friendship with a Luxembourgish couple after only 12 years.
Andrew and Sarah Campbell, who moved to Luxembourg more than a decade ago, say they were shocked by the speed and ease with which they befriended Marcel and Tessy Weber, who live next door to the couple in Mersch.
“One year we were acknowledging each other with slightly aggressive nods, only five years after that we were grunting hello, and just a few short years later we were having awkward biannual chats in the street during which my husband and I would clumsily attempt French and Luxembourgish before invariably falling back into English,” said Sarah.
“The whole relationship progressed at lightning speed, and the rate it’s going, in another three years we can invite them over for a dinner,” Andrew said. “Of course, we’ll need to serve lots of alcohol to lessen the unbearable, stiff formality with which we always greet each other.”
“Man, I seriously love those two, and I honestly believe that one day we’ll be able to ask for their names,” he added.
Sandy Winandy, spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Cohesion, says that the friendship proves that Luxembourgers are becoming more interested in forging bonds with recent arrivals — and that new arrivals are keener to get to know locals, too.
“Expats are showing a huge willingness to integrate, to learn local customs and languages, and to actually adopt them,” Winandy said. “According to surveys, many transplants eventually learn up to 10 words in Luxembourgish, including some pretty useful basic words to say please, thank you, and goodbye.”
She continued: “You have no idea how much hearing an outsider say ‘Moien’ and ‘Äddi’ — without having a clue how to converse beyond that — warms the heart of even the coldest and most reticent Luxembourger.”
“Why, just the other day I met an outsider who after only 10 years here felt brave enough to order Bouneschlupp, Luxembourg’s culinary treasure, at a restaurant,” she said. “And if he contorts his lips the right way and plugs his nose, he can even approximate the correct pronunciation.”
Still, some expats continue to express frustration and befuddlement when it comes to charting a path toward integration that won’t take the rest of their natural lives.
Desdemona Lamm and Gabriella Kosowicz, who moved here in 2011, say that while their Luxembourgish neighbors have been treating them less like foreign invaders bent on destroying the country and more like simple gypsy thieves who are only interested in stealing used copper, they often feel as though they’ve made little progress toward being welcomed in their Bridel neighborhood.
Fed up with feeling excluded, last summer the couple decided to throw a party and invite their neighbors, Gabriella says. However, despite having lived in Luxembourg for seven years, the couple knew precious little about what Luxembourgers enjoy.
“We read just about every Wikipedia article there is about this country, and we came to the conclusion that what Luxembourgers love the most is beer, bicycles, and potatoes,” Gabriella said. “In that order.”
“So what we did was fill our inflatable swimming pool with about 200 liters of Batin, threw in 10 kilos of potatoes from a farm in the north, and rented a bunch of those foam pedal boats, and we invited all the neighbors to take a dip.”
“I don’t know if it helped make us any friends, and it might have had the opposite effect,” she admits. “But everyone certainly got drunk and loosened up a bit.”