Do you know the Luxembourgish culture?

If you are an expat coming from Europe or the neighbouring countries, living in Luxembourg is not very complicated. Most of the Luxembourg culture and social etiquette will be intuitive for you, but there are still some things to remember if you want to avoid embarrassing moments with Luxembourgers. 

Greetings

The most common greeting in the Grand-Duchy is a brief handshake, especially on a first meeting or in a business environment. Exchanging kisses on alternate cheeks is reserved for friends, and only between women or a man and a woman (but not between men!). The number of kisses is usually three in Luxembourg (against two for the French, one for the French-speaking Belgians and none for the Germans) and you have to start with the right cheek. Keep this in mind when you greet a woman. If you start with the wrong cheek or if you only expect one or two kisses, you have a good chance of landing on each other’s noses. If you are American, don’t try hugging. Giving hugs as a greeting is rare among Luxembourgers (and Europeans).  

In most social situations, you have to use the family name with the honorific titles Monsieur or Madame until you are invited to use the first name. When in formal settings, it is better to use the formal pronoun for you – vous in French or Dir, Iech in Luxembourgish –, rather than the informal tu (or du, dir in Luxembourgish). 

Punctuality

According to a study published in 2014[1], Germany is the most punctual country in the world. Punctuality is also highly valued in Luxembourg. Luxembourgers take punctuality for business meetings very seriously and expect that you will do likewise. Arriving late may brand you as unreliable. How can you be trusted to meet a deadline if you are late for a meeting? So, call ahead if you will be more than 5 minutes late.

Tips

Unlike the United States, tips in restaurants, cafés and bars are not obligatory in Luxembourg. Tips are a bonus for waiters and waitresses. Not tipping does not necessarily mean that you were not satisfied with the food or service you received. However, if you want to show your satisfaction, it is common to leave between 5% and 10% of the bill as a tip. 

Privacy

If you are an expat or a newcomer coming from the South of Europe, you will quickly notice that Luxembourgers are at first formal, reserved and modest. Having exaggerated attitudes in public and acting over-the-top in emotion might be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Luxembourgers are cautious people – in business and in private! – and developing relationships may take time. Be patient and do not ask personal questions. Personal life almost never interferes with work life and personal matters are rarely a talking subject with friends. 

Pride

Even though Luxembourg is a small country and is part of the European Union, Luxembourgers are very proud of their country, heritage and history and they value their independence, autonomy and language. Do not criticize the country or the Grand Duke and do not consider Luxembourgish as a dialect. Luxembourgish is one of the three official languages of the country since the law of 24 February 1984. Be aware of the unique culture and language of the Luxembourgers and do not assume that everyone is an expatriate from another country, even if nearly half of Luxembourg’s population are immigrants.           

And why not learning Luxembourgish to show your respect for the country where you live now, even if you don’t use it in your daily life? There are so many and often free opportunities to learn Luxembourgish. You can even learn Luxembourgish online. In addition, Luxembourgish language skills can help open doors, not only to get or improve a job but also to initiate new customer relationships if you are a manager or a self-employed person. 

[1] “The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business”, Erin Meyer, 2014. 

03/20

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