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Life in Luxembourg
- There are three official languages in Luxembourg.
- The country’s population is very small and very cosmopolitan.
- The naturalization process has been recently simplified because Luxembourg wants to assimilate its foreign workers.
A Country Where Almost Half of the Population Is Foreign
Luxembourg, despite its tiny size, is a truly cosmopolitan country, with more than 46% of the population consisting of foreign residents. There are more expats living in Luxembourg than in any other European country. Of Luxembourg’s roughly 571,000 inhabitants, about 100,000 live in Luxembourg City. Another baffling fact is that the country has three official languages altogether: French, German, and Lëtzebuergesch (Luxembourgish). All three of them are used commonly in everyday life and in the media. However, German and French clearly dominate when it comes to administrative purposes.
Luxembourg’s Population Reached Half a Million Only Recently!
Since the late 19th century, Luxembourg has been a popular immigration country and has experienced continuous population growth. By 1910, about 260,000 people were living in Luxembourg, the number growing to over twice as many by January 2016. Currently, almost half of Luxembourg’s residents are foreigners, 86% of whom come from other EU countries. Over a third (37%) of Luxembourg’s migrant population is Portuguese, 14% are from France, followed by Italians and Belgians with 8% each. All in all, the expat community represents around 160 nationalities living in Luxembourg.
National Languages: Where Multilingualism Is the Norm
Multilingualism is an important aspect of life in Luxembourg. Its heritage lies with the Romanic and Germanic ethnic groups which coexisted and heavily influenced the development of the country. In the 14th century, Walloon and Lëtzebuergesch were the dominant spoken languages. However, German and French served as primary administrative languages of the time. In subsequent years, French and German occupation both cemented that bilingual tradition, with French having the slightly stronger influence. Since 1843, people living in Luxembourg are officially free to choose which language — French, German, or Lëtzebuergesch — they wish to speak.
Lëtzebuergesch goes back to the Moselle-Franconian dialect which was spoken in Luxembourg. Eventually it became the mother tongue of Luxembourgers. Even if you do not plan on staying in Luxembourg forever, you should be aware that all three official languages are often used simultaneously. If you want to prove how well you’ve settled in, you should try to pick up some Lëtzebuergesch. You can even get official leave for that: everybody working and living in Luxembourg is entitled to take 200 hours off work to learn the local language.
Here to Stay? The Naturalization Process
A lot of expats living in Luxembourg have decided to stay here, and even acquire citizenship. The different political parties agreed on a new naturalization law in March 2016, which is scheduled to go into effect in in January 2017. The first novelty of this law is that Jus soli is implemented. This means that persons born in Luxembourg to non-citizen parents can acquire the nationality when they turn 18, on the condition that they lived in Luxembourg for five consecutive years before turning 18. In addition to this, you can apply for Luxembourgish citizenship if you have lived here for the past five years, have passed a Luxembourgish language test (you need a B1 level in oral comprehension, and A2 in oral expression), and have passed the course “Living together in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg”. If you need more information, please visit the Ministry of Justice website (in French).
The Healthcare System: Expensive but Efficient
Luxembourg has a compulsory public health system which offers universal coverage to 98% of the population. If you are covered under public health insurance, you are free to choose a hospital or doctor for treatment. There is a private health sector, but it is predominantly supplemental and usually simply covers the gap between medical fees and what you’re reimbursed — about 60% of the people living in Luxembourg opt for such additional complementary mutual insurance. The public system strives to guarantee equal treatment to all patients regardless of their financial or social status. Although Luxembourg’s healthcare system is one of the most expensive, it is also among the most generous and comprehensive in the world.
The majority of Luxembourg’s population is covered under the Caisse nationale de santé — CNS (the National Health Fund). Unless you are self-employed, contributions are automatically deducted from your monthly salary and your employer pays about half the fees. The state health insurance covers almost all treatments by your general practitioner and by specialists. This includes lab tests, childbirth, rehabilitation and hospitalization, as well as prescriptions. Keep in mind that, while living in Luxembourg, you have to pay all treatment costs right away and then submit the receipts to the CNS for reimbursement.
Medical Services: A Hospital for Every Condition
Luxembourg’s healthcare system is very hospital-centric, with several general hospitals and specialized hospitals, which between them offer all types of medical services. Of the latter, a minority provide acute care and a few others offer reeducation. These hospitals take turns in providing 24/7 emergency services to their patients. For simpler emergencies or smaller medical incidents, you can also turn to so-called Maisons Médicales where general practitioners are always on duty.
Housing and Education in Luxembourg
Cost and Quality of Living: Rent Will Be One of Your Biggest Expenses
According to international surveys and rankings, Luxembourg is among the top 20 countries which offer the highest quality of living worldwide. This is not only due to the natural environment and the cozy small-town flair, but also to the safety of the towns, and to the political and economic stability of the country. Luxembourg’s high level of safety and security as well as its low rate of crime are considered to be linked to its overall wealth and its residents’ level of satisfaction with life in Luxembourg.
While the overall cost of living may not be that high, rents and property prices are, unfortunately, indeed high in comparison to other European countries. You should, however, be able to save money on many other commodities (like gas, tobacco, alcohol, and electronic equipment, which are less expensive than in other European countries), which makes life in Luxembourg still quite affordable for expats. If you need more precise numbers on the daily living costs, you can visit the official portal of the Grand Duchy.
Housing Prices On the Rise
As mentioned above, you should plan to spend a big part of your monthly budget on rent. This is especially the case if you settle in Luxembourg City or in the country’s west. To get an idea of the average rent and property prices in Luxembourg, have a look at the Observatoire de l’Habitat (in French). Make sure to always have a rental agreement (Contrat de Bail à Loyer) which clearly states the terms and conditions of your lease. A lease is usually signed for the duration of between one and three years.
The Ministry of Housing supports the development of the housing market with construction, acquisition, and renovation of buildings. A housing research agency was created in 2003 to support coherent development planning in this field. However, despite various government incentives, housing prices are still on the rise.
The Housing Search Made Easy with the Internet or Expat Contacts
Once you have consulted the Observatoire de l’Habitat and have gotten a general idea of the average rental prices in Luxembourg, it is time to start the housing search; most rental properties are advertised through real estate agencies. For a general online search, the following websites are a great place to start:
However, do not hesitate to get in touch with other expats already living in Luxembourg. They may be looking for a roommate or for someone to take over their lease, thus saving you a lot of time and the agency costs. The latter usually amount to one month’s rent plus 17% VAT. Additionally, you are required to pay a deposit of two to three months’ rent.
Education in Luxembourg: Based on the French Model
Luxembourg’s school system is modeled after the French education system and leads to an internationally recognized baccalaureate. After graduation, students may choose to attend university in a neighboring European country or enroll at the University of Luxembourg. Founded in 2003, the university offers a wide range of subjects, as well as cooperating with other universities and research institutes around the world. Its faculties and centers include:
- The Faculty of Science, Technology and Communication
- The Faculty of Law, Economics and Finance
- The Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education
- The Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust
- The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine
For the many expat families living in Luxembourg, there are several international schools. Their curricula are specifically designed to accommodate expat kids and cater to their needs. The multinational staff and the international curricula are just two of the reasons why many expat parents opt to send their kids to an international school. Luxembourg’s international schools include:
One thing to bear in mind is that these schools are not cheap! St George’s fees for 2015/2016 range from almost 6,000 EUR per year for preschoolers up to just over 16,000 EUR for teenagers in their final two years of school.
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