Karim, you are Peruvian. How long have you been in Luxembourg?
My husband, my son and I arrived in Luxembourg on December 29th, 2016. Nearly on the eve of the new year, ready for a fresh start in the heart of Europe.
Which reason took you to Luxembourg?
Our family moved to Luxembourg in support of my husband’s career move, which additionally also brought us all much closer to his family in Germany. In making this decision, we also considered Luxembourg’s safe and secure environment as a bit of a safe-haven for our teenage son (and us!) to survive his adolescent years.
What studies did you do and what is your main activity?
I have over 20 years of experience working in development at the World Bank in Washington, DC. My husband took a new job in Luxembourg in early 2016. And this was the main reason that the family moved across the Atlantic. This has provided me with the opportunity to start teaching—something which I had always wanted to do. I am currently teaching English and Spanish at a language institute, and have the always yearned-for flexibility to be able to spend time with my teenage son.
I completed a BA in International Affairs from George Washington University, in Washington DC in 1996, as well as an MA in Geography which focused on Urban Development,. It is a joint program between King’s College and SOAS in London (2005). We were last residing in Washington DC, where I worked as a Business Solutions Officer at the World Bank (2013-2015), supporting the institutional change of its IT platform to a more interactive socially-centered system. A critical pillar of a broader strategy to institute culture-change, in support of greater knowledge-sharing and transparency. Prior to this work (2010-2013), I was co-administering the Scholarships Program of the World Bank, which provides scholarships for master-level studies to nationals of developing countries, who commit to bring their increased knowledge and technical skills back to their home nations.
Tell us few things that have surprised you when first arrived?
I was pleasantly surprised by the city’s calming tempo and safe vibe.
However, I was frankly a little disappointed at the dearth of bikers, barriers for recycling and the broad and far-reaching scale of the booming new construction. While there are some bike-lines, and for me there could always be more, perhaps due to 2016 being particularly wet and rainy, there were not a lot bikers out and about.
In terms of the recycling, I was expecting that there would be a more widespread use of the garbage cans with differentiated compartments, as well as home pick up of all plastic containers, rather than the limited list allowed for home disposal.
Finally, with the new tram and the growing city, loads of new residential buildings as well as road and pipe maintenance abound all around the city—which sometimes seems shrouded in dust and can make it very difficult for pedestrians and bikers to get around.
Can you give me 3 adjectives to describe your life in the Grand Duchy?
In function of the city’s relatively small size, my life in Luxembourg is much calmer. Thanks to its great busing system, and our quick access to four bus lines which are located just a block and a half from our apartment, our ability to get around the city is “an easy ride” and stress-free.
Finally, given a culture of mutual respect, and an ingrained social-contract which places a strong sense of reciprocal trust/responsibility among its citizens, my life here feels very safe—I’ve never feared being robbed or attacked—an unfortunately scarce description of a capital city in the 21st century.
What aspect of Luxembourg would you miss if you had to leave tomorrow?
It’s multi-cultural character. It is not only borne from the influx of professional immigrants, but also very much fostered from an early age through the education system, making it an inherent part of its cultural fabric. As all children attending the public school system in Luxembourg learn Luxemburgish, French and German, and many in addition also learn English. Conversations for me often begin in French, but quickly turn to English, and sometimes surprisingly enough Spanish—both of which I consider my native-tongues. But, it is amazing to be in a context under which is so easy to spark a conversation.
Tell us what is your preferred district in Luxembourg and why?
I very much enjoy our own neighborhood, Limpertsberg, as it has a nice mix of restaurants. Porta Nova, our favorite family restaurant. Seppl where they serve amazing burgers with a nice selection of German beers. Happ, a Scandinavian eco-friendly spot.
I like the easy access to a large park, public tennis courts and the library of the University of Luxembourg, for some quiet reading. It is also convenient to have a Cactus grocery store in the neighborhood opened from 8am – 1pm on Sundays. The public bus system is also readily accessible throughout the district.
Do you go often out to eat and if yes what is your favourite type of cuisine?
We go out to eat often. We really like Come Prima in Centre ville or Notaro in the Grund when it’s just my husband and I going for a date. Otherwise, we take any of the nice neighborhood restaurants around us.
Can you give me one word in your language which is impossible to translate into other languages?
The word is “friolento” which means to be highly sensitized to low temperatures and a tendency to easily feel cold.
For which reason have you decided to join the JUST ARRIVED Ambassadors club?
I strongly believe in the power of the community, and that to change the world you have to begin in your neighborhood. Considering the small-scale of Luxembourg, it is not far-stretched to call the other members my neighbors. Also, the shared experience of having just arrived makes my transition feel more commonplace, a bit more normal, so that in understanding the difficulty and discomfort of settling-in as felt by others. I am reassured.
Additionally, meeting those who have been here longer, gives me hope that I will also reach a point of feeling settled, and being able to call Luxembourg “home.”
As such, I deeply appreciate how this community offers a positive connection to other expats, who may experience Luxembourg through their own unique lens of culture and origin, but in that also share the common experience of being new here.
The sharing assuages some of the discomfort beyond the psychological process of settling-in, by providing practical tips and a survival guide on how to cope with the particularities of Luxembourg. Additionally, it provides a channel for sharing the few things I have experienced and enjoyed, in the hopes of making the arrivals of those to come a little bit easier.
As a contributing member of the social fabric of the Luxemburgish community, which is 47% international, I also begin to feel more Luxembourgish.