I attended a workshop last week at the Abbaye de Neumünster, which is in the Grund area of Luxembourg city. It’s a really lovely area, down in the Petrusse valley, and a short walk from my office. It’s hard to capture in pictures just how cool it is to be down there, standing in front of a 17th century building, walking around the winding streets, looking up at a sheer cliff face, trying to imagine what it looked like back then.
For some reason, while riding the bus back up after the workshop (walking down is easy, but getting back up is quite a hike!), I was suddenly struck by how very foreign Luxembourg still feels to me, even after working there for almost two and a half years. I only ever really see the little stretch of streets between my office and the train station, and I only go to the city center occasionally (the last time was with my parents in September). So it’s easy to forget where I am most days, when working in a building built less than 20 years ago, surrounded by McDonald’s and Sephora.
Luxembourg in general still seems like a foreign country, despite going there every other week for the past seven years to get gas (my mother-in-law lives a kilometer from the border). The colorful houses, the supermarkets, the bus stops . . . I just can’t seem to get used to it. The roadsigns are even a little different. It’s very unsettling to live so close to a country, to work there every weekday, and yet still be surprised by the foreignness of it.
Maybe part of it is the language. Hearing Luxembourgish instead of French while pumping gas means I can’t chalk up the unusual architecture or funny street names to a regional difference, the way I can when visiting the rest of France. Once when I was lost, I could not find anyone who spoke French to help me. So not understanding/being understood certainly adds to the overall foreign experience.
To have such beautiful and historic sites so close by, yet to never have the time visit them, is one of the sad realities of living abroad long-term. Once warmer weather arrives, I’ll be able to explore more during my lunch breaks. And maybe for one of our date nights we can go out in the city center. My mother-in-law took a trip to the northern part of the country and said it was really gorgeous, so that would be nice for a weekend away. I don’t know if Luxembourg will ever stop feeling totally foreign, but hopefully seeing more of it will help (and maybe cracking open one of the many “learn Luxembourgish” books we have lying around . . .)