Customs and Etiquette in Luxembourg

September 1st, 2013

Luxembourgers value politeness and reserve and expect a certain amount of deference and ritual in their personal interactions.

When you travel and do a lot of research on cultures and societies (as I do for my translation services work, because language is always informed by the culture and people that speak it) you come to realise that entire countries can have a personality.

That’s not to say that you can paint every citizen of a country with the same brush or that people are exactly like the general caricature of their ethnicity or national identity, but you can always make some general statements about a population which will prove to be true enough, especially if your contact with the people in question will be superficial, such as during a tourist visit. For example, I can say this about the people of Luxembourg: They’ll seem cold and unamused at first, and then suddenly become the most warm and cheerful people you’ll ever meet.

Customs in Luxembourg

In daily life, Luxembourgers start off a bit reserved. The common greeting if you don’t know each other very well is a simple, brief handshake, and they much prefer you get to your point. They also consider using someone’s honorific or titles (‛doctor,’ for example) is an absolute must for politeness. You’re expected to wait until specifically invited before using someone’s first name, otherwise you’re being rude, and until you’re comfortable you should always use the formal vous instead of the informal tu.

Etiquette in Luxembourg

If you’re invited to tea in Luxembourg, it’s a formal occasion. Bring a gift for your hostess and dress appropriately – they take visits to the home very seriously in Luxembourg. Flowers are a nice gift, but make sure they are in odd numbers except for 13, which is considered unlucky. I would, in fact, rely totally on your local florist in Luxembourg for advice on the type and quantity of flowers to give.

Dining with others is usually a formal experience with a lot of pomp. If you’re the guest, you’ll be shown to an assigned seat at the table, usually near your host. You’ll be expected to at least taste everything, and asking for a second helping is considered simple politeness – if you fail to do so you will insult your host. There’s also a tradition of toasting at dinners – your host will toast you, and you’ll be expected to toast them back.

You’ll encounter a lot of English in Luxembourg – it’s a well-educated and cosmopolitan place. But demanding to speak English or speaking very quickly will be considered rude – struggle in French or Luxembourgish until you are invited to speak English, and then keep your sentences simple.

Above all, Luxembourgers don’t like public displays of emotion, or aggressive behaviour. Subtlety and reserve is the best approach. Don’t be fooled – under the skin they are a very emotional and explosive people, but they don’t believe in public displays. If you lose your cool, you’ll get the cold shoulder!

Image courtesy gofugyourself.com

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