Expat Kid: Return to Luxembourg

Returning to visit Luxembourg after a year abroad is like slipping into your favourite winter coat after a long summer. It’s the reassuring handshake with a good friend you haven’t seen in years. The happy clink of beer glasses outside of Scott’s Pub.

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View of Luxembourg City with EU buildings in the background

This wasn’t always the case: growing up as an expat kid in Luxembourg you know you’re not from there. Even if you learn the language and make local friends, you’re definitely from somewhere else. With an Irish family and Irish passport, I was clearly from Ireland. Trips back ‘home’ to visit relatives at Christmas confirmed this.

My friends at the European School of Luxembourg seemed to feel the same. Introductions to new students dissolved into competitions to see who was from the most places, swiftly followed by checking who spoke the most languages. Rare was the school holiday when you and your friends stayed in Luxembourg at the same time. None of us really belonged there, which is probably why we got on so well.

It got weird when I left Luxembourg to study in the UK: “I’m from Ireland, but lived in Luxembourg and study here,” became my standard introduction. Sure, university was packed with students from abroad but it’s different when you grew up as an expat kid to begin with. Your world is flipped on its head when you have to explain to someone how you’re from somewhere you spent less time living than in Luxembourg. I identify strongly as a European, but that doesn’t help when someone wants to know what country you’re from.

Frequent trips back to Luxembourg, to see family and friends, now felt like trips home. Yet…the coat didn’t quite fit, friends had changed in unexpected ways and I felt way too old in all my favourite bars. The beer was, thankfully, still good.

After graduation I returned to spend a year working in Luxembourg. More independance (and money) allowed me to to become more familiar with the country I had grown up in. New friends, new favourite places and good times followed. Surrounded by expats at work, many of them new to Luxembourg, it was once again easy to be from somewhere else…even if they saw me as a ‘local’ expat. 

I moved away again, this time to work in Ireland for a year. Somehow my Irish passport now feels more justified and, after a full year away, I finally feel completely at home when I visit Luxembourg. Partly this is just coming to terms with growing up, learning how to fit childhood relationships into an adult world. But I guess I needed to escape the Luxembourg bubble long enough to realise Luxembourg itself will always be a home to me, wherever I roam. I’m from Ireland, but I’m most definitely also from Luxembourg.

Little there has changed. A few restaurants and shops have closed down, a few more have opened. A temporary bridge has been installed alongside the Pont Adolphe. Luxembourg’s villages are still sleepy, except on Sundays when they don’t even wake up. Jean Claude Juncker is no longer Prime Minister; he’s now President of the EU Commission. My parents’ house still doesn’t have high speed broadband. Life goes on in Luxembourg.

Comfortable, instantly familiar and somehow reassuring. I think I’ll keep that coat. It’s not that bad really. And the beer is always good.

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Field near my village over the year I was working in Luxembourg

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