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Posted Februar 2019

Lëtzebuerg: a grousst Béierland*

Beer in Luxembourg│Perhaps the Grand Duchy is a case in point. You cannot be a multicultural society, neatly split into ‘somewheres’ and global ‘anywheres’, and still expect the two tribes to share a taste for local beers. Caught between rising beer imports and declining consumption Luxembourg’s brewers have suffered under consolidation and rationalisation until there were only three left. But there is a silver lining. Proliferating microbreweries may yet herald in a renaissance of domestic beer brands.

For some reason, Luxembourg has become the butt of jokes. Not enough that people from outside Europe have a habit of confusing Luxembourg and Liechtenstein because they are both so little, plenty of overseas tourists would not even notice that they are crossing Luxembourg on their way from Belgium to Germany, were it not for its killer traffic jams which grind the country to a halt for most part of the day. Luxembourg may be a small, landlocked country in western Europe, with a length of 82 km north-south and a width of 57 km east-west, sharing borders with France, Germany and Belgium. But it is not as tiny as Liechtenstein, a mountain hamlet of some 38,000 people, lodged between Austria and Switzerland. In comparison Luxembourg is big – so big that you can easily fit a handful of Europe’s microstates, namely Liechtenstein, Andorra, Malta, San Marino, Monaco, and Vatican City within its borders and you will still have much room to spare.

Luxembourg and its population of 602,000 people could be considered a posterchild for the EU. Open-bordered, open-minded, open-handed, it is a peaceful, safe, and prosperous country. Extolling its virtues on Reddit, one wrote that its food is pretty good and the capital city a beautiful place. The verdict: in general, it is a very nice place to live in, to which one replied (and you could sense the sarcasm dripping from between the lines) that apart from the capital (population: 114,000) and a few scattered towns, Luxembourg is a whole lot of fields and forests. Meaning: it can be pretty boring.

Getting in and out of Luxembourg is a breeze. There are no border controls, thanks to its being part of the Schengen Agreement. Signed in 1985, it led most of the European countries towards abolishing their national borders and building the “Schengen Area”. It is named after the Luxembourg village of Schengen (population: 700), where the territories of France, Germany and Luxembourg meet. Overseas visitors can be forgiven their ignorance of Luxembourg. A local guidebook, which came out in 2017, pertly reminds us that one of the early signatories of the Schengen Agreement, France’s President Francois Mitterrand, mistakenly thought it was a village in the Netherlands. Fortunately, his driver knew better

Despite its size, or perhaps because of it, many EU institutions are based in Luxembourg, most notably the European Court of Justice. The current President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, is a Luxembourger too. That plenty of Luxembourgers have held high posts in Europe may have been by default. When the big member states could not agree on a candidate, they chose one from the smaller countries.

Luxembourgers also distinguish themselves by their knack for languages. Unselfconsciously, in their daily conversations, they switch from French to German to Lëtzebuergesch, a Mosel-Frankish variety of western Middle High German, according to linguists. The three are the country’s official languages. Actually, you might be able to get by just speaking Portuguese. Portuguese immigrants, including Cap Verdeans, represent the largest immigrant community, numbering about 100,000 people. They began arriving in the 1960s as so-called “guest workers” when Portugal was still under military dictatorship, and an economic downturn forced many young Portuguese to emigrate.

Today, Luxembourg presents itself as a multicultural society. Nearly half of the population are foreign residents. In the capital this figure rises to 70 percent. Add to that about 180,000 daily commuters from Belgium, France and Germany, and you begin to understand why Luxembourg is larger than its borders suggest, more cosmopolitan and wealthier than its neighbours – but hardly reliable when it comes to authentic data. Incapable of mapping such a complex reality, its beer market data can only be called a joke.

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* Trans. Luxembourg: a great beer country



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