Sunday, March 4, 2012

AN DE SPIEGEL KUCKEN! (Mirror, mirror on the wall ..)

According to an article in Luxemburger Wort: A number of people expressed the view that Luxembourg was too small to be attractive, meanwhile conservative, provincial and bourgeois were among the damning descriptions attached to the country. Indeed, in total 82% of respondents said that Luxembourg suffered from a flawed perception, which it needed to rectify.

Does Luxembourg need an image consultant or is this just a case of a poll given inflated prominence?

As an insider/outsider (Luxembourg native and a US citizen) and someone that has conducted business in many countries, I have a different take on this.

Too small to be attractive? True, we don’t enjoy the same name recognition on an international level as Singapore or Dubai; in fact many people in the US (and other parts in the world) have no idea that Luxembourg is an independent sovereign state. Some confuse it with Liechtenstein or worse think it is a city in Germany or Belgium. Not many Americans could point to Luxembourg on a map.

Luxembourg - Pont Adolphe - courtesy
There is no denying that Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in the world; much smaller than most US States (approx the size of Rhode Island) but that has not stopped us from becoming an key international financial center. There is also no denying that we live a fine life in Luxembourg, far finer than most people on earth. Our GDP (per capita) makes us the second richest country in the world. Things could be worse.

Are Luxembourgers labeled conservative in regards to politics, religion, morality or society? The Wort article does not specify. Since Luxembourg is a secular state and a Constitutional Monarchy under the system of Parliamentary Democracy, the poll probably refers to social conservatism. It is a fact that Luxembourg does not have the funky liberal flair of California or the free spiritedness of a Latin culture but neither does Russia (the recent anti gay legislation in Moscow comes to mind) nor does Japan, a culturally homogenous and vastly conformist nation.

Luxembourg, seat of  European Court of Justice and host to various EU institutions has a distinct international flavor. Its population is cosmopolitan, multi-lingual and multi-cultural. We have a first-rate education system and a literacy rate of 100 percent. Our children are tri-lingual by the age of 15 switching effortlessly between the languages in comparison to other countries where kids are seldom encouraged to become fluent in any other language. Luxembourg also has an open-minded and foreigner-friendly attitude (one third are nationals of other countries).

As for being called bourgeoisIs Luxembourg Europe’s most trendsetting or fashionable place? Surely not, but Luxembourg is a country where small works. It is quaint, green and picturesque, it is safe (regularly named THE safest place in the world), offers its citizens an elaborate social safety net and it might just be one of the only places left where you can raise a family and live the proverbial “white picket fence” dream. Given the current global economic malaise and the unstable political climate in many parts of the world, I would venture to say that many people would gladly trade places with us.

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