Luxembourg? That’s just a city with lots of banks right? Surprisingly that view still holds in the eyes of many. If you are moving to Luxembourg it is worth noting it’s small size, but like any other country it has a capital and yes other cities, towns and villages too! If you are moving here you can decide on city, town or country living. The capital Luxembourg is like a mini-version of any other main city being full of shops, bars and nice cafes. Other cities worth checking out are Esch, Bettembourg and Diekirch. If you fancy a more rural life style the North of Luxembourg city offers some stunning countryside and the South-West some nice farming towns and villiages. This article will focus on the tips which are based mainly on experience rather than rules.
Here are some tips and advice if you are moving here:
- Luxembourg city is small enough to get around in using public transport, you can easily get from one side to the other in under 30 minutes by bus. Travel cards are €25/€45 per month for city only or national and cover all buses and local trains.
- You must register at the local commune within 7-days of arriving
- Luxembourg is small and news travels very fast. As a result reputation is everything this “trust” aspect is also reflected in how banks operate.
- Food is certainly more expensive than Germany, France or Belgium. Comparing it to Bonn where I lived before you can add 20% or more to anything except coffee, wine and certain other items.
- You will hear Luxembourgish, French, German and Portuguese and no doubt many other languages too. English is also quite widely spoken.
- The natives I personally know prefer to speak Luxembourgish (naturally), as a second choice it seems they prefer German over French. For the rest of the population it probably varies quite widely.
- Most Government documents are in French and German, although increasingly English is available as well.
- So far most contracts I have seen have originally been in French with an English translation. However, on my bank documents atleast they clearly state the French version is the one that stands in the case of a legal dispute.
- French is most widely used in shops, bars and restaurants.
- While you can probably survive with English although a basic knowledge of French or German makes life much easier.
- The country is extremely international.
Luxembourg is famed for it’s banking and rightfully so. If you are coming from the UK where the concept of service in banks was abolished by people such as (the artist formerly known as Sir) Fred Goodwin then be prepared for a surprise. In general opening an account is a quick and friendly experience and standards of service are high. Unlike in the UK you usually have to pay for a bank account although both post and ING offer free current accounts; the latter if you bank online only. Here are some banking tips:
- Set up your bank account before you arrive, this is easily done and BGL BNP Paribas offer this service, others such as BIL and BCEE may do so as well. BCEE is one of the safest banks in the world. If you do not do this then organising your salary payments or even renting an apartment can become more difficult.
- The larger banks such as BCEE, BIL and BGL have extensive cash machine networks throughout the country. Smaller ones such as ING do not, which means you end up paying if you have to use another banks ATM. Although some accounts offer a set number of free withdrawls across the EU in the basic package.
- If you are prepared to wait until you arrive in Luxembourg and want free banking then ING and Post are perhaps viable options.
- You can survive easily with a Euro account from banks in other countries but sometimes certain things can only be set up or based on Luxembourg accounts. For example rental bonds or direct debits for local companies.
- Setting up an account and credit cards can be done quickly and easily, credit scoring etc is increasingly being used but not to the same degree as in many other countries.
- Credit cards are paid back in full at the end of each month unless you agree another plan with the bank. There is no interest to pay if the account is settled within a few days at the start of the following month.
- If you require basic banking services only then Luxembourg Post Offer a good and quick set up service which is free. The service is however basic, it’s really an account and that is all.
If you are likely to be moving frequently between different countries, as I was for a while. Then in the longer term an international provider such as American Express (AMEX) may be a good idea. While they are often not good value for money they do allow you to bring your credit profile (and credit limit) with you between countries; even if you physically end up changing the registration country and card. Amex is not as widely accepted in Luxembourg but is in all major supermarkets and many shops. They have the advantage (unlike if you keep the card account in your home country) that you can pay directly from your Luxembourg account thus avoiding the need to remember to wire or send the cash to another country.
Renting a Property
If you moving to the city then be prepared to experience high rents; although if you are coming from London they will appear cheap. A few tips on flat hunting:
- The main website is: www.athome.lu
- Try to look for a rental agency which is smaller and does not have hundreds of apartments. In general their standard of service is higher. I can personally recommend Bricks and Sylvie Becker – so far anyway!
- You will most likely need one months rent for the agency fee plus two months deposit. You can avoid paying in advance for the latter with a deposit bond or bank guarantee, these are sometimes offered for free when you open a bank account, otherwise expect to pay a fee per month plus an initial fee. A bank guarantee from a foreign bank is not usually accepted.
- The magic rental number if you are living in the city is €1000 per month, below this the size of the apartment drops and the cost per square meter is extremely high. Studio apartments are around €800 p/m for anything from 20-40 m2.
- A room in the city will set you back €600 per month or more. The university however does offer cheaper student accommodation.
- If you want more for your money check out Bonnevoie a “working class” neighbourhood which is nothing like it sounds. Pleasant, near the railway station and with shops etc.
- Parking is available in the street for free in some zones if you are a resident there, otherwise you can pay up to €200 per month in addition to your rent for a space.
- Look out for the communal charges which are added to your rent, these can include as little or as much as the owner likes and vary quite significantly. Always ask specifically what it includes.
Like anywhere con artists and bad service are problems in the rental sector, common problems include:
- The same apartment advertised by many agencies, not always a scam but it makes it very hard to even find out if the property exists at that agency or is still available.
- Agents will sometimes not turn up and will often not even not even bother to call you to say the apartment has gone or that they are not coming.
- Never, I repeat NEVER pay for any of the charges, fees or deposits in cash or via services such as Western Union. Always insist that all fees are paid or assigned to a bank account registered in Luxembourg.
- It is possible to rent apartments without resorting to agency fees but frankly this is more difficult and can be more risky. Although this risk can be avoided if you are moving in and already know the people from before. In general though trust your instincts.
- I am not sure if it is a legal requirement but many larger agencies try to bend the rules. Insist on the full name, real address and telephone number of the property owner. Many agencies refuse to provide the latter as a way of preventing you from getting help if something goes wrong.
- Many agencies are unresponsive, they do not answer emails even if they list that as an option. A phone call is always best, it is worth noting that some agents cannot speak English or even German.
- Even if a property is via an agency it is often the case that only one person deals with that property. If they are on holiday expect absolutely no service from that agency when it comes to viewings or help.
- You can ask for a “clause diplomatique” to be inserted into your rental contract. This means that if you have to move out of the country for work then you can cancel the agreement with three months notice. The agent will however query why you have asked for this if you have a local employer so it can be a black mark.
- Most contracts are for one year with automatic annual extensions there after, although the owner can ask you to leave if they intend to move into the property themselves.
- Property moves quickly so you do not normally get more than a couple of days to decide. However, there is usually a reasonable supply of property so don’t panic if you miss out.
- A good agent and landlord will “decide” if you are the right person to rent their property. This is also the case in many other countries, so do expect to be asked to provide documents e.g proof of employment. If they ask for nothing then I personally would be a little suspicious.
- Agents should not ask for fees to view or express an interest in an apartment. The only agency fee you should pay is when you agree to rent the apartment.
- Try to put yourself in the owners shoes and keep your proposition simple. They generally prefer an individual renting a property to two friends being on the lease as the latter shows no one person can perhaps afford the property; a problem if one moves out. Sub-letting is however in general forbidden.
- If possible pay the two months deposit/caution using the bank guarantee system or some form of held deposit at a bank. This makes it harder for the agent or owner to run off with your money.
- Outside of Luxembourg the prices fall quite a bit and you can get some excellent deals on larger houses in the North etc.
Telecoms and Internet
Luxembourg in general has a very good Internet infrastructure and DSL and it’s variants are widely available. Increasingly high speed Fibre is also available. In all cases check though as you may be surprised as to what is or is not available. There are a number of providers in Luxembourg that can offer a range of individual or combined mobile, fixed and Internet packages.
- P&T, Orange, Numericable and Tango; all provide packages or compotents, some include Internet TV as well.
- There are also Internet providers such as Luxembourg Online and Visual Online. Visual online offer IP telephony doing away with the need for landline.
- Luxgsm is the mobile part of P&T and some tariffs are included in their Integral all-in-one package
P&T are generally the more expensive but the upside is their customer service is generally very good; I have been with them so far and to date all has been good. I have also heard things about Visual Online in that respect who are regarded as having probably the best technical support desk of all ISPs in Luxembourg. Tango have an increasingly better reputation but it is patchy; in contrast I have heard only bad things about Numericable (previously Coditel). In general it can take anything up to two months to get the installation engineer to pay you a visit with most providers; although around 3-4 weeks is more normal. In extreme cases I have heard of it taking months. As soon as you know your address and when you are free to have an engineer appointment book one with your provider, or you may end up waiting a while.
The End Game
Another quick tip, Luxembourg has a very high throughput of foreigners. This means there are all manner of clubs and societies to join. These can really help you integrate if you are new and moving here alone.
I hope this has helped you a little and I will update this article based on my own experiences of living here. I will also add other cultural articles etc over time. For information on the formal aspects of living here check out AngloInfo
Finally you will all be pleased to hear that Guinness is widely available, even if it is somewhat pricey.
The author has lived in: The UK, Luxembourg, Germany, Sweden and New Zealand.