Where can I play football? Who do I get my tax card from? Why do all Luxembourgers speak three languages? Which of these should I learn first? Luiza Sosna only had a twenty two month head start to find the answers to these questions. The 30-year-old Pole only moved from Kiel to Luxembourg with her husband in May 2007. The country's first representative for integration has been answering the questions of other newcomers since February.
Luiza greets the new arrivals in her office in Strassen town hall. Firstly with a welcoming smile. Then with the emergency guidebook, which explains over 49 pages everyday life in Strassen. And always with a sympathetic ear. There isn't a lack of immigrants in the district, which lies on the arterial road between the financial centre Luxembourg town and the motorway to Belgium. 2, 000 bankers, accountants, EU-employees and others, mainly young Europeans and Americans, have moved into the district in the last two years. At the moment 7, 300 inhabitants with 93 different nationalities are registered in Strassen. In about five years, that number will be 8, 000. The growth corresponds with the country's average.
Integration has become a challenge for mayer Gaston Greiveldinger. 'In the clubs and at events you always come across the same 200 or 300 faces,' he says and is probably think about those who lived in Strassen when it was still a village and didn't stretch to the edge of Luxembourg city. The newcomers, Luxembourgers from other parts of the country and non-Luxumbourgers, who at 54% are in the majority, should 'feel at ease'.
As a result Luiza has christened the pilot project, which is partly funded by the ministry for family affairs, 'Together better'. It draws on a theory that she worked out during the course of her studies: all those who integrate themselves into a new society follow a similar scheme, according to this theory. This pattern has its problems. At first everything is new and exciting; there is a lot to discover. But in the darned seventh month at the latest the initial euphoria comes to an end. The culture shock hits. The newcomer feels foreign, wants some space, looks for his own. According to Luiza there is only one cure for this depressed phase: 'Leave the house and get involved. And it's exactly this that we want to arrange, so that this phase doesn't last forever.'
A common marathon team, parties where people can get to know each other and information events are not the only medicines on Luiza's prescription. She is thinking of inviting people to intercultural training, where she will first of all explain her idea. 'I want to explain that it's quite normal not to be perfectly integrated straight away when you move to a new country or even just a new town,' she says.
There's Luxembourgian too
She knows this best herself. Her scheme emerged when she came to Germany to study years ago and wondered why her 'land of dreams' depressed her some much. With her second integration she went into the thick of things immediately. Although she still speaks no Luxembourgian and little French, she had hardly arrived when she grounded a theatre group with fellow Polish nationals.
Because of this, mayor Gaston Greiveldinger's representative for integration also serves him as an example of integration. 'It isn't at all about the idea that the people who come here should immediately become Luxembourgers and adapt to our culture. They should find something which they enjoy and which enriches Strassen,' he says and adds grinning, 'And if they at some point start to feel at home, it's never to late to consider a course in Luxembourgian.'
Discover more from Luxembourg with our new local team in their blog Babel de Lux