5 to 10. 10 to 20. 20 to life. If those numbers make you shiver a bit, they should. That’s prison talk for the amount of time someone will spend behind bars. It’s also somewhat reminiscent of the way Luxembourg’s expats sometimes speak when describing how long they have been here.
„We came for three but have been here for more than ten.”
They might emphasize this with a slight snicker, a shake of their head, or a shrug of their shoulders. If they were in a movie, their next line surely would be, „I never thought it would come to this“. But it has. And we are here.
Many likely started with a short-term contract, a trial period. Note the word, “trial”. If successful (read convicted) a contract is granted, one of four prison sentences in disguise.
Those foreigners who are here in Luxembourg on a determinate sentence are here for a fixed time. Maybe their contract states that. Maybe their spouse states that. Whatever the case, they will have to leave The Grand Duchy at some point, thereby negating their chance to come for the salary, but stay for the retirement package. Of course, like a judge in a determinate prison sentence, their boss could reconsider their contract. These expats then determine their next move.
This seems to be the type of sentencing many expats feel they have received. They don’t know how long they will stay. At first it was a few years, then it was a few more, and a few more suddenly turned into double digits. Once they do their first stint of hard time, possibly to secure a basic retirement package, they are ready to commit to more years of toil. They’re always threatening to leave but nothing even remotely close to similar circumstances comes along.
Some people actually do get a prison furlough. Consider it a sabbatical or leave of absence. They leave Luxembourg, but they aren’t quite ready to completely cut the purse strings. We did that but then came back and here we still are three years later.To be sure, there are those who threaten to leave Luxembourg for good, and they actually do. However, most who depart continue to wear an ankle monitor, some sort of reassurance that they can return to their job if they want.
The psychological effect of spending one’s life here is much too much for almost every foreigner to wrap their head around. Instead, they cling to the roots of their further fading past or latch on to a future retirement someplace more appealing. All the while, they are making scratch marks in the walls of their time here. My wife and I for the moment are over that hump. Great salary, great benefits, good doctors and services, good restaurants and culture, minimal traffic, low stress, and decent connections to the rest of Europe and the world are a few reasons why.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been convicted of a crime we didn’t commit. That’s because there’s no crime in living here, and it’s certainly not a felony to like living here. Thus, there’s no need to feel guilt or shame, regret or remorse; no need to look off into the distance, out toward the border as if it is a fence or wall, lamenting the mounting number of years in The Grand Duchy.
A friend of mine likes to say that nobody migrates downward. That might be the real reason why so many of us wind up staying here for longer than we once expected. All things considered, it would be hard to emigrate to someplace better than this. One might consider a temporary release, but few are prepared to make an all-out jailbreak. Those who try come to realize it’s not better on the outside.
Suffice it to say, living in Luxembourg gives a whole new meaning to maximum security.
By Dan Franch, May 2013