As a trailing spouse without kids, it wasn’t easy for US national Will Bakkerto find like-minded people in Luxembourg
Photo: Matic Zorman
For Will Bakker, coming to Luxembourg in 2009 was his second try at expat life.
Before Luxembourg, he and his wife, Anita, had lived in Dublin, where he hung out in local pubs to make friends. “For about five months, I had a ball. But after that, there’s nothing to show up to. Nothing depended on me.” The Chicago-land native saw Luxembourg as a second chance to get it right.
Not having kids made it more challenging to meet people, he says, but he wasn’t going to give up and threw himself into clubs and associations. They didn’t all pan out--for example the language sometimes posed a challenge.
But it didn’t matter because he found like-minded people through organisations like Democrats Abroad and the American Women’s Club, where he tried to set up a men’s section. He even began to meet Luxembourgers. “I find a lot of people say that Luxembourgers aren’t warm. I find them to be very warm, but that’s in part because I’m coming from a direction where I’m expected: I already know a family member,” he says.
This connection has paid off--Bakker now gets insider tips and advice from his Luxembourger friends and he says feels part of a community, whether spending time with Luxembourgers or a multicultural mix of friends.
Today, Bakker and his wife live in Luxembourg City, which he says is one of the rare cities in which you can enjoy a pleasant walk to work. “That makes a massive difference in your sanity and also in how you are part of the environment, how much you see your neighbours and get to know your neighbourhood.”
Bakker now splits his time volunteering with Democrats Abroad and working as an advisor to young Luxembourgers on higher education options in the US.
“I wind up speaking to lots of Luxembourgers and their families, it makes me feel I live here and am getting to know the place more. It’s also a push to improve my French and do better in Luxembourgish,” he says.
Bakker is now learning Luxembourgish seriously, after attempting and giving up a few years ago. He says that he regrets not being more disciplined the first time around, when he had more time to focus.
One thing Bakker observes among some newcomers is that they seem reluctant to accept help. “Maybe they want to figure it out themselves… But it’s very hard to do it on your own because a lot of the things that make Luxembourg great you hear about purely through word of mouth.”
Bakker understands people’s hesitation. He too was wary of being drawn into the expat bubble. But he urges newcomers to reach out with questions and to persist in meeting as many new people as possible.
“Often, the way to do that is to find a common interest, even if it’s just temporary and then make that personal connection.” Inviting people over for food or drinks, he adds, is a common way to get to know people better.
And, if you are invited to someone else’s home, don’t forget to “bring a bottle of wine”. “That was new to me.”