Karim, how long have you been in Luxembourg?
My husband, son and I arrived in Luxembourg over a year ago on December 29th, nearly on the eve of the new year, ready for a fresh start in the heart of Europe.
What reason took you to Luxembourg?
Our family moved to Luxembourg in support of my husband’s career move, which additionally also brought us all much closer to his family in Germany. In making this decision, we also considered Luxembourg’s safe and secure environment as a bit of a safe-haven for our teenage son (and us!) to survive his adolescent years.
What studies did you do and what is your main activity?
I completed a BA in International Affairs from George Washington University, in Washington DC in 1996, as well as an MA in Geography which focused on Urban Development, a joint program between King’s College and SOAS in London (2005). We were last residing in Washington DC, where I worked as a Business Solutions Officer at the World Bank (2013-2015), supporting the institutional change of its IT platform to a more interactive socially-centered system—a critical pillar of a broader strategy to institute culture-change, in support of greater knowledge-sharing and transparency. Prior to this work (2010-2013), I was co-administering the Scholarships Program of the World Bank, which provides scholarships for master-level studies to nationals of developing countries, who commit to bring their increased knowledge and technical skills back to their home nations.
Can you give me 3 adjectives to describe your life in Luxemburg?
In function of the city’s relatively small size, my life in Luxembourg is much calmer. Thanks to its great busing system, and our quick access to four bus lines which are located just a block and a half from our apartment, our ability to get around the city is “an easy ride” and stress-free. Finally, given a culture of mutual respect, and an ingrained social-contract which places a strong sense of reciprocal trust/responsibility among its citizens, my life here feels very safe—I’ve never feared being robbed or attacked---an unfortunately scarce description of a capital city in the 21st century.
What aspect of Luxembourg would you miss if you had to leave tomorrow?
It’s multi-cultural character—which is not only borne from the influx of professional immigrants, but also very much fostered from an early age through the education system, making it an inherent part of its cultural fabric. As all children attending the public school system in Luxembourg learn Luxemburgish, French and German, and many in addition also learn English. Conversations for me often begin in French, but quickly turn to English, and sometimes surprisingly enough Spanish—both of which I consider my native-tongues. But, it is amazing to be in a context under which is so easy to spark a conversation.
What is your favourite district in Luxemburg?
I very much enjoy our own neighborhood, Limpertsberg, as it has a nice mix of restaurants, including—Porta Nova, our favorite family restaurant, as well as Seppl where they serve amazing burgers with a nice selection of German beers, and Happ, a Scandinavian eco-friendly spot—and easy access to a large park, public tennis courts and the library of the University of Luxembourg, for some quiet reading. It is also convenient to have a Cactus grocery store in the neighborhood opened from 8am – 1pm on Sundays and the public bus system which is readily accessible throughout the district.
Can you give me an example of a word in your mother tongue that is difficult to translate in another language?
The word is “friolento” which means to be highly sensitized to low temperatures and a tendency to easily feel cold.
For which reason you have decided to join the JUST ARRIVED Ambassador Club?
I strongly believe in the power of the community, and that to change the world you have to begin in your neighborhood—considering the small-scale of Luxembourg, it is not far-stretched to call the other members my neighbors. Also, the shared experience of having just arrived makes my transition feel more commonplace, a bit more normal, so that in understanding the difficulty and discomfort of settling-in as felt by others--I am reassured. Additionally, meeting those who have been here longer, gives me hope that I will also reach a point of feeling settled, and being able to call Luxembourg “home.” As such, I deeply appreciate how this community offers a positive connection to other expats, who may experience Luxembourg through their own unique lens of culture and origin, but in that also share the common experience of being new here. The sharing assuages some of the discomfort beyond the psychological process of settling-in, by providing practical tips and a survival guide on how to cope with the particularities of Luxembourg. Additionally, it provides a channel for sharing the few things I have experienced and enjoyed, in the hopes of making the arrivals of those to come a little bit easier. As a contributing member of the social fabric of the Luxemburgish community, which is 43% international, I also begin to feel more Luxembourgish.
IF YOU WERE A …..
If you were a power, what would you be?
Aquatic-versatility---the possibility to live in water, as well as on land, very much like a human amphibian. As I love snorkeling, and I think that the ocean offers a whole new world, which continues to remain undiscovered, one which I would love to explore from within.
If you were a book, which genre would you be?
I would be magical realism, as I deeply feel to have been living through a really good story and I am awaiting an ending with poetic justice.
If you were a season what would you be?
Summer in the tropics—lush, unpredictable storms, and with a lot yet to be discovered.
If you were a spice what would you be?
Aji Amarillo (a very hot pepper native to northern Peru), which is quite spicy and a key ingredient to the ceviche from Sullana, my home-town, in northern Peru.
If you were a pair of shoes what would you be?
Flip-flops—the closest thing to being barefoot, and are by their nature quite open like me. They are the most uncomplicated shoes, and can easily and spontaneously be put on and taken off.