Culture of Van Luxemburg
The culture of Van Luxemburg is one that can be experienced as very diverse, throughout the different regions, but also as very uniform in some ways. Due to the position of Van Luxemburg in history as a neutral and non-imperial state, foreign influences may not be as evident to outsiders as in other nations. The nation is primarily known for what can best be described as a petrolhead culture.
Van Luxemburg has several regions, which all have a regional language. Currently, four languages have been identified as regional languages: German, Dutch, French and Italian. These regional languages are commonly spoken in everyday life, primarily in informal circles. For more formal use, the national language Vun Lëtzebuergesch should be spoken in politics, governmental service and education, among other locations. Therefore, most Van Luxemburgers are essentially bi-lingual.
In education, Vun Lëtzebuergesch is spoken in all courses required by the Ministry of Education, except for languages, where the language in question is spoken. When approached in Vun Lëtzebuergesch, no citizen will have problems engaging in a conversation, but when moving into a city or village, it is very much appreciated if an outsider learns the regional language. The only region which does not have an ‘official’ regional language, is Luxembourg, which is also often regarded as the most international of Van Luxemburger regions.
Even though Van Luxemburg has secularized over the last century, religion still has an influence on daily life. 31% of Van Luxemburger nationals are Catholic, a religion that has influence on daily life primarily in the southern regions. Protestantism makes up 15% of the religions, and is mainly popular in the northern regions. Immigrants have resulted in very small percentages of the population being Muslim (0.1%) or a member of other religions (0.5%). Nevertheless, a staggering 53.4% of the Van Luxemburger population is not religious. Research has indicated that mainly Protestantism has seen a reduction in followers.
However, the religious traditions can still be seen in the nation, as nearly every settlement has a chapel or church of some sort. Shops often remain closed on Sunday (even though regulation no longer specifically prohibits Sunday openings, there are certain limitations), and Van Luxemburgers often have off on common Christian holidays (Easter, Ascension day, Pentecost and Christmas, to name the most important days).
Van Luxemburger literature especially grew in popularity when the Transperret Republic was split from the Grand Duchy itself, allowing greater individual liberty and thus also complete freedom of speech. Prior to the Transperret republic, literature was often a fairly simple play, most of the time humorous, with a deeper meaning that often pointed out a social problem or a complaint against the government. After the Transperret Republic allowed complete freedom of speech, many books, theatrical plays and other pieces of literature were published, often with a critical note towards problems in Van Luxemburg or Maredoratica in its entirety.
In the twentieth century, not only critical books appeared, but also romantic stories were published and some of these are today considered literature by the experts in the field. These romantic stories however once again had a deeper meaning, argumenting equality and emancipation. After the Five Years’ War, modern literature also began to contain war stories and related writings, just as had happened in the nineteenth century after the unification of the Grand Duchy and the Transperret Republic.
Van Luxemburger architecture today can best be identified as classical or as historicism. While several skyscrapers have been built in major cities in the Grand Duchy, many city councils often prefer to build low-rise buildings that fit in well with the centuries-old architecture seen in many cities, towns and villages. This means that Van Luxemburgers also have extensive experience in the restoration and reconstruction of old buildings and the use of ancient building techniques, as opposed to knowledge regarding the construction of skyscrapers and supertalls, which is very rare to find.
In Van Luxemburg itself, many old constructions can be found, including palaces, castles, fortresses and fortified cities. Often, these buildings remain inhabited, or are used as office space or for a governmental service (the headquarters of the IVD, the national intelligence agency, are located in a castle in Veianen).
Architecture can vary per region, historically depending on the types of material available and the requirements for a building in terms of weather and other circumstances. Modern construction is often done with materials such as double-layer cemented brick walls, with isolation materials sandwiched in between. New construction technologies such as floor heating, highly efficient condensing boilers, double glazing and other energy efficient solution. Van Luxemburger companies have also developed specific technologies for the application of these solutions in older buildings.
Van Luxemburgers generally prefer to live in detached or at least semi-detached houses, meaning they have their own garden and, very important to a Van Luxemburger citizen, their own driveway, as well as a garage, preferably. These constructions are often found in newer neighborhoods, where owners are allowed to build according to their own plan (obeying to guidelines of the local city council), or buy a home that was built according to a set plan made by a project development firm. Often, these houses conform to the tastes of the Van Luxemburger population and are thus somewhat more classical, even though they are equipped with modern technology; solar panels are increasingly popular in these newly-built neighborhoods. Several other construction plans make use of modernist architecture, leading to a very diverse appearance of these neighborhoods.
Older houses, primarily in towns, often lack a driveway or garage. In some instances, this has been solved by constructing an underground garage or making use of a courtyard, if available, for parking cars. This is in line with the Van Luxemburger obsession of parking cars inside, preferably in heated storages, whenever possible. Newly-constructed houses also take into account the space necessary for the increasing amount of cars the average family owns.
As with many parts of Van Luxemburger culture and society, the cuisine of the nation differs per region, with the distinction between northern and southern regions being especially clear. In general, however, it can be said that the cuisine is very basic, having developed from agricultural dishes that were developed centuries ago. The tastes and complexity of dishes have gradually evolved, but many restaurants still serve old-fashioned, simple specialities from fresh, regional products.
As water was usually polluted several hundred years ago, cooking was usually done with the use of alcohol, such as beer and wine. Beer especially enjoys popularity in Sint-Annabeek, Enzersdorf and Weiningen, the remaining regions generally prefer to use wine for cooking their dishes. These dishes usually consist of large amounts of vegetables and small pieces of meat, traditionally, but due to the increased wealth in Van Luxemburg, this is often turned around, making for well-filled stews, often with regional products. Another popular part of Van Luxemburger cuisine is (red) meat or fish, grilled above a wood fire, often served with local salads or vegetables. The vegetables themselves often come with apple sauce, in order to sweeten the taste.
There are significant differences in seasoning found between the various regions. A general rule of thumb is that the further south one goes, more and stronger seasoning will be used in the regional cuisine. Especially in Arvaglio, the spicy Van Luxemburger olive is used is salads and in olive oil used to prepare dishes. This region was also the first to introduce the pizza to Van Luxemburg; nowadays, legislation protects the very basic Arvaglian pizza in such a way, that the dish may only be called ‘pizza’ if it has been prepared in a brick oven heated with indigenous woods (different areas use different types of woods and ingredients, leading to different names, e.g. Pizza Fiorenta). Imitations and other types of pizza are often called ‘pizzeta’.
For starters, soup and cold salads are very popular. Tomato soup and fish soup is often seen in southern regions, while asparagus soup and pea soup, for example, are popular in Sint-Annabeek and bordering regions. The cold salads are often made using various different ingredients, sometimes also using cold meat, actual cold cuts and fruits instead of vegetables.
In terms of desserts, northern regions tend to serve custard-like desserts and cakes, while ice cream and fruit salads are preferred in the more southern regions. In most situations, dinner is finished after the dessert with coffee specialities or fresh fruit juices. In general, it can be said that southerners make more work of their dinner, keeping to the starter-main course-dessert principle and tend to dine longer than average. Northerners often only take the main course and finish far quicker than their southern counterparts.
Coffee is more popular than tea, in general, but the coffee has often been amended with gratuitous amounts of milk, leading to several specialities, such as cappuccino or café au lait, being popular in Van Luxemburger culture. Van Luxemburgers have however no problems switching to fruit juices or sodas, often of the light variant nowadays. In terms of alcohol consumption, Van Luxemburgers primarily drink for enjoyment; particularly with wine. Often, alcohol is of the lighter variant (beer, wine), and is enjoyed during lunch or dinner, as well as later on in the evening. Spirits and other types of drinks containing more than 20% of alcohol are mainly used for special celebrations and in small amounts only. The age limit for these kinds of alcohol is 18 years; beer, wine and mix drinks can be bought from 16 years on.
Politics in the Grand Duchy of Van Luxemburg take place in a democratic constitutional monarchy, in which the parliament holds the majority of power. This parliament is a multi-party system, in which the parties will have to form coalitions in order to represent a majority of the parliament. The executive powers lay with the cabinet, which is led by a Premier, or prime minister, while the legislative powers are with the two chambers of parliament, with a secondary responsibility for the cabinet that forms the government. The judiciary is entirely independent of the former two powers.
Ever since the first cabinet in 1847, Van Luxemburg has seen the rise of what can be described as progressive centrism, especially in the last two decades. The most important party in this is the DCP, the Demokratesche Centrum Partéi, which has led the largest amount of governments in Van Luxemburger history. In general, most political parties are in favour of the automotive culture in Van Luxemburg and thus support any laws that reinforce this culture, while most parties also favour a social welfare system and public healthcare, even parties on the right side of the political scale.
In the last century, Van Luxemburg has been on the forefront of progressive politics, allowing abortion, euthanasia, gay and lesbian marriages and controlled prostitution. Nevertheless, a liberalized drug policy remains a hotly-debated item in Van Luxemburger politics. In recent years, Van Luxemburger politics have stressed their focus on international cooperation, while still remaining true to the original Van Luxemburger neutrality policies. Membership of important international military organizations such as ODECON are generally only favoured by far-right minority parties, such as the VLNP.
The first experimental television broadcast in Van Luxemburg took place in September 1949, funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Media. Only three years after the first television broadcasts, Radio Vun Lëtzebuerg (RVL) was renamed Radio Television Vun Lëtzebuerg (RTVL) in order to accommodate the first public TV channel. The second public TV channel followed in 1963, a third channel, an international radio/tv service and colour TV broadcasting in 1969. In 1976, the media market was liberalized and commercial radio and TV was allowed.
RTVL has a requirement by law to provide unbiased and fair information for the citizens of the Grand Duchy. An independent media commission is responsible for guaranteeing the unbiased information broadcasted by the public TV channels.
Newspapers remain of importance to the Van Luxemburger population. While internet, radio and television have reduced their popularity somewhat, the most important newspaper in Van Luxemburg, the objective Zeitong Mateneen, has a circulation of approximately 41 million. The left-wing ‘sensation-seeking’ Den Lëtzebuerger is the second newspaper, with a circulation of roughly 19 million.
The Grand Duchy has a public healthcare system that allows anyone access to their hospitals and doctors. Citizens living below a set minimum income will see their healthcare being funded by the government, while others have to pay an annual fee based on income, that will never exceed 1000 Florin per year. This medical insurance is required by law. Nevertheless, emergency medical service is always offered to any person in need of urgent medical care, including those who have no insurance, as well as foreigners, free of charge. Hospitals can however suffer from waiting times for less-urgent operations, and still face a severe shortage of donated organs, leading to long waiting lists for patients who require organs.
Ambulance services have a requirement by law to arrive within 10 minutes at the scene of an emergency, and are well-equipped and well-maintained vehicles operated by either governmental or private agencies. Requirements for ambulances and their crew are extremely harsh, asking for a high amount of training and professionalism. Paramedics in Van Luxemburg have been trained in such a way that they are able to perform a wide range of emergency medical care at the scene, including the use of manual defibrillators and intubation practices, even though in severe medical emergencies, such as a resuscitation attempt, an emergency physician is called up as a separate unit (Notarzt or Rapid Responder). When the transfer to a hospital is especially urgent, Van Luxemburg has a strategical network of mobile medical teams, air ambulance helicopters with a fully certified first aid team on board, consisting of an emergency physician and two paramedics (one of which also serves as the pilot). The high grade of pre-hospital care means that the Grand Duchy has a very good reputation in terms of emergency medical response.
The Van Luxemburger law enforcement consists of four main agencies, being the Kommunalpolizei and the Autobahnpolizei, supported by the Nationalrecherche, and the gendarmerie-like Marechaussee. The law enforcement are highly professional and enjoy a high grade of respect and authority over the average citizen. The behavior of the police can be described as authoritarian when necessary, and mild when possible.
Highly respected among the population are the Autobahnpolizei and the Marechaussee especially, for their actions against criminals and perpetrators of other kinds. Their employees are said to understand the principle of proportional violence, and act to this more than the Kommunalpolizei. However, the Marechaussee especially has also received criticism from both the population and other law enforcement agencies for their arrogant behavior, having earned them the nickname ‘Green Mafia’. The Autobahnpolizei is considered to be a childhood dream for many boys, due to their equipment and appearance. Critical citizens have often named the Autobahnpolizei the ‘Playboy police’ for their flashy fast cars and appearance.
Most Van Luxemburgers nowadays work in the service sector, which consist of many decentralized companies that highly stimulate teleworking and teleconferencing, following a governmental requirement that was aimed at reducing traffic and preventing massive rural-urban migration. This has resulted in the fact that Van Luxemburgers still mainly live on the countryside, coming both from the historical tendency to stay close to home, as well as from recent governmental programmes to maintain the quality of life in rural areas. Nevertheless, many Van Luxemburgers also work in the industry, most notably in automobile manufacturing, sometimes living near the factory they work at.
Agriculture remains an important source of income for some Van Luxemburgers, who run massive, mechanized and highly efficient agricultural companies, which has lead to the region of Sint-Annabeek, where this agricultural strategy is predominant, sometimes being called the bread basket of the nation.
Outside of their employment, many Van Luxemburgers tend to be very aware of the world around them due to the popularity of the media. As most foreign programmes are subtitled instead of dubbed, Van Luxemburgers tend to have a somewhat above-average knowledge of foreign languages, especially the younger generations. In terms of vacations, however, many prefer to go on a holiday in their own nation, often by car to go camping on luxury campsites (Van Luxemburgers are often seen using Wittmann caravans) or in hotels and apartments. Van Luxemburgers are not very fond of package holidays to foreign nations, and tend to be very independent and fond of their personal freedoms when going to explore a foreign destination, thus preferring their own planning over package deals.
On weekends, Van Luxemburgers can often be seen enjoying their free time by pursuing automobile-related hobbies, doing various chores around the house or participating in social and cultural activities organized by local organizations. The weekend days are also a popular moment to go out for dinner, which is a thing Van Luxemburgers do around once a week. Sunday is often not just referred for Church visits (if practicing a Christian religion), but also a moment for family visits for many citizens.
In other nations, Van Luxemburgers are primarily known for their automotive culture. The A-class motorways have no general speed limit, and even some B-class motorways can be driven as fast as possible. A Van Luxemburger family often has two to three cars, of which one is primarily for ‘hobby’ use. With the latter, owners often participate in club activities or tour drives. It has been said that this demand for classic vehicles in Van Luxemburg has resulted in them buying a lot of classics abroad, as the domestic market is often more expensive to buy from, due to the high demand. Nevertheless, the market for classic cars in Van Luxemburg is also a popular market for foreign enthusiasts due to the high availability of even the most unknown classic niche models.
In the Grand Duchy, customers often prefer petrol and diesel-powered models – hybrid cars are despised and hated. A citizen with a modal income will often be provided with a mid-size saloon or estate car by their employers, as lease vehicle. Often, these vehicles are equipped with more powerful engines than average, as these perform better on the motorway.
Obtaining a driving license is often harder in Van Luxemburg than elsewhere. Driving lessons may only take place at certified driving schools, which will have to teach basic driving skills as well as more advanced skills such as parking and maneuvering. Furthermore, at least four hours of driving should take place in the dark, while regulations also require pupils being taught how to drive at speeds of over 200 km/h and how to respond in an emergency braking situation, or how to react when the vehicle is in a slip with oversteer or understeer. In general, it will take around 60 hours and 3,000 Florins before a candidate is able to complete a driving exam. He or she will be required to have obtained a pass for the theory examination before being able to do the actual driving examination.
Not only do Van Luxemburgers prefer to drive their vehicles fast, but they are also very proud of and careful with their car, which they prefer to store in a dry and heated area, such as a garage or carport. Services are meticulously executed, and no expense is spared to keep their pride in a top condition. A further indication of this is the size of the car polish market, which is far larger than surrounding nations.
Van Luxemburger pop music is often fairly simple, acoustic music that feature catchy, mostly poetic lyrics in the different recognized languages, as well as English. Some may call the songs pretentious due to their semi-poetic lyrics. Next to Van Luxemburger pop music, international pop music also makes up part of the hit charts. Dance music also enjoys popularity in the Grand Duchy.