Dominique Sweetnam, pictured, says that joining clubs and associations or volunteering allows expats to widen their network
Photo: Mike Zenari
Meet the people who add zest to life in Luxembourg in the first article in ourcommunity spotlight series.
The British in Luxembourg have arrived in two major waves. Firstly in 1973, when the United Kingdom joined what was then the European Economic Community, they came to work at various European institutions based in Luxembourg. Then in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the grand duchy really developed its financial services industry.
Despite the spectre of Brexit, the British remain very much involved in Luxembourg life. Indeed, many Luxembourgers have commented that they are impressed at how active the British community is. There are, for example, families like the Sweetnams, who are all immersed in playing and promoting rugby in the grand duchy. Mother Dominique, who has French and British parents but grew up in the UK, met husband Paul while working in Hong Kong. The couple moved to Luxembourg when a friend who was living in the grand duchy lured them with the promise that they would just be here for a couple of years. “Yet here we are 20 years later,” says Dominique with a smile.
A graduate in environmental science and marine biology, she now works for Caritas’s international cooperation department after spending much of her career in financial services. “I enjoyed my job in finance,” she explains. “But I always wanted to do something that was more relevant to my studies, such as working for an NGO. Caritas offered me a position as a PA and since then I have moved more into the project management field.” Dominique clearly loves her job. “It’s great to do work that brings meaning to other people’s lives and provides support.”
Over the last 20 years, Dominique has seen many changes in Luxembourg. “When we first moved here everything seemed a little bit archaic and old fashioned, as if Luxembourg was dragging its feet into the 20th century.” Now, she says, the country is positioning itself for a head start into the 21st century. “After 20 years of talking about it, we finally have a tram, so things are definitely moving forward.”
As advice to anyone moving to Luxembourg, Dominique recommends “joining clubs, associations or volunteering to widen your network.” Dominique’s entire family is heavily involved with the Rugby Club Luxembourg, where Dominique has previously played and now sometimes coaches. “Despite what people may think there is plenty to do in Luxembourg, with venues like the Rockhal providing entertainment. You just have to be proactive and go out and look for it.”
Photo: Mike Zenari
David Clark, pictured above, has been in Luxembourg for 21 years. And although the family retains a house in London, they have no plans of moving. “We always feel at home when we’re in Luxembourg, that’s for sure.” He says the thing he enjoys most about Luxembourg is Saturday morning at the city market. “Having my coffee and doing my shopping in place Guillaume II.”
A former chairman of the Oxford University Society of Luxembourg (where he remains a committee member), Clark was named president of the British-Luxembourg Society in March this year. The group, founded in 1947, had lain dormant for several years. “When we took it over, we found a list of 250 names, but no email addresses, so we had a lot of work to do to track them all down,” Clark explains. The society now has a membership list of around 100, which it hopes to expand in due time. A relaunch event at the residence of the British ambassador on 18 September should provide useful publicity and perhaps another membership boost.
Clark and his fellow committee members were inspired to revive the society party because he remembers it as a very important contributor to Luxembourg life. “I thought this was a very important society set up by Luxembourgers, in a way to say thank you to Britain.” So, when he read that it was in danger of being wound up at its next annual general meeting, Clark decided to step up to the plate. “I felt it would be a great pity if it was allowed to die.” He also recalls that the society was responsible for the influential and highly regarded Winston Churchill lectures. “They got very well-known British politicians to come and speak. And the invitations were very sought after.”
In the context of Brexit--Clark says he is “very much a remainer”--he thinks that the society can play a significant role. “Because bilateral relations become very important. We need to build whatever bridges we can. And the British-Luxembourg Society is very much a bridge between Britain and Luxembourg.”