A Luxembourg resident of 30 years, Karen Wauters is a keen curler and serves on the board of Time for Equality, not-for-profit promoting inclusion, equality and social justice.
Photo: Mike Zenari
When Karen Wauters landed in Luxembourg for the first time in 1989, the view from her aircraft window of hay bales and livestock was like a glimpse of home. While it reminded her of the small farming community in Alberta where she grew up, the chartered accountant realised that the country was still shy of the progressive and diverse workplace standards she’d experienced.
“In hindsight, I could have been more aggressive,” she says of her career which, after a successful start in Canada and London, slowed upon her arrival to Luxembourg. After achieving the Luxembourg designation, Wauters became one of the first women partners at the consulting firm EY, then a small expat office where she relished the opportunity to mentor others. “Being able to help people realise their full potential, that’s where my passion is and it’s what makes me tick,” she said. Since then, the country’s population has grown increasingly multicultural, a mix she can relate to in her grandparents, who are an all-sorts bag of European migrants, spanning Belgium, Poland and the Crimea. Today, Wauters says she keeps one foot in each country, thanks to her four children, who attended Luxembourg schools, her job today as an independent director, but also her passion for connecting people and boosting inclusion through her various hobbies.
“I’m a Luxembourg curler, which is important for me.” She says that while curling is widely played in Canada, that’s not why she chose this sport. “It’s very representative of what I believe in because it’s an inclusive sport. […] It’s like a big family. Its values are what drive me.” Wauters is currently working with Lunex University to develop the sport in schools and also hopes to train a team for the 2022 Winter Beijing Paralympics. She is similarly deeply committed to educational not-for-profit Time for Equality, which she joined in 2016. In June, it hosted an event sharing the empowering stories of indigenous women in Canada, who have overcome centuries of violence and marginalisation. And earlier in the year, the team organised an awareness-raising event ahead of the European elections.
Voting is personally important for Wauters, who, until the rules changed in October this year, had only once voted in the Canadian elections. She has never lost sight of her roots and for the past five years has spent her summers in Waterton Lakes National Park, working at the social impact shop her sister founded in 2014 to support local craftspeople and causes. “It was my way of angel investing, not directly, but by giving small independents floor space they wouldn’t get otherwise.”
A keen ice hockey fan, François Légaré moved to Luxembourg in 2017 for his wife’s job. He completed a master’s at the University of Luxembourg and today works at the House of Startups. Photo: Mike Zenari
Like Wauters, François Légaré loves to build bridges and bring people together. For regulars at startup networking events, his is a familiar face but not only because he works for the Luxembourg House of Startups. “When I left Montreal for Luxembourg, instead of starting work, I went to the University of Luxembourg and did a master’s in entrepreneurship and innovation […] It was quite cool to build my network that way.” Légaré jokes that his distinctive French-Canadian accent also helps to break the ice at networking events. “Maybe not that many people think of me as François, but more as the French Canadian,” he laughs.
Légaré was raised in an entrepreneurial family--his parents ran a printing business in their small Quebec village alongside their regular jobs. Prior to moving to Luxembourg, he worked in the Montreal startup ecosystem and Légaré is teeming with ideas for starting businesses. But it’s not just his family, clearly entrepreneurship is contagious in his home province. Légaré cites the Quebecois fingerprint in Las Vegas, for example at the Cirque du Soleil, and the now global multimedia organisation Moment Factory. One cannot yet say the same about Luxembourg, which still lags behind when it comes to mindsets. “I think the startup community in Quebec is pretty good at getting rid of the stigma of companies failing […] Now, entrepreneurs are more celebrated even if they fail […] Luxembourg needs to work on this area, to encourage startups.”
Outside of work, Légaré has been impressed with the ease of travel across borders in Europe--each month, he rents a “European car” to explore new places. If he misses wild camping, he has plenty of other touchstones with home. “Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night to watch ice hockey!,” he grins. A lifelong supporter of the Montreal Canadiens, he was looking forward to the start of a new season in October. “We’ve a pretty good team.”
Did you know that?
Canuck is the slang term for a Canadian.
Luxembourg could fit inside Canada 3,859 times.
There were 550 Canadians registered as living in Luxembourg, as of 1 January 2019. That number does not include Canadians with multiple nationalities.
Where to meet Canadians in Luxembourg
Canadians in Luxembourg
This Facebook group is home of the Canadian Club in Luxembourg, which organises events.