Mirco Rubel, pictured, runs one of several Facebook groups popular with international residents
Photo: Mike Zenari
Facebook groups in Luxembourg targeting expats are growing exponentially, providing a real-time source of information and support to new arrivals or those just seeking help, advice or ideas.
Mirco Rubel started Expats de Lux ten years ago when he first came to the country: “I lived in Brussels before and there was a similar group. It didn’t exist in Luxembourg, so I decided to start it.”
Expats de Lux now has some 10,600 members. “Expat events were rare when we started, or not often publicised. The group initially shared events, but members soon started asking each other for advice. We have lively discussions about expat issues such as housing,” says Rubel, who is also the Luxembourg “ambassador” for InterNations, an expat networking site.
Ara City Radio presenter Marina Lai Lentz started Ladies of Luxembourg on Facebook three years ago: “The sooner you find a sense of community, the sooner you feel settled in a new place. I wanted to reach out to other women working and living here.” Originally, she planned to create a mixed group, but “quickly realised that women prefer to discuss certain topics in private, and some feel more comfortable with a single sex group”. Its success--it has over 7,000 members--led to the recent launch of Gentlemen of Luxembourg.
“People want to read about others’ experiences so they know what to expect. Questions range from simple requests about winter tyres to more complex ones about housing contracts. The most popular topics are usually subjects not covered in English,” says Lai Lentz. “I’m really proud of the way our members support each other and people tell me that this group has really changed their experience of Luxembourg.”
The biggest Facebook group, Luxembourg Expats, was started more than six years ago as a “community for expats to help each other enhance their living experience”. With close to 24,000 members, expats seek advice and recommendations on everything from housing, jobs, eat-outs and insurance to shopping and travel. News and views, services and events are also shared or searched and its buy/sell group separately has close to 23,000 members. “The dynamism and the fast-growing size shows the group is meeting an important demand for almost half the population who are expats,” say the group’s administrators.
Luxembourg Parents was created in 2013 by a group of expat mums. Like all the other busy mums, Romanian-born Mirela Dragota, one of the founders and the current group administrator, wanted a space where parents could seek advice, arrange meetings or discover kids’ activities. Posts cover classes for parents and kids, activities, and places to visit with the family but it’s also an advice forum. What was initially a forum for mums to meet up extended over the years to 6,000 plus membership and is still growing. “It’s brilliant to see people ready to help,” Mirela says.
There’s also a new trend in location specific groups. British mother Jane Exall started My Mamer “to meet local residents and make friends. We first met at a friend’s house, and chatted whilst the children decorated cookies.” The group has since been active in recommendations, reviews, coffee mornings, cooking courses, a book club, crafting club and establishing a local language cafe. Online tips are mixed with meetups: “We recently had a very successful Sunday coffee morning,” she says.
A promotion day allows local businesses and entrepreneurs to advertise to the 615 members. “The aim of the group is to learn, and share ideas together as a community. Many people say it has added a sense of belonging,” explains Exall. “I’m happy to see similar groups have been set up in Strassen and the Mullerthal and Moselle regions.”