Just Arrived ambassadors from left: Sirli, Camilla and Hulya
Photo: Maison Moderne
While moving to Luxembourg can be an enriching experience, most foreigners will agree that those first few months without your family and friend network are the hardest. With a limited knowledge of the local languages, even the first small steps, like finding out where the supermarket is, can seem like a colossal challenge.
“Can you imagine when I came here 30 years ago? It was the end of the world,” Turkish national Hulya told Delano. “There was nobody to ask because I didn’t speak the language and in those days it was Luxembourgish, especially in the villages.”
Hulya is a Just Arrived Ambassador (JAA), one of around 47 unofficial representatives who give up their free time to host a weekly drop-in centre at Luxembourg City’s town hall and answer newcomers’ questions. “I became an ambassador because I thought this was a good idea. I have lots of experience living here as a foreigner—good and bad—and I know how you can make it better.”
Hulya found her own way in Luxembourg, by joining clubs and following her neighbour’s advice to learn Luxembourgish, but she admits it could have been easier had there been someone like her to explain everything.
Sirli is a volunteer ambassador representing her native country of Estonia. She said that when she came alone to Luxembourg for her job in 2004, the main challenge was finding information about activities. “I didn’t even know where to look because I didn’t speak French at the time,” she said.
Today, Sirli likes to act as a “connector”, using her own network in Luxembourg to help others expand theirs through the JAA programme and other associations. “My advice to newcomers is to go to networking events. There are so many associations and events where you can get well connected.”
Just Arrived guide
The JAA project evolved out of the Just Arrived guide book, a free comprehensive directory in English and French offering information on anything from language courses to where to get your car fixed.
Project coordinator Camilla Cuppini set up the group at the behest of Laurent Ollier, managing director of JUST ARRIVED and president of the JAA Club, who recognised the need for a human touch when it came to welcoming newcomers, and for people who understand the various cultural differences that newcomers encounter.
The ultimate goal, though, is to ease the integration process into Luxembourg society. “We thought it was important to have a network of ambassadors, not only someone from your country, but also from other countries to avoid people becoming isolated, which can become a risk sometimes,” she explained.
Photo: Maison Moderne, Camilla (right) answers Andressa's questions during the first drop-in session
In 2015, Cuppini found people to share their integration experiences via the Just Arrived website. This small group blossomed into a team of around 47 unofficial ambassadors who are involved in their respective cultural communities as well as in Luxembourg society.
In March 2017, JAA became a registered not for profit and, thanks to funding from Oeuvre and a partnership with the Luxembourg City Integration Office, the first drop-in session for newcomers took place on 26 September.
And the work was not in vain. The first newcomer to benefit from the service on Tuesday was a young Brazilian woman, Andressa, who moved to Luxembourg from Sao Paulo for her husband’s job in January 2017. She was greeted with coffee and pastries in the integration office beneath the town hall where Cuppini answered her questions in French.
The drop-in centre is located in the integration and special needs services in the lower level of City Hall, 42 place Guillaume II. It is open on Tuesdays from 8:30am to 11:30am except during the holidays. JAA also organises cultural orientation events for newcomers. The next event will be held on 19 October. To find out more, follow the JAA Club on Facebook.