Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stuck in Lux: A Short Stay in Luxembourg

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Luxembourg for a short work assignment. A few quick facts about Luxembourg.... Luxembourg maintains the highest GDP per capita in the world, and it is almost
three times the EU average. It also has the highest minimum wage in the world of nearly EUR 1,600 per month and is the home of the European Investment Bank as well as a number of other institutions
and private sector headquarters. Luxembourg also has pretty good corporate tax schemes, which is why it is known more as a place to do business rather than a place to holiday. Pretty much everybody I encountered or saw walking down the street (which was limited) appeared rich.

The entire capital of Luxembourg is basically comprised of fund managers from all over Europe and they tend to work extremely late and go back to their homes on the weekends, leaving the city entirely empty after dark and on weekends. This means that effectively no one really “lives” here and there is pretty much no noticeable “scene” or vibe, or at least nothing that I was able to locate during my short stay. To be fair, I was only in Luxembourg for one day and one night, but it was among the quietest and dullest European cities I have ever visited. Despite what sounds like an excruciatingly boring experience, it is an extremely picturesque city perched atop a small forested hill overlooking a valley gorge. In fact, there was nothing really unappealing or ugly about Luxembourg other than the pace and atmosphere. After a short, but pleasant stroll through the empty lanes and streets of the city, I managed through a quick and quiet dinner and then retired to the rooftop bar of my Sofitel Hotel accompanied by a couple fairly decent martinis and watched the splendor of the city from afar.

Luxembourg is small, but not a tiny city-state of the likes of Monaco, San Marino, or Lichtenstein. There is a bit of country, but unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to explore aside from driving to the other side of the Belgian border about thirty minutes away. There are some magnificent castles and palaces that are probably worth exploring, but I did not have the time. 

Disappointingly I found out later that there is an American Military Cemetery located right next to the airport where General George S. Patton is buried. That would have definitely been worth a stop had I known at the time. I realize that my description of Luxembourg sounds a bit underwhelming, if not slightly cynical, but you should take the country for what it is, a corporate tax haven for high net wealth entities and individuals which is located in the middle of Western Europe among a fairly attractive natural and historic landscape and setting. I’ve certainly been to worse places, but at the same time I am not rushing back here any time soon. If you happen to come here on business do indeed take the time to wander the streets of the old city, even if it does feel a bit abandoned at times.


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