When other teachers ask me to visit their classrooms, it is usually for a sort of question and answer session. Stepping into that school, I suddenly become an expert on All Things American. One of the funniest things for me is the consistent reaction of dread and horror I get when I tell Luxembourgers—both during these visits and otherwise—that I travel from Luxembourg City to Diekirch each day for school.
Diekirch is about as far away from Luxembourg City as my hometown is from Chicago, and many of my neighbors have chosen this location because of its proximity to the city—they don’t have to live in the city, but are able to commute each day from a reasonable distance. Despite the similar commute time, no Luxemburger would dream of such a long commute. A whole forty-five minutes! Granted, this is about half the country for them, but I guess it just goes to how everything is relative.
Despite the apparently ghastly commute, I am often fairly productive on the train—I don’t have to drive it, so I can read, write, plan lessons, etc. I don’t think the unwillingness to travel further distances shows that Luxembourgish people are lazy or unaware of the world, merely that this is not the norm. This makes sense, too, when you consider that many people in Luxembourg (and, from my experiences, Germany as well) return to their hometown after University (or settle there directly after graduating high school). While I have family in Washington state and Florida, a half hour drive is a long distance away from home for a Luxembourger to move.
Americans, I suppose, have always been up for exploration—for moving westward, being pioneers, staking out new territory. Branching out and moving away is not only what got our country started, it’s also what lead to its expansion. In Luxembourg, the territory was all discovered long ago, and, as the fortress walls remind us, it’s always been more about defending what you have. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this sense of distance or explore/defend instinct is hereditary, but I do think it is a part of the cultural mindset.