Belgians and Luxembourgers - the things we share.

Luxembourgers and Belgians share a deep and long-lasting friendship based on a common and intertwined history, shared family ties and a regular exchange on all levels. Did you know that Luxembourgers fought for Belgian independence? Or that Belgium's North Sea coast is arguably a Luxembourgish colony during holidays? Or that Luxembourgish artists like working in Belgium? Discover some little-known secrets as to why both countries are so close to each other.

Luxembourgers fought for Belgian independence

It is the early 1830s and the Belgian people are in an open revolt against the Dutch king to assert their rights to self-government. At the same time, Luxembourgers also revolt and join forces with the Belgians. One of the most fervent advocates of an independent and free Belgium is Luxembourger Jean-Baptiste Nothomb, a solicitor and newspaper editor from Pétange. He is seen today as one of the fathers of the Belgian Constitution and goes on to become head of government from 1841 to 1845. In 1839, to the dismay of Nothomb and many Luxembourgers, the Grand Duchy is partitioned, and while the Eastern half remains separate, the Western part becomes what is today Belgium’s Province of Luxembourg.

Belgium and Luxembourg are linked by common interests

Belgium and Luxembourg have been supporting each other for a long time and were even the nucleus to the European single market area. In 1921, both countries signed the Belgian-Luxembourgish Economic Union (UEBL), which created a single market encompassing both countries. The UEBL was last renewed in 2022 and remains a keyston of Belgian-Luxembourgish relations. Some 80 years before the introduction of the Euro, both countries also decided to align their currencies, thus creating a single currency – the Belgian-Luxembourgish Franc – that was ultimately replaced by the Euro in 2002. Both governments continue to see each other regularly in a format named after the place where they meet: "Gäichel", a small hamlet on the common border. This meeting remains a key element of the concertation of both countries in commercial and economic matters and an important forum for political discussion.

Etienne Plasman, flutist with the OPL, tells us why he loves living in Luxembourg.

Virginie Michielsen, President of the Union royale belge luxembourgeoise, compares Luxembourg to Canada and Australia!

René Mathieu, distinguished vegetarian chef, takes us to his favourite places in Luxembourg.

The family ties are strong between both countries

In 1953, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg marries Joséphine-Charlotte, daughter of the Belgian King Leopold III in a fairytale wedding. The Grand Duchess leaves a mark on Luxembourgish society, as head of the Red Cross and the Luxembourg Foundation Against Cancer, but also as an avid collector of contemporary art. She is much loved in her adopted country and when she passes away in 2005, throngs of mourners flock to the capital for her funeral. Today, the next Grand Duchess in waiting is also from a Belgian noble house: Princess Stéphanie de Lannoy married Prince Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke, in 2012 in another wedding to make dreams come true. The family lives a quiet life in Fischbach castle, together with her two sons, Charles and François.

The call of the Belgian beaches

Few know about this, but Luxembourgers and Belgians have regular population exchanges. Luxembourg is only the 13th most popular holiday destination for Belgians. However, judging by the number of Belgians hiking through Luxembourg's northern regions each year, it may be one of the most popular for day-trips. On the other hand, Luxembourgers love to spend their vacations on Belgian beaches. During Luxembourgish school holidays, many towns along the Belgian North Sea welcome thousands of Luxembourgers seeking to compensate for their own country's lack of beaches by soaking up the North Sea sun and exploring the shopping opportunities between De Panne and Knokke. Indeed, Belgium is the third most popular tourist destination for Luxembourgers, testament to both countries' long-standing friendship and the ease with which the populations of both countries have been mingling for over a century. With the exception of the odd Belgian or Luxembourgish jokes, of course.

Did you know?

Every day, over 50,000 Belgians cross the border to work in Luxembourg, which equates to roughly 10% of the national workforce. Life without Belgians would simply not be the same.

3 questions for Tina Gillen

A few years ago, artist Tina Gillen made the opposite journey. Born in Luxembourg in 1972, the renowned painter lives and works in Brussels. She exhibits all over the world and represented the Grand Duchy at the 59th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia in 2022. In Brussels, her work can usually be seen in the Nosbaum Reding gallery.

As a perfect example of the links forged between Belgium and Luxembourg in the field of culture, we had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her work and her relationship with Belgium.

1. You've lived and worked in Brussels for many years. How did you come to this city and why is it still your main creative centre?

After finishing my studies in Vienna, Austria, I did a Masters in Fine Arts. I went on to study at the Higher Institute for Fine Arts (HISK) in Antwerp for three years. After that I settled in Antwerp and Brussels. Throughout the years, I've built up several professional contacts to increase my exhibition opportunities.

2. In 2022, you represented the Grand Duchy at the Biennale di Venezia with your exhibition "Faraway So Close", which was part of your pictorial research into natural phenomena beyond human control. How did you feel about taking part in this major international exhibition?

After the Biennial was postponed due to the pandemic, the exhibition was particularly eagerly awaited. This was true both for the artists, who had been working in isolation in the meantime, and for the visitors. It was like opening the water fountain again after the drought. It was a gratifying and intense experience.

3. Could you tell us about your forthcoming exhibitions?

After the exhibition at the Konschthal in 2023 in Esch-sur-Alzette, I've been asked to work on several small projects requiring a particular kind of finesse in different formats on the subject of habitat and landscape. In autumn, I'll be exhibiting my work again in Luxembourg at the Nosbaum Reding gallery.

Tina Gillen at her "Windways" exhibition at the Nosbaum Reding gallery (Luxembourg, 2019)
© Tania Bettega, all rights reserved

The experiences of a Luxembourger in Belgium

Favourite cultural venue in Belgium?


Favourite Belgian tradition?

Arriving late by train.

Favourite Belgian dish?

Shrimp croquettes.