Asked in which language he felt most comfortable, Ries replied without hesitation that it was Luxembourgish. But he admitted he had trouble writing it. Under duress, he could write his daughter a postcard, he said, but the language is most commonly spoken, not written.
Luxembourg, an important financial center and home to the world’s largest steel manufacturer, continues to prosper despite Europe’s economic trouble. The country has the second-highest gross domestic product per capita in the world, more than $80,000 _ though its population of about 510,000 people is still smarting from having lost the No. 1 spot to Qatar. The capital city has 80,000 inhabitants and 120,000 jobs.
For that reason, more than 43 percent of the people in Luxembourg are foreign nationals, compared to a European Union average of 6.4 percent. When he greets people in the public square, Ries speaks not German, not French, not English, but Luxembourgish. It is not to shame the others. It is to show he is a genuine Luxembourger.
Natives of the Grand Duchy, heavily influenced by Catholicism, are very proper and can be dour.
“When we say, `It’s not too bad,’” Ries said, “we mean it’s good.”
But above all, they are proud. Proud of their multilingualism. Proud of their grand duchy. And proud of their royal family. The current grand duke, Henri, who is 57, is popular. People can greet him on the street without bowing down before him. His 31-year marriage to Grand Duchess Maria Teresa appears to be very happy. Showcasing the royal family, as the country will do this week, allows Luxembourg to put its best foot forward.
For, as Ries emphasized more than once, the Luxembourgish royals _ in contrast to some others _ do not sunbathe topless. And for him, that is a source of pride, one he is happy to share with the rest of the world.
“It is a good family,” he said.
Don Melvin can be reached at _http://twitter.com/Don_Melvin.