The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy headed by Grand Duke Henri of the House of Nassau. Economically, the strength of its banking and financial institutions has attracted more than 200 foreign banks, including the headquarters of the European Investment Bank. The 480,000 residents have among the highest income levels per capita of any country in the world.
Agriculture is still important. Around half of the total land area is farmed, though less than 5% of Luxembourgers now live and work on farms. Despite problems caused by overproduction of European wines in general, the vineyards of Luxembourg's Moselle Valley are still competitive. And the enchanting Luxembourg countryside, particularly its northern reaches in the Ardennes, is a popular vacation destination for Luxembourgers and visitors from neighboring countries.
Having played a key role in establishing the institutions that evolved into the European Union, Luxembourg today hosts the secretariat of the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice, and the European Investment Bank.
In such a small country, with bigger neighbors on its doorstep, Luxembourgers have a distinctive individuality that even extends to the national language, Lëtzebuergesch, which is vaguely related to both French and German, yet quite different from both.
Some of their character traits are easy to pin down. They're definitely hardworking. One look at the country's well-tended farms or shops will reveal the industriousness of their owners. Go into a Luxembourg home and the cleanliness and order will speak more loudly than the proud homemaker ever could.
The people of Luxembourg are also cosmopolitan. From their cuisine (a combination of the best from surrounding countries) to their culture and dress, they're at home in the world, eager to travel, and secure enough in their uniqueness to appreciate the special qualities of others. But in addition to this openness, they're essentially proud and patriotic. Centuries of domination by foreign rulers could not kill their independent spirit.
They do have a reputation for smugness that's not entirely undeserved. If you are a citizen of one of the world's wealthiest countries per capita, it may be no more than human nature to assume that this pleasing fact is due to your own native industry or superiority, rather than to, for instance, enabling the citizens of less-blessed countries -- like Germany and France, to name but two of many -- to engage in fiscal fiddling and stash the illicit proceeds in your banks.
Some 95% of Luxembourgers are Roman Catholic, although a significant percentage of those hasten to make it clear that they're nonpracticing. It's rare to meet someone who doesn't observe some of the customs, traditions, and mores of the church.
Finally, to say that Luxembourgers are fond of eating is an understatement. If there's an important matter to discuss, decision to be made, or social crisis to resolve, Luxembourgers repair to the nearest cafe or pastry store. It goes without saying, then, that they're fond of cooking -- don't go away without indulging in their luscious pastries.
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