«To make money and spend it» — how Chinese expats live in Luxembourg
Why a Chinese entrepreneur moved to Luxembourg for a permanent residence and why it is easier to do business here than in her home country
Actually, when we moved to Luxembourg, it was a true fate! I didn't plan to come here initially but rather considered nearby Germany. One of my friends at that time did research on Luxembourg as a relocation destination, and proposed we take a closer look at the country: it provides a great and friendly education for kids, it's a more foreign environment, than local and, the most important for us, it is a great chance to build a strongly connected business, get support from the government and be recognized here. So, we made a decision.
Why Chinese move to Europe
If decades ago, with the first big wave of Chinese migration, people came from China to rather make money, now they come to spend it: it's not a secret that there are plenty of tourists, students, and workers with Chinese origins in Europe and all over the world.
There were 4142 Chinese expats in Luxembourg in 2022, about 1,4% of total foreign expats, according to official statistics. In the last decade, this number has significantly grown — by 0.8%. Though this is not the biggest national community in Luxembourg, it is still not the smallest. And with a big potential for rapid growth
Old migration, which is still here, used to be mostly restaurant owners and chefs. But when the Bank of China Group and other huge companies settled across the world, they began to hire Chinese people first.
A lot of them are now working in the financial sector, in technology. China welcomes this change, as it welcomes foreigners. As long as you have a job and can support yourself and your family.
You get paid higher in Europe as well: the living standard in China is very low for most people, and food prices are quite cheap compared to here. But people still leave and they have a couple of reasons.
Where serial entrepreneurs come from
Like the rest of the world, our country has inequalities. There are crazy rich people, like the owners of Alibaba and other companies, and there are ordinary people.
Wealth in China is a heritage, some got it from their families, and hold it for generations. We can only say that my family is middle class, compared to truly rich Chinese.
My father has never been into business at all. He was a policeman before retirement, and he never truly understood my wish to create. Well, I got it from my granddad.
Almost a century ago, he had a small company in China, that was selling seeds — vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Though it was a local company, he still managed to raise the family in China during uneasy times, and they had 4 kids to feed! I was very impressed with his story: the business let them have something, and keep afloat.
So as soon as I graduated from the university in the Netherlands and moved to the UK in 2002. I and my ex-husband decided to open a restaurant. It was a mixed-cuisine concept place in London, near Wimbledon. My partner was a chief, and we put a lot of money into the place, but we were unsuccessful. After that, I tried all kinds of different businesses and eventually we had to move from London because of Brexit. So we bought a building in Grece with 11 apartments and made an Airbnb hotel, and it was a huge success.
I can call myself a serial entrepreneur! Right now, as we moved to Luxembourg, I went into the innovative business sphere. We create a startup in the local tourism domain, a very European idea.
Why did we choose Luxembourg to settle a new business
- Multicultural space
First of all, we needed to find a multilanguage and multicultural place to launch, and Luxembourg seems to be perfect for it. Here you can reach all sorts of languages and workers: Spanish, Portuguese, French, German... Everything's possible.
- Less competition
China is one of the biggest… for everything: territory, population, companies, etc. Amazon wants to have a piece of the Chinese market now, you know. And as we have too many people and that means too many choices — we have the biggest competition in our country.
When you are a kid, you have a lot of homework, things to study, and a very strict system of education. Here in Luxembourg, kids are free after classes. Then when you go out to the labor market, you face the same competition with greatly educated young employees. So I think, moving to another country is just one of the ways to escape the race for success.
Building a business in Europe is very different from the way we are used to building it in China. Let's say here you have a contract as a bond and security when working with someone.
In China, we more or less do business within the framework of trust. Before you start any business relations, you have to do a background check, and build a human connection of some kind, because it matters. Why so? We have a very special culture.
How to preserve the culture in immigration
Luxembourg doesn't have the biggest Chinese expat community, obviously, there is no China Town, like in other places. Our culturally build competition with each other also gets in the way of building national connections. Of course, we stick together with our closest connections, but, for example, I have been in Europe since 2000, so I have built my network with European people because business-wise, that was the choice for me. I like to meet all sorts of people from all over the world.
Every time around holidays, you miss national traditions much more, than on an ordinary day. I think this is a very common feeling for all expats. Your family is back in your country, as well as all your childhood friends.
The community we have is built around the Chamber of Commerce of China in Luxembourg, they organize some events for expats. The hardest part of immigration, to my mind, is rebuilding your communication at a new place. For example, my daughter is 17 now, and she is a little introverted. So while we moved a lot, it was difficult for her to make new friends all the time. We work on it together.
I moved here with my two kids — son and daughter, — so we spend our national holidays together, a personal community of mine. My parents actually immigrated to Greece. It happened naturally, with the coronavirus pandemic, they come to visit us, and never left. Of course, my grandmother, aunts, and uncles are still in China.
But we try to keep in touch with them and our national traditions as well. We do it with two simple methods.
- Speaking native languages at home
When we used to live in China and my children were little, I tried to use more English in our daily life, so they could practice. Now, living in an English-speaking community, I try to bring more Chinese into their environment: their grandparents teach them our national language as well. At home, we speak English, Chinese, and Mandarin sometimes.
- Celebrating traditional holidays
We celebrate all the biggest Chinese holidays in my family. A Moon Festival, with the special mooncake treat, and Chinese New Year too. The other day we made dumplings for dinner, that's part of our traditions.
We have a lot of fun holidays: let's say we have Chunhyang Festival, where we climb a mountain and have a tasty treat at the top of it, it is some kind of special wrap with some rice, leaves, and meat inside.
This is very tasty! A lot of celebrations are connected with food in our culture.
For example, British people will always greet you with «What nice weather, innit?», and Chinese people will always ask «Have you eaten?».
If one place in the world doesn't have a Chinese food restaurant, it will be opened there soon. There are around 1 million Chinese expats in the world, so the chances are pretty high.
We have the richest food culture: recipes for traditional dishes vary from region to region, and there are a variety of tastes and spices.
In London, there is a whole street in Chinatown, where you can find roasted dogs, soy sauce chicken, and crispy pork belly. In Luxembourg, you have a lot of restaurant places too, as well as a market with traditional ingredients in the city downtown and in Esch-sur-Alzette.
How we made a decision to stay in Luxembourg for a while
Luxembourg is an ideal place for me and my family. A lot of people say that the country is small, but I don't see it as a downside.
As a businesswoman, I see small things as easy to control and build, especially when it comes to connections. You drive half an hour from the capital and you are in Germany, takes an hour (the famous traffic) to get to France. Come on, what other country can provide you with this?
Flights are also very cheap nowadays, and the local airport makes it very fast and convenient for business travel. One hour flight and I am in London, the capital of Great Britain, making connections and deals.
A lot of my friends from Greece ask me: «Vicki, how could you choose gloomy Luxembourg and not sunny paradise to live in?». Well, the answer is simple. As a business person, do you enjoy the sunshine or do you enjoy the opportunities and working ecosystem? Honey, you can have the sunshine whenever — take the plane and go.
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