August 21, 2017

The advantages and disadvantages of being a cross-border worker between Belgium and Luxembourg

I have to say that five years ago the people I knew who would even understand what a cross-border worker between two countries is, let alone be one, was limited to the fingers of one hand. Even now I have friends in Luxembourg, no less, who can't get around their head how it is possible to cross the border daily. It was funny when my friends, recently relocated to Luxembourg, were "afraid" to go to IKEA in Belgium, but at the border with Luxembourg, afraid they would have to import stuff and be buried in paperwork :)

Things are way easier here and for people like me it's become a common thing. I don't think Luxembourg's situation is singular and without going into too many details, the phenomenon of cross-border workers in this area is due to the fact that Luxembourg is a small and expensive country and living across the border in any direction is more affordable and commonsensical in my view. I do have a subjective opinion and this will be a subjective post, but as this isn't a scientific paper I am allowed to be subjective. It is my blog, after wall. Another thing I have to say, I am not talking about the situation between Germany and Luxembourg or France and Luxembourg. I'm not even talking about coming from Liege or Bastogne or other towns in between. I'm only talking about commuting from Arlon to Luxembourg City.

The advantages:

1. Cheaper rent

I think that if you ask a cross-border worker why he or she lives in Arlon the main reason would be cheaper rent. I have to point out that is way cheaper then in Luxembourg, anywhere in Luxembourg. I don't have exact numbers so I'm only relying on what I know from my friends. Based on that, a flat with two bedrooms in Luxembourg City, but not exactly in the centre, but with good connections, nonetheless, is around 1700-1800 euros. It could be even more expensive depending on the facilities, such as garage or a small garden. The same apartment in Luxembourg Centre is more than 2000 euros. In the country you can rent the same two bedroom apartment with 1300-1500 euros. In Arlon a two bedroom apartment can be rented with 700 to 1000 euros.

2. Bigger houses with gardens

At these prices it makes sense to rent a house in Arlon and the renting prices for houses (so from three bedrooms up) are between 900 and 1500 euros depending on how new is the house and how many facilities does it have. I forgot to mention that in this area (Arlon and Luxembourg) houses or flats are rented empty without even a freezer or washing machine. For me, coming from Dublin this was a big shock as in Dublin you rent the apartment fully equipped with everything you could possibly need, including cutlery and plates.  

3. Clean air

I don't know if you reading thing have the same thing, but for me living in the country means cleaner and fresher air. Of course Arlon is also a city and it has traffic and on the other hand Luxembourg is not as polluted as other major cities around Europe, but in my head living in a smaller city equals less pollution. Although there is a factory somewhere near Arlon and sometimes I would prefer a little traffic fumes to the smell of paint or something similar. And then again, living in the country means another sort of smells. Wasn't there a study somewhere saying that cows pollute more then cars?

4. Country life

What I mean by that is easy access to producer shops. There is one on Autelhaut which sells fresh eggs and cheese and bread made by the owner of the shop. In Arlon there are Bakeries which sell fresh bread and pastry and are open even on Sundays. Beside that, having a garden (and some gardening skills) means you can plant whatever your heart desires. We only started two years ago, but now we have the best tomatoes I've ever tasted, we have salad, onions, basil and another thing which we Romanians know and love, but is unheard of in this region, we have dill.

5. Store proximity

At some point the Arlon authorities have noticed that Arlon is populated by commuters and they accepted for all the major supermarket chains to have stores here. So a short walk away we have Aldi, Cloruyt, Lidl, Carrefour, Delhaise and I'm forgetting something, I just don't know what. We also have outlets with all the major brands, we have IKEA and some sort of a mall, called Hydrion. You have to drive to the last ones, but they are closer to Arlon than Luxembourg and they all are in Belgium. I have not mention it but we do have all the mass stores such as H&M, C&A and others.


1. Lack of public transport

This is a big no and the only reason we might move to Luxembourg. Basically if you drive and have a car, Arlon has only advantages. If you don't drive, like me, the public transport between Arlon and Luxembourg sucks. The only public transport linking the two countries is the train. If you are a regular commuter by train you might not be as bothered by their delays as I am. But as I do go to Luxembourg away from rush hours for me is a nightmare to get out or in Arlon. I do have to say that they try to make the trains between 6.30 am and 8.00 am as on time as possible and in that interval you have around 6 trains back and forth. The same goes for between 4.00 pm and 6.30 pm. If you want to go to Luxembourg but not between those hours you have one maybe two trains per hour. But you also have delays and cancelled trains or trains replaced by busses which do not have the same timetable as the trains. So it's like Russian roulette every time you go to the trains station. 

A good thing though, now they introduced ticket machines that give tickets for Luxembourg as well. They had them even five years ago, but only recently they added the Luxembourg option and not to both (the one in the train station and the one outside), just to the one inside the railway station. It's an improvement, believe me as the workers there are never in a hurry and always willing to chat. I've lost countless trains because of them or I've payed extra for a ticket purchased in the train.

2. Nightlife

Recently I've noticed that even in Arlon there is some sort of an evening life. There are new takeaways, new restaurants, new terraces, small events, so little by little Arlon is waking up to life. Problem is if you work in Luxembourg and all if not most of your friends and coworkers live in Luxembourg. They will never be willing to come to Arlon for a drink and it doesn't make sense anyways. So if you are a cross-border worker in Luxembourg you are somehow forced to socialise in Luxembourg. If you have a car, I guess it could be alright, but in this case you are BOB (the designated driver) so no alcoholic drinks for you. If you rely on public transport you can say farewell to evening or nightlife in Luxembourg as the last train is at 11.00 pm and even the Luxembourg railway station closes around 10.00 pm.

3. Commuting times

Many people asked about the disadvantages of commuting between Arlon and Luxembourg would say the commuting times. I tend to disagree and let me tell you why. Indeed in the morning the motorway is pretty much on a stand still, but there are another two or even three alternative routes that link Arlon to Luxembourg. Another thing if you don't have fixed working hours, you have no traffic. I know for a fact that after 8.45 am the motorway clears out. And there is always the train, as I've said during the rush hours they try to have the trains on time.

As actual commuting times go, on a busy day, I could make from Arlon to Kirschberg in Luxembourg around 45 minutes. If there is no traffic I've made from my house to Esprit parking in the centre 20 minutes. By train you can make between 25 to 35 minutes depending on the type of train you catch. If you catch a direct one from Arlon to Luxembourg the journey is around 25 minutes, if the trains stops on the way, the journey is around 35 minutes. But, if you take the train you have to take also the bus in Luxembourg City and in the morning it can be a challenge. So even if you make 25 minutes by train, you can spent another 25 or even more in a bus. So in total if, for example, you work around the Airport in Luxembourg and you live in Arlon (although it makes more sense to live in Germany if you work around the airport) I would estimate your commuting times would be between 25 minutes (if you work close to the railway station in Luxembourg) to 45 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes.

Which is not that bad. I've lived in Bucharest and in Dublin and my commuting times were way bigger, with 45 minutes for 12 km in Bucharest and with one hour in Dublin. So if you come from London or another big city, to commute for an hour is something ordinary and that happens here only if there is traffic.

I think this will be a TLDR post, but if you made it this far, I thank you! I will try to insert a picture here and there and bold some information so it would be easier to read, but yes it is a kilometric post.

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