day 14: discover local culture – the Vianden nut festival

Vianden nut festival 2012

It’s a wet and cold autumn day here in Luxembourg. The kind where really you should stay tucked up inside with a good book or magazine, Bon Ivor playing and banana muffins in the oven. Instead, after church this morning we jumped in the car and drove north in the rain to Vianden.

It’s Vianden’s annual nut festival today. The dreary weather had not deterred crowds of umbrella-wielding people from arriving for the damp festivities. They were a strange mix of middle aged folk in their cagoules and sensible shoes, and the teenagers, dressed in the latest autumnal fashions, enjoying the excuse to drink beer on the street in the middle of the day.

Funnily enough, we didn’t see a lot of nuts. Apparently one fifth of all the nut trees in Luxembourg grew in Vianden’s orchards, but most of the stalls were selling nut liquor, nut sausage, nut cake and one stall with enormous nougat that they were cutting like cheeses.

We wandered up the streets, sampling the freebies (walnut pate, walnut bread, walnut pesto…), eating the compulsory festival grillwurst for lunch and laughing at the amusing mix of music being played – the loud German folk songs fading into terrible 90s dance music (Vengaboys anyone?!).

Vianden nut festival 2012

After a last crepe with honey and walnuts (surprise!) eaten huddled under the umbrella, we headed back for the car. I heard afterwards that a festival highlight is the tradition of planting a walnut tree for every child born that year, which seems like a lovely idea.

And that’s maybe why I love these cultural days so much. The Diekirch festival at the beginning of lent, the apple picking weekends on right now, Pretzel Sunday, and so many more quirky local festivals.

While it can sometimes be hard to integrate into the local culture when you’re living as an expat (I’ve found it can be harder or easier depending on the country and culture), the local cultural festivals and celebrations are an accessible way to start understanding and getting to know the country you are making a home in. The history books and tourist guides come alive at these gatherings, and it all starts making a bit more sense. Or it may be a crazy confusion of culture, but at least you’re enjoying it.

And the food alone is usually worth it…!


This post is part of my 31 days to embrace expat life. I’m writing every day through October on this topic. Click on the button to see all the posts so far…

I have a few posts planned for later this month that I’d love your help with! Are you a “trailing spouse”, moving for your partner’s job? Or are you an expat parent, negotiating life overseas with children? Send me an email with your experience, tips, thoughts (only if you’re willing to let me use what you write for my posts) to: hello (at) fionalynne (dot) com.

Yesterday’s post – Embracing expat life with your spouse..