Although English is not an official language in Luxembourg, it is spoken by more than 80 per cent of the population, according to the Ministry of Education. Many expats, i.e. English-speaking immigrants, are also part of the Grand Duchy's population. At the Home from Home Shop in Strassen, they find a place where a part of their homeland is preserved.
"This one, it's really typically British!" With enthusiasm, John Heffernan goes through the shelves to pick out and present one traditional product after another. From Yorkshire Tea to the UK's favourite Marmite spice paste, thick yeast pancakes called crumpets and traditional English scones to Linda McCartney's brand of vegetarian frozen pies, the self-proclaimed expat shop really does have everything to make UK hearts beat faster. In 2017, the Irish-born expat opened the shop Home from Home in Strassen together with Englishman Mark Hollis to bring exactly what the shop name promises to Luxembourg.
"We knew what products people would want because we are from England ourselves. So, the idea behind the shop from the beginning was to offer the English-speaking expat community in this country a place to go", says John. By the end of 2002, the then money broker had moved from London to Koerich, but when the only British shop in Luxembourg ─ Little Britain ─ closed its doors, John embarked on a new career path. "We had been thinking about it for a while then and just went for it", says the 56-year-old. When his business partner returned to the UK in 2020, John ran the shop on his own for a while before his son Calum joined the business and has been managing sales with him ever since.
A little piece of childhood
"I remember how we used to go to England and Ireland every week to pick up the goods in the beginning. The first year or two were really hard work and my old man is still tired of it today", Calum says with a wink. The then family van with freezer compartment showed around 685,000 kilometres after the many trips back and forth, because fresh meat from the Irish butcher or locally produced Irish jam do not import themselves. Today, Home from Home is supplied twice a week with products from Ireland, while Calum and John pick up many a speciality in Brussels. The assortment of more than 1,000 food and household products includes not only the traditional delicacies from England and Ireland, but also goods from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa ─ in other words, from (almost) everywhere where English is spoken.
"There are a lot of things we miss from home: bacon, sausage, proper crisps and just basic foods we grew up with", Calum explains. For many customers, shopping in the expat shop is associated with a lot of memories, because here they find what they loved as children, says the 26-year-old: "We get a lot of positive feedback. And when a big, strong man comes in, sees the English chocolate and sweets and is hit by a real nostalgia kick, that's great to see. But some also just come to talk, especially during lockdown." Home from Home has a number of regular customers who call every few days to ask for specific products.
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