14 September 2016

Amy - Expat in Budapest, Hungary

Amy - Expat in Budapest, Hungary

We’ve had the chance to talk to Amy, 28, an American expat who has moved to Budapest with her husband. Mrs. Amy who has been living there for four months, now works as an ESL teacher.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: A small town in Montana, in the USA, although before I moved abroad, I was living in Denver, Colorado.


Q: What made you move out of the USA?

A: I’ve always loved to travel, and it was a huge dream of mine to live overseas. The simplified version is that my now-husband and I rather suddenly both reached a burned-out place in our respective careers, and we decided to make the leap together.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I am currently living in Budapest, Hungary. I spent my first year abroad in Prague and due to visa reasons wasn’t able to stay longer, but I knew I wanted to stay in Central/Eastern Europe. A weekend visit to Hungary—and a job offer!—sealed the deal.


Q: How long have you been living in Budapest?

A: Just since the middle of January—so about four months!


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I’m here with my husband. He loves living here in Budapest!


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Yes, of course! I miss my people (and my dogs) and many more things about the USA than I thought I would. I don’t get homesick very often—mostly around holidays or whenever everyone is together without me (FOMO!) but when I do, the best thing is to explore a new area—of my city, the country, or the continent! That always makes me feel grateful for my opportunity to do this. FaceTime and Skype help so much, too!


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: The Hungarians are a resilient, traditional people, and it’s been so interesting to get to know the culture. I will admit that they are not the most openly friendly group of people as a whole—their complicated history might be a reason for that—but with the few Hungarians I’ve really gotten to know in the short time I’ve been here, I find them quite funny and intelligent. I think it’s wonderful how proud they are of their history and their culture—I’ve learned so much about the country just from chats with my co-workers.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Budapest? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: I am still in the process of making social connections here in Budapest—it’s only been a handful of months since I moved here. I have a great group of expat friends that are also teachers, but I’m getting to know my Hungarian co-workers better and that’s just wonderful. I’ve also started attending Hungarian/English meet-ups to improve my language skills, and I’ve met a few new friends through that as well. I would say that, even for someone like me who is fairly outgoing and friendly, it’s never easy to make solid connections—it just takes time!


Q: How does the cost of living in Budapest compared to your home?

A: It is quite a bit cheaper here! In fact, in the States, I would be making well below poverty level, but I can live fairly comfortably here.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Depending on where you go, $1.5-$4

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: About $5-$10

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: This is tough because Budapest has some very fancy restaurants, like Michelin-starred, that are crazy expensive. However, for what I consider “fancy,” about $20-$30.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: The wine here is amazing and can be quite inexpensive. Anywhere from $5 on up can get you a decent bottle. I don’t smoke so I can’t answer about the cigarettes!


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Budapest?

A: Make sure to be very adamant when requesting an English speaker—and be prepared to go to several branches (or banks) to find someone who does speak English. Luckily, my school helped me open an account. I think this is fairly common, as most people who move to Hungary from outside the EU need some kind of work sponsorship to get a visa.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: I have found the system predictably filled with red tape, but overall, one of the smoother visa processes I’ve been through. Again, my school helped some with this, which I think is standard.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Budapest is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I am just now getting my health card, so I don’t have a lot of input on this yet. However, don’t let the appearance of the hospitals/clinics scare you—the doctors here are quite good, everything just looks like it’s about to collapse. Even in my required physical for teaching, though, they were very thorough.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or Budapest? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: If you have a working visa here in Hungary, you will get a national healthcare card for the duration of your visa. I also have an International Teacher’s Card, which provides some emergency insurance. My husband does not have a working visa, but is technically here as my dependent, so he has traveler’s insurance that is not affiliated with Hungary. I would always recommend insurance!


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Budapest? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I didn’t have much notice before I started my job, so I remember it being quite frenzied. However, my husband I just brought two suitcases each—we didn’t hire a moving company at all! We have a furnished apartment, which is common, and much easier than bringing furniture. There’s also always IKEA J. I think moving overseas for the very first time, to Prague, was most memorable, in that we had to sell everything we owned—from toasters to cars to bikes!


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: This is a tough one, as I feel there are many small challenges, but often they are unexpected so they feel more dramatic at the moment. I think it’s been most difficult to adjust to my new job, as I am working with only Hungarian teachers in the classroom. We have clashed on both personal and professional levels, and I still don’t agree with some of their teaching methods—and I’m sure they feel the same. However, I am slowly building relationships so my experience in the classroom has improved.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Budapest?

A: Budapest is a big, gorgeous city with so much to offer, located in a great part of Europe. I love exploring the city and being ideally located in Europe to explore the rest of the continent as well. On the negative side, Hungary was strongly impacted by communism and recent political movements are affecting the country as we speak, so it can still seem quite gloomy, literally and metaphorically. One of my co-workers told me that the Hungarians don’t celebrate events, they commemorate—the two major holidays I’ve been here for having been about battles/uprisings that they didn’t win but were still important. So, that gives you an example of the mindset, which I can find difficult to deal with sometimes. Luckily now it’s spring here, and the city is coming to life!


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: There is so much to do in Budapest! You must go to the hot baths (Szechenyi is a good one), to Fisherman’s Bastion, to the castle, to Heroes Square, to Parlament. Try the wine, perhaps at DiVino Wine Bar, and you must try Hungarian goulash! Outside of Budapest, I absolutely love the little town of Eger, less than two hours away, which is known as the wine region of Hungary. Both Vienna and Bratislava are about two hours away by train as well—the possibilities for travel near and far are endless!


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: I will be teaching in Budapest for at least one more year. After that, I have so much more of the world to see. My husband and I dream of being true nomads for a while and not having a home base. We will see! We miss living close to family, and there are always visa considerations when living overseas.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Explore the rest of the country! I rarely had heard anything about Hungary except for Budapest, and there are so many charming spots to discover. Also, learning the basics of the language will be a huge help. This will help you make Hungarian friends faster as well, which will enrich your experience.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Budapest?

A: I love We Love Budapest. It’s a great resource!