As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!
Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!
“Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta
Let’s meet Anouk: from Belgium to Hungary
Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!
Hi there! I’m Anouk and I usually describe myself as born in Belgium with Dutch roots but an Italian heart.
My passions indeed are connected to different cultures and languages so it goes without saying that the world for me knows no borders. Currently my focus is on my professional career and traveling, especially in the area I am living in now.
Why did you move to your current country?
After graduating in Linguistics at Ghent University almost 2 years ago, I felt the need to leave again. A few years earlier I had been living for a short time in Italy for study reasons and ever since, a part of me always wanted to leave again.
The initial idea was to go back to Italy but then fate decided differently for me. I was at a point where I had to find a job and at the same I was hungry for a new international experience, so I thought ‘why not combine both?’ After a few applications here and there, I eventually accepted a job offer in Budapest, Hungary, where I am now living for more than a year.
What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting?
I moved to Budapest to work in a marketing team for an international travel company. We were a team of about 10 people where each colleague was responsible for a specific market, working in their native language, Dutch in my case. The application process was completely online and I did not move until I got the job.
After a few months, I learned that Budapest is a great place to work if you are multilingual. Especially if you speak Dutch or a Nordic language, you will pretty much always be able to find a job, as many global operations for different international companies are located here and those language skills tend to be harder to find.
In this context, I received different job proposals via LinkedIn without really looking for a new position. That’s how after 6 months I accepted another job offer in Sales, again working in my native language Dutch but this time for a corporation, where I am still employed at the moment.
How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?
Social life in Budapest is great and very much alive, thanks to the many bars, clubs and restaurants but also because of the ever growing number of expats. There is a large international community as many companies have a high demand for multilingual profiles and because of many international students finding their way to Budapest.
This city is relatively small for being a capital, which makes it easy to get from A to B and which makes it also easy to attend the many events that are organised by different organisations. Also expat groups on Facebook are quite active so given all these factors, I’d say it’s quite easy to find new international friends. The weather also helps!
Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?
In my opinion, Budapest is an amazing city if you’re looking for a few years of international work experience. Many well-known brands are based here and they’re looking for talent which doesn’t make it too hard to find a job and have a good name on your CV.
On top of that, the work-life balance here is great with many options for after work activities such as outdoor sports, culture and nightlife. There are so many things to do that it’s hard to choose sometimes. I wouldn’t say I fell in love with Budapest right away, but we are in a very good relationship now even though I don’t think it’s a long term thing (but then you never know what happens).
It’s the perfect place to move to if you want to have a fun life abroad for some years without having to worry too much about spending a fortune on living, and if you’re looking for some travel experience: Hungary is located in the middle of Europe with many travel options by train, bus or plane.
What do you want to say to people looking to move there?
There are many active housing agencies as this is a booming business in Budapest, but Facebook and ingatlan.com will be just fine to find a flat. Finding an accommodation is also relatively easy in Budapest, especially compared to many other cities. Don’t be surprised though if your land owner requires you to pay the rent in cash, that’s common here.
If you need to have a Hungarian bank account, do some research on the different banks and which one best suits your needs. Also don’t be surprised if Hungarians seem ‘angry’ towards you when you ask for information or if you’re in a shop or restaurant: cultures are different.
How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?
You are obliged to pay a monthly contribution for the national healthcare system but you might want to stay as far away from it as possible. Long waiting times, staff shortage and hospitals that are in extremely bad state are daily business here. I had the ‘pleasure’ to experience a few days in a hospital due to a severe fracture and only the surgeon (who luckily did an amazing job) spoke English, so be prepared.
However, most companies offer a kind of health insurance with which you can visit doctors in private facilities, which function as a parallel healthcare system.
In terms of safety, Budapest is the city where I felt the safest so far but, as in every other city, you want to stay away from certain areas.
How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?
I found this tricky in the beginning because of the different currency (I’m used to EUR). The general cost of living is relatively low although rent is not as cheap as you might expect: if you want a place for yourself in the city centre you might have to spend half of your salary on it, but if you’re happy with a room you will be able to spend a lower percentage of your income on rent.
Transport is amazing and cheap (less than 30 EUR for monthly unlimited travel), while food tends to be cheaper than in many Western European countries, although I don’t notice a huge difference on my supermarket bill. What is definitely cheaper is eating out or going for drinks, as well as internet and electricity.
All in all, as an expat I don’t think you have to struggle to make ends meet but don’t expect to be able to save up heaps of money either as local salaries tend to be low. Many Hungarians have side jobs for example.
Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in
I think any expat will agree when I say the hardest part is the language. Hungarian is not part of the Indo-European language family (including languages as English, Spanish, German, Italian etc.) which makes it hard to make something of even the most basic words. English is not always as widely spoken as one would like so communication in daily life can be hard sometimes.
Another thing I struggle with is the idea of customer service here, which is not the same as back home or as in other European countries I visited. Also the banking system can be quite tricky, so best to ask advice on this if you were to live here.
Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend
The thermal baths! They are my absolute favourite activity and such an unique asset to this city. The most touristy ones are Gellert and Széchenyi but you find all the others on http://www.spasbudapest.com/.
Unmissable monuments are the Parliament, Fisherman’s Bastion, Chain Bridge, Heroes Square with the city park, the Saint Stephen’s Basilica and the Citadel (for an amazing panorama). For going out, check out one of the ruin bars that contributed to Budapest’s reputation as a party destination. The most famous one is Szimpla kert: even though often overcrowded it’s worth a quick visit and you find it right in the bursting heart of the city.
Did you find Anouk’s experience useful? Then check out the upcoming expat interviews in other cities!