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Expat Exchange - 10 Tips for Living in Hungary
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Liberty Bridge in Budapest

10 Tips for Living in Hungary

By Betsy Burlingame


Summary: Did you know that you should not have even one drink and drive in Hungary? Did you know that property crime is common in Hungary, but not violent crime? Did you know that Buda (West) side of Budapest is more residential? This article offers tips from expats living in Hungary.

Learning Hungarian

"Hungarians are fiercely proud of their traditions and very stubbornly refuse to abandon their language even though it is one of the least spoken languages in the world. So, learning a minimum of Hungarian is essential to a successful transition to life here. I am (very) slowly learning the language enough to be functional. Having a translator is essential, especially when documents need translation. Hungarians love paper work and heavily document everything with lots of stamps and such falderal. I do speak German and in our area many Hungarians speak German as this is a tourist area," advised one expat in Hungary.

"English is prevalent among the younger generation and in the larger cities. It's a little more difficult to get by with english in the smaller cities or villages. It will only take a short time to find most of things you need shopping wise as a large amount of products are imported from the UK or U.S. with english ingredients or instructions," said another expat.

Cost of Living in Hungary

"Hungary is quite cheap compared to Western Europe and the United States, therefore visitors can enjoy buying food, beverages and souvenirs without feeling a pinch. That said, cost of living is high when local salaries are taken into consideration. When calculated as a percentage of salary, items like clothing, shoes, accessories, baby equipment, furniture, bedding and electronics can feel expensive. Try to bring these with you," advised one expat.

Corruption Hungary

"Early on we experienced a great deal of attempts to steal and cheat from us which we have now gotten firmly under control. But, it is typical of third world countries experiencing enormous problems adapting to the new capitalistic economy. Hungary is a poor country with an extremely low salary base and many people are not living as well under capitalism as they were prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This has led to rampant corruption and a large amount of non-violent crime. Coupled with the removal of nearly all middle aged and older workers with experience this has caused a great deal of problems for the Hungarian citizenry. But, the corruption here pales in comparison to the Middle East or Russia. Hungary is working hard to get this under control and I can see noticeable improvements," warned one expat living in Balatonfured, Hungary.

Finding a Home in Hungary

"Finding English-language real estate agents can be difficult but they do exist (I work for one) and it is worth it to find one. Mix ups I've experienced in the past include agents who confuse numbers (40 and 60, for example) and some debate over whether or not my landlady would offer a couch. Businesses that seek expat clients (relocation companies, some real estate agencies and also exercise studios, beauty salons) can have very useful information posted on their website. Choosing a neighborhood: Families seeking residential settings should look for houses on the Buda (West) side of the city, in districts 1, 2, 2A (a bit far from the city center but home to the American School) and 12. Residential parks exist with detached homes and lots of yard space. Those looking to live in the center and close to embassies/businesses should live on the Pest (East) side in district 5, 6 or 7. For urban but residential surroundings look at districts 9, 13 and 14," suggested one person who moved to Hungary.

Diversity in Hungary

" Citizens are quite diverse: when you go to work or home you will pass by men and women of every social standing, race, age and income level. It is truly fascinating and a nice break from Washington, DC where I was working previously. That said, there are neighborhoods that establish themselves with a certain demographic (9th district is for young urbanites, defined sections of 8th district are low-income and uncared for). As mixed as it is, I feel that some locals are a bit closed off to the minority & low income Roma population, homeless, and other minority groups. I was struck by the non-pc attitudes of some of my friends," said one expat living in Budapest.

Meeting People in Hungary

"Budapest Melting Pot, Internations, Budapest Toastmasters, Budapest groups on Meetup.com, Budapest International Women's Club, British Women's Association, Budapest Accueil (French), Dutch Club Hungary, Expat Hungary, International Women's Club Association of Budapest (IWCA), North American Women's Association of Budapest, Professional Women's Association of Budapest, Institut fran├žais de Budapest, Instituto Cervantes de Budapest, Xpatloop.com, Baby Blue Banana (Expat Events), Concerts and bookreadings at TreeHugger Dan's bookshop (there are many branches), Internations Expat Community (they have live meetings), Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Hungary, Buda Juniors Football (Soccer) League (for children), Bat and Ball Junior Cricket Club (for children)," suggested on expat living in Budapest.

Healthcare in Hungary

"My health Insurance in the States covered me in Hungary so make sure you learn about your Insurance carriers policy regarding International coverage. Otherwise you will need to get international coverage until you live in Hungary long enough (5 years) to qualify for their social coverage," said one expat.

Another expat said, "I am an American pediatrician who has lived and worked in Budapest for the last 8 years. Basically, there is the state system, which may meet your needs if you find a well-trained compassionate pediatrician. It is very cumbersome, and beaurocratic, and the infrastructure (hospitals, equipment) is literally falling apart. There are also several private clinics, which provide more patient-centered, American standard care."

International Schools in Hungary

Expats have submitted reviews of British International School in Budapest, Britannica International School in Budapest, Lycee Francais de Budapest and the International School of Budapest. Another member submitted a map with many of Budapest's international schools flagged.

Another expat said, "There are several options for english speaking schools, from Greater Grace Christian Academy to the British Magyar school and the American School. We live in the 2nd A district which is about 20 minutes outside the downtown Pest area, by car. The American school is moving out here so it is getting more popular."

Don't Drink and Drive in Hungary

"Taxis are also an option for those nights out. 0 tolerance on alcohol, so even one drink is off limits. Cheaper to just take a taxi," advised one expat.

Safety in Hungary

"As far as feeling safe, I feel safe from violent crime, but property crime is rampant. There are many instances of house being burgled, cars stolen and pickpockets. Most of the houses have alarm systems, as do the cars. I recommend both. We have had attempted break ins, but that was it. We also have a dog, which is very popular here in Hungary, though most dogs seem to be for protection of property," said one expat.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.




Mar 23, 2013 21:54

I would have to disagree calling Hungary a third world country by one of the Balatonfured expats is pretty inaccurate and uncalled for. This is just not the case. Third world countries are in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In fact Hungary is one of the most westernized of the former Eastern Bloc countries. Third world means low economic development, high levels of poverty and disease, and low life expectancy. This does not describe Hungary. Yes it is a poor country with low salaries and high unemployment, corruption, and struggling to adjust to capitalism. They are new to it only since 1989. It takes time. But how is this different than our own Good Ol USA lately? We have ever growing corruption in the government for years now, and people are struggling here as well. Be reasonable in your comparisons. I have been there 6 times since then and the progress is noticably improved since communism!!!.

Aug 27, 2013 09:25

Great, gives me an idea of how things go. How is the economy going, is it looking up like that of Iceland? Want to get away from Vancouver Canada.

Sep 4, 2013 02:49

"...very stubbornly refuse to abandon their language even though it is one of the least spoken languages in the world." Very ignorant remark from the author! "...it is typical of third world countries" Hungary is not a third world country and never was one.! Very ignorant of the author! How was she able to earn her degrees??? She should have been flunked!

Nov 25, 2013 04:07

Hi, I went out to Canada when I was 4 years old with my parents and have dreamed of moving back to Hungary all my life. I am now 49 and am planning to come back home in May 2014. Do you have any advice for me. Rozsa

Jan 28, 2014 06:04

As to the "Third World" aspect to Hungary it is a matter of one's own interpretation. The Country has no money and they barely paid off their debt to the EU on the backs of Hungarians taxing them practically to death and with a whopping 27% sales tax. Now they took a loan/contract with the former Russian occupiers (because they offered a lower interest than anyone else) to modernize their nuclear plant in the South. I guess it is hard not to make a "deal with the Devil" if you in dire straights. A number of utilities did go down as a result the "FIDESZ dividend". I guess elections will be soon! LOL! Hungary is on the edge of Schengen countries and is a gateway in to the EU. Romania with they "gypsy crime export spree" is still waiting for their membership which has been delay once again, and perhaps rightfully so. But ultimately "bureaucracy" is what choking Hungary. For some unknown reason Hungarians are not willing to change in many ways and are way behind "modernizing" their laws. Example the inheritance laws where just changed in 2010 replacing an almost 60 year old set of laws. Consumer protection laws/rules used proudly wear the 1952 date on guarantees you get from merchants. Traffic laws date back to the 1950's, with few from the 1970's. Slow to change and slow to react. We can only hope Hungary can overcome this "mindset" of "poor but proud" and "no one tells us what to do" and "hajra Magyarok" (or let's go Hungarians). If Americans yelled "Let's go Americans" they would call them "chest banging capitalist superpower" who dictates to everyone! Go figure! Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Sep 5, 2014 14:36

...very stubbornly refuse to abandon their language even though it is one of the least spoken languages in the world." Totally not respectful remark from the author! They are proud of their Magyar language and has never been a third world country, poor,yes, but never ignorant. maybe the USA should have such stubborness and strong beliefs on the "English" language, since everything now is written in "Spanish" there. In the USA everywhere you go you feel like you are in a third world country with the Hispanics overtaking communities, the language, the outward showing of rude behavior and even the food.

Aug 6, 2015 06:38

Hungary and the former Eastern Block was called "Second-World-countries". When countries were ranked, Third World countries meant, extreme poverty, hunger, no infrastructure, sewage, plumbing, electricity etc... Hungary had infrastructure, roads, even subway early on, sewage systems, stable electricity, clean water in the sink, food etc. It's a mistake to call it a third world country. Third world is NOT determined by the buying power of people's salary. Honestly, living in LA now for many years, I don't really see how much better life is for many people. If you are smart, you can definitely make a better living easier in the U.S. but there are many people that are poor now there too.

Dec 7, 2015 22:02

Hi Betsy, I will be moving to Kozseg in about 2 years with my Hungarian wife and 2 kids. Currently we are in Boston. I will be teaching English & the compnay will be giving me health coverage. However, my wife says that because she is Hungarian and I am maried to her (13 plus years)we are all covered by the state health insurance we just pay about 20$ each per month. Do you know who I can ask just to make sure she is correct? I have many other questions but that sems the most pressing. Thank You! Ryan

Mar 8, 2016 08:46

Author quote - "Did you know that property crime is common in Hungary," As others have said: The author is ignorant to the facts. NOT the whole of Hungary has property crime. Visit Szeged for example and you will find a very peaceful place with almost zero crime (in fact I have only ever seen car accidents whereby the police were called), but I have never seen muggings, shootings or burglaries take place. Even the police are almost redundant. At this time they are patrolling the borders, but in terms of street crime, car crime and property crime they are almost redundant as said. What the shame here is, is that the author has degrees and a potentially good website which, unfortunately, will put potential users off with generalisations and mis-informed facts.

Jun 6, 2016 08:43

The author states, "Citizens are quite diverse: when you go to work or home you will pass by men and women of every social standing, race, age and income level. It is truly fascinating and a nice break from Washington, DC where I was working previously". Washington DC not diverse. Is she kidding.

Aug 7, 2016 08:18

I speak three languages, and there is nothing more sad than the death of a beautiful language. I find native Anglophones quite arrogant about thinking that English should be spoken throughout the world, just because it is dominant. Usually it is the only language spoken by the person who is offering the idea. As an ESL teacher, I enjoy the variety of accents, as a traveller I enjoy speaking to a variety of of different people from different demographics and many older folks only speak their native tongue. Scientifically speaking Hungarian is the most difficult but most accurate language in the world. It is phonetic, every letter has only one sound, and there are 44 letters in the alphabet. Furthermore, in Hungarian you can change the meaning of words by adding inflections. Through these endings, you can define what you are trying to say in greater detail. Verbs can be inflected in about 5000 different ways where most nouns, pronouns and numerals can be changed in 10,000 different ways. It is also the reason Hungarian (and Finnish) is among the most difficult languages to learn. Also, lets hope Hungarians are not offended by calling their country third world. It is a common misconception of North Americans with all the propaganda against communism in the 80's to feel this way. It is also wrong. There are no rampant diseases, starving children, or war. Developmentally they have come a long way since regaining their own government from Russia in 1989. You must give them time to perhaps soften their resentment of being under communist control for 60+ years. But third world is very inaccurate.

Oct 17, 2016 23:05

I resent the comment which contained the word's 'Third World Country"...Hungary is NOT a third world country!

Mar 8, 2017 12:20

Some of the comments indeed verify the sentence: "Hungarians are fiercely proud of their country". And not just proud, but very touchy too. So what if some online article calls it a third world country? It is what it is. Some facilities, infrastructure and economic indicators like unemployment can be worse/better than other first-world countries. Who cares.. If things are so great in the first world, why are people emigrating from there to Hungary???

Feb 5, 2018 06:17

If you want to learn a language that most people don't understand and wish to communicate in private learn Hungarian. Yes it is difficult to learn but once you began to understand it becomes easier with the exception of learning the vocabulary. I love speaking to my wife when we travel in her native language. We seldom run across anyone who knows what we are saying unless it's a Hungarian of course. I find it a practical language where things are described exactly like they are seen such as sun following flowers - sun flowers. I say that vocabulary is difficult because they rarely use root words in other languages like French, Spanish, English and Latin. They have their own vocabulary and at times have actually had commisions to keep it so, creating words to fit their own culture. As to the suggestions that it is a third world country that comment only shows ignorance of the state. I remember when I first came here one of the ladies I was excorting on a day trip was from Texas. We had just finished having coffee at a cafe and I told them that we were going down to the old city wall to do some shopping. She asked me "Can we get a piece of the wall?" Of course my answer was "sorry honey but I think you are talking about the Berlin Wall". She asked "is that the wall?" Hungary has came a long way since the 1990s. It's safe and inexpensive for expats. I prefer it over the many places in the world that I have traveled and lived and have retired here. You will find the beuarcracy no different than that of the US. Medical care is not the standard of the US but it most certainly is not as expensive. I remember when I had surgery here it was great and other than the limited pain medications just as good as the US Standard. I think I have a little experience with the medical system both personally and having worked in the medical system for the past 45 years. 7 of which were here arranging care of a workforce of greater than 3000. Very seldom do the physicians not spend time with me and they actually talk with me and learn who I am. People come here from all over the world to have their dentist issues solved. My last bridge work has lasted 10 years now - no problems. So, I am pleased with those systems as are many. You can find fault with any wherever you go.

Liberty Bridge in Budapest

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