Expat Life

How we celebrated the Holidays in Budapest

January 16, 2019

Firstly, I’d like to start of 2019 by wishing you all a Happy New Year! I know I’m about two weeks too late, but I mean it all the same. Blame it on the constant colds that my husband and I have been trading back and forth since mid-December (she writes as she sneezes). As usual, I can’t really be bothered to make any New Year’s resolutions this year. Life seemed to go so fast so this past year and I want to remember to live in the moment, not think too far ahead, appreciate what I have and spend time with the people that matter. This is how we celebrated the holidays in Budapest…

How we celebrated the Holidays

Christmas is our favourite time of year. Andrew and I also go all out with planning and decorating that culminates in our annual Christmas Party. And while I didn’t post about it, I did take a lot of video. The first event of the season we attended was the St. Andrew’s Ball. You can see more of that by watching it here on our YouTube Channel.

St Andrews Ball Budapest
To kick off the holiday season, we attended the St. Andrew’s Ball held at the Budapest Marriott Hotel.

Now if you have ever been to any of our parties before, you know one thing – there are going to be a lot of lights (and a lot of wine). My clever husband spent just over two months building and programming the light show this year. And of course, since we no longer have a front lawn, it was indoors. SO MUCH FUN! And in case you want to be in the know, the software he uses to program is called xlights.

Christmas Day

Christmas in Budapest is just beautiful and we are lucky to have some good friends to share it with. However, it was hard to be away from our families. On the other hand, Andrew was as sick as I have ever seen him with a terrible cold immediately following our Christmas Party. And just when he started to feel better – I caught it. Just in time for Christmas Eve. Ugh. Luckily, Advil Cold helped me make it to our lovely Christmas Day Brunch at the Ritz Carlton. Thanks to our friend, Chris for arranging.

The gorgeous tree in the dining room at the Ritz-Carlton on Christmas Day.
My specially made “Chestnut Purée”. My absolute favourite holiday dessert.

New Year’s Eve

We both started to feel better again in time for New Year’s Eve and celebrated at Fat Mo’s Jazz Club. This night was so much fun – I will definitely look at going back again next year. We ate, drank champagne, celebrated birthdays and even lit the club on fire! Again, I filmed most of it, so you can watch that video here now.

The two birthday girls celebrating together on New Year’s Eve at Fat Mo’s

In the Bleak Midwinter

As we settle into the middle of January, we are both busy working and trying to “un-decorate” our apartment. Quite the endeavour… We’re also trying to finally get over these “boomerang” colds. The misery just seems to keep coming back and lingering on. Fingers crossed the colds go away for good soon – we’re off to Amsterdam in couple of weeks!

Expat Life, Moving Abroad

5 Things We’ve Learned Living Abroad in Budapest

November 28, 2018
living abroad in Budapest

We’ve officially lived in Budapest for a year! It’s hard to believe, as I would swear we only just arrived. However, it’s true. Last week, Facebook reminded me on the day we took our one-way flight across the pond. Living abroad in Budapest was always a dream of mine, and thanks to my amazing husband, we are here sharing it together. To celebrate this milestone, I thought I would tell you 5 things we’ve learned living abroad in Budapest, Hungary.

Dog in Suitcase

Lucy sitting our suitcase making sure she didn’t get left behind – November 21st, 2017.

1. Determination and patience are key

When we moved here, we really did start our lives again from scratch.  We had nowhere to live, nowhere to work, no friends and no idea how to tackle Hungarian bureaucracy. However, what we did have was each other. Our strong partnership was essential for making some stressful times much less so.  It helped us laugh, love and enjoy along the way.  And of course, Stuart and his team at InterRelocation were a huge help too!

2. You can live with less “stuff”

Sorting and selling our worldly goods in order to move to Europe was tough.  However, living here with less has been fabulous.  All that stuff you thought you couldn’t live without?  Well you can! Of course we replaced some essentials when we arrived – but there is practically nothing I miss.  Especially not my car! Public transportation is amazing here. I love that its more environmentally friendly and that I’m not wasting my life sitting in my car.  I read so many more books while taking public transportation!

This was everything we shipped here to Budapest to start our new life. It didn’t even fill up one van!

3. Age is just a number

Moving here midlife – and by choice – was just not something everyone could understand. I learned that it’s never too late for changes and we can always chase our dreams. People shouldn’t be discouraged by their age – quite the opposite. When you’re older, you’re more experienced and you know what you want from life.

4. Dollars, pounds, euros or forints?

The day will come when you stop converting money in your head.  For a long while, we were still converting everything into Canadian dollars to truly understand the price of things. However, we realized a couple of months ago, we no longer find ourselves doing it all the time.

5. We have different accents

A few weeks ago someone told me I speak with an accent. Happily, I though this meant maybe I had developed a bit of a Hungarian one… but they said, “No”. Then, my glee quickly turned to horror as I though I perhaps developed an affected British accent like Madonna?  However, thankfully, they also said, “No, its not that either”.  What they meant, was more that my speech has changed.  I choose my words differently now knowing that (Canadian) English is not the first language of most of our new friends and co-workers. And they are right, my language has definitely changed. However, my husband’s English accent has also absolutely become much stronger over the past year. My Canadian influence is fading…

One year in Budapest

Celebrating one year in Budapest. Do we sound different? Has our speech and accents changed? Visit us to find out!

Emigrating to another country certainly might seem daunting and I do believe that not everyone was made for this journey. But if you feel like you want to leave your country and would like to see the world, then do it! Fight your fears, open your mind and go!

As for us? We are still on our journey. We are currently trying to work through our final bits of Hungarian bureaucracy getting our Hungarian Driver’s Licenses. At first, we thought we would simply be able to exchange our Canadians ones, but apparently that is not true.  What it does mean, is that we’ll be starting off 2019 back in Driver’s Ed. Wish us luck!

Expat Life

Remembrance Service at the Commonwealth War Cemetery

November 18, 2018

Last Sunday, November 11th, Andrew and I attended the Remembrance Service at the Budapest Commonwealth War Cemetery.  The Budapest War Cemetery is located just outside of Budapest in Solymár.  We attended the cold and wet ceremony with fellow British, Canadian and Americans friends.

BUDAPEST WAR CEMETERY

Budapest Commonwealth War Cemetery

The cemetery contains 173 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. All of the graves are airmen   – with the exception of one seaman who died during peace enforcement on the Danube. The remains were brought in from sites all over Hungary after the war. At first they were marked with wooden markers but replaced with the current headstones in 1950-54. Only three of these burials are unidentified. The cemetery also contains one French and 37 Polish graves.

BUDAPEST WAR CEMETERY

The plot of land was given by the Hungarian Government in 1947 as “a gift of the people of Hungary for the perpetual resting place of the airmen who are honoured here”. The cemetery is one of those maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

BUDAPEST WAR CEMETERY

Remembrance Service

The Remembrance Service included a Scottish Bagpiper, Hungarian Military Trumpeter, a Priest, Rabbi, Reverend, Minister and Ambassadors (or representatives) of 22 foreign nations.

Words of Remembrance were given by H E Mr. Iain Lindsay OBE, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Hungary.  H E Ms. Isabelle Poupart, Ambassador, Embassy of Canada read the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae. Since this was written by a Canadian, I had to memorize this poem in grade school. While Her Excellency spoke aloud, the words came flooding back to me…

BUDAPEST WAR CEMETERY

We were invited to assemble close to the memorial to witness the Laying of the Wreaths.

Reception

Following the service we were invited to attend the Remembrance Day Buffet Brunch at the British Residence.  Thank you to our wonderful hosts for warming us up and sharing their home – Her Majesty’s Ambassador, Mr. Iain Lindsay OBE and Mrs. Bridget Lindsay.

Thanks also to Chris Clarke for arranging our transportation out of the city so we could attend the memorial.

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As a Canadian, I was proud to be part of this event here in Hungary. However, the Hungarian part of me felt a little strange.  Remembrance Day is not celebrated here in Hungary. Instead, Hungarians celebrate the Feast of St. Martin. Families across Hungary happily take this opportunity to gather around a roast bird and other harvest-season specialties. To put it simply, its almost exactly like the North American traditions of Thanksgiving.

Expat Life

Scotch Whisky Tasting with G&G Wealth at Diageo’s High Spirit Bar

November 9, 2018

Whisky — or Whiskey, depending on how you spell it and what region of the world it’s made in — can be a very confusing thing indeed. There are so many different styles and flavors, blends, single malts, single barrels, small batch, corn, rye, Irish, Scottish, Tennessee; it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. So how does one go about getting a grasp on this caramel spirit? Why by being invited to a Scotch whisky tasting of course! And I was lucky enough to be invited to one by Duncan Graham from G&G Wealth located here in Budapest.

Our Host

Andrew and I were fortunate to meet Duncan shortly after arriving in Budapest last December. We attended a Christmas event for the Irish Hungarian Business Circle of which Duncan is the Vice -President. Duncan is also the President of the St. Andrew’s Association Hungary and throws the best black-tie charity events in Budapest!  In fact, the St. Andrew’s Ball is coming up on the 1st of December – and you definitely don’t want to miss the St Patrick’s Day Ball on March 16th, 2019.

Duncan Graham

Duncan Graham (right) also arranged a charity tombola for the night, but unfortunately, I didn’t win anything. Peter Dobránszky, President of the Hungarian Rugby Association (left).

The Event

This packed house Scotch Whisky tasting was held at Diageo’s High Spirits Bar in downtown Budapest.  The program included short presentations on four excellent Scotch whiskies.  And let’s face it, good whisky can be really expensive, so this was a fabulous way for a novice like me to try them out. I got to try them without having to buy the entire bottle and risk disappointment.  The whiskies were also accompanied by some delicious hors d’oeuvres including one of my favourites – haggis.

The Whisky

After some very entertaining and informative introductions, I was able to taste the whisky.  In my case, I only “really” liked one of them. And that was the Glenkinchie 12 year old presented by Patrick McMenamin.  However, I also enjoyed the Cardhu 12 year old presented by Tim O’Sullivan.

The Clynelish 14 year old, presented by His Excellency Iain Lindsay, was a bit too complex for my liking.   And the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, presented by Csaba Gulas (Diageo), was much too strong for me. I’m not sure I have enough life left in me to get a taste for that one…

Patrick McMenamin (left) with my husband, Andrew.

His Excellency Iain Lindsay OBE, British Ambassador to Hungary (left) and Pat Kelly, Irish Ambassador to Hungary (right)

The Night

Andrew and I were thrilled to see so many familiar faces and be able to enjoy this night with good friends. Thank you again to Duncan for making this night so special.  I look forward to seeing you all again at the St. Andrew’s Ball.  And this year, I’ll know exactly what whisky to drink 😉

If you want to see video from the St. Patrick’s Day Gala this past year, you can check it out on my YouTube channel. The ball portion starts at minute 15:41 if you want to skip directly to it.

 


G&G Wealth Limited is a planning company dedicated to helping expatriates, foreign nationals and international workers invest, grow and protect their wealth –  no matter where they reside in the world.

A big thanks to the Sponsors – Diageo, Chris Clarke of Clarke and White, Global Reach, Edward Quinlan , Mannheim Patricia from Red Catering and Peter Dobránszky from the Hungarian Rugby Association.