Browsing Tag

relocation

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!

Budapest Expat Tips, Expat Life

How to Spend the Best Summer Day at Gellert Baths

July 22, 2018

In case you haven’t been paying attention to my Instagram of late, Hungarians are famous for their bath culture. There are baths all around the country dating back thousands of years. Some of the most beautiful baths in the entire world can be found in Budapest. Our favourite is the Gellert Bath located inside the Gellert Hotel in the 11th District of Budapest.

The historic Gellert Hotel as seen by sitting on the pool deck.

A Brief History

The Romans were the first to take advantage of the thermal springs that were naturally occurring on the surface of the land. Romans built both public and private baths – they had approximately 15 baths in the vicinity of Budapest alone. However, the Hungarian bath culture really started flourishing during the Turkish era. The Turkish introduced Hungarians to to the concept of “wellness” treatments. Massages and the use of different creams and oils were an essential part of Turkish baths. You will continue to find these kinds of treatments available at the baths today.

The Gellert Baths

This gorgeous bath complex was built between 1912 and 1918 in the Art Nouveau style. It was damaged during World War II, but then rebuilt, and finally remodelled again in 2008. Since its opening, it has only ever been closed for one day when a pipe burst. The complex includes thermal pools, saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, an open-air swimming and wave, and an indoor swimming pool. Masseuse and spa services are also available.  That brings me to my first recommendation…

The wave pool at the Gellert Baths. Every hour on the hour during the afternoon, huge waves bring fun and refreshment to the bathers.

Getting a Massage at the Gellert

Since I have bunions on both of my feet, I often get a sore lower back and legs from having to adjust my gait.  So when I visit the baths, I often get a massage.  The massage “menu” varies in style and price, but I always get the 45 minute Thermal Massage for 12,000 forints ($43 USD).  No pretty perfumes or birds chirping, this massage means business.

However, if you have a woman masseuse, prepare yourself to strip down entirely right in front of them before your climb onto the bed.  I’m not particularly prudish, so this didn’t bother me, but it was a bit surprising.  On other occasions, when I have had a male masseuse, you keep your bathing suit (mostly) on and they work around it.  Either way, the massages are fantastic and an essential part of having the best day.

Just off the massage room areas you will find two gorgeous thermal bath areas. The thermal baths are to the left and right with showers straight ahead. (Photo: BathsBudapest.com)

Get There Early

I can’t recommend this highly enough.  While the outdoor area is quite large, it’s pretty much impossible to find a spot past 11:00 during the summer. Furthermore, if you want loungers with an umbrella, you definitely need to be there before 10:00 on a weekend.  The lounger chairs here are extremely comfortable and make relaxing easy.  There is no drink service at your chair, but there are two bars accessible from the pool deck  – and you can even bring your own.

My husband found us the perfect shaded spot to start off our relaxing day at the Gellert.

Bring your own Food and Drinks

So this may be slightly controversial, but I do thinks it helps to have the perfect day – and its thrifty too.  While the Gellert has two snack bars and a restaurant, the food is just okay.  It’s certainly not bad, but compared to the prices, its not really one of our favourite places to eat.  Therefore, we have taken to bringing our own little sandwiches, grapes, a couple cans of beer and whatever else we need to get through the day.  We still usually end up buying coffee (which is delicious there) and additional beverages when needed. Note: This is quite common with the locals, its not like sneaking food into a movie theatre. No need to feel weird.

Our bill for one pint of draft beer purchased at the bar. Quite expensive for Hungarian prices… $5.15 USD

Sit near the Musicians

Now I assume this only happens on the weekends, but do yourself a favour and find a lounger closer to the indoor area.  The Hungarian Folklore band that plays from noon until 3pm is AMAZING.  These five talented musicians play jazz standards, show-tunes, classical and Hungarian favourites.  I honestly can’t believe you don’t have to pay extra to hear them play. If you are a music lover, this is only another good reason to spend a day at the baths.

The incredible musicians a the Gellert. My husband is always requesting they play Acker Bilk… (sorry for my potato quality photo).

Enjoy the Wave Pool  – with Caution

The outdoor wave pool is open from April to October. This pool can be incredibly fun, but also a little dangerous if you don’t take care.  At the top of every hour, slightly bizarrely, the song “America” from West Side Story plays across the loudspeakers to let visitors know the waves are about to start. Once in the pool, a lifeguard manually bangs a cow bell that tells you to get prepared.

At first, the small tsunamis seem a little anticlimactic, but within minutes, you are being tossed around in high seas.  In fact, if you are quite close to the sides, you risk being taken completely under or slammed into the poolsides.  My own mother once had to rescue my father from this exact situation.  So for those that want less life-risking fun, stick to the middle in shallower depths.

Waves beginning their swirls and crashes around the pool. Hang on to your bathing suits and small children.

The Best Day

If you follow my advice, you can’t help but have tremendous fun.  You will be relaxed, well-nourished, cultured, sun-kissed and water-logged. All this for only 6200 forint per person ($22 USD)  – and that even includes a private changing cabin. Of course, if you go on a weekday or stay for a shorter period of time, you can get even lower pricing. Either way, the Gellert Baths are not to be missed.

You’ll find us there every second weekend all summer long….

To read more about what else we do in Budapest this summer, read this.

 

 

 

Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

Beginning our Everyday Life and Finding our New Home

December 8, 2017
Egg Nog Coffee

The past week has been a busy one… part tourist and part new resident. We are beginning our everyday life of shopping, laundry, home cooking, etc.  We also got busy finding a permanent place to live. Luckily, we are succeeding fairly well on all fronts.

Everyday Life

Grocery shopping has been the most frustrating task for me so far. Not the part where I actually go to the grocery store, but the part where I can’t read the ingredients.  I am traditionally an obsessive label reader and will spend a long time comparing items. I currently have no idea what is in my “healthy” cereal or yogurt and am suspicious it may be filled with sugar because my husband is eating both without complaint! LOL

Hungarian Bread

I definitely can’t decipher the ingredients listed on bread packages for toast. So far Andrew and I are enjoying the green one.

On the other hand, coffee here is always amazing.  There are tons of coffee shops from tiny to huge all over Budapest. Andrew and I have been enjoying many of them immensely  – with or without a donut on occasion.

Our New Apartment

The most exciting news of the past week was signing the lease on our new apartment. Thanks to the diligent work of Viktoria from Inter Relocation, we successfully navigated the current rental market and signed about 1000 pieces of paper to finally get the keys to our new home in Budapest’s 5th District.

Aniko and Andrew

On our way to sign our lengthy bilingual lease. While it was great to have an English version, the Hungarian version is the legal one. It was good to have a professional there to make sure they were actually the same.

Unlike Toronto, here in Budapest, you don’t pay “First and Last”.  There is no credit check. What you do pay is a two month deposit along with your first month’s rent up front.  You then continue to pay your rent up front monthly moving forward.  You get your deposit back shortly after you move out (providing there was no damage or other monies due).

To facilitate this, a lengthy pre-move inspection is done with both tenant and landlord present.  Every appliance is tested and run, all electronic devices are turned on and off, every piece of removable furniture, linens, dishes, etc is cataloged and photographed and finally, all meter readings are taken and recorded. Copies of all of this are then dispersed between all parties to review again when we move out.

In our case, Inter Relocation will come back with us again to do that inspection. It must be noted that having Viktoria with us was invaluable.  Not only is she friendly, fun and bilingual – but a consummate professional taking note of all details.  We highly recommend this service if you are moving to Budapest for the first time. I really don’t know how Andrew and I would have muddled through on our own…

We are thrilled with our apartment located on Egyetem Square and will make it our official home by the end of the month.

Our Art Deco building is picture here located on the lovely Egyetem Square.    Photo: Kőrösi Tamás

A Walk in the Park

Since we continue to enjoy chilly but sunny days, we decided to go for walk in Budapest’s City Park (Varosliget). We bundled up our dog, Lucy, put her in her carrier and took the subway to Hero’s Square to begin our walk in the park. City Park is close to the centre of Budapest, Hungary. It is a 0.9-by-0.6-mile rectangle, with an area of 302 acres, located in District XIV. It even contains a castle! The Vajdahunyad Castle to be specific.

Lucy in carrier

Lucy riding the subway with her carrier. Dogs in a bag ride free. All dogs outside of a bag must wear a muzzle and have a ticket.

Hero's Square

The beautiful Hero’s Square. What you see when you exit the subway station.

Daddy and doggie

Andrew and Lucy heading off into City Park.

Skating in City Park

The huge skating rink in City Park. At night its even prettier with all kinds of lights.

Meeting the Irish Ambassador

Thursday night we attended our first expat event here in Budapest by invitation from Chris Clark of Clark & White. We got in the festive spirit and headed off to the the Irish Hungarian Business Circle‘s Christmas Party at Jack Doyle’s Irish Pub. For the first time in a couple weeks, English was the main language spoken and Andrew was able to get a proper pint of Guinness. The party included expats not just from Ireland, but from many parts of the UK.  And while we met many lovely people at the party, we were lucky enough to meet and chat with the Irish Ambassador himself, Pat Kelly.  It turns out he is from the exact same part of Dublin that all of Andrew’s siblings were born in.  What a small world!

Jack Doyle's Irish Pub

Jack Doyle’s Irish Pub hand painted Christmas windows.

 

 

Moving Abroad, Personal Stories

6 Interesting Things we Discovered after our First Ten Days in Budapest

December 1, 2017
Anikó & Andrew

Life here in Budapest is certainly very different than in Toronto – but that is exactly what we hoped for.  We’ve managed really well so far, but here are 6 interesting things we discovered after our first ten days in Budapest.

1. Cursive

There is widespread use of cursive writing on a variety of signs, shops and personal notes.  While this may not seem strange to anyone over 35, this would be tricky for anyone under 30 in North America to decipher. Shortly after I married my husband and became a step-mother in 2009, I was shocked to learn they no longer teach cursive in the Canadian public school system.  When I left notes for my step-kids, I had to ensure to PRINT them for comprehension.  When they visit, I will have to put them to the test 😉

2. Public Transport

During my very first trip to Budapest, I learned the public transport was inexpensive and easy to use. However, now that we’ve been using for more than just to visit tourist hot spots, we’ve ascertained how really amazing it is!  Using the BKK (Budapesti Közlekedési Központ) you can get anywhere in Budapest.  In fact, you will often have two or three choices of routes to get there. Compared to the TTC (Toronto Transit Authority), it is nothing short of miraculous. The BKK app I mentioned in this post, makes it almost impossible to get lost. We have been to OBI, IKEA, doctor and veterinarian offices, 3 major shopping malls, Christmas Markets, live music venues, restaurants, parks and more.  Nothing has taken us more then 30 minutes from door to door!

Kalvin Ter Metro Station in the 9th District

One the entrances to the Kálvin Tér Metro Station in the 9th District

3. Manners

In these first few days, we immediately took notice that the general population in Budapest is a LOT more polite than our typical experiences in and around the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).  Upon entering the veterinarian’s office in downtown Budapest, each and every person sitting waiting greeted us with a “Good Day”, and wished us the same on the way out. This also happens in smaller bars and restaurants. On our way to IKEA, a teenaged boy got up and out of the way for me on the subway which both nicely surprised me and made me feel suddenly (and sadly) old.

4. Sunday Closures

Our first ten days in Budapest have included one weekend and you should know that Budapest shuts down on a Sunday. Like Toronto did until the late 1980’s, Hungarians still take “a day of rest” fairly seriously.  Sure, you can find the tourists spots open, but you better be prepared with your groceries and the essential items by Saturday afternoon.  I have to admit, it is quite lovely having an day off from going to the mall to buy more crap we don’t need and having dedicated time for people to spend with their families. Hungarians value their own lives, and the quality of those lives, very, very highly.

The Egyetemi Templom - a baroque style catholic church

Egyetemi Templom – a baroque style Catholic Church located in the 5th District

5. A Notary is not always required

We’ve been signing a lot of legal paperwork over the past week.  In Canada, some of this would have required the services of a notary, but in Hungary they seem to simply gather more personal information.  For each important document we’ve signed we have added our birthdate, place of birth and mother’s maiden name.  Its interesting seeing how much this system is used, but I do suppose it is a unique identifier. I mean, we all know there could be another Anikó here – but not one with the same birthday AND mother!

6. Just enough Hungarian makes me dangerous

One last thing we’ve discovered is that I speak Hungarian much better than originally thought. In fact, I can speak my simple sentences so well that many have assumed I am fluent (instead of having a long way to go). Last night, after greeting the waiter and asking for a table in Hungarian, I was presented with the Hungarian only menu while Andrew was given an English one.  I was still going strong with my skills until it came to the soup of day.  I only understood… “blah, blah, blah, bacon”. Embassed I didn’t understand more, I simply agreed to have the soup.  In fact, I ordered one for myself and one for Andrew.

We still aren’t entirely sure what we ate at Input, but it was “nagyon finom” (very tasty)…

 

 

Budapest Expat Tips, Personal Stories

Considering Home improvement in Budapest? Today’s visit to the Hungarian Home Depot (OBI)

November 27, 2017
OBI

As many of our friends and family know, we are considering home improvement in Budapest. We will rent an apartment for our first year, but do plan to buy something we can renovate in the future. My husband, Andrew, is passionate about building and renovating.  Today’s visit to the “Hungarian Home Depot” or OBI (as its actually named) was to purchase some extension cords and power bars to run our LED Christmas lights. For those of you that know us best, this should hardly come as a surprise.

The first step’s a doozy…

Our journey south alongside the Danube was fraught with danger.  While simply crossing the street outside our front door, I tripped on the curb and did a full ninja body roll onto the sidewalk pavement on the other side.  The good news?  1. I did not land in dog shit. 2. I did not land in a puddle. 3. I had leather gloves on that prevented any road rash. 4. My wool winter coat also assisted in cushioning my landing. The bad news?  I think I took 5 years off my husband’s life due to panic.

Raday Street

The curb lying in wait to trip me…

Aniko on Number 2

Anikó on the Number 2 streetcar – sitting after my fall.

Once I dusted myself off, we continued on southward on the number 2 streetcar. Unfortunately, even though we used our awesome BKK transit app, we still got off at the wrong stop.  After ten minutes of wondering around looking puzzled, we got back on the streetcar at the same stop and continued on to OBI.

Welcome to Home Improvement Paradise

OBI is in fact what we expected it to be – the Hungarian version of Home Depot (complete with orange signage).  However, unlike our North American Home Depots, OPI divides up its home improvement goods over two massive floors.  Andrew did a quick inspection of the main floor tool section, and then we headed upstairs to the electrical department to look for what we needed.  No less than two people offered us help. And even more surprisingly, I could actually understand that they were offering it. Perhaps they do have English speaking staff, but we muddled through pretty easily in Hungarian.  I suspect if we were after something more elusive, this could get way more complicated.

OBI Budapest

Once you get off at the right stop, OBI is easy to see due to its large size and 4 flag posts on the street.

We selected one power bar with surge protection and one extension cord.  This cost us a total of $2392 forints (about $11.92 CAN). While it is possible to get cheaper versions of both, we will take these with us from our temporary accommodation and wanted to make sure they would last beyond Christmas.  Furthermore, we didn’t need to go all the way to OBI for these items – they could have been purchased down the street. However, we wanted to see what OBI had to offer in terms of general home improvement and renovation supplies. From our current location in district 9, the journey took less then 20 minutes.

Hungarian POwer Bar

Our new power bar in action. We purchased all of our convertors from Amazon before we left.

By the time we completed our exploration and purchase, it was time for lunch.  We headed back on the number 2 streetcar and ate lunch overlooking the Danube. My lunch was awesome.  I randomly choose the “Lunch Menu” that was only listed in Hungarian so I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get.  Andrew choose a burger that was a fail.

Tomorrow we begin our apartment search with the assistance of Inter Relocation.  Wish us luck!

Danube

On the east side of the Danube river. The perfect lunch spot.

 

 

 

 

Moving Abroad

Night flight to Budapest: The First 24 Hours

November 22, 2017
Night flight to Budapest

We made it through our night flight to Budapest.  Our entire journey took about 16 hours from door to door – and I have to admit, it was a bit rough.  Our flight went from Toronto to Amsterdam to Budapest. We’ve never traveled with so much luggage AND a dog.  We were sweaty, tired, a wee bit cranky but pretty happy upon arrival. Lucy (our dog) was amazing.  Not an accident or single complaint at all!

Our 5 checked bags.  We had two more for carry on along with our laptop bags and the dog.

Our 5 checked bags. We had two more for carry on along with our laptop bags and the dog.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve had a successful take-off on this first Nightflight to “Budapest”
Our flying time will be 16 hours. We’ll be travelling at a speed of 2183 miles per second.”  – with apologies to Boney M

Our car picked us up at the airport and we arrived at our lovely, spacious, but FREEZING apartment.  We successfully restarted the gas boiler and then hit the streets in search of a hot beverage while we waited for our apartment to heat up. We found a lovely tented area just down the block to have a mulled wine and a beer. Perfect.

View from our balcony on Raday Utca

The view from our balcony on Raday Street in Budapest’s 9th District

After our drinks, we came back to the apartment where we started to unpack our bags and then proceeded to promptly fall asleep until about midnight.  Of course, we then spent a few hours up in the middle of the night – hungry –  as our bodies aren’t used to the six hour time difference yet. Since we are typically morning people, we were astonished to wake up the next morning around 11:30am.

The next day

We got dressed, headed off to the nearby dog park and then walked a few blocks east to the Danube for a coffee (coffee is so very good in Budapest). We went to do small grocery shop at Tesco, dropped the dog back off at the apartment and went in search of some freshly made goulash soup.  We tried at first to go to the “For Sale Pub” – a quirky touristy spot with autographed papers everywhere – but it was packed full.  Instead, we ate at the cosy “Paris Texas” on Raday Street. The soup came from the restaurant next door and it was delicious!

Aniko and Andrew by the Danube

A very jet-lagged Aniko and Andrew by the Danube

Two very tasty goulash soups on a rainy first evening in Budapest

Two very tasty goulash soups on a rainy first evening in Budapest

Once our bellies were full and warm, we headed back “home” for more unpacking, did a little bit of work online and then collapsed into our bed… only to wake up again in the middle of the night. *sigh*

 

 

Moving Abroad

What We are Doing in our Final Week: Moving Abroad Checklist

November 14, 2017
Passports

Moving abroad to Budapest, Hungary is a huge undertaking. So many people, places and things to organize and get ready before we board our plane. Here is what we are doing in our final week in Canada.

Prepare an Important Document Folder

Perhaps obviously, you need to take important paper work with you to your new home. We are taking essential paperwork in our carry-on luggage.  That means our passports, International Driver’s Licenses, my Hungarian Residency Card, our Hungarian Marriage Certificate and our credit/debit cards.

In additional to these hard copy documents, I have scanned and uploaded all of the above along with MANY others to a secure cloud-based server that both my husband and I have access to.  You can use something like LassPast or even Dropbox, but I do recommend you scan important documents and keep copies somewhere in case of physical loss.

International Shipment Pick up

As mentioned in this post, we are using Move One to send our goods via sea shipping container to Budapest. Brytor is the company they partner with here in Toronto, so it was with them we met with to pack and load our goods directly from our storage locker. Unfortunately, this happened during a sunny but unexpectedly cold day. It was  -10 degrees celsius and absolutely frigid during packing. However, this made for fast work and our things are now safe and secure for international transit.

Brytor picking up our belongs from our storage locker

Brytor picking up our belongs from our storage locker

Our worldly goods neatly stacked up and ready to be packed and loaded into a shipping container

Government Services

In this final week, we visited our local “Service Ontario” office to let them know we are leaving the country and that we need to suspend our OHIP health care services.  We informed them of our intent to take a two-year absence from our services. A quick and easy process (if you don’t count the long wait time in line).

Doctor’s Appointments

Andrew and I, along with our dog, all have our final doctor’s visit during this time.  For the humans, we are topping up on some prescription medication that may be harder to get in Hungary (that fact is, we don’t really know but we are hedging our bets).  For our dog, Lucy, this vet visit is essential for her being allowed into the European Union.  You can read all about that process here.

Sell Remaining Goods

Unbelievably, we STILL have stuff left to sell. By now, my husband and I are getting REALLY sick of Kijiji.  I mean, its been fabulous, we’ve sold tons of goods over the last few months, but the amount of people that respond to ads simply to express their dislike of the item/price/colour/whatever is truly bizarre and a huge time waster. Luckily, we were able to sell most items quickly and easily.  Our cars are both sold now, so its just some miscellaneous electronics left. The items we don’t sell will be donated or given to my sister to sell in our absence.  Thanks sis!

Pack our Bags

We are moving with seven suitcases.  Yes, you read that right.  Seven.  For those of you that know us well, you know that Andrew and I only ever take carry-on luggage when travelling.  No matter how far – or for how long.  So taking seven suitcases on a plane is completely contrary to our normal travel style.

Dog in Suitcase

Lucy sitting our suitcase “helping” me pack

We have three large suitcases and two medium suitcases that we will be checking in.  We also have two carry-on suitcases we are taking on board the plane with us.  These have our important documents, computers, cameras, medications, jewelry, etc.

While this many suitcases isn’t normal for us, it was considerably less expensive to come with us on the plane that add to our overseas shipment.  These bags contain everything we need to live and work for 8 winter weeks until our shipment arrives.

Saying Goodbye

By now, we have said good bye to the majority of our friends and family.  We had lunch with my husband’s brother and his wife yesterday and we will have a final dinner with the rest of our family on Saturday.  I predict the definite need for Kleenex.

However, unlike when my husband moved from England in 1988… Social media, FaceTime, Skype, YouTube and more will help us stay connected each and every day.

Viszlát!

 

Budapest Expat Tips, Moving Abroad

Budgeting for Budapest: Avoid these Top 3 Expat Mistakes

October 30, 2017
Budgeting for Budapest

Budgeting for Budapest is top of mind for my husband – and rightly so.  We want to avoid expats mistakes that we’ve heard other people have made.   While we are both lucky enough to be able to work remotely and have that work continue – not all of our work is remote.  For us, moving to Budapest means a drastic cut in our dual family income – and with that comes a monthly budget.

To tell the truth, neither of us have ever been big budgeters before… but we sure are now.  We use resources like Numbeo for Budapest to help us gage our monthly living costs along with other research done on Facebook.  To see my recommendation for the best Budapest Facebook Groups, read this post. As of October 2017, the cost of living index in Budapest is 32.21% lower than my hometown of Toronto, Canada.

The 3 Top Expat Mistakes when Budgeting

1. Not budgeting for the cost of international shipping.

If you can fit all your belongings into two suitcases then you don’t have to worry about this too much.  If it is a company transfer or job offer, its likely the corporation will pick up the bill. However, if you are moving by your own choice midlife like we are, or you’re moving to retire in Hungary, its likely you have more “stuff” you want with you.  Especially if you are planning to be away for more than a year or two.

We had a garage sale in preparation for our move and sold all of our bigger items through online marketplaces, so we will not be moving any furniture or cars.  However, the smaller stuff still adds up.  We have boxes of china, crystal, decor items, paintings, stereo equipment (yes it will all work with 240v), a bicycle, purses, shoes, clothes, tools and more. In total, we will be moving about 190 cubic feet of precious (to us) cargo.

Our belongings will make the journey via container ship and should arrive about six to eight weeks after we do.  The shipment is considered “household goods” and thus duty-free. But don’t be fooled, the total cost of door-to-door shipping with insurance for our smaller amount is around $8000 – even without duty or import taxes. You really need to crunch the numbers to see if its worth it. It may be cheaper to simply purchase everything new on upon arrival. Furthermore, the shipping company will want all the money upfront sent via international bank wire.  No putting it on your credit card and worrying about it later!

2. Living like a tourist upon arrival

Hand decorated gingerbread cookies at the Christmas Market Stands.

Hand decorated gingerbread cookies at the Christmas Market Stands.

We are really excited to be arriving in Budapest at the start of the holiday season.  We have never been in Budapest for Christmas and are looking forward to the famous Christmas Markets, mulled wine, marzipan and hot pálinka.  The temptation to go crazy buying holiday items, food, wine, gifts and attend special events is strong. However, we know we need to keep to our budget for any unexpected items that may creep up.  We can not live like we are on holiday.  Unexpected charges could be anything from lawyers, rents, visas, permits – not cake and champagne.

Since we know we want to participate in some of the many the holiday events in Budapest, we included those bigger tickets items into our first month’s budget.  Moreover, we are able to purchase tickets in advance or make reservations online from Canada for the Nutcracker Ballet, La Bohéme Opera and our Christmas Brunch at the famous Gundel Restaurant.

3. The cost of Health Care

Hungary has a tax-funded universal healthcare system, organized by the state-owned National Health Insurance Fund. But don’t assume that because you are moving to Hungary that you will automatically have access.  As mentioned in this post, I am a dual Canadian-Hungarian citizen and my husband is British.  You would think this gives us access to a EU health-care system – but if you do, you would be wrong.

Since I have never lived in Hungary, I have not yet paid any taxes.  Since the health care system funds itself by taxes, I do not qualify and this requires me to get a private plan.  The same goes for my husband.  Since he has been in Canada for many years, he does not quality for his EU card which would typically allow British citizens access to the healthcare system. Both of us will need a private plan for this first year or until we perhaps work with a Hungarian employer.

However, if we are employed, the Hungarian company will pay this health care fee for us.  Consequently,  if we remain independent consultants, we need to foot the bill. The good news is, this cost is not exorbitant and a wide variety of plans and providers are available. After a our first year, we are able to “buy” into the social system and use it like any other citizen.

Interesting: Hungary is one of the main destinations of medical tourism in Europe and has excellent medical and dental services. According to Wikipedia, the most popular medical treatments are dentistry, cosmetic surgery, orthopaedic surgery, cardiac rehabilitation, fertility treatment, dermatology, anti-aging treatment, obesity treatment, addiction programmes and eye surgery.

Of course there are other financial considerations to make – personal, business and property tax rates, pensions, bank accounts, life insurance, etc. If in doubt, speak to your accountant before you leave – and find a good one upon arrival.  We are planning to meet with an accountant I found via Facebook.  To find out my favourite Budapest Facebook groups, read this post.

 

 

Moving Abroad

Now Boarding: Moving Midlife to Budapest, Hungary

October 18, 2017
Moving Abroad to Budapest

Welcome to our blog all about our experiences moving to – and living in – Budapest, Hungary. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about this move abroad… so here are some answers:

Why did we choose to move from Canada? Well, in very simple terms, we wanted to share the experience of living abroad while we are both still young enough and healthy enough to truly enjoy it. We didn’t want to wait another 20 years until retirement – a lot can happen in that time.

Why did we chose Hungary? We chose Hungary as our destination because I am a dual Canadian-Hungarian citizen. And because my husband is British, we can easily live and work in anywhere in the European Union. In my husband’s case, he can do this before “Brexit” occurs and can remain even afterwards as the spouse of a Hungarian citizen.

Why Budapest? This is the easiest question to answer. We both firmly believe that Budapest is the most beautiful city in Europe. It offers a wide variety of incredible architecture, music, nightlife, food, wine, history, weather and a beautiful landscape that we love.

Danube Drinks

Our favourite place for a drink beside the Danube.

We are also seeking a simpler, slower life then we had in Canada and we look forward to reconnecting with my Hungarian relatives and family history. While we will continue to work hard, we want to live a life where personal relationships are more important than material possessions. We are looking forward to “starting over again” and trying something new.

What about our families? This is the toughest part. Leaving our family in Canada. But with today’s technology, we know that each and every one of them is only a click, swipe or phone call away. Furthermore, first visits are already scheduled on the calendar. 🙂

Are we taking our dog? Absolutely. Lucy will be making the journey with us from the very first day as we travel via Amsterdam to get to Budapest. For the details on how we did this, please read our post: 5 Tips to Moving to with a Pet.

When do we arrive in Budapest? This first post was written while still in Canada.  We arrive in Budapest at the end of November 2017 and are looking forward to the Budapest Christmas Markets.

Do we have somewhere to live?  Yes and no.  We have secured a fabulous, classical, one-bedroom apartment for short-term rental through HomeAway until the beginning of January. Its right near the Central Market Hall (Nagy Vásárcsarnok) and we are very familiar with the location. Once we arrive, we will look for long-term accommodations using the services of InterRelocation.

Budapest Central Market Hall.

Spices for sale in the Budapest Central Market Hall.

Will we eat Kocsonya (ko-choan-yuh)? Absolutely not! (Google it yourselves)

Why is this blog called “44 Letters”? Because there are 44 letters in the Hungarian alphabet. Doesn’t learning Hungarian sound scary and confusing? Well that’s because it is. Much like this move to Budapest!

What can you expect from this blog? Lots of stories, photos and videos about moving abroad, our daily life, our favourite places in Budapest to eat, drink, dance, enjoy and more!  We’ll even include stories from our travel experiences throughout Hungary and Europe. We’re not 20, you likely won’t see a photo of me in a bikini – but we are not retired and we are ready for this adventure.  This is our Midlife in Budapest.