“Shall we move abroad?” my husband said one day. I was a little shocked and just thought his idea would go away. “I have been watching a TV programme ‘Life in the Wild’ about people who move to remote places and how they get on, do you fancy it?” To be honest, no I didn’t! I was used to living in a city surrounded by mod cons and everything I needed was a walk away. He persisted for many months with his ideas of the self sufficiency lifestyle, land for animal farming, home grown vegetables and the experiences of living in a small village. The location he had chosen was Hungary.
Gradually I started to like the idea, perhaps it would be good to experience something new, afterall we had been living in England for the past 15 years and we weren’t getting any younger. Eventually after much debate about the practicalities and financial implications I said YES!
“We are going to become Expats in Hungary” I told my friends and family. I got very similar reactions from everyone usually “Oh you are so brave” or “I wish I could do that” and “Why Hungary?”sort of comments.
We have now been here 2 1/2 years, experienced lots of highs and lows along the way but can finally look back and say we made the right decision.
It has become apparent to me that there are 5 definite stages you go through before you become a true Expat, each one covering a wide variety of different emotions that most people experience when they take the plunge and embark on a new life abroad.
1. The Great Idea
A mountain of research was the first task, our enthusiasm was limitless. For hours, I scoured thousands of internet pages looking for suitable properties for sale in rural Hungary. I poured over Google Maps to find remote locations and talking endlessly about promising places I had found. We were so excited now we had made the decision to move. Every night I would go to bed with butterflies in my tummy imagining our great family life in our new country and everything it had to offer. My bookshelf increased in size with various travel guides to Hungary, I read them cover to cover with great excitement. I made numerous lists of things that needed to be done. I often asked myself can we REALLY do this? I figured that if we did not do it now we never would. My doubts came and went and I set about making loads of arrangements for our future. Tip 1 – Be Organised
2. Moving Day
We had said our goodbyes, this turned out to be a very emotional departure, I shed a few tears. I took some photos and loaded up our belongings into our car. I had a certain sadness inside me, leaving the familiarity of the country I had known all my life. It was different for my husband as he had lived in other countries before, I am sure he did not feel my sadness. Once we were off, I experienced a mix of nervousness and excitement throughout our long journey to Hungary. I felt emotionally and mentally drained worrying continually that my meticulously planned journey would go smoothly. We had an overnight ferry crossing, a drive to connect with the Motorail which would take us overnight across Europe and into Austria then finally drive across the border into Hungary and our new home. Tip 2 – Be Positive
3. Reality Check
We had made it, the start of our new life, it was like starting a new job, all familiarity had been left behind in England. We were all overwhelmed by the newness of everything. Very quickly we had to establish new routines and schedules different from what we had been used too. Our relationship took some testing during this period and the feeling of isolation began to set in. The language barrier was our biggest problem and we struggled to do the most menial tasks. All our belongings were in boxes and it took an eternity to find anything. Tempers were severely frayed and our once amicable family unit became an eternal battleground. At that point I seriously felt this life was not for us. We had arrived in winter and it was extremely cold, I felt miserable and was missing England. Tip 3 – Keep Calm
4. Slowly Does It
I reasoned we had to give this move a chance, I was unrealistic in my dreams, I had wanted this to be a great time in our lives, the opportunity to reinvent ourselves but also to live the same comfortable lifestyle we had been accustomed to in England. We both had dreams of a life full of rewarding adventures. My thoughts at that time were very jumbled, I just seemed to experience a complaining mindset all the time. To make this work we HAD to pull together and tackle each obstacle one at a time. It took a hell of a lot of time and patience to do this, even the simple task of supermarket shopping was daunting, everything was written in Hungarian, we bought several things in error in the beginning but we learnt from our mistakes. Slowly slowly we learnt as we went along, discovering we could ask for help in our village if needed. We were lucky, usually in rural Hungary no one speaks English but we discovered a wonderful Hungarian lady who had lived in England and was fluent in English. She helped us enormously. As our frustrations got less and our language skills got better we began to enjoy this new way of life. We travelled around the area noting important places we might need, the post office, the bank, supermarkets, takeaways! We made friends, we gave dinner parties. We had turned a corner and for the better. Tip 4 – Be Social
5. Our House is Home
I look back on the turbulent beginnings and now am glad we took a leap of faith to where we are today. We both know the village and the surrounding areas very well, we know the villagers and they know us. We might still be “The English Family” but that’s alright, they have welcomed us into their village and are only too happy to smile and wave or offer a helping hand. Our language skills have improved and my husband can have a lengthy conversation in Hungarian, not bad considering it is one of the hardest languages in the world. I continue to take hundreds of photographs, write in my journal, add to my blog and read lots of books. We have tried lots of Hungarian foods and have BBQ’s with meats from the village farm. Friends from England visit and we have a lot of fun, especially in the summer months. The weather is scorching hot (I love it) so we mostly live outside and winters are very cold, good for staying indoors and family bonding. The funny quirks of our house, we are now used too and I can honestly say it feels like home at last. Tip 5 – Enjoy Life
We are very happy living in Hungary, our new adopted home, we have accomplished our goal and have become contented Expats. This was the bravest thing we have ever done in our lives together and am so glad we didn’t give up along the way. We do have future plans, lots still to do renovating our home and will get it all done in our own good time.