Our Move Abroad

Why On Earth Did You Choose Hungary To Be Your Retirement Country?

Many people have asked us this question, sometimes in awe that we were actually moving abroad but sometimes because we had not chosen the usual popular Spanish destinations that most English Expats retire too.

Boasting epic castles, volcanic mountains, spectacular lakes and fragrant lavender fields, Hungary’s enthralling landscape is straight out of a fairytale. Amid picture-perfect scenery, you’ll find plenty to do that exhilarates and rejuvenates in equal measure, from unwinding in thermal spas to sipping the wine region’s fiery reds, travelling back in time at romantic ruins, or trying watersports on the lake.

I read this description of Hungary recently and absolutely agree with all these points but there are so many other reasons to love and live in Hungary.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to leave England before retirement age, have sufficient financial stability and also a sense of excitement to embark on a new adventure. We also agreed that if we did not move when we did, we never would. Many people have dreams but not many people are brave enough to carry them out.

We did extensive homework, researching different countries, exploring what would work for us. Everyone has different needs and expectations and it took us quite a while to agree on what we both wanted. Our research was around Montenegro, Bulgaria and then finally Hungary. We focused on European countries mainly because residency would be easy and travelling backwards and forwards to England to see family would not be a mammoth task.

We both agreed we wanted to live in the countryside, although I took a bit of persuading as I had always been a ‘city’ girl and never experienced the rural life. Eric visited Hungary many times on viewing trips to get an idea which part of Hungary would be best for us, I visited too but later when we had finally decided on which area.

The deciding factors that confirmed Hungary was ideal for us are listed below:

  1. The incredible low cost of living compared to England. Our pound goes much further here.
  2. Crime appears to be non-existence in rural areas, although pickpockets in Budapest are a problem.
  3. Health care and dentistry is excellent as we have both discovered from first hand experience.
  4. The climate is extremely favourable with definite seasons throughout the year. Amazingly hot summers and cold snowy winters.
  5. There is an Expat community in Hungary which was and still is invaluable. We have made many good friends and exchange tips and advice about all things Hungarian.

We obviously came across stumbling blocks along the way but have managed to adapt to our new lifestyle easily. A few issues we encountered and resolved are as follows:

  1. Leaving family in England was hard but with the help of Whatsapp, Facetime and Social Media we can stay in regular contact.
  2. Hungarian language is notoriously difficult to learn but with the help of Duolingo, Mondly and Google Translate we manage quite well. Practise, Practise is the key.
  3. Transferring money from England initially was expensive until we discovered cheaper alternative, Transferwise is a good online option or currency exchange bureaus offer good rates too.
  4. Hungary likes paperwork and every procedure requires mountains of form filling (residency, driving licence, healthcare etc). It is wise to enlist the help of a translator (which we did) to help with this.
  5. Foods are different here, but we like that, some may not and the adjustment can be hard. If you are really missing ‘home’ foods you can buy most things online (The British Pantry) or get your visitors to bring them over for you from England.

In conclusion, we are extremely happy we choose Hungary to spend our retirement years. Friends visit us and agree we have made the right decision and love where we live. Added to that the food and wine is good, the farmers markets are awesome, the weather is glorious, the heritage and culture is fascinating and life here is certainly a lot slower than living in busy, always raining England!

Are you an Expat living in a different country? How did you decide where you wanted to live? I would love to read your comments.

Our Move Abroad

5 Stages of Expat life and how to make them successful

“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

The cold icy village lake, Hungary

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.

Sunflowers and Sunshine, Hungary

Our Move Abroad

Do YOU want to move to Hungary?

We are English and have been living in rural Hungary for over two years. Below is a list of ten things my family and I considered before we made the move over here.

  • Finances: Ask yourself, can you afford it? Prepare a budget, do your maths. Look at your income now and decide if giving up your job will leave you sufficient money to live abroad. Hungary is relatively cheap compared to other parts of Europe so that was an important deciding factor for us. We are fortunate to have two rental properties in the UK so we could afford to retire early. If you are of pensionable age then you can have your UK pension transferred directly to Hungary. You will need to decide how to access your money whilst living here. You can open a Hungarian bank account that accepts Forints (the Hungarian currency) and Pounds (the British currency). You can also use services like or visit a money exchange to exchange your cash.
  • Use Social Media: Join as many Social Media sites as you can to help you access the cost of living and to ask questions about anything to do with Hungary. Facebook have a variety of groups giving regular useful information. There are also many Ex-Pat groups found using Google. Don’t be shy, they are all very willing to help with enquiries, having been in the same situation as you. Another great source of information is
  • Visiting Hungary: Visit your chosen destination/area as many times as you can, especially try to visit in the colder winter months. As we all know places look much more appealing in the summer. Walk up and down the high street to get a feel for the neighbourhood. Hungary is a nation of dog owners and many homes own a dog and they generally live outside. Check out the local facilities, bus routes, corner shops, schools. Ask yourself is there enough here for me to live happily?
  • Ease of access: Consider how important it is for you to be close to an airport for future visits home. If you have visitors how far will they have to travel to see you? We are a fair distance away which sometimes can be a disadvantage. Check out where the nearest train station is in case you find yourself unexpectedly without transport.
  • Things you might miss: We are a relatively easy to please family when it comes to food. Hungary’s main meats are chicken and pork, and as Hungary is a landlocked country, varieties of fish are limited. However if you look hard enough and ask around you may be able to get lamb and beef straight from the local farmers. The larger supermarkets may sell foods you are familiar with, Heinz Beans, Bisto Gravy Granules, that sort of thing. Or you can ask your UK guests to bring over a supply of whatever you are missing. You can also look at this British online shop delivering to Hungary We like to try the Hungarian foods and adapt our tastes accordingly.
  • Research the Culture: Hungarians are quiet people until they get to know you then they are very friendly and kind. They are very proud of their heritage particularly amongst the older generation. Hungarians are competitive sportsmen and have had great success in the Olympics. They take their food very seriously adding paprika to most dishes, certainly an acquired taste. If you have the pleasure of being invited into their home make sure you take a gift and be prepared to accept a shot of their national drink Palinka, it is considered rude to refuse it. Learning about another culture is both wise and polite. It helped us a lot when we first arrived here.
  • Learn Hungarian: Hungarian is considered as one of the hardest languages to learn. Ask yourself, are you willing to get immersed into your community like a local? If you are you need to learn the language. Integrating can be very hard particularly in the rural areas, where the only language spoken is Hungarian. Consider learning as much as you can before you move to at least have a few words to communicate with. It will be well worth it. There are many videos on to help you out or get a phrase book or download to your phone the Google Translate App. You may find that you will need to learn local dialect, but don’t worry, your learning will increase when you are actually here.
  • What about Health Care?: In the UK public health care is free but it is not in Hungary. You will need to consider either taking out health insurance or as we did, join the Hungarian Health Scheme, we pay a monthly nominal amount to be able to access everything the Hungarians do. Make sure to include this important item on your budget list. The hospitals and GP surgery’s are not the same standard as UK but having said that the health care we have received from the doctors and nurses here has been nothing but excellent.
  • What’s the Weather Like? : Hungary is blessed with four definite seasons, being very cold in the winter with snow to very warm in the summer reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius. Being British weather is discussed on a daily basis! The winters have usually passed by early April giving way to wonderful warm weather and the awakening of mother nature. Hot, then warm days last until late October with all the trees changing to beautiful colours. Ask yourself if this is the sort of weather you would like for your new life abroad?
  • Finally: House prices are cheap here and you can get a bargain property that you may want to use just as a holiday home initially. When you do get to that exciting stage of purchasing, check out how much land comes with your property, ours is vast. Far too much and we are not using it to it’s full potential. We had grand ideas of growing masses of vegetables and keeping livestock but our increasing years have made us realise its jolly hard work. Maybe we shall put the land to use in other ways in the future.