Everyday Life in Hungary

Magical July in Hungary

Lavender Fields

We are so lucky to have lavender fields in our little village. The farm opened their gates to the public last week and I could not resist taking a look with my camera and taking the obligatory pruners! I collected 3 bags of their heavenly lavender. The ladies running the field were very helpful and encouraged me to stuff my bags full! I had to watch out for the bees as there were many buzzing around also enjoying the lavender. The smell was divine and it was interesting to see the little tractor harvesting the lavender into large white sacks. It will later be processed into essential oil, soaps and honey. Lavender has many therapeutic qualities, I like to use it as a sleep aid. In its oil format I use it to treat burns with amazing results. It soothes the burnt skin.

Village Swimming Pool

Our little village swimming pool opened its gates at the beginning of July. For 2 years (because of the pandemic) it has been closed so we were thrilled to hear it was fully operational again. We have a good sized pool with a slide for the youngsters. Great value too…just over £2.00 for the full day. There is a large grassed area with trees, outdoor games, fire pits, oven and picnic benches. The local ice-cream man visits daily selling not just ice-creams but sweet yummy cakes too. A lovely place to spend the day…and just on our doorstep.

Haley our Siberian Husky

We are fortunate that a visiting vet comes annually to administer Rabies vaccinations to the local dogs. Haley does not travel well in the car so we very much appreciate this rural service. She has recently been shedding her winter fur which takes a few weeks. We are constantly brushing her to help her shed. Huskies, you would think, do not do well in hot weather as they are associated with a cold climate and snow. However, Haley would appear to love sunbathing in the high temperature we are having in Hungary at the moment. Her summer coat keeps her cool and she munches on ice cubes. She is a very active dog and loves to poke her head through the railings frequently to see what’s happening. When she is exhausted she takes a nap…but still has an ear open so as not to miss any action!

Sunflower Fields

Travelling around the countryside you cannot help but notice the many sunflower fields that line the roads. They are a staggering sight covering acres of fields with a vibrant yellow. Hungary is a big producer of sunflower oil and the flowers will be around for weeks with the farmers letting them dry ready to be harvested for their precious oil. We grow sunflowers in our garden but purely for the pleasure of looking at them. The finches love the seeds and are frequent visitors a bit later on in the year.

Residency Permits

The UK has recently left the European Union, meaning those of us who are British, living somewhere else needed to apply for residency status in our respective countries. Having already gone through this process before (when we first arrived 4 years ago) we expected this to be straightforward and easy. We had 12 months to complete this process (until the end of December 21) but there have been many difficulties with the Hungarian computer systems. Finally 6 months later we managed to complete the process and so now hopefully, we will retain our status in our adopted country.

Without a fridge during a heatwave!

We are currently experiencing a heatwave in Hungary…high temperatures of 38/39 degrees Celsius which is a touch uncomfortable. Imagine our horror and dismay when our Samsung fridge-freezer decided to stop working! We asked a Hungarian neighbour to contact Samsung on our behalf to arrange to get it fixed! Would you believe, 2 weeks later we have had no visit from Samsung, or explanation even though we have a 10 year warranty. We have ended up buying a very small fridge to tide us over until we can get our main fridge freezer fixed. There was talk that the part required was no longer available but I don’t know how true that is. I am certainly struggling with the after sales service from this company.

I am going to be a granny again!

What joy it is when your eldest son tells you “Mum you are going to be a granny again” I am so happy for him and his partner but slightly saddened I cannot go over to England and celebrate their news. They are expecting a boy (they have a daughter already) which is super news. I am for ever thankful for the internet and facetime, years ago we would not have had that privilege. My granddaughter will be 4 this year and starting nursery school soon, I do miss her. Maybe next year when this disabling pandemic is over (or controlled) I will be able to reconnect in real life.

So that was just a little update of what has been happening in our lives at the moment. This weekend is the annual Harvest Festival in the village. A wonderful occasion that I shall be photographing, watch out for the next blog entry. 😃

Everyday Life in Hungary

Heatwave Hungary!

Phew it is hot!!! The temperature is reading 37 degrees Celsius 98.6 Fahrenheit, 2.30 pm. Hungary are experiencing their first heatwave of the year. Perhaps it will reach an all time high of 41 degrees Celsius? The farmers and villagers are praying for rain as the ground is so parched and crops are in need of water.

I tend to take water for granted, but here water is valuable, not to be wasted and reused if possible. There are water pumps in the street for those villagers without mains supply. It is quite humbling to see villagers filling their bottles from the pumps. Yesterday our water pressure took a severe drop and some people in the village higher up the valley had no water atall. Through the village Facebook site I gathered there may be some broken pipes in the village but it also coincided with the annual “fill the village swimming pool up”which may have effected the water pressure.

Water pumps line the village streets

The Hungarian government have issued a state of emergency during the heatwave advising people about health and safety precautions and general health tips to stay safe in the heat. Interestingly if you see a child or pet in a hot car…call the emergency services, I worry they might be some time getting to remote places!

So what have I been doing this week?

Out and About – Been out and about to Székesfehérvár (I can just about pronounce it!) and came across some staggering poppy fields on the way. I have tried to take photos that are slightly different.

We also passed a good looking riding stables and just had to stop. It was a good opportunity to take a couple of photos of these gorgeous horses..

We then collected milk from the local farm, the cows were ambling around just waiting to be photographed!!. This one caught my eye…on further examination later on my PC I noticed the close up…. of the tongue!!! HaHa!

There were also sheep asleep on the roadside sheltering from the blazing sun. These are racka sheep, an ancient type of sheep, said to be living here with us in Hungary since cc. 970…

Finally stopped off for a coffee at a friend’s and admired her beautiful water-lilies. We had a lovely day 🙂

We ventured out again and admired the local lavender fields in the village.

Kisszékely lavender fields

Then a visit to the lake…I am pursuing an elusive heron…I know he is there but thought I would have a better chance walking by the lake so as not to distract this flighty bird. Sadly not to be seen!

We then went onto the tops and admired the hay bails Lol!!

Impulsive intrepid Eric (my husband) decided to drive through the forest…I was worried the car would tip at the deep tractor ruts along the way. Thankfully we made it safely back to home base 🙂

Brexit – The UK have now left the European Union which means as residents we need to re-apply for our status in Hungary. There is lots of red tape, paper filling and lengthy visits to get through before we can be issued with this valuable status. We are lucky in Hungary and have until 31st December to submit our paperwork, some European countries require these documents by the 31st June. So with plenty of time to get organised I managed to print of the lengthy 18 page document, fill them in and get the required passport photos needed for the documents. I needed help finding a place to get the said photos, friends helped for which I was very thankful. They don’t appear to have photo booths here like in the UK, it was a case of do it online and go to the local chemist for printouts.

Gardening Progress

We invested this year in a large polytunnel to grow tomatoes and water melons. 6 weeks later we have baby water melons and masses of very healthy tomatoes. We have found if we grow tomatoes outside they become infested with bugs and do not yield their maximum crop. We are hopeful this year we will have a good harvest to preserve to last us through the winter.

Something else new this year is our living fence. Next door neighbours have a very unsightly wall and I wanted to grow a fence of sunflowers to hide it. After collecting hundreds of seeds last year I planted a long line, in the Spring the length of the wall. In between the sunflowers I planted marigolds, again from seeds collected from last year. I think it will give a staggering long lasting display and cover the ugly wall!

The weeding is never ending with weeds shooting up on a daily basis. The only way to keep on top is little and often, preferably around 5.00 am in the morning before it gets unbearably hot.

Preparations for the big 60 Birthday at the end of July!

So the time is approaching for the big 60 birthday. Age to me is a number but it is nice to celebrate the special ones. Covid19 has put a stop to any romantic weekend away so the revised plan is to have a meal at the local castle restaurant, sitting outside with the hotel and spa facilities available and the added bonus of an outdoor pool. We went to have a look and it looks super. Of course I took lots of photos.

Finally… I have been asked to write a daily piece on two different pages on Facebook about family life in rural Hungary. I was very flattered and am enjoying promoting this fantastic country and what it has to offer. It also gives me an opportunity to continue my photography capturing special moments during our time in Hungary.

Everyday Life in Hungary

Chatting to a Newspaper Journalist, Making Bacon, Building a Tandoori Oven!

A few weeks ago whilst browsing Facebook a journalist was asking to interview expats living in rural Hungary. That’s me, I thought so  I contacted her and said I would be happy to talk with her.  She writes for the Budapest Times and travels around the country with another person who is a travel guide.  We met up at a local restaurant and chatted for almost 3 hours.  Her tape recorder came out on the table, I was a little apprehensive at first but it was all good and went very well.  After a while I forgot the tape recorder was there!

When we had finished chatting they both wanted a tour of our village so I took them to all the pretty places.  They were very impressed.  The article was published recently in the Budapest Times and here it is

I was overwhelmed with everyone’s good wishes after it was published, I almost felt like a celebrity!  Added to that the journalist was extremely complimentary about my photographs and suggested I joined a Facebook group who would appreciate them too.  I joined, and was approached by a gentleman who asked if I could start a regular feature posting my photos with a little text about rural life in Hungary! Of course, I said yes!!  Sometimes I need a little push in the right direction.

Kisszékely church overlooking the valley
Life in the slow lane, Kisszékely village
Kisszékely lake

So, in other news…

Making Bacon

We all like bacon in our house and was a little disappointed with Hungarian bacon so decided we should make our own smoked bacon. We invested in a meat slicer and bought a huge piece of belly pork with the skin on. Next, we removed any bones and cleaned the meat thoroughly. We then pricked the meaty side very well with a fork, made a salt and brown sugar coating 50/50 and rubbed it in very well all over. Then we wrapped it up so it was sealed (carton or cling film) and put in the fridge for 2 days. After 2 days, we removed the pork from the fridge, washed it well to remove the coating and dried with a kitchen towel. Now for the smoking. We created a home made smoker from wood we had in the garden and cold smoked the bacon for 3 days in the smoker. The aroma around the garden was tantalising. Finally after 3 days we sliced and ate it. The bacon freezes well if necessary. We shall never buy bacon again, it was so delicious and had a gorgeous smoky taste.

Our dog sat very patiently throughout the whole procedure hoping for a quick bite!

Building a Tandoori Oven

The boys in my life, my husband and my son have been busy in the garden making a Tandoori oven this week. Neither of us had built or cooked on a traditional tandoor before… originating from Turkey. I assumed it originated from India…!! How wrong I was. We did a virgin run yesterday and the results were fantastic. Apparently, according to our guests you could smell the beautiful cooking smells all over the village! Our Hungarian neighbour was out gardening and was very curious to know what Eric and Raphael were building….he kept nodding and saying “egen” (yes in English) when Eric explained he was making an oven, I don’t think he really understood! We marked the occasion by inviting a couple of friends who live in our little village to be our virgin tandoor tasters. We had a very fun afternoon, with lots of laughter and good conversation. The food was great, expertly cooked by Chef Eric and enjoyed with great company, New Zealander Jackie and her Hungarian husband Gabor.

We have a “Kings Chair” for Eric made from repurposed tyres… Jackie and Gabor posed for pictures. We had a fabulous Tandoori Day!


Everyday Life in Hungary

June has arrived!

A surprising few months in our little village of Kisszékely, Hungary.

Sunrise, Kisszékely, Hungary

Our winter seemed to be especially long this year and only provided two days of snow! I am English (a bit obsessed with the weather) and love the snow. I had been waiting patiently for the snowfalls we had had in previous years, very disappointed it was not forthcoming.

I longed for the spring to hurry up and arrive along with warm sunshine early mornings and light evenings. I was keen to get back to living mostly outside which I enjoy most. The link below will give you an idea of the snow that fell in January 2021.

Finally by the end of May all the tell-tale signs began to appear signifying the start of beautiful spring.

First Signs of Spring

The first signs of spring in Hungary are the returning storks from their far off migration in central Africa. Storks are a regular sight in most rural villages, making their homes on top of telegraph posts or chimney pots…apparently a sign of good luck. Storks usually return to their birthing place year after year to begin the circle of life all over again.

Our little village does not have resident storks, which is a shame as they are fascinating birds. Imagine my surprise and delight when I saw out of our bedroom window a stork perched delicately on the top of the telegraph pole opposite. I could not contain my excitement and rushed out onto the street to stand and stare at this enormous bird. I took dozens of photos as he seemed to be hanging around and did not object. Our dog was less impressed and patrolled the front fence, up and down constantly. She was obviously eager for some “chasing fun”!!

I asked on the village Facebook page how we could encourage the storks to stay in the village and nest here. Sadly, I was told the food supply is better met in other villages. Apparently they are partial to frogs.

The stork that visited Kisszékely, looking for a mate!

Another sign spring is here are the bountiful fields full of colourful poppies and then the strong pungent smell of the rape seed fields covering the countryside with blankets of bright yellow flowers. Truly beautiful.

Poppies and wild flowers, Hungary
Rape seed fields, Hungary

We seem to have had an unusually high amount of rain recently, which obviously the farmers are ecstatic about. We are too but to a lesser degree….rain means the weeds grow very energetically! Our garden has been covered in dandelions for most of the month of May. We left our grass uncut to give a little help to the bees. As the weather was a little warmer, I took a walk around the village and stumbled on what I can only call “Raining Dandelions” the seeds were flying everywhere, it was quite surreal.

“Raining Dandelions”

I love the spring blossom adorning the trees in the little villages, I constantly say “look, look how lovely the blossom!”. My patient husband regularly stops on roadsides for me to leap out of the car and take photos! This one is in the next village with a rather spectacular display of blossoms.

Tolnanémedi blossoms

Buy Local

Once a week we do our supermarket shop and often pass through little villages with road side stalls selling various home-grown, home-preserved plants, fruits, vegetables and home smoked meats. With so much choice it was difficult to choose where to stop. We were very tempted by a colourful display of hanging baskets bursting with petunias. Last year my choice was Black Eyed Susan’s, this year it is Petunias. The stall holder spoke no English but suddenly said “Várjon” (Wait)…two minutes later a young girl rushed to greet us and spoke in perfect English…a total surprise in rural Hungary. We spent a good amount of time talking about England and subsequently bought two glorious hanging baskets. We also stocked our car with a sack of potatoes, a sack of onions and several tomato plants.

Local Churches of Photographic Interest

I tend to travel everywhere with my camera and usually take pictures everyday, even when we go supermarket shopping! This church is in Tamási with the deer outside depicting the presence of numerous deer in the surrounding area.  The Catholic church in the town centre is built on the ruins of a Roman founded temple.

Iregszemcse village also has a visually interesting church. As you can see there are a multitude of electric cables obscuring the view…very normal in Hungary.

The last church photo in this set was taken in Sárbogárd. I was intrigued by the unusual shape. It helped the sky was such a vivid blue. You will notice there is slight dusting of snow on the ground, taken late February 2021.

Sometimes our travels take us to Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe, and one of the region’s foremost tourist destinations. During the Covid pandemic all the attractions and public beaches have been closed but I managed to access this one which had several beautiful swans gliding across the water.

Local Walking

One of my good friends, also an Ex-pat is an avid walker and wanted to take a walk around our little village. We decided to set off early 8.00 am as walking in the heat later is not too pleasant. Our village nestles between rolling hills with an abundance of forests surrounding us. The walls of the valley are steep and some effort was required to reach our target…the highest viewing point in Kisszékely. We passed bee hives on our way up and then were greeted with an abundance of Acacia trees, specially planted for the bees to make Hungary’s speciality honey. By the time we had reached the viewing point we were glad of the picnic tables for a seat and the sturdy viewing platform, to take photos, it was certainly worth the effort. We were lucky enough to watch a pair of storks coasting on the wind and thoroughly enjoying the early morning weather. Next time I shall have a zoom lens to capture these precious moments.

Acacia Blossom

The beautiful Acacia tree. here you will find everything you need to know about the delicious Acacia Honey.


A pair of storks in the distance. Vineyards jammed full of growing vines below. What a tranquil sight.

Elaine my walking companion

After spending some time admiring the staggering views, we headed back down into the village through tightly forested areas stopping occasionally to cross little streams and observing animals tracks.

We are lucky that our village has so many walking trails all colour coded with regular information boards describing the wild life and flora to be found nearby. Extremely useful and interesting.

We are now enjoying much sunnier days and milder nights. Mother Nature never fails to surprise and impress me particularly in the beautiful countryside of Hungary. I shall be out with my camera again very soon.

My Gardening

Join Me in My Ever Developing Hungarian Garden – July

July has arrived in Hungary along with soaring temperatures and thirsty plants. Watering is a twice a day affair otherwise the poor plants suffer from dehydration. We had talked about dripper system for the vegetable plot this year but it never materialised.

The wheelbarrow is a favourite spot for this bird…always on the look-out for our dog Haley!

At the front of our house we have giant sunflowers creating a beautiful display and an eager feeding ground for these friendly finches. Lifting the blinds in the morning this is what I see, a great way to start my day. I do believe these are greenfinches?

We have regular butterflies and a multitude of other insects visiting the garden. The cricket sat for ages on the garden chair and the butterfly lazily sunned itself whilst I took photos.

The first of our second generation peppers began to flower late June progressing onto larger specimens early July. These are of the spicy variety and when harvested will be preserved in jars. All our peppers were given a layer of cow manure at the beginning of the season, I’m hoping for great results.

When we moved to Hungary we inherited a well, fully functional if you have a pump, the water is way down. This is our third summer here and have encouraged the plants surrounding the well to grow randomly. This beautiful yellow plant is a blast of colour to brighten this corner. I have no idea of it’s name but it makes FABULOUS dried flower arrangements.

Inheriting a garden is always exciting, each year something else pops up that you had no idea was there. This year the “Well Garden” has acquired a young walnut tree that we did not plant but want to encourage it to grow, it’s doing very well at the moment. The tree at the front is a prolific flowering pink and white Hibiscus….it will be flowering very soon. Over the well is rampant forsythia, stunning flowers in the spring. It will need tidying up before the winter.

We had a very sturdy loft ladder made of very solid wood and wanted to incorporate it into the well garden somehow. Due to a “lost in translation moment” with our Hungarian gardener he took it upon himself to chop out the steps. Not what we wanted….oh dear! We rescued a few steps and will keep adding plants to fill the gaps. It will come to life next year…the gardener has been forgiven. 😀

“The Well Garden”

We live in sunflower country and most gardens have at least a few adorning their gardens, we are no exception. This spectacularly tall sunflower display is ALL self seeded from last year, travelling from the front of the house, I suspect the wind and the birds helped this process. Haley our dog sitting regally like she owned the place!!

Miss Haley Husky, in HER garden.💜

There are 2 sorts of cherries on the trees here in Hungary, sour and sweet. We prefer the sweet ones to eat straight off the tree or you can collect them and make jams if you have any remaining….we didn’t!

We have 2 sweetcorn patches, the first one the corn is already visible and should be ready for cropping probably next week. We planted another bed about 4 weeks later for continuous corn throughout the summer months. Our favourite way to eat them is straight from the plant and onto the BBQ! Delicious!

Not everything has been successful in our garden and we nearly lost our watermelons…or should I say they just did not grow, we were going to pull them out but suddenly the other day these yellow flowers appeared….could this be the start of a watermelon? I will keep you updated.


The tomatoes all over the garden are doing amazingly well, they guzzle water constantly and there are flowers everywhere. Won’t be long before we have a bumper crop. For the first time this year we experimented with crushed egg shells, adding them to the hole before planting the seedlings, to see if it improved the tomatoes growth and production. So far so good. It is supposed to add extra calcium where needed, I have heard mixed reactions about this method. Best that we try it first before making a judgement.


Our raised bed full of peppers is coming on very well and you can see in the buckets on the ground, potatoes. We tried to grow potatoes previously but they were all attacked by a beetle and we lost the lot. This year we are trying the recycling bucket method.

Other experiments we are trying this year. From seed, tomatoes raised in hollowed egg shells, then transferred to the ground….after crushing the shells gently around them before planting them out. The other tall plant is from seed, a pomegranate. I have already prepared the ground ready for planting and will go in the ground this evening.

This is a third year rose, bought in Hungary and thriving well. It had a bout of greenfly early on but now clear. Underneath the rose is our marigold bed. I planted 6 varieties of marigold in the hope of plenty of colour. We are getting there, the smaller ones have flowered now just waiting for the larger ones to explode, should be any day now.

I love petunias and was fortunate to have been given a few last year from a neighbour. She warned me they would self seed everywhere and have a second wave of flowering later in the year. She was right, I hope they do the same this year, they are so cheerful.

This is the front of the house, looking onto the road. As you see the sunflowers are healthy and strong but unfortunately for poor Haley block her important view of the street. It was a good look out for her passing doggie friends!


Much as I adore Haley, our Husky, she is a major nuisance in the garden. Digging is her game and she is good at it. We have areas in the garden she is “allowed to dig” which generally works OK. However on this occasion my cordoned off new sunflower patch got the “Haley Digging” treatment and she managed to kill one of my 10 new plants. In the first picture you will also notice another suspicious hole…she was guarding it so I would not fill it in! Naughty girl!

My lovely Hibiscus just about to burst into flower in the “Well Garden”


This is the bottom third of our garden, the buildings you see on the left is the neighbours house. We have planted 8 walnut trees which will eventually give us our “Walnut Corner” and a great screen with the neighbours.

There are numerous bare patches on the “lawn”…that’s what I call it but Eric refers to this area as the side garden! The bare patches are when the garden was a building site with piles of concrete, rubble and stones everywhere. We removed the rubble and prepared the patches for grass seed, that was 10 days ago.

Now the new grass is popping through and will hopefully give a good green covering in the coming weeks. I am always hopeful 😁

Our neighbours wall… a fascinating place for “dog sniffing”! The house has been empty for the last 3 years and this half finished extension is housing some sort of animal that has been driving Haley crazy! It could be foxes as we have seen them in the garden or rabbits, cats, lizards or even mice. She spends hours sniffing and watching, crazy girl!!

Sat on our verandah I looked up and this is what I saw…a vibrant blue sky with puff balls of cotton wool clouds. Just gorgeous!🧡

Now as the evening approaches the sun goes to sleep and the moon gently comes out ready to do the whole cycle again tomorrow. Every day nature has something new to offer us it’s wonderful to be able to appreciate it here in our adopted country of Hungary.

Everyday Life in Hungary

4 things I can’t do in Hungary that I could do in England

I can’t do any sort of online shopping….

I used to be an “online junky” I loved the easy, no fuss online way to buy absolutely anything I wanted…of course within reason. But it made me think how much I took it for granted in England, I could sit, search and send in front of my PC and have my items swiftly delivered the next day. All that changed when we moved to Hungary. We were busy furnishing our new home and we found it impossible to find any sort of, easy to follow, Hungarian online shopping presence. Added to that the language barrier issue well and truly hit home. Ahhh well we have saved a ton of money and I came to the realisation that Hungarian people don’t really do as much online shopping as in the West. It is said they don’t trust purchases where they can’t personally inspect the item first. Those who do use internet shopping and have their parcels delivered use the “Cash on Delivery” system, something they do not do in England.

I can’t leave bread or meat out without eating it immediately…

Our family motto: “Eat it, Or Freeze it”!

An excellent motto. Cooking and eating with Hungarian foods is very different from England. Not that there’s anything wrong it’s just different! Soon after are arrival in Hungary we bought fresh bread from the local bakery, sadly within one day it had become dry and hard. It happened again from a different bakery, I suddenly realised, obviously there are less preservatives added to the bread here. We had similar issues with the meat, not keeping for as long as expected. So as our motto goes – if we are not going to eat it that day it goes straight into the freezer. “Eat it, Or Freeze it”

I can’t browse around an English Bookshop…

I love the smell of books and book shops the actual feel of REAL books. I have lived with my Kindle by my side for the last few years, I left my book collection in England and do miss it. The opportunity to visit a book shop, indulge in picking up a book and opening its pages and see English text. Or to be able to read the blurb on the back and make a judgement, to buy or not to buy? Of course there are book shops here, perhaps in Budapest there is an English one to indulge my fantasy. I shall have to broaden my search horizons to Budapest.

Speaking English when negotiating…

any sort of deal with a Hungarian…. you must speak Hungarian, if not, you may find you pay a higher price because you speak English! We have learnt this through expensive experience. Out in the countryside the Hungarian people hold regular car boot sales, nobody speaks English, we paid over the odds for items we bought. Later we were advised, next time ONLY speak Hungarian and that advice came from a friendly Hungarian!

We love living in Hungary and have made some major lifestyle changes that we don’t regret. Every country lives a different way of life with lots of cultural differences. Every new experience that we learn from makes us wiser people and ready for the next time.

Do you live in a country with differences that you have noticed…which way of life do you prefer the old or the new? I would love to hear your views.

Everyday Life in Hungary

8 unusual things that I didn’t know about Hungary!

We have been living in Hungary for over two years now and have come to realise that lots of things here are very different from England. They are not bad things they are just different, I guess Hungarians arriving in England would think we have some pretty strange practices too!

1. Hungarian christian names are regulated by law.

New parents are bound by a naming law when it comes to choosing what to call their children. Names chosen must come from a pre-approved list and any deviations must also be officially approved. I did wonder why so many people were called the same name, now I know why. Each day of the year is given its own name, and with it an excuse for a celebration for anyone called by that particular name. The most common boys name is István, meaning Stephen in English. The most common girls name is Erzsébet meaning Elizabeth in English.

Name days

2. What are Ruin Bars?

I am told (although not had the pleasure yet) that a visit to a ruin bar (or pub) is a must. These bars are located in Budapest’s old District VII neighborhood (the old Jewish quarter) in the ruins of abandoned buildings. The pubs or kerts as they are know in Hungarian, sit inside the many bombed out and bullet marked ruins of buildings. Szimpla Kert was the first ruin bar and remains iconic, it has the original ruin pub traits, strangely mismatched furniture that’s seen better days, disorderly artwork on the walls and a garden for you to enjoy a beer.

3. You can have a beach holiday in Hungary.

Lake Balaton

I was surprised to learn that you can have a beach holiday in this land locked country. We are 40 minutes drive from Lake Balaton, often affectionately called the “Hungarian Sea” by Hungarians. Lake Balaton is also the largest freshwater lake in Europe. Beaches are mainly grassy, but many resorts have artificial sandy beaches. There are dog friendly beaches too. The beaches and resorts around Lake Balaton are open from May to October and boast a huge range of activities. The major towns around the lake come alive during the summer season with a vast array of activities on offer, water sports are particular popular – sailing, water skiing, canoeing and windsurfing, to name but a few. If you are there in the winter months you can have a go at ice skating on the frozen Balaton. It is a truly beautiful vibrant area. 

4. Surname (family name) always comes first.

I discovered that all the numerous official forms we had to complete, residency, driving licence, hospital forms etc your surname is put first, unlike England where your christian name goes first. This took a bit of getting used too in the verbal context, particularly if we were waiting to see a doctor and they shouted our surname first, I was not quite tuned in to that name format. Eventually we have become accustomed to this although it still proves problematic sometimes on social media! I am not always sure which is the christian name. Some of the younger generations put their christian name first. My assumption is that there are so many people with the same christian name in Hungary it is easier to use the surname first purely for identification purposes.

5. Additional letters to the alphabet.

The people of Hungary have an extended alphabet. The Hungarian alphabet contains 44 letters. No fewer than four versions of the letter ‘O’ are found in the Hungarian alphabet, and there are several combined letters including Dz, Dzs, Gy, Ly, Ny, Sz, Ty, and Zs. I have discovered on my journey to learn the second hardest language in the world (Mandarin first) that word order is often flexible, making my sentences sometimes nonsensical! I had to start by learning the different sounds, then phrases, then the actual pronunciation. I am learning this new language slowly, a necessity to be able to enjoy Hungarian life to the full.

6. It is considered rude to clink beer glasses.

The most mysterious custom in Hungary, is that Hungarians never clink glasses full of beer. The most widely known explanation seems to be that the Austrians celebrated their victory over Hungary in the 1849 revolution, drinking glasses of beer whilst 13 Hungarian senior generals were executed. It is said the Austrians clinked their beer glasses after each execution. As a result of this, Hungarians vowed never to clink beer glasses and say cheers for 150 years. That time has passed now, but the custom continues, particularly with the older generations. It is considered to be rude and insulting to Hungarians.

7. Did you know?

You have probably heard about the Rubik’s cube, but did you know that it’s a Hungarian invention? Ernő Rubik created the Rubik’s Cube and it is widely considered to be the most popular toy ever made. More than 350 million of them have been sold worldwide since it hit toy shop shelves in Budapest in the 1970s.

8. Good Manners whilst drinking in Hungary.

Hungarians are pretty heavy drinkers, they will not dispute this! If you’re lucky enough to be visiting a Hungarian family for a meal, there are few things you should remember. The most important thing is that if you are ever offered a shot of pálinka (fruit brandy) you must drink it. Hungarians are very proud of their national drink and often make it themselves. It is considered rude to refuse it. Finally, the last thing that I find unusual is when your glass is topped up it’s considered rude not to look the other person in the eye when saying – ‘Egészségedre’ or in English cheers!

Palinka (not homemade) but equally good!

So there you have it, interesting things that I have noticed about Hungary, the people and their differences. I do know that Hungary is a very warm, welcoming nation and learning about their culture is fascinating.

If you are an Expat like me, does your ‘new country’ have many differences from what you are used to? I would be interested to hear them.

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