-Where were you born?
Oklahoma City, OK, USA
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my Canadian/Sri Lankan roomate.
-How long have you been living in Hungary?
Three not-so-long years
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Hungary?
I actually go to med school here, because it is so much cheaper than in the US, and I could travel around Europe - call that a win-win.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
Not at all, it was all very straightforward.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Again, no because it was all done through the university. I have student insurance, though I am jealous of how easy it is for my fellow EU originating students to use their insurance.
-How do you make your living in Hungary? Do you have any type of income generated?
I tutor English, and also run a blog, but that is for fun, not money. It is extremely hard to get a job here, as I don't speak the language, and not that many people speak English. So it is best to work freelance - I write freelance on the side. The internet is your friend! As well as other friends. All the foreigners I know got a job through connections between other friends, or a job recruiting website, like CV- online.hu, Learn4good.com, or Careerbuilder. A full-time job for most Hungarians doesn't cover living cost at all. Most people still live at home with parents, and have a side job or project or 2 or 3!
-Do you speak Hungarian and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I don't yet, but I am learning all the time. I think it is so important to make local friends, instead of sticking to the foreign or expat community. You get to do so much more and really experience the place you live, instead of doing what all the other foreigners do. This summer, I went para-sailing, travelled to wine country, neighboring towns, wine tasting and concerts I would have not even known about if it weren't for my Hungarian friends. So many of the other students go six years here without learning a bit of the language, and I think that is so sad. They are missing out, for sure.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course! But after a while, you learn to do without macaroni and cheese and pizza rolls. I guess I miss food the most. My friends and I find ways to stay in touch, via email, IM, and I bought a Skype In # so they can call me anytime via a local #. I find ways to bring America to me, via radio, TV, and I became quite a good cook, especially at all the American things I miss. I actually started my blog to help other Americans find ways to connect to home and talk about all the resources there are to keep in touch. It's at http://yankeeinnewworld.com. I have learned a lot these past few years, and I just wanted others to benefit from what I've discovered.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
I want to travel around Western Europe next summer - Paris, Barcelona, London again, Rome, you name it. My grandfather has told me I have to go to Stockholm, so add that to the list. I want to continue to grow the blog, and help as many as possible, and make it a place where expats can share advice.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I rent a two-bedroom apartment for about 600 a month, bills included, that my roomate and I share, splitting the cost down the middle. But that was an awesome deal, and not typical. We are so lucky! Usually a new two-bedroom flat like ours would be a bit more like 600 or 700 without bills.
-What is the cost of living in Hungary?
I budget about 600 a month, but that is quite frugal. Most spend about 1000 a month. It is not so different than America price-wise. Clothes and grocery shopping cost more here, especially if you are buying foreign things like tortillas or hoi sin sauce or maple syrup. I learn to make a lot from scratch, like pancakes - YUM!! But services are cheaper and apartments. When I say services, I mean massages, getting haircuts, cleaners, that sort of thing.
-What do you think about the Hungarians?
I find that in general, individually, Hungarians are very friendly, especially the young crowd, and everyone appreciates when you try to learn the language. But because I am Indian, and don't live in a major city, I do draw the odd stare and that. There is a huge prejudice against gypsies here, and it's quite possible that sometimes they are trying to figure if I am one or not. Especially with the American tendency to dress down, with hoodies and track pants.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Hungary?
The positive aspect lies within the freedom, and the ability to experience and travel around Europe. Also to gain friendships with people from all over the world, since I am in an international program. The negative aspect is that at home we are spoiled, so we are used to stores being open, customer service, and all that comes with it. We work on speed back home and here, the flow is much slower. The answer is more often than now, "later", "in two weeks", or "closed now." I had to learn to slow down and be more accepting for things happening with time. Also, I spoke English too fast, so I had to learn to talk slower.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Hungary?
Be patient and really get to know some local Hungarians. They have some invaluable knowledge of the area, and can help you nagivate sticky situations. Also, use Tourinform, the tourist offices located around the country. They are located even in the smallest towns in Hungary, and are great help. Oh, and always make sure to follow up on anything you need done - multiple times.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Hungary?
Hungary is one of those countries where resources are not as readily come by, or meet ups and groups or forums for expats. Unless, of course, you are in Budapest. But facebook is a great way to find some people nearby, and keep in touch with people at home. And - shameless plugging here - to any American expat in Europe, come by the site, and even if we don't know the answer to a question you have, we will find someone that will. http://yankeeinnewworld.com. Thanks for listening, and consider this an open invite to Hungary!