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Expat Life

Five Spring Highlights from the Month of March

April 3, 2018

I can’t believe we’re already into April! It feels like the last month just flew by. Spring (and winter) finally arrived in Budapest with chilly and wet weather throughout the month. However, overall, it has been a great month. I’ve made good headway with some business projects and have even managed to book a trip to one of my “must-visit” destinations.

I’ve developed an almost daily habit of listening to my Hungarian lessons and other podcasts. My current favourites are Quirks & Quarks (the latest discoveries in science, technology and medicine),  Sword & Scale  (a true crime podcast), and the Global News Podcast from the BBC.

Spring has finally sprung in Budapest, Hungary. Flowers or “virágok” in Hungarian 😉

A gorgeous Magnolia tree soon to be in bloom.

March also meant our first delivery from Amazon Germany. That order included the first 3 books from the Norwegian thriller series by Jo Nesbo – so good!  I also played (just a little bit of) Far Cry 5. Thanks to our friends, Feather and the Wind, for loaning us their PlayStation while they travel around Mexico. If you haven’t seen their gorgeous videos, filmed in both popular and remote locations in Mexico, you must watch them on YouTube here.

Campeche, Mexico.

Wes and Fel, in San Francisco de Campeche, Mexico. A UNESCO world heritage site because of the well-preserved (and colourful) architecture.

Fel enjoying the beautiful Lagoon of Seven Colours in Bacalar, Mexico.

1. Visitors

This month we confirmed our first visitors of the year.  Starting in May and spreading out until July, we’ll have family and friends coming to enjoy this incredible city.  For some guests, it will be the first time in the city, so it will be fun to visit some of the most touristy places that we have already started to ignore.

One of the lions guarding the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. And yes, contrary to urban legend, they do have tongues.

The popular World War I centenary exhibition at Budapest’s Varkert Bazar.

2. The Spring Festival

Starting at the end of March and continuing until April 22 is the 38th Budapest Spring Festival. This festival includes food, drink and the arts. There are events in classical music, opera, jazz, world music, dance, contemporary circus, theatre and the visual arts. Venues are littered throughout the city. There is definitely something for everyone at every age.

Lucy at one of the Spring Festival venues patiently waiting for her latte and cake.

A Kürtőskalács vendor (or chimney cake as it’s called in English) featuring my life motto.

Delicious Hungarian cuisine – although not really know for its green vegetables.

3. Easter

For the first time, Easter was a 3 day holiday here in Hungary. Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are all official holidays making this Easter a 4 day weekend.  Unfortunately, for us much of it was rainy.  However, we managed to have an excellent Easter Brunch at the Budapest Marriott with one of our new friends.

Leaving our friends and support network behind is one of the greatest challenges of an international relocation. However, it makes space for new fabulous people to enter our lives. Thanks to Shannon for sharing the day with us!

Part of my lovely buffet lunch that included traditional Easter Ham, eggs, and potato salad.

Giant Easter eggs on the banks of the Danube River.

4. Travel

This past month we booked two trips.  The first trip we booked is to the countryside of Hungary. We are going to a village called Balatongyörök. Balatongyörök is located on the north shore of Lake Balaton, not far from Keszthely. While there, we will also visit Lake Heviz. Lake Hévíz is the world’s largest biologically-active natural thermal lake. The lake is rich in sulphur and minerals and completely replenishes itself every 72 hours.

Our second trip is to the beautiful Algarve region of Portugal. Andrew has been missing palm trees and the ocean, so when a friend invited us to stay, we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately for Lucy, she will miss out on this trip.  However, I’m sure she’ll enjoy her own mini-vacation here in Budapest with my Aunt.

5. The St. Patricks Day Gala Dinner

OMG was this night a blast!  Hands-down one of the best events we’ve been to (or hosted). We enjoyed incredible entertainment and food all thanks to the Irish Hungarian Business Circle.  If you want to see what I mean, watch our Vlog that features this amazing night.

Andrew and I with the Irish Ambassador to Hungary, Ambassador Pat Kelly and his wife.

Last month was definitely wintery, but April has brought the warm weather.  Today it will be 19 degrees out, so I’m going to end this here and get outside.

What are your spring travel plans?  Any recommendations for more places I should visit here in Hungary this summer? Let me know in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading!

Budapest Expat Tips

The “Living with No Dryer” Laundry Survival Guide

March 25, 2018
laundry survival guide

Moving away to Europe is the first time that many people discover that not everyone has a dryer. Practically all classical apartments in Budapest come with washing machines – but not all have dryers. And while our washing machine is much smaller than we had in Canada, we’ve adjusted our loads according.  But living with no dryer is much more frustrating.

If you want to see more about our daily life, watch our latest video now live on our YouTube Channel.

Crunchy Towels are No Bueno

Seriously, nothing is worse than a line-dried towel.  They are disgustingly crunchy.  I hate crunchy.  Who wants to fiercely exfoliate your body on a chilly winter morning? You want to be wrapped up in warm, soft, caress like a cuddly bunny. You do not want to feel like you’ve been scraped by a sidewalk after falling off your bike.

As a child I remember my mother occasionally line drying on a summer’s day – I hated those towels too. I would always dig down to the bottom of the pile in the linen closet in hopes of finding something softer.

This may work fine for clothes, but not for my towels.

Things I’ve Tried for Fluffy Towels

Like any normal person, I searched Google for “how to get fluffy towels with no dryer”.  I found a bunch of suggestions:

  1. Add vinegar in the final rinse
  2. Wash towels at 40 degrees
  3. Use half the detergent amount
  4. Don’t use fabric softener
  5. Do use fabric softener
  6. Only do a very small load
  7. Shake towels vigorously before hanging to dry

Bottom line: none of these really worked.  I still continued to have crispy towels – only now they smelled slightly pickled.

The Solution

The solution is shocking obvious  – use a dryer!  This means a trip to to local coin laundry. For us this is the Wash Point Kávézó & Mosoda. Located near Kálvin Ter in District 9, this is the best one I have ever been to.  Ok, so, maybe I haven’t actually been to a lot of coin laundry places, but this place is awesome.

We continue to wash and line dry our clothes at home, but we always take towels and linens to Wash Point.

Wash Point Kávézó & Mosoda

As the name implies, this is not just a laundromat, but a coffee house too. You can find the coffee house at street level and the laundry in the basement. Watch your towels spin around while sipping on a latte and enjoying a sandwich.

The surroundings are impeccably clean and comfortable. They have free wi-fi, a kid’s corner and cool music videos playing on a TV. Additionally, they are open every day of the year from 7 am until midnight.  We tend to go in the mornings around 10am and always find machines to use.

How Much for Laundry Softness?

Each load – a wash or a dry – costs 1000 HUF (about $5 CDN). You can pay by card or cash. All instructions are in Hungarian and English.  The best part? You don’t need to worry about bringing detergent – its automatically dispensed in the wash.

If you live around this area, I highly recommend Wash Point for a enjoyable experience whilst performing boring laundry chores.

How about you? Any other tips or tricks for me to try?  Do you know of a great laundry service perhaps? Do you iron your sheets (asking for a friend)?

Let me know in the comments below!

Snuggly yours,

Anikó

Budapest Expat Tips

Tourist Alert: What Not to Wear in Budapest, Hungary

March 3, 2018
What not to wear in Budapest

Budapest is an amazing city. Everywhere you look you’ll find amazing architecture, museums, hotels, bars, nooks, and crannies. And while there are many cultural differences between North America and Hungary, the way people dress is one of them. So unless you want to be immediately identified as a tourist, here is a short list of what not to wear in Budapest, Hungary.

Tourist Alert

Please note that these are my personal observations after 3 months of living in Budapest.  I have absolutely done ALL of the things listed below (as I’m sure some of you have too). You (and I) may even continue to do so in the future. Guess what?  If that’s what you want, go ahead and be the best tourist you can be! But for those of you who want to blend in a little more with your European surroundings  – keep reading.

Dirty Shoes or Trainers

Since we take public transportation practically everyday, we get to see a lot of footwear. Hungarian’s shoes are practically always polished to perfection.  Even in wintertime, you would have to look hard to find salt stains on a fellow passenger’s boots. Laces are also neat and clean – with shoes/boots completely tied up.

Now I am not saying that all Canadians have dirty shoes (as I am sure not all Hungarians have clean ones).  However, both my husband and I noticed this almost immediately.  It prompted us to get to the store to make sure we had some good polish on hand. There is definitely a higher level of respect for an individual’s personal appearance.

Furthermore, wearing trainers/running shoes is definitely a sign that you must be a tourist.  You will discover most Europeans wear stylish but comfortable shoes or a higher-end sneaker look.  You’ll likely only find running shoes being worn during an actual athletic activity.

 mens shoes

A more likely shoe to be seen in winter is something like this comfortable, but stylish, men’s shoe.

Running shoes

While these bright coloured trainers may be perfect for the gym or track, wearing on the street of Budapest simply screams tourist.

Colourful Winter Coats

When the temperatures drop, I’ve always liked to beat the gloom with a bold coloured coat.  I have a turquoise coat, a bright pink down vest and my husband has a cobalt blue coat.  Unfortunately, these are not looks you find regularly on adults on the streets of Budapest. Most Hungarians above the age of 12 wear black or darker colours. Lucky for us, we own more than one coat.

Note that this doesn’t always stop us from wearing our coats of many colours, but we make a conscious choice to do so. Sometimes, and in certain places, its simply best to fit in and look “Hungarian”.  Why be a target for tour operators and pickpockets when you don’t have to be?

Check out our latest video on YouTube to see when we blend in and when we don’t bother…

Tourist with bright coat

While we have protected his identity, this man is immediately recognizable as a tourist in this bright blue coat.

Baseball Caps

As someone who has spent the last ten summers of my life on a boat, both my husband and I own more then one baseball cap (even if I did rarely wear one).  Baseball caps are often a complete necessity when sailing to keep the sun out of your eyes without losing your sunglasses. On the contrary, you will find few adult Hungarians wearing these on the streets of Budapest.

If you do see this style of cap, its most likely to be devoid of any slogan or sports logo. I’m not really sure why baseball hats get no love?  You do see lots other styles of hats – bucket hats, pork pie hats, straw hats, and my husband’s personal favourite, the Trilby. Ps. This does to apply to ladies as well.

Tourists in Baseball caps

Wearing this hat is not only a sign that your are a tourist but a Times Square billboard sized sign that you are a tourist.

Sweatsuits, Tracksuits and Yoga Pants

I love my yoga pants.  Who doesn’t love their yoga pants?  They can be be both flattering and practical when they fit right.  In the past, I never hesitated from wearing them to the mall, out for coffee or grocery shopping.  On the other hand, please know that I never wore them to work or to a dinner party. Rarely do you see these anywhere on the streets of Budapest.  Sweats? Track suits? Leisure wear? Nope.  You won’t find any of those either. Again, this applies to both women and men.  Sorry boys!  Leave those baggy track suits at home.

yoga pants

Defying all North American logic, these two women are wearing yoga pants to actually do yoga – not to meet at Starbucks for a latte.

Other Tourist Giveaways

Of course clothing is just one part of the tourist puzzle.  Carrying selfie sticks, wearing backpacks, multiple cameras, staring at large maps, paying in Euros instead of forints, are all huge “tourist alert” giveaways.  Perhaps the most obvious – and the hardest to avoid – is speaking in English.

Selfie Stick

Perhaps the most obvious of tourist devices – the selfie stick. Not only that – but many popular spots simply ban the use of these nowadays.

In short, no matter how you dress or what language you speak, please don’t hesitate to come and visit this extremely safe and beautiful city that I now call home. Hungarians are fabulous and will fill you to the brim with the best food, wine, weather and entertainment.

What do you think screams tourist?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

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.