Budapest, Hungary Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary 11/09/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I've also lived in Sana'a, Addis Ababa, Astana, Jerusalem, Sao Paolo, and Panama City.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US. Some direct flights now or connect in multiple ways.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Live in a house on the Buda side. Nice quiet neighborhood, near hiking, and biking trails. House sizes are all over the board. More apartments on the Pest side. Commute times vary from 20 minutes to 45 minutes. Many take public transportation, which is good.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Availability is good for most stuff you want. Walmart.com, Amazon, the commissary or a grocery trip run to Aviano Air Base fill in the rest. Cost is pretty good, cheaper than DC.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Beef, peanut butter, and brown sugar.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Too many to list. Still trying new restaurants.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO at post is good.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We don't employ any. Some do for cleaners. We do employ someone to do the extensive yard work and he does a phenomenal job for US$66 a visit.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Public gyms are expensive. ILEA and the US Embassy have adequate facilities.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

For the most part, quite safe and accepted. The embassy has an ATM or you can use the cashier's service.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Many.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not much in Budapest. We have survived with extremely little local language, which is extremely difficult.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Some, but not insurmountable.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Extremely so and highly utilized. Taxis be careful and utilize the recommended ones from the embassy list or you might get scammed.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Not a huge SUV, as streets are narrow. Other than that, you can bring whatever you want or like.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available and hooked up the first day.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get an unlocked phone. We have three phones and use a local provider with one phone we brought from the US and two we purchased at Media Mart in the mall.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Teachers, telecommuting, full-time, part-time, all are done here. Local salary scales are abysmal.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Several if you look for them.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formal dress for Marine Corps Ball and similar functions. Most wear a tie at the embassy.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Not really. There is a good medical clinic that accepts US insurance. Great dental. Major medical and births are done outside Hungary to Vienna or elsewhere, which is only a couple of hours away.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Not bad, but there are definitely allergy seasons.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Varied, but nothing extreme either way.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Two good international schools, one American and one Christian. Experience has been phenomenal with American school. The kids have lots of opportunities to travel, and the campus is gorgeous.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

They have some staff with experience and background, depending on the severity of the issue.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

No experience, but people seem to put their kids in programs. No idea on the cost.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

With the school, yes. Not sure outside the school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Decent size. Morale is very good. Great place to be.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes to all of the above.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably not, but don't know enough to say. LGBT expats do not seem to be accepted openly.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, there seem to be issues with all of the above.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Food, the city, traveling within and out of the country. Too many trips to count. Cheap air travel available and many places to drive to.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Rick Steve's book for Budapest is a good guide. I loved the Labyrinth, castle district, Basilica, etc.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Yes, lots of great Christmas markets with local handicrafts. Lots of antiquing going on here, too.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Relatively cheap to live here, gorgeous, and centrally located to visit other places.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Not much.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Ideas about a good hamburger.

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4. But don't forget your:

Walking shoes and camera.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Bridge at Andau.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Loved this place. Great post and great place to live.

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Budapest, Hungary 12/12/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I have lived in Paris, Dakar, Mexico City, and Islamabad.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, D.C. Transit through Frankfurt or Paris for pet friendly airlines (avoid Munich due to recent change in policy).

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Buda is not the suburbs (as I read it often); the community lives in Districts I (near the Var/Castle area), II, and XII out of 23 districts (23rd is near the airport in Pest). Being on the Buda side does not necessarily mean living in a house with a garden. It could be an apartment without garden. Being in Pest does not necessarily mean being 5-minute walking distance from the center, you could have a 20-minute commute by bus (Stefania). Some Embassy apartments don't have elevators from the ground floor to the apartment. And it could be three floors high (think strollers, arthritis, etc.).

Singles and childless couples tend to be in apartments in Pest while families tend to be in townhouses, stand-alone houses, and very spacious apartments in Buda (the tree-filled, hilly suburb side). There was a trend in 2016 for families with many kids wanting to live in Pest; it meant a huge commute for kids who did not have their friends around them.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries seem to be about 50-100% of the price of groceries in the U.S., depending on what you buy and the season. The Commissary has many non-perishables, ranging from okay-priced to really expensive. Some people ate 99% from the Commissary (which we found unhealthy since the Commissary does not sell produce). We barely visited it since local markets are so enjoyable here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, we like local food and products (many from Germany). And what we really cannot find comes easily from Amazon.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

We adopt local customs so we don’t care about McDonalds or KFC, but have noticed that the Mexican restaurant in front of the Embassy is a favorite among expats. Lots of Hungarian cafeteria style fast food, pizza, Greek, Turkish, Chinese fast food. The best for Embassy personnel or anyone in the area is the small market Belvarosi Piac behind the Embassy since its first floor offers a dozen good restaurants from fast food to less fast but overall great food (vegetarian to heavy sausages to fish).

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the Embassy mail system for the U.S. and the Post Office next to the Basilica for the other countries. No problems.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

House cleaners range about $7-10/hour, nannies sometimes a bit more.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a brand new gym. Others everywhere. Many people run along the Danube.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problems. Many ATMs.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are three major Christian English-speaking churches (Danube, Calgary Chapel, and a Baptist one). There are also LDS, Catholic, Episcopal, Jewish, etc. CLO has an updated list and it is also on the Paprika community website for Embassy folks.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some people swear you don't need any which defeats the purpose of being in the FS. At the embassy, the weekly "survivor Hungarian" is great (hopefully they will continue this program). Otherwise you can also get 2 hours a week. Some people paid their own language school to become more proficient. Learning how to read is a minimum, as you will be able to decipher better restaurant menus. In Budapest with young people, English is widely spoken, but outside central districts (let alone the country side) and with older people, forget English! Some actually speak German if this can help you.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The Metro stations are not always handicap (or stroller) accessible. Hungarians are usually very quick to help, especially with carrying strollers up and down stairs.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Alas Uber got ousted though.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We brought a 4WD to visit surrounding countries. Never used it in Budapest; we did everything with tram, bus, metro (Uber at the time) or taxi. Better to live in Buda with a garage if you bring a big car since parking may not be near your apartment if you live in Pest and streets are narrow.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. GSO does it pre-arrival. At worse you wait 2-3 days. Neighbors can lend you their wi-fi in the meantime.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Embassy community keeps changing policy between T Mobile and Vodafone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

They love dogs here, they are even welcome in restaurants. Many vets and kennels available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Language is so hard it is not really realistic to want a local job, except as a teacher – some taught at the University or in international schools. Salaries are not very high since Hungary is not an expensive country. In 2016, there were a dozen jobs at the embassy. Some part-time.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work: professional dress and Friday wear. Depends on sections and being seen in public or not. Public as a private citizen: anything you would wear in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

We were robbed the day of our departure. There is property theft occurring regularly but it typically occurs when you are absent; it involves no violence. Hence the need to use your alarm faithfully.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Very good medical care. Germans and Austrians travel here for medical/dentistry appointments (half the price than in their countries). Medevacs only for serious issues. Pregnant women select frequently to deliver in Vienna (rather than the U.S.) to be closer to their family.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good, especially in the Buda Hills where we lived.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons. Winters are supposed to be snowy but we had three very mild winters with barely a week of snow in the city (more on the hill where locals ski). Summer can be hot and humid (much less than D.C. though). Very sunny (like Barcelona or D.C.).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

People go to the American School (very far from all housing, university-sized, I would say better for older kids), Greater Grace International School, the British School, Britannica (both British schools are closer to housing and a size that seems better for younger kids in primary school, one has uniforms the other does not), the French School (second largest campus after the American school), and ICSB. There are also a German and a Spanish international schools.

The American school has a maximum of 20-25% US/GB students, all others are from Asia or Europe. The French school has about 50% French students in the small classes and less after 8th grade, most other students are Hungarian, speaking perfect English and many other languages. Our son was happy there since he knew everything local (tips, parties, some Hungarian). They were also only 13 in his class of 12th grade (versus 25+ in other schools). Some American families with no ties to a francophone country chose the French school before us.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are plenty of picks for preschools, but they are very expensive (university pricing of about $12,000 minimum per year! Then add a nanny to get the kids from there at 2 or 3pm if both parents work or mono-parental). Some families chose a Hungarian preschool because it was a 5-minute walk from the embassy (and of course much cheaper).

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large (see number of international schools). Lots of people through Embassies, Exxon, a large missionary population, and many other businesses like IBM or PWC.

Morale is good. People like it here (except when there is a hiring freeze because working on the economy is super hard).

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

It's a social city with festivals of everything all the time – especially food-themed. Tons of bars. Young people do Tinder!

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Everyone likes it. Good nightlife and restaurants for singles and no-kid families. Plenty of parks, Moms' groups, and family activities in the City. Very good for pets too – you can bring them to restaurants.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is prejudice against the Roma (gypsy) population. People who are not white can get some looks, it really depends where they are and how they behave (loud or respectful to local customs).

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Easily touring the rest of Europe (many countries within 2-4-hour driving distance and everything else within a 1-2-hour flight).

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Drive to Bavaria (5 hours), Croatia (4 hours), Slovenia (4 hours), Vienna (2.5 hours), Slovakia (2 hours), Lake Balaton (1-2 hours). Within Budapest: go to Margaret Island, the great zoo, the circus, the baths (Szechenyi in winter, Gellert in summer), go to the wonderful chandelier-filled coffee shops, the Christmas market. Don’t miss the big festivals like Mohacs near Pecs or Easter in Holloko 2 hours north of Budapest.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Textiles, wooden toys, ceramics.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Ease of travel throughout Europe, great food, fantastic wines, beautiful city, nice family activities, fun nightlife.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, and we met American expats who have decided to retire there, after careful calculations of all aspects including taxes (or actually no tax on retirement income).

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Tendency to buy everything at the Commissary. You can really get most of anything you need on the local market.

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3. But don't forget your:

Passport for many travels around the region.

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Budapest, Hungary 01/23/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, D.C.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months so far (3 year tour).

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Singles and childless couples tend to be in apartments in Pest (the "City" side of Budapest). Families tend to be in townhouses, stand-alone houses, and very spacious apartments in Buda (the tree-filled, hilly suburb side).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries seem to be about equal to mid-priced groceries in the US (cheaper than in rural areas, like Wyoming, pricier than in the midwest). The Commissary has many non-perishables, ranging from okay-priced to really expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Peanut butter, American baby food (other baby items are fine, though), cream of chicken/mushroom soups (their's here are a different texture), fragrance-free laundry soap (they have a British one, though), batteries (very pricy, but available here).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, KFC. Cost like in the U.S. The only other American restaurant: TGI Fridays. Lots of Hungarian cafeteria style fast food, Greek fast food, pizza stands, Chinese food fast food.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Use the Embassy mail system. Non-government friends send and receive packages through the local mail and I haven't heard of any problems.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Part-time babysitters range from US$5-8 an hour. House cleaners about the same.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. One near Embassy. Others everywhere.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No troubles.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are three major Christian English-speaking churches (Danube, Calgary Chapel, and a Baptist one). I know there is at least one Mormon church, a Catholic church, and I think an Episcopal church.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. Not sure cost.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Some people swear you don't need any. We've found that a few months of language lessons (once a week) has been very helpful in enriching our experience. You can definitely get around without it though. It's a really, really hard language.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The Metro stations are not always handicap (or stroller) accessible. That said, the Hungarian people are VERY quick to help, especially with carrying strollers up and down stairs.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, yes.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring your automobile. We tried to buy a used one here and ended up buying one back in the US and shipping it over.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Not sure cost.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Most people in the Embassy community use T Mobile.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Much. They love dogs here. Almost as much as they love kids.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Some.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work: professional dress. Public: anything you'd wear in the US will be fine.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There has been an increase in property theft while we've been here. No one leaves anything in their cars when you leave your car. But no violent crimes that I've heard of.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Pretty good medical care. Medevacs for serious issues (a severe broken leg requiring surgery got medevaced to Vienna), but most stuff is handled here. Our Embassy encourages people to fly home to have their babies, though: NICU care isn't up to par here. The private businesses, Exxon, etc., do not medevac their people home for births, though, so it must be okay. Friends have had good experiences delivering here.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good, especially in the Buda Hills where we live.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Four seasons like anywhere in the middle of the U.S. Winters can be snowy (more than D.C., less than Michigan) and summer can be hot (like Missouri or Oklahoma). Less humid than DC or Midwest.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I hear good things. Our kids are younger. People like the American School, Greater Grace International School, the British School, Britannnica, the French School, and ICSB.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are plenty of picks for preschools, but they are pricy (comparative to the DC area). I found a "good deal" for $300/month for 3 mornings a month.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Big. Lots of people through Embassies, Exxon, a large missionary population, and random other businesses.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. People tend like it here (of course, unless they are unhappy in their personal lives). Many spouses and kids are opting to stay here and live, rather than return to the US, while their working spouse goes to a war zone for a next tour.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

It's a pretty social city.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, yes, yes! Everyone seems to like it. Good nightlife and restaurants for the singles. Plenty of parks, Moms' groups, and family activities in the City.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is prejudice against the Roma (gypsy) population. I have some American friends with darker skin (ranging from South Asian to African American) who have had merchants watch them closely in stores.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Easily touring the rest of Europe (much within driving distance and everything else within a few hour flight or less).

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Drive to South Germany (5 hours), Croatia (4 hours), Slovenia (4 hours), Vienna (2.5 hours), Lake Balaton (1-2 hours). Within Budapest: go to Margaret Island, the great zoo, the circus, the fantastic baths (Szechenyi Baths especially), go to the wonderful chandelier-filled coffee shops, go to the Christmas market.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Textiles, wooden toys, ceramics.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Ease of travel throughout Europe, fun city, nice family activities, fun nightlife.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really. Depends how much you travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Tendency to buy everything at the Commissary. You can really get most of anything you need on the local market. I go to the Commissary for comfort items, but really am fine without it.

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3. But don't forget your:

Passport -- travel while here a TON!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Bridge at Andau: The Compelling True Story of a Brave, Embattled People
The Invisible Bridge (Vintage Contemporaries)

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Rick Steves' Eastern Europe

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Budapest, Hungary 04/28/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in Guatemala, Mexico, Argentina, and Spain.

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2. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I have lived in Guatemala, Mexico, Argentina, and Spain.

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3. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is Minneapolis. A flight on Delta with a layover at JFK will take approximately 15 hours total.

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4. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is Minneapolis. A flight on Delta with a layover at JFK will take approximately 15 hours total.

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5. How long have you lived here?

2 years from September 2008.

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6. How long have you lived here?

2 years from September 2008.

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7. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Affiliated with the US Embassy.

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8. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Affiliated with the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We lived on the Pest side in an amazing apartment with three levels and two large terraces. Generally, embassy housing seems to be larger than what I've seen elsewhere, on both the Buda and the Pest sides. Those who live in Pest tend to live in spacious apartments near the embassy (generally within a 30-minute walk). Those who live on the Buda side tend to live in standalone houses with yards or townhouses with small yards. Those on the Buda side commute via public transport or car.

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2. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We lived on the Pest side in an amazing apartment with three levels and two large terraces. Generally, embassy housing seems to be larger than what I've seen elsewhere, on both the Buda and the Pest sides. Those who live in Pest tend to live in spacious apartments near the embassy (generally within a 30-minute walk). Those who live on the Buda side tend to live in standalone houses with yards or townhouses with small yards. Those on the Buda side commute via public transport or car.

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3. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The embassy has a commissary where the cost of items is similar to that in the US. Otherwise, large grocery stores (Tesco and Interspar) exist here too, and offer everything you could need. For specialty items, look to Culinaris, which has 3 locations (and cooking classes, too). Culinaris is expensive but really great.

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4. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The embassy has a commissary where the cost of items is similar to that in the US. Otherwise, large grocery stores (Tesco and Interspar) exist here too, and offer everything you could need. For specialty items, look to Culinaris, which has 3 locations (and cooking classes, too). Culinaris is expensive but really great.

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5. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I wish there were more vegetarian products available. There are actually quite a few soy products here (soy yogurt, soy milk), but few items like tempeh. I would definitely ship clothes, as shopping here can be disappointing (though not always).

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6. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I wish there were more vegetarian products available. There are actually quite a few soy products here (soy yogurt, soy milk), but few items like tempeh. I would definitely ship clothes, as shopping here can be disappointing (though not always).

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7. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All the fast food joints are here--everything from Subway and KFC to TGI Fridays. I think the cost is comparable to the US. But there are other good/fast restaurants here too. For example, there are many falafel/kebab places and Indian restaurants that offer quick take-out service.

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8. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All the fast food joints are here--everything from Subway and KFC to TGI Fridays. I think the cost is comparable to the US. But there are other good/fast restaurants here too. For example, there are many falafel/kebab places and Indian restaurants that offer quick take-out service.

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9. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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10. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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2. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO

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3. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay 1300 HUF per hour, which I think is only slightly above the norm.

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4. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay 1300 HUF per hour, which I think is only slightly above the norm.

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5. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has a small gym that is very inexpensive to join (something like $7/year), but there are also private gyms, including Holmes Place.

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6. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has a small gym that is very inexpensive to join (something like $7/year), but there are also private gyms, including Holmes Place.

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7. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Works the same as in the US, no problems.

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8. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Works the same as in the US, no problems.

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9. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an English-language Catholic mass and an English-language Anglican mass.

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10. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an English-language Catholic mass and an English-language Anglican mass.

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11. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The embassy distributes "Hungary around the clock" daily, which is a synopsis of all the most important news stories. There are other English- language sources, like the Budapest Sun, which is business oriented. If you have cable television, you'll get all the news channels, HBO, etc. The cost is approx 8000 HUF/month ($40).

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12. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The embassy distributes "Hungary around the clock" daily, which is a synopsis of all the most important news stories. There are other English- language sources, like the Budapest Sun, which is business oriented. If you have cable television, you'll get all the news channels, HBO, etc. The cost is approx 8000 HUF/month ($40).

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13. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You really don't need to know anything for daily living. I have picked up a tiny bit here and there (mostly at the dog park), but it really is not necessary, and I would advise against spending time and energy in a class. Instead, concentrate on a language you can use after your two years here!

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14. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You really don't need to know anything for daily living. I have picked up a tiny bit here and there (mostly at the dog park), but it really is not necessary, and I would advise against spending time and energy in a class. Instead, concentrate on a language you can use after your two years here!

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15. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. Some metro stops don't have elevators/escalators--only stairs. Same goes for underpasses for crossing the street.

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16. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. Some metro stops don't have elevators/escalators--only stairs. Same goes for underpasses for crossing the street.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

You can purchase a monthly transportation pass that is good for the metro, the tram and busses---it costs something like $40/month.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

You can purchase a monthly transportation pass that is good for the metro, the tram and busses---it costs something like $40/month.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Some roads outside of Budapest (for example on the way to Tokaj) are pot-holey, but generally you won't need anything special, just a regular car. I don't know about what kind of parts problems/restrictions might exist, though.

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4. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Some roads outside of Budapest (for example on the way to Tokaj) are pot-holey, but generally you won't need anything special, just a regular car. I don't know about what kind of parts problems/restrictions might exist, though.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, we have good service from T-Home that costs around $40/month.

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2. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, we have good service from T-Home that costs around $40/month.

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3. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone at the embassy seems to use T-mobile, and I haven't had anything to complain about with regard to the service.

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4. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everyone at the embassy seems to use T-mobile, and I haven't had anything to complain about with regard to the service.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I don't know, as our dog joined our family here.

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2. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

I don't know, as our dog joined our family here.

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3. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We have a vet that only makes house calls; she doesn't have a clinic. There is a well known animal hospital here (St. Istvan) that is attached to an apparently very good veterinary school.

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4. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We have a vet that only makes house calls; she doesn't have a clinic. There is a well known animal hospital here (St. Istvan) that is attached to an apparently very good veterinary school.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are some very good opportunities, but be prepared to negotiate your salary (do not accept a Hungarian salary). There are universities, NGOs, corporations and media outlets that hire expats here. I was able to negotiate an expat salary before I came. Friends work as consultants to NGOs, and are paid their regular US daily rate. Fair salaries are out there to be had. I recommend (to find work) you join as many networking organizations as you can (Professional Women's Association, InterNations, etc.) and go to Chamber of Commerce events (not just the American Chamber, but Canadian, British, and Dutch, too).

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2. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are some very good opportunities, but be prepared to negotiate your salary (do not accept a Hungarian salary). There are universities, NGOs, corporations and media outlets that hire expats here. I was able to negotiate an expat salary before I came. Friends work as consultants to NGOs, and are paid their regular US daily rate. Fair salaries are out there to be had. I recommend (to find work) you join as many networking organizations as you can (Professional Women's Association, InterNations, etc.) and go to Chamber of Commerce events (not just the American Chamber, but Canadian, British, and Dutch, too).

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

I would say similar to what we are used to as Americans (in terms of work clothes).

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4. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

I would say similar to what we are used to as Americans (in terms of work clothes).

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The right wing is growing in numbers and strength, as evidenced by the 2010 elections. There are regular protests by the right wing, and I have heard of some isolated incidents of violence associated with minority groups. Sometimes, as in one case I witnessed, the victim only LOOKED like a minority: a Latino American apparently mistaken as a Roma. I think it's important to remember that these groups do exist here, so keep your wits about you. And (sorry to say) be suspicious of aggressive types who fit the stereotype (don't sit next to them in a crowded bar).

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The right wing is growing in numbers and strength, as evidenced by the 2010 elections. There are regular protests by the right wing, and I have heard of some isolated incidents of violence associated with minority groups. Sometimes, as in one case I witnessed, the victim only LOOKED like a minority: a Latino American apparently mistaken as a Roma. I think it's important to remember that these groups do exist here, so keep your wits about you. And (sorry to say) be suspicious of aggressive types who fit the stereotype (don't sit next to them in a crowded bar).

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The quality of medical care is not very good. Emergency rooms basically do not exist here. There are two private hospitals, First Med and Rosakert, which offer good service -- and apparently emergency service after 8pm. The embassy sends us to Vienna or London for anything beyond routine matters (including for delivering babies).

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The quality of medical care is not very good. Emergency rooms basically do not exist here. There are two private hospitals, First Med and Rosakert, which offer good service -- and apparently emergency service after 8pm. The embassy sends us to Vienna or London for anything beyond routine matters (including for delivering babies).

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5. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate, I would say--especially on the Pest side. Vehicle emissions are not strictly controlled.

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6. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate, I would say--especially on the Pest side. Vehicle emissions are not strictly controlled.

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7. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

From mid-September to April 1, it is cold, grey and really kind of depressing. But April 1, the skies clear and the city becomes alive. If you can make it through the winter months, you will definitely be rewarded with a beautiful and warm spring/summer.

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8. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

From mid-September to April 1, it is cold, grey and really kind of depressing. But April 1, the skies clear and the city becomes alive. If you can make it through the winter months, you will definitely be rewarded with a beautiful and warm spring/summer.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Central European University is a highly-regarded American university that offers Master's, PhDs and MBAs.

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2. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Central European University is a highly-regarded American university that offers Master's, PhDs and MBAs.

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3. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?


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4. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?


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5. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?


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6. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?


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7. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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8. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large--there are many NGOs and corporations with regional headquarters here.

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2. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large--there are many NGOs and corporations with regional headquarters here.

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3. Morale among expats:

Very good, except in the winter when things tend to drag for a bit.

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4. Morale among expats:

Very good, except in the winter when things tend to drag for a bit.

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5. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is always something going on here, Budapest has a very vibrant social scene. Clubs, bars, and restaurants aplenty.

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6. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is always something going on here, Budapest has a very vibrant social scene. Clubs, bars, and restaurants aplenty.

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7. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for just about anyone--as long as you can make it through the long winters! There is a lot to do for everyone.

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8. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for just about anyone--as long as you can make it through the long winters! There is a lot to do for everyone.

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9. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There is a seemingly vibrant gay/lesbian scene. However, see note above about the emergence of right-wing groups.

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10. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There is a seemingly vibrant gay/lesbian scene. However, see note above about the emergence of right-wing groups.

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11. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

See note above about emergence of right-wing groups. And Hungary has traditionally suffered from ethnic violence and discrimination against Roma.

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12. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

See note above about emergence of right-wing groups. And Hungary has traditionally suffered from ethnic violence and discrimination against Roma.

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13. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Great work opportunities, excellent travel (both within Hungary and in the region), making good friends.

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14. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Great work opportunities, excellent travel (both within Hungary and in the region), making good friends.

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15. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are many good restaurants, lots of sight seeing, excellent (and cheap) spas, and great travel opportunities within a few hours of Budapest.

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16. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are many good restaurants, lots of sight seeing, excellent (and cheap) spas, and great travel opportunities within a few hours of Budapest.

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17. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Paprika, antiques, travel, embroidery, days at the spa, great Hungarian wine.

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18. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Paprika, antiques, travel, embroidery, days at the spa, great Hungarian wine.

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19. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Excellent working opportunities for professional spouses.

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20. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Excellent working opportunities for professional spouses.

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21. Can you save money?

if you try, I suppose, not unlike anywhere else.

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22. Can you save money?

if you try, I suppose, not unlike anywhere else.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES, in a heartbeat.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES, in a heartbeat.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectations of good customer service and your yoga mat (there is one studio in the sense we are used to -- and it's on the Buda side. Otherwise, people set up shop in regular apartments and there is something left to be desired in the experience.

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4. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectations of good customer service and your yoga mat (there is one studio in the sense we are used to -- and it's on the Buda side. Otherwise, people set up shop in regular apartments and there is something left to be desired in the experience.

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5. But don't forget your:

winter clothes and boots!

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6. But don't forget your:

winter clothes and boots!

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7. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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8. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Sunshine

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9. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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10. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Sunshine

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11. Do you have any other comments?

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12. Do you have any other comments?

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Budapest, Hungary 12/29/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

My first time out of the US.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It was very easy getting back and forth to work. We hardly ever drove our car, and on public transport it would take about 30-40 minutes.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Moved to Budapest, Hungry in August 2007, and left January, 2009.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We lived in a fairly large apartment and there were 4 of us.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I found that some things were more expensive and other things were less, so it balanced out.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

A lot to choose from.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing more than usual. We really didn't have any problems with bugs.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The embassy had a mail room, so it is very easy to send and receive packages.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Never used any.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Very available.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We kept our bank account in the States and had no problems. ATMs are very available.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Some of the public transportation may not offer access.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We brought our Ford Escape and we thought that car was fine. Never had any problems.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

We didn't bring any pets, but I don't think so -- as long as they have current papers and shots.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Very good healthcare for pets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual dress.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No concerns whatsoever.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Not bad, just different. But we have embassy health care as well.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It is definitely 4 seasons: a really nice summer, fall, and spring. And the winter was cold, but nothing that was unmanageable. I hate the cold and love Texas heat, so it wasn't bad.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Both of my children went to the American International School of Budapest, and it is a very good school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through the school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots to do.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

There is a lot for singles, families and couples.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, it is.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

We never had any problems.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There is a lot to do for families with older and younger children. My children were 14 and 10 when we moved to Buda.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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9. Can you save money?

You can, if you don't want to do a lot of things like we did -- with this being our first post.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I would go back. I LOVED it there.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

???

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3. But don't forget your:

umbrella and winter clothes.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Budapest, Hungary 02/24/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my 3rd overseas post, second in Europe.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2.5 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Varies -- citypair with Washington routes through Frankfurt. Delta has flight to NY, most typical codeshares work.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work for the U.S. government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing consists of apartments closer to work in Pest for singles/couples/sometimes families with young children with commute of 5-30 minutes. Townhomes, apartments, houses, duplexes are in Buda hills for most families and some couples/singles -- commute range from 35 minutes to over an hour, often with steep uphill/downhill walks which are a lot longer during snowy/ice periods in winter.

The American school is located in a remote valley -- 45 minute+ commutes are common.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The small embassy commissary offers a ready supply of must-have American brands while open markets are great for reasonably priced fruits and vegetables. There are lots of grocery options - hypermarts are the best bet for avoiding breaking the bank. Gourmet store Culinaris is great for splurges and also offers fresh cranberries for the holidays.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Favorite brands.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Pizza Hut, KFC, TGIF -- lots American to choose from. Several places offer online ordering and delivery including sushi and great local pizza Don Pepe. Acceptable restaurants abound, with exceptional restaurants rare. Chinese, Indian, Italian popular.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We are very lucky to have found help for 1000 forints an hour, with most ranging higher, 1500+.The help is available, but choice is limited, especially if you are looking for any English language skills. If your housekeeper cooks, expect only Hungarian cuisine. People seem to be able to find nannies.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Despite world-class technology and ATMS all over the place, many restaurants and smaller stores strongly prefer cash. Some shady-seeming places probably wouldn't be the best place to risk sharing your credit card data.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There seems to be a great variety here.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable packages and AFN can both provide programming. Movies are often dubbed but subtitled versions are available. There are 2 English-language news weeklies and at least 2 business monthlies.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A FAST course would be perfect. Survival Hungarian for restaurants, shopping and public transport is a must though some seem to survive with difficulty. Beyond that, you would really need to have very high proficiency to get more out of the tour. Most official contacts speak English. Every amount of Hungarian helps, though, in this country where most do not speak a second language.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Hills, lots of stairs, high sidewalks with few ramps, split-foyer designs which require use of stairs to reach the elevator, no-parking poles and other sidewalk fixtures -- all are challenges, but not insurmountable. The Embassy has many built-in accommodations.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, though using oncoming lane to pass is common. Traffic laws are suggestions in Budapest and roads are sometimes in terrible shape and uniformly inadequate for current traffic loads. Traffic is slated to get worse in 2008, 2009, or beyond depending on when they begin to close major bridges for repairs and on-again, off-again construction of 4th metro line.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe if you call them. Public transport is affordable although slightly less extensive than you might want. Trains are a great way to get around. Keep in mind -- not too much English spoken and this can be an issue in navigating transport.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Theft is reported to be an issue but mainly with German cars. Service is available for most brands at reasonable prices. Parts are another issue -- though dealers with service departments can order them. We successfully ordered tires by pouch.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

US$35-40/month for a speedy cable connection.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get them on the same network as the Embassy for free inter-family calls.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage or Skype would seem best; we use inexpensive phone cards which work great.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Excellent, with training, grooming, etc. available. Not all kennel services are reliable -- get references. Vets and groomers can make house calls.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, for the persistent. This is the area where so many people migrated in the early 90's looking for opportunity and many of those people are still around, successful, and hiring. Tax professionals will have no trouble finding work, and teaching opportunities seem good.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Hungarians are fairly style-conscious, and generally do not wear athletic clothes around town. Suits or sportcoats with ties are the norm for men dealing with the public at the Embassy while business casual hasn't really caught on for men or women.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate -- sometimes there is very dirty air in Pest with reliably cleaner air in the Buda hills.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Demonstrations are becoming more common and can be violent, though they tend to be localized. Juvenile gangs are cropping up in popular shopping areas. Police can seem ineffective -- reports of bribes are common. It seems as safe and/or safer as in major U.S. and many European cities, just less ordered in how that happens. Beware of the bar scam where pretty girls will ask you to buy them drinks, which somehow total up to hundreds of dollars at the end of the night.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

This is a tricky area because the national public health care in Hungary suffers from a number of problems. The expertise is here but the delivery can be a challenge outside a few private clinics and the health unit. Hungary hosts dental and laser vision correction tourists, and care in these areas is excellent. Hospitals are a particular concern, so medevacs are routine.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Pleasant-to-beautiful summers and falls with sometimes brutal winters. Weather is warmer, milder, and more polluted in Pest than in Buda.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several to choose from. Our kids attended AISB, the biggest, which has been a perfect fit at times, but has its issues. The high school rigidly offers the IB program, with many students dropping out of the full diploma and sometimes feeling as though that puts them out of favor. I don't know when/how this will change. School trips for sports, etc. can be extremely expensive. On the other hand, there are many, many wonderful, nurturing teachers and a recent change in administration has brought fresh ideas. There are no strings music programs. The Middle School program is excellent. Grading standards can seem tough and/or inexplicable at many levels -- students really have to earn their higher grades. Parents and students seem pleased with other schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Very student-specific. AISB can be understanding, and has a great resource teacher for younger students. But, they and/or the community don't necessarily have the resources for support. Recently, an American psychologist specializing in teen issues has set up practice. My guess is that this has been a real help for the school, as well.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are many options -- families with younger children seem happy with preschools. Some have had good luck with nannies.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not as big as we would have expected. You can find them at some real expat hangouts, though, which can be fun: Iguana's tex-mex restaurant and Treehugger Dan's bookstore.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. The bureaucracy, language, social conditions, and corruption (i.e. tradition of gratuities to doctors) can be difficult. On the other hand, the culture, the history, the wine...

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

This is strictly what you make it -- few demands are placed on embassy staff except at senior levels. Many sections of the embassy have wonderful local/American informal social events. Nightlife, concerts, festivals abound.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Hungarians seem reserved to some, unfriendly to others, but can display wonderful hospitality, great senses of humor, and dazzling sensitivity and loyalty as friends at times. Even with effort, getting past the reserve can be difficult. So, families and couples may be best-suited to enjoy this just because they have their own built-in support group. Singles don't seem to enjoy the city as much, or as uniformly.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Paradoxically, Budapest seems to have a thriving gay scene but at the same time some real social issues seem to remain -- i.e. a leading politician was maliciously outed in 07. Gay colleagues have given the city mixed reviews.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Hungary is surprisingly Caucasian and apparently ethnically uniform. Minorities -- the Roma, the significant Chinese population, others -- really stick out. Despite large Jewish community, mild tensions all around seem to remain. Far-right extremist groups make the press but represent atypical views. Both law and prevailing public opinion seem very accepting and accommodating of differences, with the possible exception of generalized concerns about the Roma.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

All outdoor activities, with beautiful parks, great hills, etc. Lake Balaton has outstanding beaches, boating, outdoor nightclubs. Local wines are great in every price point. Frequent festivals and Christmas markets offer great food and drink. Lots of movie theaters and a surprising number of modern shopping centers cater to those pastimes. The historic sights of Budapest are world-class, and the surrounding area is full of fun day trips and suited to longer excursions. Classical music and ballet (Nutcracker, opera) a treat in this city that truly values culture.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Antiques, pottery from the artisanal to heirloom, jewelry, excellent honey and, of course, paprika. Tea is popular here, including a street of tea houses.

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9. Can you save money?

If you don't travel, don't buy clothes locally, and avoid eating out. This is a COLA post. Many restaurants are relatively inexpensive, and shoes are a surprising value. With the weakening dollar, items get more expensive every day.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations for cheap living.

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3. But don't forget your:

Warm, dry clothing, and patience for the traffic and the aggressive drivers.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Embers, Bridge on the Andau.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Embers, Bridge on the Andau.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Kontroll.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Natural beauty, food, drink, culture, history.

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