One of the enriching qualities of expat life in Hungary is the eclectic mix of people with whom you socialize. Within our network of friends made in Budapest we have the managing director of a large chemical company employing hundreds, a former pilot turned diplomat, an oil man, the managing director of the United Way, his talented and brilliant designer wife, a non-practicing nurse, a reclusive and eccentric Irish American woman, the managing director of a security firm, a soon-to-be unemployed CFO looking for ways not to leave, someone who no one knows what he does for a living but is intelligent, funny, sociable and gracious, a Hungarian-Canadian kindergarten teacher, an Irish writer, a former British aeronautical engineer turned currency trader, and a former spy for a well-known Covert Intelligence Agency that I am not going to disclose who breezed through town and is now somewhere in France. Or Africa. Or wherever.
Expats with life skills
It’s an interesting mix that makes for an interesting life. You are assured that expats will tend to be intelligent (especially those on diplomatic or business postings), adventurous (for them, living abroad is exciting, not intimidating) and what is a real pleasure is that,unlike me, some of them know how to cook. I enjoy inviting those friends for dinner because once they start to witness my handiwork, they usually jump in to help which usually amounts to doing all the cooking. That was especially true of the brother of a renowned American chef. He is welcome back anytime.
In our home countries, we tend to socialize with people within our own industries which can be a tad tedious especially if you work in advertising. But here, we experience professional and political diversity. Almost always stimulating. Almost always refreshing. At social events you will find yourself immersed in differing points-of-view, biases and patriotism. For instance, even though I am not the avid hockey fan people expect every Canadian to be, I thoroughly enjoyed sitting with my American friends at Legends Sports Bar for the final night of the Olympics and watching the Canadians put the Americans where they belonged: in second place.
Y’all fixin to leave?
But then came lunch a week ago Saturday with my Texan friend, the oil man. He is leaving. By the time this edition hits the stands he will be in Houston, picking up his shiny new Ford truck and driving to Denver. He says his business will bring him back but mostly to Northern Iraq and Romania. Although he would like to try and base himself in Budapest, the likelihood of seeing him again is slim unless I chose to vacation in Houston. Does Houston even have a tourism industry?
His political views are (to my way of thinking), somewhat extreme, unless you find someone a little right of Attila the Hun, the norm. But I like him, respect him and will miss him. There’s nothing like Texas humour to lighten up a room.
That is now what we are beginning to face. Departures. Two great embassy friends will leave in a month, the oil man is gone and there will be more. It’s the season that’s coming up. Transfers are often scheduled around school terms and, with summer vacation fast approaching, the departures will begin.
As much as one enjoys meeting and getting to know an eclectic mix of people, the expat circle is in a constant state of flux and ‘goodbyes’ are inevitable. Regrettable, but inevitable. Bittersweet.
It does put things in perspective and I can’t help but think that life in Budapest is a bit like life itself. We’re all just passing through and should enjoy it while we can.
– William Lower is a freelance writer and advertising/marketing consultant now living in Budapest. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.