Budapest is 1,700 kilometres from England; still, countless Brits decide each year to come – perhaps just for a stag party or, often, because of love, to stay for ever. One is Samantha Downton, 26, from Horsham, south of London, who arrived in September 2013 to “begin a new adventure with her partner”.
The adventure was successful, Sam, as her friends call her, tells us with a smile, “but not without any valleys and hills to be honest”.
The English woman works as a client advisor for a Hungarian start-up. She loves the weather the most about Hungary and adds with a wink that yes, the cliché about the bad English weather is true; it was quite a long time ago that the United Kingdom had a really nice summer.
“Besides that I think it’s cool you are so close to so many other countries here. I have not visited them yet but it’s on my to-do list for the next summer for sure.”
And what about the less likeable things? “Well, even if it’s another commonplace, the bureaucracy here sometimes drives me mad. I sympathise with everyone who is just moving here and has to dig through the huge hill of official paperwork.”
Downton discusses similar topics in her blog too, at www.britgirlbudapest.wordpress.com. She shares her experiences in Budapest on this platform and tries to give some advice about living in Hungary and all the everyday challenges that come with it. “Some people who read the blog already contacted me and they wanted to meet me,” she says. “They said that they thought my posts were interesting and helpful. For the moment I have about 300 followers, which makes me very happy, considering that I only began writing in April.”
Discover the city by bike
Downton is living on the Pest side, near Hősök tere. She has not spent much time in Buda yet and consequently has not decided on a “side”. “However, I like the vibe of the whole city, just as it is. Budapest has so much to offer.”
She and her friend discovered the city by bike at first. “You can visit completely different districts this way and many times you find some exciting places by pure coincidence – these can be great parks or interesting and even funny statues, like Columbo and his dog close to the Margaret bridge.
“I was told that the crime series and Peter Falk, the actor, were very popular once in Hungary, and as far as I know the statue is standing in the street named after Falk Miksa, with the same family name.”
Downton tells us she has a lot of fun discovering such small places and stories around Budapest. And the thing she likes about the city centre the most is that something is always going on.
”In December I like to look at different Christmas markets. After that you can go to one of the art cinemas like Puskin or Művész. They offer a great opportunity to see Hungarian movies with English subtitles.”
Even if she cannot prepare a goulash yet – another item on her to-do list – she is very fond of the food in Budapest. “I spend a lot of time testing new restaurants, especially yummy burgers! The Semmi Extra on Bartók Béla street, close to where I work, offers some very tasty freshly prepared burgers, for example. I also like simply sitting in a bar with some friends, watching people and drinking some Fröccs.”
Downton began studying Hungarian only a few months ago and she has a corresponding beginner level. “My language teacher once said that I have an ‘interesting’ accent in Hungarian. Still, I like the language. My favourite sentence is “hol van a macska?” (where is the cat?), since our cat has the habit to always hide somewhere in our flat.”
When we ask her about Hungarian culture, she says the traditional flower pattern and folk dancing are really close to her: “I love dancing and I like watching the Hungarian folk dance and the costumes. We also have folk dancing in England, like the English country dancing, but unfortunately it’s less and less popular.”
She plans to stay in Hungary with her partner and start a family, “but the future is not carved in stone yet. When someone asked me 18 months ago I would have never thought that I will live abroad and dream about having children,” she finishes with a smile.