Stu Smith moved to Hungary in February 2019 with his wife and 4-year-old son.
1) How did you feel on 24 th June when you heard about the UK’s vote to leave the EU?
I wasn’t surprised, as it seemed quite clear how things were going to go, but it was still
disheartening. I was mainly concerned that the British public had been asked to vote on
something that should have been a decision made by experts, based on evidence and
experience, and with an actual plan for how to leave if that was the best option.
I didn’t personally feel qualified to make this decision and so I voted with my heart, but I
always thought that ‘leave’ would win.
2) What were the key driving factors that made you decide to leave the UK?
My wife and I were looking to buy our first home. We needed more space as our family
grew. The cost of a new home that would be within commuting distance of work was very high and would have locked us into an expensive mortgage. Another option was to go freelance and look at living elsewhere. When we looked at house
costs in Hungary we were amazed at the difference and decided to seriously consider the
move. We needed more space and weren’t that happy in our jobs so when we found the
perfect house at an affordable price it was really a no-brainer.
3) How/why did you choose your current country of residence?
My wife was born and raised in Hungary and has family here. We moved to the city she
grew up in. I had already visited many times so I was familiar with the place and had no
reservations about living here.
4) Do you have citizenship for your current country? Do you still have EU citizenship? If no, are you hoping to obtain it?
I have a residence permit that should ensure my right to remain indefinitely in Hungary but in order to be sure I can still travel in the EU, I may need to apply for EU citizenship… it’s a bit unclear at the moment. My wife and son are both dual nationals so at least they are covered.
5) Do you plan to return to the UK or hope to move to another country in the future?
That is unlikely. We have bought a house here and we’re putting quite a lot into making it
our home for life.
6) What was the most difficult aspect/greatest challenge you faced in moving?
Probably packing the entire contents of one home into an 8-tonne truck and then saying
goodbye to it in the UK, hoping it made it safely to the other side whilst I drove across via a different route. Fortunately, it arrived just fine a couple of days after I did.
7) What do you miss most about the UK?
Not a lot, to be honest. Tetley Tea and Indian takeaways. My wife misses some of the shops! My parents still live there but we already lived some distance apart and would only meet up every few months. The plan was to continue doing that, but then the pandemic happened… So, at the moment, we’re all missing being able to spend a little time together but we’re hoping to be able to travel and meet up again soon.
8) What do you love most about your current country of residence?
We live in a beautiful part of the country with a nature reserve nearby and plenty of places to visit and eat out. Although I still don’t speak Hungarian very well the locals are always welcoming and helpful. And the cost of living is far more reasonable than it was in the UK.
9) Do you consider yourself to have a “European identity” and what does that mean to you?
I have considered the UK as European probably since moving out to go to uni at 18 and
making lots of European friends over the years after that, both in the UK and whilst
traveling. Whilst being “European” myself was never a significant part of my identity I have always loved Europe, visiting various countries, and meeting so many different people.
10) Do you still consider yourself to have a “British identity” and how do you feel about it?
My nationality has never really felt like a significant part of my identity. So not much has
Additional Questions (relating to Corona Virus)
11) How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your life?
Like many others here in Hungary, we chose to begin self-isolating early and stocked our
home with enough resources to last a month or two. The nursery closed soon after, so the
whole family unit was home for some time. This took some adjusting to as both my wife and I work from home and had to balance that with childcare and lessons. I’m pleased to say that Hungary seemed to act fast and manage the situation quite well so it
never reached the scary levels of other countries, the UK included. However, it still ruined a lot of our plans. After a year or so not traveling and focusing on our new home and business, we had booked flights to see family in the UK and business partners across Europe. We had also bought tickets for a few big concerts in Budapest. This was mostly across May and June and, of course, all plans had to be canceled. The hardest part out of all of this is not being able to see my UK family, as we had planned to visit each other every couple of months. As I write, Hungary has closed its borders to foreign nationals again, so we still don’t know when we will see each other again.
12) How do you feel about your country’s response to the Covid19 pandemic compared to the UK government & media?
Whilst I don’t always fully agree with the Hungarian government they certainly seemed to handle the pandemic very well. The Hungarian people also responded in a calm and
considerate manner. Where I live there was no panic buying or over-the-top reactions.
The Hungarian government received quite a bit of bad press from the west when they
instigated a state-of-emergency. It’s possible they took advantage of the situation in some
ways, as I imagine many other governments did, but in the end, the cries of “the end of
democracy” in Hungary were rather over-exaggerated!