Expats First Budapest Winter

Skating Budapest
Winter in Budapest

Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was. — Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

Hungary is the long way round for Alfonz, and in many ways he is returning to the start of his journey.

Myself, well although we have had an apartment in Budapest for the last 9 years, this is my first time living and working in Budapest Hungary.


It is a brisk -15 but the sun is shining. It is not a siberian tundra white out with blizzards; it is an icy wonderland, lit up by the low sunrise that gives a warm glow. It is a season that I love here in Europe, as it is not grey, but crystal clear. Beautiful.


I would be lying to say this move from France to Hungary was easy. It wasn’t.

Maybe I am getting too old to sell it all and keep moving, or was it because France is not my home of origin to start with that this move seemed harder.

We already knew what was in store for us. No illusions of grandeur… it was the climb of Everest.

There was no time to rest.

We worked all summer like mad men, then packed the house in one weekend, shipped it off, gave away a lot of stuff, packed the car full, and off we went with the screaming cat through Italy and Slovenia until we reached our apartment in Elizabethtown, downtown Budapest.

It was a whirlwind of movement, and we only just stopped. Like right now to write this post… 

I feel tired to the bone. I have aching muscles from all the physical lifting, and I am run down from all the mental anguish. I started getting sick the last day of moving; right on cue. A bulldozer, pushing myself until I can’t go anymore and the exact moment when I knew everything would be fine, I get sick.

I know this feeling will pass, I just need some time to rest and reflect.

I want to put up my feet and think things through, type a little at my computer and try to wrap my head around how things are going.

One thing that came up since moving here is personality conflict. I need to prepare myself better for people who are not on the same journey as I am.

I have to remember sometimes it is not about me, and that people are going through their own stuff trying to cope with their own crap.

And then here I come along all glorious and optimistic, eager to live, share and love when so many people are not on the same page. And the holidays made it that much harder on some…

Happiness can be very annoying to someone going through a difficult time.

And I have a hard time hiding my excitement… starting again is so much fun, stressful but an adventure to say the least… 

I believe it is through challenges that we grow as people, learning to deal with different situations.

Yet it still shocks me to no end to find people to be mean or unfriendly.

Why can’t we all just get along? Eh?

I guess being Canadian has its downfalls after all.

Back home everyone plays nice. It is an unwritten law that all Canadians must be happy and kind to one another all the time. And after a lifetime of living it, of acting a certain way, well we actually are.

Whenever I find myself in a situation with other people that don’t know me, but assume I am a certain way for being ‘American‘; I shake my head and wonder how I got here once again.

I love my American friends but there are some cultural differences between Canadians and Americans. So when our meek 36,000,000 population gets pooled together into the Unites States’ 325,000,000 we must protest.

We do not sport guns, our banks are financially stable, our health care is the best in the world, and our government implements laws against discrimination of any kind. Maternity leave is one year paid, we have systems in place so that you cannot get fired from your job for just any reason other than stealing or discrimination, and our standard of living is also much higher. Of course, yes, Canadian are nice to a fault but we are loved across the world when we travel for it, so there you go!

I am naive… but do I really want to give up my lovely rose coloured glass view of the world just to protect myself from the few who don’t see me?

Probably not.

Being open to experiences has brought me here and I wouldn’t change my life for anything.

I am the happiest person I know.


Because I believe it is so!

Being Expats in Hungary

The good news is that we are in the house! Slowly we are finding our way, learning its’ sounds and curves.

I place a glass in one cupboard and Alfonz puts another somewhere else.

Nothing has its’ place yet, but soon enough everything will, and life will be routine and I will be itching for more change.

I am amazed that this is in fact our house.


I am in utmost awe of what we have accomplished in such a short period of time.

Everything seemed to fall into place as easily as it did in France, which makes me believe this is the path we are supposed to be on.

If it was an agonizing struggle, hard to find work, or a challenge to sell our home in France and buy one here; I would think perhaps we are taking on too much.

But when things line-up like you plan with little shoving or making things fit, you got to wonder if there is a divine intervention at play.

It is as it is written. 

We only arrived September 6th! WOW! CRAZY right?!!

I looked out the window this morning, still fresh snow from yesterday blanketed every tree, and towards the mountain side a pastel hue hung over the horizon and the mountains glowed in a heavenly light.

It looked like a Robert Bateman painting whitewashed in dreamy tones, just like in the morning before you blink transitioning between dream and reality.

I live in this painting.

I can’t quite see my new life clearly yet, but I am sure it will be as beautiful as this view.

We found a good butcher, organic vegetable stand, some great places to buy clothes, and building materials all while meeting new people and learning the new school.

Incredible that not one of us had a nervous breakdown.

  • Loads of wild cards in the mix, and stability and security were at zero.
  • No support system in place to help us through.
  • No family to pick up the kids from school when in a bind.
  • The last four months has been a seat of our pants adventure! 

At school

I cannot believe we finished up the first trimester. Both kids did as expected. Angelina top marks, eager to learn making many friends. Daniel did very little, and had a harder time adjusting and needed creature comforts until we reached the house. He needs time to settle in, to find his own way and then, and only then will he show how smart he is.

For me as a teacher I had to write my first report cards, and had parent/teachers meetings. I was worried, but everyone was so full of positive remarks and no one came to complain, only to praise.

It was a lovely experience, one I hope to repeat at the end of the next trimestre.

Alfonz and the house

Alfonz worked day and night on the house, getting quotes, looking for tradesmen who would finish in time to move in by Christmas.

He was literally working full time job making sure that things ran smoothly, not to mention running around from one supplier to the next.

A tall order, but he managed it!

I heard a story about a couple that took over a year to pick out the tile for their house. Every weekend they would go back to the same store and have discussions at length about this shade of grey or that shade of brown, waiting for sales to start and new stock to surface.

I say, holy smokes man, GET A fricken LIFE!

Then we picked furnishing. There were endless visits to IKEA, and once in the house, they were all delivered and Alfonz had the added pleasure of assembling all the items we picked out.

Daniel helped too.

It was crazy! (We might be crazy!)

He finally said, please don’t go to IKEA again, I am feeling a little overwhelmed!

Ah, NO kidding!

Angelina and I went back and forth to the apartment bringing our clothes and stuff to our new house. Up and down those stairs, Angelina was a super trooper lifting and hauling nearly her body weight!

We made three trips and then we cleaned the apartment to get ready for the renters.

I was so proud of her.

She is always such a helpful, loving child who never complains. My little happy child.

By the time we finished, we were finished too. And then we would fall into our beds…

But we still had two more trips to IKEA ahead of us to buy the shelving unit for the food storage room while the boys continued to assemble!

We were so fast running around the maze of IKEA that I feel I could actually work there!

Angelina and I had to hit the grocery store on the 24th too. The plan was to buy the turkey, stuff it and put it in the oven and go get the last of the stuff from the house.

Auchan was packed full of people and we literally bought the last turkey and bag of potatoes!

When we got home with the groceries, Alfonz and Daniel surprised us with a Christmas tree!

“Hurray, we will have a Christmas after all!” we shouted!

I was nearly finished stuffing the turkey when Alfonz was putting the electrical plug onto my built in oven. I wasn’t sure if it would work or not, but sure enough, in the nick of time I put the turkey in to bake.

Cutting it very close, we spent the first day in our new beds with the Christmas tree up and shining, after a spectacular stuffed turkey dinner. It tasted just like mom’s turkey back home in Canada with cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes.

It was nearly midnight when we finally finished the dishes! I had slipped out to buy a few PJ’s for the family to wear our first night in the house as a surprise and brand new ice skated for everyone! Eh voila! Xmas done!√

Miraculously we pulled it off!

And how fitting was our first meal being for Christmas!


Our first visitors appeared on Dec. 19th from France on the very last day of school. So there was the added pressure of us showing them around, but in actuality it was a nice distraction.

The tradesmen were working hard to get it done for us and we did not want to get under foot.

Angelina and I took them around Budapest; out for lunch at Tokyo Japanese restaurant the first day and went shopping for Christmas presents. We showed them the house before it was finished, and they even came to IKEA!

Our time together was lovely and we then had one last meal out at an Italian restaurant before dropping them at their hotel the day before they were leaving.

They went around the city on the Big Bus tour which was amazing for them. It was so nice to see them again.

Settling In

I look forward to getting to know my new home. I want to look out my window up towards the forest or sit in the chair upstairs that isn’t even there yet and read a book and glance towards the Pilis Mountain range. I want to make a few friends and settle in a bit and have them over for coffee.

I can’t wait to feel connected in some way, to be accepted in others. I miss my circle of friends from France and Canada. I wonder if I will find the same here?

The holidays are a time to reflect, to see how far we have come, and to appreciate the moments. Those precious moments…

The best part of my new home for me is my new food storage room.

I walk in and the smell of fresh cut pine and spices hit my nose. I should get a chair in there and hide out.

I have a piece of ham drying from Averon that our friends gave us as a going away gift before leaving France and I have been saving it! I cut a wee piece every now and then; so good!

More Friends

Our friends Marion, Patrice and Sohane were here Dec. 27th – Dec. 31st. It was such a lovely time. The house was just barely finished when we went to get them from their hotel.

We walked around Budapest and found a nice place to eat.

We then stole their daughter and gave them a wee honeymoon!

In actuality our kids would not let Sohane be alone for a second, they missed her so very much! 

Marion from Capestang visits over Christmas!

The children had such a lovely time, and to watch the three of them together was like watching three kittens play. It was the best gift I could ever give them for Christmas.

love expat life
we dined out every day, Pad Thai restaurant Budapest

We went skating five times, had big dinners, walked around Budapest, visited the monuments, visited the castle on Buda Hill and talked late into the evenings!

It was such a rejuvenating sejour together, and not only did I get to brush up on my French, but I got to talk to my friend about all the little things I couldn’t talk to anyone else about.

It was so nice to laugh!

2017 will bring me stability and rest.

I will do what I love and hope my life falls nicely into place.


expats exploring Budapest
walking around checking the sites Budapest

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