Ever since Hungary joined the EU, there has been an influx of international companies setting up shop in the region. However, finding a job as an expat in Hungary depends on the area of work you specialize in. Here is what you should expect when looking for employment in Hungary.
Even with a thriving job market, expats can find it hard to secure a job in Hungary. The Hungarian government enacted a law that gives priority to its citizens when it comes to job allocations. Moreover, companies are required to provide proof that they cannot find a local Hungarian to hire before considering expats. For this reason, most companies are unwilling to go through the paperwork of securing permission for work and work permits for international workers.
However, the situation is different for EU citizens. Since Hungary joined the EU, it is easier for EU citizens to move to Hungary and find work there. Moreover, EU labor laws call for equality in job opportunities and job mobility for all EU citizens.
Finding Work As An Expat
Despite the barriers, there are some ways to find employment in Hungary as an expat. One of these is to look for transfers to Hungary from a company you work for. If the company from your home country has offices in Hungary, the transition is easier. Alternatively, find out if there are international companies connected to your organization that have set up business in Hungary. Such companies may more likely to hire you.
There is also a high demand for international workers to occupy specific positions in the Hungarian job market. Most expats workers finding employment in Hungary fill up positions in IT and telecommunication, ACCA accounting jobs, project management and certified auditor jobs. Some migrants are also needed fill front desk and admin jobs whose qualification requirements are minimal. You would only need to be fluent in English and to have Hungarian as a second language. You can also work as an English teacher in Hungary.
Hungary has several online portals where expats can apply for employment. Some of these websites include Jobs Info, Jobs Monitor, CV Online, Career Het, Workania and Learn4Good. These job sites provide the opportunity to search for specific vacancies in your area of expertise. You can also use job sites as an opportunity to gauge the climate of the Hungarian job market. Find out what duties expat employees perform in your particular field of work. You can also research salary expectations for certain positions. Such information will be vital, especially when you go for an interview.
Migrants looking for English teaching jobs also have specific websites to go to. Examples of websites that are seeking English teachers include ESL employment, ESL cafÃ©, Total ESL, and Tesall. You can use these sites to research job descriptions of English teachers in Hungary, and to find areas where the demand for such teachers is high.
Other websites with plenty of information about working in Hungary include Transitions Abroad, Overseas Jobs and Expat Arrivals. It is also possible to find Hungarian jobs by creating connections on LinkedIn. You can also join professional job groups formed by expats working in Hungary on LinkedIn
Job placements in Hungary rely on recruitment agencies. Very few job applications go through the HR department of a company, so a cover letter is not always necessary when job hunting. Expats can submit their CV and other necessary documents to job agencies, who then save the information on their databases. The agency will then try to link you to a potential employer, and should only call a candidate when there is a scheduled interview. Remember that priority is given to Hungarian citizens, so it is wise to not rely on this channel alone.
A job interview in Hungary takes a three-tier approach. The first phase is merely an introduction, where the employer and employee get to know each other. This first interview will set the pace for the second interview, which will involve a professional panel. Successful candidates will then go to the third and final phase, where the working terms are negotiated. At this stage, you will be required to state your salary expectations and any compensations you may require when working for the company.
The intensity of the interview will depend on the job you are applying for. High ranking jobs such as IT consultants or managerial positions will often use the three-tier interview approach. Other opportunities such as front desk, cleric or tutoring jobs may only require a single interview.
Employees in Hungary are entitled to a salary and additional benefits such as health insurance, sick leave, educational allowance and so on. Your salary range will depend on the job description and how high up it ranks in the employment market. Employees working admin jobs may get a salary of between US$773-US$889. Those doing specialized jobs such as IT consultants may get paid a salary of US$1200.
In most companies, employees are required to clock at most 40 hours a week. You will also be entitled to sick leave, maternity leave and annual leave if you are an international worker with a Hungarian national security number. Each employee gets a total of 15 sick leave days per year. Those on maternity leave will get a maximum of 24 weeks. As well as maternity leave, most employers also provide care benefits to support the child until they are three years old. Disabled persons are entitled to handicap assistance stipends to help promote equality at the work place.
Income tax applies to every employee who is on a regular salaried job. Hungary charges a flat tax rate of 15 percent on all incomes. Expats are taxed whether they are paid within Hungary or from abroad. Expats on permanent residency will also be taxed on all other income channels they may have.
Your social security card will also grant you an EU health card as a foreigner working in Hungary. The EU health card has privileges such as free medical treatment in case of emergencies, no matter which EU country you are in.
Hungary is part of the Schengen Agreement. The type of visa you will need to visit Hungary will depend on the reason for your visit – for example, whether you are looking to relocate for work, or whether you want to visit as a tourist – and on your nationality. Visitors from the EU will find short-stay trips to Hungary quite straightforward.
If you are a citizen of an EU/EEA member state, you will not need a visa if you wish to visit Hungary for less than 90 days in any 180-day period, as long as your passport is valid for three months past the date of your intended departure. You may also be asked for proof that you have sufficient income for the duration of your stay, as well as a return airline ticket.
If you are coming in from the USA, you can apply for an ETIAS visa waiver, which applies for all Schengen countries.
In order to apply for a Schengen visa (a short-term entry visa, applicable to countries in the Schengen zone), you will need:
• A completed application form
• Two passport format photos
• Your passport and copies of any previous visas
• Travel insurance (including medical coverage), with confirmation of a minimum of €30,000 coverage within Hungary and the entire Schengen Area
• A cover letter stating the purpose of your visit to Hungary and an itinerary
• Proof of civil status (for example, your marriage certificate and the birth certificates of your children)
• Your flight itinerary
• The address of your accommodation, including any hotels
• Proof that you are able to support yourself financially throughout your stay (for example, a recent statement from your bank for the last three months that shows funds of at least €50 per day spent in Hungary, or traveller’s cheques, or proof of sponsorship)
If you take your children with you, children under 18 will need an unabridged birth certificate. If the child is travelling alone, they will require certified parental consent from both parents. If the child is travelling with only one parent, the other parent must provide notarised/certified consent.
If you are intending to stay in Hungary for longer than three months, you will need to register at the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing (Országos Idegenrendésztei Főigazgatóság). They will be able to give you a registration certificate and a visa authorising you to a single entry for receiving a residence permit (Tartózkodási engedély), with a stay for a maximum of 30 days in Hungary (before you obtain your residence). The decision on the residence permit falls within the competence of the regional directorates of the Office for Immigration in Hungary.
Hungarian visa fees are currently €80 for both visitor and work visas. Note that if you have applied for a Schengen visa before, the fee has increased from €60 in February 2020.
Visas typically take 14 days to process, but it is advisable to leave plenty of time for processing, especially if you are intending to fly at a peak time of the year. You may be able to apply for a fast-track service for a fee, for example if you go through a private visa service.
If you are intending to work in Hungary, you will need to apply for an employment visa. You will need to apply for an individual work permit if you want to work in Hungary for a period not exceeding 90 days during a 180-day period. A joint permit is required if you intend to work in Hungary for a period exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period. Your employer will need to prove that they have attempted to fill the vacancy with a Hungarian national. There are some limited exceptions to this.
Note that if you are intending to work in Hungary, in addition to a visa, you will also need to apply for:
• A residence permit
• A Social Insurance Identification Number (TAJ-szám) from the National Health Insurance Fund Administration
• A tax identification number from the tax authority
If you are applying for any form of work permit, you will need:
• The information of the company that you will be visiting and their detailed address plus the dates of your visit
• A certificate from your employer stating/allowing your business travel
• Proof of any previous trade relations between your new employer and your previous one
• Business bank statement of the last six months
• Memorandum and article of association in an original certified copy (registered with joint stock companies), trade license (first issued and present renewal), and proprietorship/partnership documents
• A letter of invitation, on which either your employer or your partner company has stated coverage of your expenses
You can also apply for seasonal work in agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, or fishing. You will need a work permit and a seasonal work visa. The seasonal work visa entitles you to a single entry or multiple entries. It allows you to be employed for longer than three months and less than six months, and its validity is limited to one year. The permit has to define the exact time and work place and, in the case of multiple employments, must define the detailed information of every employment.
You will need to submit:
• Your work permit
• A temporary employment booklet
• A document certifying a legal relationship for employment
• Documents supporting the financial conditions necessary for living in Hungary
• Documents providing proof of Hungarian accommodation
• Health insurance
• Documents evidencing the conditions of exit (passport and return airline ticket)
The fee for this is €40 and should take a couple of weeks to process.
EU blue card
If you have been issued a residence permit for work that requires advanced skills by an EU member country, you will be eligible for an EU blue card. This is an approved, EU-wide work permit, which allows highly skilled non-EU citizens to work and live in any country within the European Union (excluding Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom).
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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When relocating, one of an expat’s most pressing concerns is arranging suitable accommodation. You may choose to start off in a hotel or a short-term rental, before you decide on a more permanent base, or you may opt to organise a long-term rental or property purchase straight away. Whichever method you choose, the process may not be one you recognise from your home country, so it is prudent to do plenty of research before making any decisions.
In Hungary, there are two types of rental agreement: free and controlled. The free rental market is akin to what we would call the private sector in the UK, though rental fees tend to be slightly more flexible. In the free market, you can agree how much rent you will pay with your landlord, and the court has no power to intervene.
The controlled sector applies to property owned by the state, and the rent here is stipulated by the government. Not only is the price fixed, but you may even be asked to sign a tenancy agreement before you know how much the rent will be. In this case, the landlord (i.e. the local council) must notify you of the monthly rent payable within eight days of you moving in.
Security deposits in Hungary vary, and may be open to negotiation between landlord and tenant. However, they are usually equal to between one- and three-months’ rent. You will usually be required to also provide the first month’s rent upfront. When you move into a rental property, remember to take photos of its condition – this may help you to recover your deposit when you leave, if the landlord tries to claim money for repairs unfairly.
Tenancy agreements can be informal in Hungary, and do not need to follow a specified formula. In fact, many landlords prefer to skip the paperwork altogether, and instead make verbal arrangements. However intent a landlord may seem on a verbal agreement, you should always push for a written contract, as verbal arrangements afford tenants zero legal rights. A landlord can decide to terminate a verbal agreement at any time, without notice, and the tenant has no right to appeal. As well as ensuring that your tenancy agreement is set out on paper, you should ask for it to be translated into English, so that you can make an informed decision before signing.
Rent is relatively cheap in Hungary, compared to in the rest of Europe, though all utilities and any service charges are extra. Both furnished and unfurnished properties are available to rent, and each have their own benefits. Unfurnished properties are usually the cheaper option.
Most expats choose to live in Budapest, which is divided by the River Danube into districts: Buda and Pest. Pest is the business district, whereas Buda tends to be more residential. The city is divided into 23 areas. Most expat families choose to live in the second or twelfth districts, which are quiet and residential. More expensive accommodation can be found in the first, fifth and thirteenth districts of the capital.
It is estimated that only 8% of all property in Hungary is rented. The average amount of rented property in EU countries is 35%. This means that competition for available rentals can be fierce. Approximate rental prices for Budapest are as follows:
• One-bedroom apartment in the city centre: €240
• One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre: €179
• Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre: €430
• Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre: €330
Students tend to live in shared accommodation, which is cheaper and a good way of making friends. A single room in a shared apartment costs around €150 in Budapest city centre. You would also need around €130 a month for basic utilities, such as gas, electric, and water, and refuse collection. University notice boards often have details of shared accommodation opportunities.
To find accommodation, it is best to look online, as this is where most listings can be found, though some rentals may still be listed in newspapers. Internet searching is by far the easiest method, as there are numerous websites showcasing rentals in Hungary, including erasmusu.com and renthungary.hu. Some estate agencies offer rental properties, and using their help could speed up the process of securing a place to live. However, their services add another layer of unnecessary expense to the procedure.
For expats looking to buy property in Hungary, the first step is to arrange a land-buying permit, which costs approximately €200, and which takes around a month to obtain. Hungarian law dictates that real estate purchases must be organised through private contracts and countersigned by a lawyer. Non-Hungarian citizens must also gain the approval of the relevant administrative office (Kozigazgatasi Hivatal), prior to purchasing property.
Once your permit has been approved, your property search can begin. The prices of houses and flats are often just as high outside of Budapest as they are within it, so this may explain why so many expats choose to buy in the capital, where more work and leisure opportunities are available. The average square metre price of an apartment in the city centre is 900,000 Hungarian Forint (HFU), or €2,765.
For around 35 million HUF (€68,000), you can expect to buy a small studio in the city centre. For a bijou one-bedroom flat, you would need at least 30 million HUF (€82,000), while an average-sized two-bedroom apartment would set you back around 35 million HUF (€95,000). Naturally, for more spacious and better quality properties, the prices will rise significantly. If you buy a lower cost house in the city centre, you will likely be faced with substantial renovation costs on top of the price of the house.
Property websites are the best sources for houses and apartments on sale. Some of the most reliable are:
Once you have chosen a property and negotiated a price with the estate agent, it’s advisable to hire a lawyer to assist in further proceedings. The lawyer acts as a go-between, protecting both the buyer and the seller, though their fees are covered by the buyer. It is also usually recommended to have an architectural survey of the building undertaken at this stage, to help you make informed choices.
As soon as a price is set between buyer and seller, your lawyer is responsible for obtaining local government approval of the sale. Once this is secured, title search and property valuations may occur. The next stage is for the lawyer to draft, and countersign, a purchase agreement, which is necessary to validate the sale. Your lawyer should then arrange a meeting for the contract to be signed by both buyer and seller in the presence of a real estate officer.
At this stage, the buyer must pay 10% of the agreed price as a deposit, as well as the lawyer and agency fees. The purchase agreement must be submitted to the nearest land registry office within 30 days of being signed.
The deal is officially closed around 60 to 90 days after the signing of the contract. The buyer must immediately inform the seller, when they receive the purchase-permission from the administration office. The purchase is concluded within about a week from this date. The buyer and seller must each sign a closing statement, which confirms that the purchase price has been settled and possession of the property has been transferred.
It is possible to acquire a mortgage in Hungary as an expat. The maximum amount available to borrow is usually between 50% and 70% of the total price of the property. However, though many Hungarian banks are willing to lend money to expats, some migrants prefer to borrow from organisations outside of the country. This is due to potential lower charges and better interest rates. If you choose to borrow locally, there are numerous Hungarian banks that will help.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Hungary health insurance
Everyone who has been making contributions into the social security system is eligible for state healthcare in Hungary, and there are some exemptions for people in vulnerable categories, such as pensioners and people on low incomes.
If you are a British national, there is currently a healthcare agreement with Hungary in place, which entitles you to treatment.
If you are a third party national and not registered with the OEP, you will need to take out private cover.
Your employer will register you with the national health insurance system, or you can register yourself if you are self-employed.
You can register at your local bureau of taxation and finance, or at a social insurance organisation.
You will need to take some documentation with you if you are registering yourself:
• ID card (személyi igazolvány) or passport (útlevél)
• address card (lakcímkártya)
• residency permit (tartózkodási engedély)
• proof that the health insurance contribution (egészségbiztosítási járulék) has been paid
Once you have done this you will be issued with a health insurance card, known as a Társadalomizosítási Azonosító Jet (TAJ) Card, along with your TAJ number. You can then sign up with a doctor of your choice, and will be treated under the state system as long as your GP is contracted to the National Institute of Health Insurance Fund Management (NEAK).
Banking in Hungary is available to all citizens, local people and migrants. Expats are advised to set up Hungarian bank accounts as soon as they can after arriving in the country. Local banks in Hungary also provide a wide range of services, including exclusive packages to expats.
The official currency of Hungary is called the forint, abbreviated as HUF or Ft. It is issued in both and note form. Forint notes comprise of 500HUF, 1000HUF, 2,000HUF, 5,000HUF, 10,000HUF and 20,00HUF. Coins are issued in denominations of 100Ft, 50Ft, 10Ft, 5Ft, and 20Ft.
Hungary also accepts currencies from both EU and non-EU currencies. It is possible to make purchases with US dollars, euros and pounds. However, the euro is given priority over all other currencies, with most monetary transactions and pricing carried out in euros. Expats are advised to have local bank accounts to make most of their transactions.
Most Hungarian employers prefer wiring salaries for their workers to local bank accounts. Companies that provide electricity, rubbish collection, water and gas services also prefer to receive payments directly into their bank accounts. If you need a loan for a mortgage or to buy a car, all transactions will be made via a Hungarian account. Your money is safe in a local bank, since financial institutions in Hungary provide depositorâ€™s guarantee.
Banks open from 8am to 4pm every week day. All banks remain closed on the weekend except for those with branches in malls. Hungarian banks expats can use include K&H bank, Budapest Bank, MagNet Bank, OTP Bank and FHB Mortgage Bank. There is also the Hungarian Development Bank and Hungarian National Bank.
Hungarian banks offer all services you are accustomed to in your home country. General services provided by local banks include deposits and withdrawals, account management, overdrafts, credit services, mobile banking, savings account as well as loans and mortgage services. ATM and mobile SMS services are available as well. Some banks may add travel insurance to their list of services.
As well as travel insurance, Hungarian banks provide life, property, health and car insurance. Expats can borrow mortgages of up to 80 percent of the value of the property. The loan applicant is required to submit a salary certificate, a local bank account number and their latest telephone bill to complete the application. The application may take between four and six weeks to be processed.
Internet banking and mobile SMS services have recently been introduced for convenience and security purposes. Through the mobile banking SMS service, account holders receive alerts each time a withdrawal, deposit or credit card transaction is made on their account. Internet banking is a 24-hour service that is available to all expats and Hungarian citizens. You can review and pay bills, withdraw or transfer money, check account balance, apply for credit, recharge for prepaid services such as phone minutes and access foreign exchange rates online. Internet banking is also cheaper compared to physical banking.
However, migrants are warned to be cautious about online banking. Though the online financial service is convenient and attracts fewer charges, its security is not 100 percent guaranteed. As a safety measure, always ensure your computer or smartphone security setup is updated, and that a firewall is turned on.
Opening Bank Accounts
Expats can hold accounts with local banks. It is also possible to open several accounts with different banks, provided you have all the required documents with you. You will be asked to produce a valid residence permit and address card in order to open an account. There are banks that are lenient enough to allow account opening only with a valid passport.
Hungarian banks charge clients for opening bank accounts with them. You will also pay to process your ATM card, as well as being charged a general account management fee. Other costs that include credit card fees and money withdrawal commissions by the bank.
Generally, it should cost 5,000HUF to open an account with any bank. Account maintenance fees across banks are somewhere between 200HUF and 3000HUF. Credit card charges will depend on the type of card held by the account owner. Credit cards used domestically attract a fee of 1000HUF to 2000HUF, while international credit cards attract charges of between 3000HUF and 4000HUF. Withdrawal charges at any ATM will attract a charge of 75HUF per transaction.
There are ways to waiver some of the charges levied by local banks. One of them is by opening an account directly online from websites such as www.hvb.hu. Opening a bank account with such websites is free of charge, and has no hidden costs. Another option is to go with a local bank account that does not charge a fee for opening an account. There are plenty of banks in Hungary that offer these advantages, so it pays to shop around first.
Spending Money In Hungary
Hotels, restaurants, fuel stations and mall outlets accept credit card payments. Top credit cards accepted in Hungary include Diners Club, American Express, MasterCard, Visa, JCB and Eurocard. It is also good to walk around with some cash on you, especially if you need to pay a shopkeeper or a roadside food vendor. Cash payments in US dollars, pounds or euros will also be accepted in many places. Only a select number of establishments in Hungary accept travelerâ€™s checks. However, banks accept both travelerâ€™s checks and regular checks.
Expats are always advised to open accounts with banks that have several ATM outlets in the region they work in. This makes access to cash easier if you want to make quick cash payment. Money transfer services are offered by both banks and post offices. Hungary has over 3,200 post office outlets, which open from 8am to 6pm. You can transfer money or pay your bills directly through a post office.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Hungary is a nexus-point in eastern Europe and traditionally has been on multiple trade routes. This historical fluidity is reflected in the lingustic heritage of the country. As an expat who is intending to live and work in Hungary, ease of communication will be one of the first questions on your mind. Will you need to learn Hungarian, or can you get by in English? We will take a look at some of these considerations below.
Most of the population in Hungary (around 99.6%) speak Hungarian (Magyar). This is an Uralic language, unrelated to most neighbouring tongues, and is the 13th most widely spoken language in Europe. However, there are many other languages spoken across the country as well, including:
• German (spoken by ethnic Germans resident in Hungary)
• Slovak (spoken by the minority Slovak community in Hungary)
There are also some minority languages such as Rusyn. English and German are the most widely spoken foreign languages in the country. Upwards of 50% of Hungarians speak English, mostly in urban areas and in tourist areas, but to varying degrees (statistically Hungarian women tend to speak more English than men).
You should have relatively few problems in cities, such as the capital, Budapest. Older people will be less likely to speak English but may speak Russian. English has been taught in schools since the demise of Communism in the late 1980s, thus a higher percentage of the younger generation will have some basic English, at least.
English is the business language of Hungary, so if you are working for a company in the country you will find that English is the lingua franca commercially; however, your colleagues are likely to speak it to differing degrees. If you are in Budapest, you should find that your colleagues are reasonably fluent. It is a good idea to let any potential employer know the degree to which you yourself speak Hungarian. It is polite, however, as well as practical, to learn some basic phrases as below:
• meet and greet
• days of the week/months of the year
• shopping and food-related vocabulary, including eating out
• some basic medical vocabulary (e.g. asking for a doctor’s appointment)
• some basic banking vocabulary (e.g. opening a bank account)
Due to its unusual nature as a Uralic language, Hungarian is not the easiest language to master if you are a native English speaker: it is commonly supposed to be one of the hardest languages to learn. The language has 35 distinct cases (such as the accusative), remnants of Latin. Moreover, unlike English, the word order is often flexible, and you can create an independent word from just a prefix and a suffix, or from two suffixes.
It is advisable to take a good phrasebook with you rather than relying on digital translation apps, as wifi provision in rural areas may be erratic.
However, there is plenty of provision for learning the language if you are in Hungary itself and there are a number of online resources as well as courses in other countries.
The mission of the Balassi Cultural Institute is to manage Hungarian education all around the world. The BCI offers short and long term courses for foreign students, including a four-week-long summer university with intensive Hungarian language classes. Students can use the credits gained at the summer university at their own universities.
The International Studies Centre of the University of Pécs offers Hungarian courses throughout the year, plus a summer school.
The University of Szeged also offers an intensive two-semester preparatory course for foreign students who wish to study at a Hungarian university which includes a cultural as well as a language programme.
Eötvös Loránd University offers a summer university during the summer break, an intensive course and a regular language training course throughout the year. You can study Hungarian at the University of Debrecen, too.
In addition to these university schemes you can also find language training provision at a number of private language schools across the country, although many are obviously located in Budapest itself. You may also find 1-1 tuition privately. Costs for language training will vary between providers but should not prove too expensive.
English language training is a growing market in Hungary. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.
Average salaries are quoted at US$600 – 900 per month. Hiring mainly takes place in January and September. Some schools may sponsor a work visa for you.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools will require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work.
If you are intending to find work as a translator or interpreter, you will obviously need to speak Hungarian at an advanced level and will generally need the relevant qualifications as well. Experience will also be required.
The Hungarian education system is well founded, with a long history, and over 60 universities and colleges at the highest level. Literacy rates have remained stable at around 99%, although Hungary ranks well below average amongst OECD reporting countries on the percentage of GDP spent on education, at under 4%.
The nation’s PISA rating is also slightly below the world average, and some critics of the system believe that creativity and critical thinking are not promoted highly enough due to the rigidity of the state system. However, Hungarian students are rated as amongst the world’s best in maths and science subjects.
State education in Hungary is regulated by the Ministry of Human Resources. Tuition is provided free up to undergraduate level, but parents pay for stationery, books and school trips.
Lessons in state schools will be conducted in Hungarian, but several other languages are taught throughout the system, including German and English, particularly in higher education. If your child needs Hungarian language training to be able to attend a state school, this can be organised locally (typically a minimum of 70 hours would be required from scratch), and extra support can be continued at school.
The Hungarian education system is divided into several levels. Nursery/kindergarten is compulsory from age five, with provisions from age three. Primary and basic secondary tuition is then compulsory from age 6 – 16.
At this level, there are three separate streams to choose from, dependent on academic achievement. The Gymnasium will prepare top-level students for university entrance exams. Secondary vocational schools will last four years for intermediate students
Technical schools will allow students to train for the modern workplace. The duration of tuition here will vary depending on the profession or occupation chosen. For those attending the vocational colleges or taking apprenticeships, there is also the chance of further advancement through technical universities, and there are many institutions for professions such as teaching.
For those continuing their studies in the state upper secondary system, a final graduation exam is taken at the end of studies, with many then expected to go on to university, depending on their grades.
The status of homeschooling in Hungary is in flux and unclear, since recent education system changes were brought into effect with the express aim of making any alternative education providers conform more closely to the state system. If you are considering this route for your children, you will encounter considerable institutional resistance.
There are a number of fee-paying international schools catering more specifically for expat children of all ages, some with day care for infants, but separate pre-school kindergarten (ages 3-6) is also available privately in the larger cities. The curricula at these schools are relatively free from state regulations. Many of them offer the full International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), and most are based on tuition in English under various national education systems.
Here are a few of the international schools in Budapest:
• Britannica International School, Budapest (English, British curriculum 5 – 18)
• British International Academy, Budapest (English, British curriculum, 5 – 11)
• British International School, Budapest (English, British and IBDP curricula)
• Deutsche Schule, Budapest (German, German to Abitur 6 – 18)
• American International School, Budapest (English America and IBDP 3 – 18)
• Orchidea International School, Budapest (bilingual English and Hungarian, international and Hungarian curricula)
• SEK International School, Budapest (English, IBDP)
• Greater Grace International School (English, American/Christian)
There are more than a dozen others in Budapest for various age ranges, and a few in other cities to consider.
Extra-curricular activities will vary considerably, and need to be ascertained from the individual school. Demand for places at international schools is always high, and it is important to contact the school of your choice as early as possible. Fees will also be quite substantial, and need to be ascertained with the school. It is always important to read the small print – additional expenses can mount up – for example many schools have additional contributary capital funds for improvements/repairs.