Growing emigration?

It is a commonplace that Hungarians are among the least mobile people in Europe. In some ways they resemble the French who traditionally were very reluctant to leave home. Starting in the fifteenth century France tried to colonize parts of North America. Most attempts, Quebec excepted, failed. A similar fate awaited the Netherlands. England, originally the least likely to succeed in the colonization of faraway places, came out ahead: in the seventeenth century an incredible number of people from the United Kingdom left, facing untoward dangers on sea and land.

Hungarians have never been keen on starting life anew in another country. Those who speak of the three million Hungarians who "staggered to America," to use Attila József's words, are mistaken. The staggerers were not Hungarian-speaking citizens of Greater Hungary but mostly Slovaks. It was these Slovaks whom Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk approached to support the creation of a Czechoslovak state in 1917 and 1918.

In the second half of the twentieth century there were two occasions when Hungarians left the country in greater numbers–after 1945 and after 1956. We don't have accurate figures for the first migratory wave. But we know that about 200,000 people, mostly young and well educated, left after 1956. I don't know of any studies dealing with the effects of this emigration on Hungarian society, though I'm sure they exist, but it was a large-scale brain drain. Judging from studies on the success of Hungarians who went abroad, I would assume that this particular emigration had a very negative effect on Hungarian society.

Unlike the 56ers, who had to cross borders illegally and face years of uncertainty, today's emigrants are in a much better situation. Western Europe and Canada are becoming increasingly popular destinations for people who have had enough of Hungarian reality. And people are leaving–recent graduates, professionals, people of means. They know languages, have skills, and want out.

As of May 1 Hungarians can pack up for Austria and Germany. They can work, buy property, and settle there for good. Austria is particularly attractive because it is close and the country is familiar. In the last year or so Hungarians have been showing more and more interest in buying a house or an apartment in Austria. In a single anecdote HVG writes about a man close to retirement who worked for a bank in Hungary. He dealt primarily with people who wanted to place their savings in Austrian banks because they were leery of the Orbán government's rather cavalier attitude toward other people's money. These people believed that their money would be safer in Austria: "there the sanctity of private property and banking secrecy are still honored." So now, just before retirement, he is moving to Austria. His son is already studying in Vienna, and he bought a 100m2 house in a small Burgenland village. 

In Germany there are fewer Hungarian settlers. Only 2,519 Hungarians live in Berlin on a permanent basis, a number that is especially small in comparison to the 10,000 Bulgarians and the more than 5,000 Romanians.

But just think about the thousands of young doctors who have moved to the United Kingdom, to Sweden, and to other countries in Europe. Although some of the naive Hungarian doctors believed that their lot would improve after the elections, it is becoming increasingly clear that people working in the health care industry cannot expect a boost in their salaries. Young interns organized an interest group whose leader occasionally shows up for television interviews. A few months ago he was still optimistic. Most young doctors would rather stay at home if they would just get a bit more money and if they were not tied to one hospital for years to come. The new government lifted the restriction on free hospital choice, but the money the young doctors demanded cannot possibly be granted. There is simply not enough money. Naturally, there is always money for the things Viktor Orbán and his government are interested in: soccer, bodyguards, new uniforms for students of the military academy, and an entirely new college for training future civil servants. One could continue. Money is freely spent and the sovereign debt is growing. By now the 250 billion forints that György Matolcsy put aside for a rainy day is also gone. It was just announced that this amount must be permanently taken out of the budget.

The mood in Hungary is gloomy. Although the Christian Democrats try to convince young Hungarians currently working abroad to return, appealing to their love of chicken paprika and Túrós Rudi, this         primitive campaign isn't creating a massive "return to home" movement. Just the opposite: half of the M.D.s who graduated last year left the country immediately.

Even people who don't go abroad with the idea of emigrating end up staying. A nephew of mine got a job in Sweden a few years ago. He married a Swedish girl and is currently working on his Ph.D. It is highly unlikely that he will ever return to Hungary for good. His sister went to work in England. She met an Englishman, married, and they have a child. She is happily settled in England.

The growing antisemitism in Hungary may also propel Hungarians of Jewish origin to pack up and leave. All in all, I see a growing tendency on the part of Hungarians to move to greener pastures.

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Member

I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, but I wonder whether there are any statistics to back this one up. Given that most of Europe is in a major economic downturn I am not convinced that there are lots of opportunities out there for Hungarian prospective emigrants in general, as opposed to specific in demand occupations.
If more Hungarian emigration were a reality it would not really be that bad a thing. Countries such as Poland have large diasporas who send back cash to the homeland. Many young people go abroad to earn enough money to buy a house, then return home to raise a family and such like.
Countries which have large numbers of their citizens living abroad are rarely inward looking…

Member

Oh, well .. All our visitors from Hungary are told to bring Turo Rudi. We are wondering who is going to make millions in the US by “inventing” this here. On the other hand I don’t need go home for a chicken paprikash. I can make a mean chicken paprikash here. Ok, truth be told, we use original paprika from the Szeged region (in-laws brought it).
We came to US in the nighties with 3 small children basically out of curiosity and adventure. Then the kids grew up here and we didn’t have the heart to take them back. So we stayed. Bought a house, American dream, yadiyadiya. Boring story. No political or economical reasons. The funny part is this: if were single or childless we would have gone home. In my opinion it is a good thing if young professionals move around a little. And if they decide to settle down somewhere, that’s OK. Nothing to be shamed of.
I actually think that despite of the worsening quality of life and the funky political situation the emigration is relatively low.

ABB
Guest

Dear Mutt Damon, I have great news for you.
There is Turo Rudi in the US.
Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/people/Dotty-Turo-Rudi/100001391063396
Reseller in Florida: http://dettcris.com/oscr/product_info.php?products_id=1277
One day I posted in my facebook status that I miss Turo Rudi. In a week a mysterious package arrived with at least 50 Turo Rudi. A friend of mine surprised me. It came from Florida. Great classic taste only the name and the paper are different. Instead of “pottyos”, it is “dotty” and the paper is blue. But the biggest surprise is that facebook is profiling, so if you put Turo Rudi in your status , you will soon see the ad of the Florida reseller on the right side of your screen. So Big Brother/ Turo Rudi Store is watching you.
Well speaking about less important things, yes I agree with you, we stayed for the kids’ education as well. Great schools, amazing opportunities for the next generation.

An
Guest

Left the country couple of years ago for personal reasons. Absolutely wanted to move back eventually. Not so sure anymore. Deeply disappointed in Hungarian electorate for making a terrible choice, and still not waking up and standing up for democratic values. Increasing right wing radical intolerance against Jews, Gypsies is not helping either. Maybe would still move back, but only after Orban is gone and the country’s sanity is restored.

mouse
Guest

During interviews I have to ask if the candidate is mobile and willing to work if their are opportunities abroad. Out of a small sample of ten recent candidates, three said they wanted to move abroad, one clearly stated because he doesn’t believe there is a future in Hungary due to political situation. However there was a definite split as four out of the five indicated they wouldn’t relocate to our production location, they aren’t even willing to work outside their home town except to Budapest or another major industrial centre. One was unemployed but he would rather do nothing at home than relocate 100km for a relatively well paid job.
I guess Hungary has not yet had a Norman Tebbit for this at least you can be thankful.

kis fiu
Guest

Off topic but there is a great article about Hungary in the NY review of books by Istvan Deak. Unfortunately its behind their paywall so it is not very accessible.

NWO
Guest

I actually think the situation is potentially even more precarious than Eva suggests. In Hungary, the tendency is for highly educated (Drs, engineers, etc) to leave the country. In addition, as she noted, there is a growing element of people who are not moving but are hedging their bets by buying property and moving assets abroad, so a quick “escape” is possible.
On the other hand, unlike the Poles and Romanians for example, Hungarian blue collar workers are not willing to go abroad. Part of the problem I think is language. Hungarians just seem much worse at adapting to foreign language environments. Sadly, it is among the unskilled where the employment gap is so extreme.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kis fiuL : Off topic but there is a great article about Hungary in the NY review of books by Istvan Deak. Unfortunately its behind their paywall so it is not very accessible.”
I just received it in Word version. István Deák taught a seminar in my first year of graduate school and eventually he was one of the readers of my dissertation. I think very highly of him.
In the Sunday Népszabadság there is an interview with him which is also worth reading. In addition, if you have an hour and a half you might want to listen to his lecture on the Jewish question in Hungary he gave a few months ago at the University of Toronto. It is worth the time.
http://hosting.epresence.tv/MUNK/1/watch/224.aspx
I’m happy to announce that Hungarian Spectrum is quoted in the New York Review of Books article of his.

kormos
Guest

Ms.Balogh: Thank you very much for this link leading to one of most interesting speeches about Jews and non-Jews in Hungary (in Europe and USA in mention).It is a very honest speech and very similar to Yuri Slezkine’s book:”The Jewish Century”.
I do not see major problem with emigration. People should be free to move around, gain international experience, and also to return to their home country, should they decide.

kormos
Guest

As the saying goes: “Nobody is a prophet in their own country”. Many individuals were very successful in their (mostly western) countries. Yet, the waste majority lives a mediocre life, slaving for long time.
News media in Hungary should point out the potential financial,psychological and physical difficulties in the assimilation process into a different society of a new country. The strong will always survive.

Kirsten
Guest

Éva, thank you for the link. The lecture is admittedly long and ends after WWII but in the beginning there is a thought I found particularly interesting. Istvan Deak says that antisemitism could have a specific form currently because religion was a non-issue (private matter) during communism. Because this was a private matter and nobody had to “confess” its religion, others could speculate and interpret and somehow define who is Jewish and who is not. This private nature of religion could also mean that what is passed on to the younger generations about Jews can be a rather arbitrary collection of ideas and prejudices. Unfortunately no time was left for an interpretation of what is going on currently.

kormos
Guest

@Kirsten
Please read on:
http://lubavitch.com/news/article/2027852/Elie-Wiesel-To-Hungarys-Jews-Stay-Jewish.html
There is a strong Jewish renewal in Hungary. You can find anti-anything all over the globe. Jews living in Hungary are not in more danger than anywhere else. You might say, this level of protection is not enough. Then I ask,do Jews in Israel enjoy more protection?

Kirsten
Guest

Kormos, you must have misunderstood me entirely. For one, the fact that in Hungary there is the largest Jewish community of Eastern Europe except Russia speaks for itself. We do not know whether there were no conflicts in other countries if only more Jews were allowed to live. So I did not mean that Jews were in specific danger in Hungary currently because they are in Hungary or because Hungary is a specifically dangerous place in general. But if I hear that the nature of anti-semitism may have changed during the communist rule, for me that could explain why some current “accusations” sound entirely absurd to an outsider (every dissenting person is potentially a “Jew” with a flexible definition of the word). And in that regard I would have liked to hear what Istvan Deak thinks about it, in particular as he indicated that the nature of anti-semitism has changed compared with that prevailing one century ago.

GDF
Guest

ks fiu: “Off topic but there is a great article about Hungary in the NY review of books by Istvan Deak. Unfortunately its behind their paywall so it is not very accessible.”
For those in the US: Most public libraries carry The New York Review of Books (some of them even provide online access to its content).

GDF
Guest

Eva: “Only 2,519 Hungarians live in Berlin on a permanent basis, a number that is especially small in comparison to the … more than 5,000 Romanians.”
Actually, considering that Romania’s population is about twice that of Hungary, the 5,000 compared to 2,519 is not disproportionate.

Member

kormos: ” Jews living in Hungary are not in more danger than anywhere else.” Intimidation is not danger, you are right. Hatred is not danger either. Non-acceptance, and hate speech dressed up as “oh I am just speaking generally” is not danger. I said this many times, and let me say this again, Hungary shall not use the “we are better than the worst” comparison, but shall implement and follow best practices. Showing up in the parliament in Hungarian Garda (banned uniform) and getting away with it, is not cool! Having hate speeches published in newspapers are not cool! Orban keeping an openly anti-semite friend is not cool! Having a government pretending to the outside that this is not happening in Hungary is not cool either (it is like their translation of their documents to the foreign nations…).

Jim
Guest

someone: This is a beautiful comment. You have touched right on the essence of the issue.

kormos
Guest

@someone: I would use “proper” instead of “cool”,since I fully agree with you. Only education, human decency and proper behavior of all segments of a society could overcome prejudices. Constructive critique should be always welcome, even if truth usually hurts, but this constant reference to antisemitism is not cool either.However, I understand, it’s a tool.

Member

Claiming it’s a tool is the tool … and whoever thinks it’s a tool is tool.

Minusio
Guest

@kormos: How many Jews do you know? And do you know how they feel?

kormos
Guest

@Mutt: I do not want to respond folowing your logic. It would lead to very long sentences repeating the same words, but I get your drift.
@Minusio: Answer for the first question: I do not know the number.
For the second: I know the feelings of some, and I do not know the feelings of millions.
Apart form that, what a question?

Jim
Guest
Minusio: Antisemitism in Hungary is not just a Jewish issue. I encounter this assumption from Hungarians all the time: they think that if Jews are not being killed, then antisemitism is overblown. They also think that if someone speaks out against antisemitism, they must somehow be Jewish. In fact, Hungarian antisemitism is the most Hungarian of all issues. It indicates a fundamental refusal of the culture to look its past in the face — but even more so, a refusal to participate in modernity, in a world that has changed since 1935. (It also indicates an ignorance on the part of many of them: they simply are not aware that the Holocaust in Hungary was faster and more virulent than anywhere else in Europe: 10.000 people killed/deported every single day, for over 2 months. Knowing this, it is always a shock to arrive in Hungary and witness how powerful this force is.) The fact that Orbán’s close friend speaks of Jews’ supposed genetic inclinations and physical characteristics in the vilest terms several times a week in one of Hungary’s major newspapers, and Orbán says nothing to him, is a national outrage. But no one cares. Interestingly, Orbán himself is not… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Come to the UK!
Our next Prime Minister is Jewish AND an atheist.
And, at the moment, is still ‘living in sin’!
And no danger of ‘Johnny Boy’ ever moving here…

Funny facebook statuses
Guest

Well thanks for mentioning such a story really its very interesting and my doubt is How many Jews do you know? And do you know how they feel?

Steve_Jo
Guest

This year’s winter was pretty cold. Eva, have you thought about writing an article how cold winters are since Orban, Fidesz…blablabla.
Scaremongering is not a nice thing Eva. This country has survived the Mongols, Turks, Habsburgs, Russians and will hopefully survive the EUSSR too. Just choose another country for your little games. You don’t belong here. Easy.

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