Immigrants in Hungary: The Dutch colony in Csemő

Today’s post was inspired by a fascinating report on Dutch families who in the last 10-15 years have settled in Hungary. To provide some context for this report, I did a little research on foreigners who settled on a more or less permanent basis in Hungary. The statistical literature distinguishes between people who arrived in Hungary from countries outside the European Union and those, like the Dutch immigrants in Csemő, a village on the Great Plains, who came from the EU.

Let’s look first at some data on those immigrants who came from so-called “third countries,” i.e. countries outside the European Union. In 2015 their number was estimated to be 60,000. Their arrival, according to the research conducted by the Central Statistical Office, “was beneficial for Hungary because these immigrants were younger, better educated, and economically more active than the Hungarian natives.” The largest group is the Chinese, but a lot of people came from Ukraine, Vietnam, and Russia. They can be counted as permanent residents since 60% of them have been living in the country for more than ten years. Two-thirds of them came either to work or to join other family members. Twenty-five percent came to study. In 2013 employment statistics for foreigners were higher than those of the local population:  67.9% as opposed to 58.2%. The educational attainment of the newcomers is also higher than that of the Hungarian-born population (48% v. 20%), most likely because many of the immigrants originally came to study in Hungary and then opted to stay. These statistics make Viktor Orbán’s hysterical anti-immigrant views even more ridiculous.

By the way, a few days ago someone asked about the size of the Chinese immigrant population in Hungary. If I recall properly, no one responded to the inquiry. I can now offer some information. The official, somewhat dated figure is 6,800, but, according to estimates, their number is closer to 20,000.  These people settled in Hungary on a more or less permanent basis and their children attend Hungarian schools. Very few of them, however, have become citizens so far.

Immigrants to Hungary quickly become part of the social fabric of the country. Two years ago an article appeared on napi.hu about a “surprising statistic” that proves that Hungary is in the forefront of countries where the integration of immigrants is rapid and rather painless. I must admit that I wasn’t as surprised by the findings of the Központi Statisztikai Hivatal/KSH (Central Statistical Office) as the journalist of napi.hu was. Historically speaking, immigrants who settled in Hungary, within a generation or two, especially in larger towns and cities, became completely integrated. Budapest and Pécs were excellent examples of that phenomenon during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Of course, there are quite a few immigrants who come from member states of the European Union, many of them still young and working, mostly in Budapest and larger cities, but others retired or semi-retired who come for various reasons, including cheaper accommodations, more living space, and a quieter life.

It is a subset of this second group that Magyar Nemzet’s report “Dutch ‘refugees’ on the Great Plains” describes. About 100-150 Dutch people settled in and around the village of Csemő, a place that didn’t exist until 1952. Unlike most Hungarian villages, which boast histories going back to the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries, Csemő’s Wikipedia entry lists under “Places of Interest” two town squares and a hunting lodge. To my great surprise I found an elementary school named after one of my classmates from ELTE, Mihály Ladányi, a poet who spent his last years in the village.

The way these ethnic mini-enclaves come into being is through word of mouth. One family discovers a picturesque village somewhere, and they then tell their friends about the place. This is how Jeroen and Jacqueline Bastiaensen found a run-down homestead (tanya) in Csemő, which they bought “for a tenth or twentieth the price of something comparable in the Netherlands.” This was five years ago, and they claim they do not regret their decision. Since then they have fixed up the place. The couple also operates two guesthouses that they rent out to Dutch and Belgian visitors. In addition, for some extra income they take care of the properties of those Dutch families who spend only a few weeks in Csemő. The reporter also talked to Lammi Luten, another Dutch settler whose family arrived in Hungary eight years ago. Her children attend the local elementary school and are naturally fluent in Hungarian.

The Lutens in front of their house / Source: Magyar Nemzet / Photo: László Végh

Of course, the Hungarian reporter was eager to find out what these people think of Hungary and the Hungarians. Jacqueline explained that certain things are very different in Hungary. As an example, she brought up the case of “Holnap Zsolti” (Tomorrow Zsolti), the local plumber. They call him “Holnap Zsolti” because every time he is phoned for a job he promises he will be there tomorrow, but he doesn’t show up. Jacqueline is surprisingly good-natured about Holnap Zsolti, but she admits that there are times when his attitude seriously interferes with her business. She also complained about someone she hired as a cleaning lady who often doesn’t come to work because “her grandmother is sick, or she overslept, or she simply had other things to attend to.” Obviously, Jacqueline has already learned enough Hungarian to explain to her that this is not the way to be a responsible employee.

Lammi Luten’s criticism of her Hungarian neighbors points to something that might be a more deep-seated and serious problem. As she sees it, Hungarians are not as hard-working as the Dutch. If a Dutchman has the opportunity, with a little extra work, to earn 200 euros a week instead of 100, he will jump at the opportunity. She believes that “Hungarians are satisfied with less; they work only as much as they have to.” She also complained about the unreliability of her fellow villagers. But she feels compensated by what she considers to be a stress-free living situation. Finally, by way of comparison between the Dutch and the Hungarians, she talked about the differences between their bicycling habits. “A Hungarian bicyclist pedals slowly and keeps looking around. It is a miracle that the bicycle remains upright. A Dutchman will pedal hard, having little goals in mind. For example, to pass the bicyclist ahead of him.” These are of course generalizations, but this kind of attitude must be prevalent enough to strike outsiders as typical.

As we can see, the newcomers manage to interact with the local folks. But, according to the mayor, the local inhabitants “don’t learn much from the practical, well-disciplined, correct Dutch.” He claims that the language barrier prevents closer interaction. Still, the mayor of the village, Dr. Roland Lakos, who in addition to Hungarian speaks only Russian and therefore doesn’t have much interaction with the Dutch inhabitants of the village, included a Dutch translation of the description of Csemő on its website. It claims to be “one of the most flowery villages” of Hungary. From the video I must say it looks like a very pleasant place.

September 16, 2017
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Reality Check
Guest

There is pull down menu for more videos. One features the crazy mayor of Erpatak, Mihaly Zoltan Orosz during the Összefogás Nap celebrations. Complete with far-right heavy metal soundtrack.

Analphabetism
Guest

The are the so-called neo-cuman people.

Guest

I know (but don’t have much contact with …) some Germans who also emigrated to Hungary because they wanted a more quiet life, working with horses and serving German tourists – not a bad idea.

Re “Holnap Zsolti”:
Yes, that’s a very common attitude among Hungarians – I remember when I first explained “mañana” to her she started laughing almost hysterically …
Since then it is her favourite answer when she doesn’t want something – she says I’ll try it mañana …
On the other hand we have many people in the village you can rely on for work – so we have a kind of classification:
This guy we will ask to work for us and recommend to others – the other guy we ignore! This works out very nicely for us and our friends and neighbours …
PS:
From an online forum I’m on I know that there also are some British people who kind of live “off the grid” in Hungary, but not very many …

Analphabetism
Guest

Éva, these migrants are from middle classes and they are considered educated even in their native countries. Compare them to the majority third word Muslim migrants who are often analphabets (who can’t read or write) even in their own native language is not fair. You can check their analphabetism in German statistics.

Member

The proportion of MDs and PhDs in the population of refugees from Iraq and Syria is probably higher than that of the native Hungarian population, especially with the young educated Hungarians migrating to the West where they can earn a decent living.

Analphabetism
Guest

only ten percent of migrants are university graduates. Two-thirds can barely read and write.

“Zwei Drittel können kaum lesen und schreiben”

http://www.zeit.de/2015/47/integration-fluechtlinge-schule-bildung-herausforderung

Analphabetism
Guest

Hello Eva!

Eva, you named a Neo- Cuman village, Csemő. Cumans have not Central European culture, but Eastern European. Their culture is shockingly different:Ddespite they speak Hungarian language as mother tongue they belong to a different civilization. You can read about it here:
http://tet.rkk.hu/index.php/TeT/article/view/98/195

Professor Pál Beluszky explains well the civilizational differences of the region (He concentrates on the Jassic-Cuman parts) of the Alföld.

You promised that you will write about these civilizational differences.

Best regards!

Thank you for your reply!

Analphabetism
Guest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMZEMDRw2LM

Video about Neo-cumans in Hungary, it was made by the Turkish Television.

Member

Very interesting video because I am living in the middle of Nagykunsag. In fact, one of our old friends is in the video. However, I would not classify Csemő as part of Kunsag. There are physical characteristics that are typically Kun and some traditions such as eating mutton that are different from traditions in other parts of Hungary, their identity is as Hungarians.

Gretchen
Guest

The woman in the black polo shirt–the insignia says “Jobbik”. They perhaps play at being ‘neo-Cumans’.

Jean P.
Guest

Recently more than 20 houses in the small village Bodrogkeresztur near Tokaj have been bought by Hassidic Jews from New York.

Ferenc
Guest
The mayor of Csemő has his own website – http://www.lakosroland.hu/ – with a.o. a diary/blog, herewith a quick translation of his post on 2017.Sep.05, titled ‘TERRORFREE CSEMŐ’: “There was a new phenomenon in the national (!) media: Dutch citizens settled in Csemő, because there is no terrorist threat here and there are no migrants. And this I even had to find out from a television crew reporter! Well… pretty strange…. In the past two or three years, many things can be said, but sure not that Dutch citizens en masse settle. Since I’m mayor, we had to deal with one single migrant for more than a year and a half… In addition to the television, also several journalists from national papers came here, all for the same subject. I do not know where this whole thing started, but I can state to understand, why this just now is happening. So I dare to describe that I am not happy with this kind of popularity and advertising, and during the conversations have tried to demonstrate the real values and beauties of the settlement to prove that this is a much more interesting topic than the one they were looking for.” Original… Read more »
Ferenc
Guest

I asked some time ago if anybody knew the number of Chinese in Hungary, so THANKS for the info.
I’m interested in comparing it with other V4 and neighboring countries (have impression that their numbers are highest in HU), so where did you find the dated figure and actual estimates?
PS: I remember a reply claiming that most ‘Chinese’ shops in Hungary are actually run by Vietnamese… (looking at the numbers in the post strengthens my doubts about the correctness of that claim, something for ‘Snopes.HU’?)

Guest

Ferenc, that was me who wrote that “many Chinese shops are run by Vietnamese” – at least that’s what my wife told me about Hévíz and Keszthely where we also have masseurs/masseuses and docs from Vietnam.
The exact numbers we don’t know of course, also it might be different in other parts of the country.

Ferenc
Guest

OK, sorry for changing ‘your knowledge about many around Heviz’ into ‘somebody’s claim about most in Hungary’…

Roderick Beck
Guest

Immigrants don’t just assimilate and disappear into the national flour. They change the country and that will be difficult for the Hungarians. The Germans who came to the US did not immediately assimilate. There were German languages high schools from the 1870s until the entry into WWI. Even my father born in 1932 grew up speaking German. The Hungarians will find the immigrants outperforming them and it will lead to resentment just like in the case of Hungarians Jews.

Istvan
Guest

We have two German language schools in the Chicago metro area still. One is the German International School Chicago and the other is the Naperville German Language School in the northern suburbs. Of course these modern day German speaking families in Chicago are effectively bilingual and want to raise their children in a bilingual culture.

The same thing exists with French speaking families in Chicago, and with Japanese speaking families. For many families cultural preservation is of importance, it is not so much linguistic isolation as promotion of bilingualism. This exists within the American Hungarian community too, but in general it dies by the third generation. So I went to Hungarian language school, but my children the third generation had no interest what so ever in doing so. This seems to be very common.

Guest

Istvan, that is a real pity for these Hungarians – bilingual education is fantastic!
I’ve seen it with my sister’s children (she’s married to an Englishman) who are fluent in German and English and got good jobs too.
And this bilingual existence also is a reason for the success of Scandinavia and Benelux, small countries where almost everybody has to learn a second language because Hollywood movies etc are not translated …
And even practicing a second language every day (almost …) like my wife’s young ones have to do to communicate with me helps a lot, also to keep an open mind!

Member

We all know a “Holnap Zsolti” and in fact in recent years his kind has multiplied 100-fold.

It is impossible to get a plumber/electrician/carpenter etc now in Budapest competent or otherwise. They have all moved to the west and are not being replaced with new blood because the typical middle-class Hungarian snob would rather have an unemployed lawyer than a wealthy “professional manual” as a son or daughter.

For all the dictator and his fascistsbs about building a Hungary of "honest toil", there is also absolutely no real training for such guys. That would take long term planning and one thing the fascist regime is rubbish at is project management unless they can cream off a few corrupt Euros for themselves.

I hope the Dutch enjoy themselves in Csemo. At the moment their white skin protects them from the Great Unwasheds Ire. But rest assured their day will come once the Fat Dictator has finished with the EU, Jews, the Roma, muslims, liberals, the handicapped.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘honest toil’

No doubt an oxymoron after citizens can see how those on top are so far away in showing an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. And Parliament is really a lunchroom.

If there’s a Magyar ‘dream’ we’d have to think it is unfortunately to get the hell out of the country as it will not offer the atmosphere and opportunities for the enterprising in their quest for achievement and recognition of their hard work.

wrfree
Guest

Real interesting to read the post today. The Lutens’ home is just great. Wouldn’t mind living in it myself. The design is wonderful.

Got a kick on ‘Holnap Zsolti’. Doesn’t surprise me from what I knew. I’d guess the Dutch would be happy if anything gets done. And as far as doing what’s needed for work I can recall an item noted by my uncle when he visited here. I got the impression it wasn’t to his liking

He thought I was out of my mind for ‘commuting’ to work each and every day on the vonat. He couldn’t believe that I would ride for an hour or more going and coming. To him surely ‘getting there’ never figured in the work equation. Here you do what you have to do.There well things could wait and wait..😎 A different type of life alright.

Wip
Guest

A Dutch businessman recently bought up an entire small village.

Bedepuszta is located in Nógrád county, not very far from Budapest but in a more hilly, greener region (Csemő is on the Great Plain and it’s pretty dry and yellowish in the summer). One guesses the investor will probably sell the houses on to Dutch people.

In rural Hungary there are literally hundreds of thousands of houses sitting empty although most are in bad shape. Even if sellers would ask more from a Western person (who are invariably thought to be rich) a proper, liveable house (not at Western standards but liveable still) in a more backward community with a sizeable enough plot can be had for EUR 10k (of course there is no upper limit and the prices in general have been increasing).

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2017/07/26/egy_holland_uzletember_megvett_egy_teljes_magyar_falut/

Guest

I’m on a forum with “immigrants” from Britain and there are all kinds, from those who want to “live off the grid” with animals and large plots of land to those who live a luxurious life at a much lower cost than in Britain. And even there some people return after a few years – for various reasons.

So real emigration from the more developed countries to Hungary is rare – most just want a few months of a good life like me … 🙂

Guest

A bit OT re immigrants:
Hungary has had this program where you could get a Visa in exchange for buying bonds, we’ve discussed this here. As usual Fidesz did this even inefficiently …
Now Cyprus has shown how to make money out of this idea:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/17/cyprus-selling-eu-citizenship-to-super-rich-of-russia-and-ukraine
This “Golden Visa” program brought in more than 4 billion €!
Money makes the world go ’round …
PS:
One of the conditions (about the only one …) is that the visa holder must visit Cyprus at least once evry seven years …

bi-lingual
Guest

Well, if they find slow cycling, and not working hard enough, probably it is the best, if they keep cycling in the Low Countries. If they are already here, they could try to do their part of integration. Hm? Learn the language to begin with it. It is not only the landscape, cheap property, it is people.

Analphabetism
Guest

That’s why Zsolti always come “tomorrow”. There are not enough craftsman in Hungary.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/allas/2017/09/21/ezert_nem_talal_honapok_ota_szakit/

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