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A growing number of Germans choose to live in Hungary + video

"We found a new home in Hungary. The countryside south of Lake Balaton reminds us of our homeland," Emily Paersch, a German citizen who moved to Hungary a few years ago from a wine region in Western Germany, told Magyar Nemzet. She's not the only one who has recently become disillusioned with her homeland and has headed in this direction, as the number of Germans moving to Hungary permanently is growing dynamically, a new analysis shows. The statistics also indicate that a growing number of people are realizing that life in Germany is not as sweet as they thought it would be.

2023. 09. 06. 15:39
20200421 Balaton Eladó ház Eladó ingatlan tábla hirdetés Fotó: Kallus György LUS Világgazdaság VG Fotó: Kallus György
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Baranya and Tolna counties and around Lake Balaton are all parts of Hungary where the German language can increasingly be heard, and not because of tourists. While the number of ethnic Germans in Hungary has long been considerable, the community of recently relocating Germans is expanding, says Bence Bauer, director of the Hungarian-German Institute, in a  recent article. Referring to data from the Hungarian Central Statistics Office (KSH), the analysis explains that the number of ethnic Germans living in Hungary, i.e. the indigenous historic minority, was 185 696 in 2011, the year of the last census. In the years after the fall of communism, the number of Germans moving to Hungary was negligible, estimated at only a few thousand. However, in the last four years there has been a dramatic increase of 34.9 percent, with 16 537 arrivals in 2019 and the number of German citizens permanently settled in the country reaching 22 310 in 2023. 

Balaton
Lugas
German pensioners moving here love the landscape, the climate and the Hungarian cuisine. Photo by Pexels/Bence Szemerey

 

 

German problems vs Hungarian life

For many Germans, owning their own property is an unaffordable dream, cites Bence Bauer as one of the reasons for the surge in interest. 

Even the upper middle class in Germany is increasingly finding that they cannot afford to buy their own property in the country, while in Hungary - especially in rural areas - this is still attainable. 

Another important factor for Germans (and not just a topic of polite small talk) is the weather in a particular place, as the favourable climate in Hungary also plays a role in their decision to move. Hungarian cuisine is also very popular, so the culinary and gastronomic benefits, as well as tourism and culture, the hospitality and welcoming attitude of Hungarians, are all important considerations, Bence Bauer's analysis states.

The majority of those buying property and settling in Hungary are retired people, who are moving to villages where there are few jobs and high emigration. As a negative factor, the influx of foreigners could even have a price-driving effect, but this is not yet the case in the settlements concerned, so the arrival of new residents benefits the communities. 

There are many examples of Germans arriving here and becoming active members of the community. For example, in some areas of the Transdanubian region, including around Lake Balaton, a real German-speaking infrastructure has developed, with German craftsmen and service providers,

the institute director says, adding that Germans are finding their own way, and it is not for nothing that they are said to be well organised.

 

Socially ostracized for their views

This was also the case for Emily Paersch, who came to Hungary in March 2020 and wasted no time in starting her own business with her husband Andreas. The couple, who have been together for more than 20 years, come from Bad Kreuznach in the Rhineland-Palatinate, some 80 kilometers west of Frankfurt. Although the spa town on the banks of the Nahe River offers a stunning view, the couple became increasingly unhappy. They started a new life in Somogyvar, near Fonyod, where they set up a website design company.

We found a new home in Hungary. The countryside south of Lake Balaton reminds us of our homeland, which is also characterized by viticulture,

Emily Paersch explains how satisfied they are with their current life. They are already very attached to the conservative values of family, a healthy understanding of the nation and Christian faith, and they like the authentic Hungarian way of life. They have observed that Hungarians speak from the heart and are not ostentatious.

One of the reasons for their move is Germany's energy and economic policy, which Emily Paersch describes as absurd, because they want to supply an industrialised country with energy sources such as wind and solar power, but they do not create the conditions for this. This is compounded by the sanctions policy against Russia, which affects the country's energy supply and drives up prices.

"A decreasing number of companies can afford the high energy costs, while increasingly, large companies are leaving Germany as a location," complains Emily Paersch. "Reliable and affordable energy is the foundation of an industrial nation, and yet that is exactly what is being systematically destroyed before our eyes."

Another reason is the misguided migration policy, which, according to Emily Paersch, has caused huge financial challenges and security distortions for German society. The Berlin government has taken in almost 1.2 million more refugees in 2022 than at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. 

"Meanwhile, almost all German states have called on the federal government to stop the influx, saying they have reached their capacity. Nursing homes are now being emptied to accommodate refugees. Anyone who openly discusses these problematic developments in Germany is socially ostracized, labeled right-wing extremist or even fought against. We no longer felt comfortable in that environment," concludes Emily Paersch, adding that mass immigration has also led to a huge spike in crime, with robberies, gang rapes, assaults and even murders becoming almost daily occurrences, undermining the sense of security and thus the quality of life.

The number of crimes committed in Germany rose by 11.5% last year, but it is stagnant when compared to the long-term average, Bence Bauer mentioned in his analysis. The comparison with Hungary is striking: the same figure has fallen by 64.5 per cent over the past decade. The difference is even more visible on a per capita basis: there were 6,762 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in Germany last year, compared with 1,732 in Hungary, a quarter of the rate in Germany.

 Refugees arrive at a reception center in Germany on April 4, 2016. Photo by MTI/EPA/Swen Pförtner

 

Money does not grow on trees in Germany

In addition to the increasing number of Germans moving to Hungary, a large number of Hungarian emigrants are returning home. In 2022, a total of 35,950 Hungarian citizens moved back to Hungary, according to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office. 21,900 of them were born in Hungary and returned after years abroad, and more than 14,000 were born in another country but chose to live in Hungary. The data also show that more people (26,500 in total) moved abroad last year than returned home after a series of detours. This breaks the positive trend of recent years of more people coming back, but the fact that a large number of foreign-born Hungarians returned home in 2022 clearly decreases the migration gap.

Many of our compatriots are still living abroad, but the idea that everyone in the West is better off and everyone in Hungary is worse off is no longer true, the picture is much more nuanced,

Bence Bauer said. “Buying property in Germany is virtually impossible, even for well-off Germans. It is very difficult for women to find work, and the cost of nursery and preschool places is prohibitive.”

Despite this, the Western European country is one of the most attractive destinations for Hungarians. According to 2022 data by the German Federal Statistical Office, the number of Hungarians living in Germany in 2022 is estimated at 214,695. But life there is not exactly easy either.

Hungarians are kept under rigid conditions

“Although salaries are higher than in Hungary, the cost of living is disproportionately higher. I came home because it wasn't worth staying there," explains Lajos Antal, who had lived in Germany for eight years before moving back to Hungary in 2020. In 2012, Antal, a native of Dunaujvaros, felt that he was scarcely able to keep his head above the water and that he needed to make a change. He took a job at Munich Airport because he loves flying, but he says his first few years were terribly difficult.

“I stepped out of my comfort zone in Hungary and into a world that was European, but completely alien, where I had to learn everything. I left on my own, my family followed a few years later. I came back to Hungary mainly because of the low wages in Germany. When I tell my friends about it, they look at me as if I had come from the moon," says Lajos Antal, adding that the wages were low compared to the cost of living.

If you go abroad, to Germany for example, you will see that certain foodstuffs, such as dairy products and bread, are cheaper than at home. This, however, is only the surface, Lajos Antal says. When you compare the cost of living with the higher salaries, the picture is no longer that beautiful.

Rent can take up a third, half or even two-thirds of your salary, and there are other expenses such as high energy and car maintenance costs. Many of the people who went to Germany at the same time as Lajos Antal have since returned to Hungary, even if they were unhappy with the situation in Hungary.

Foreign workers in Germany live under rigid conditions. Photo by AFP/Ina Fassbender 

“As long as there is work to do, Germans are accommodating, but if you want to get ahead, there are big obstacles. My wife settled in well, she was well liked by the local community, but she wasn't allowed to get ahead either.”

We were kept under very rigid conditions in the labor market, so we took stock and came to the conclusion that we would be no worse off at home.

explained Lajos Antal, who recently returned with his wife to the German village where they had lived, as they often felt a strong sense of nostalgia. “We received a warm welcome there, but nothing has changed, except that the only pub in the village had closed down because they weren't able to keep it open. Life in Germany hasn't got any easier. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether it's worth staying there. You can understand those people too, but I see more and more Hungarians coming home,” Lajos Antal said.

Cover photo: property for sale at Lake Balaton (Photo: Vilaggazdasag/Gyorgy Kallus)

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