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The Hollandok in Hungary

Hungary seems to attract an increasing Dutch immigration. Let's find out why, from a Dutchman who has been living in Hungary for a while. He's done his own research, found his own answers and agreed to share it with Diplomacy and Trade.

After buying a house in Karácodfa, Baranya county, I heard that the locals thought this was probably because of the universal increase of the sea level in the Netherlands. At first, I thought they meant it as a joke, but observed this reaction many times. It is true that about 30% of the Netherlands is below sea level, but almost all Dutch are able to swim! Probably some TV-documentaries caused this general belief in Hungary that climate changes scare the Dutch so much, that they are thinking of immigration, just to be sure.
I have never met any migrant saying that their desire to leave The Netherlands was due to the raise of the water level. Rather the windy and rainy climate, with relatively few hours of sunshine make some Dutch leave their country, as well as the lack of space due to high population densities, and the dream of having a house with a nice garden and some ‘living space’ around. Additionally, factors such as high prices of housing, increasing costs of living, complaints about overregulation by the government and an increasing number of tensions somehow, related to multi-ethnic and urban societies, play a role for people immigrating to other (European) countries.

Puszta and other attractions

For Hungary, among the most important factors attracting the Dutch include the relatively low costs of living compared to the Netherlands, the open and friendly population, available space for living, abundant nature, the attractive climate - especially spring, summerand early autumn with a lot of sunshine. The very low prices of real estate – among the lowest inthe EU: a villa with swimming pool on the countryside costs less than a tiny apartment in an outskirt of Amsterdam also rate shigh on this list. Individual perspectives will differ, but for senior citizens it very important that even with a small pension from home they can live comfortably in Hungary; they could have their own gardener if they wish and go to local restaurant daily.

What also counts, especially for regions like the Mecsek, Zselic, Bükk and Mátra, is that Dutch people - just as Belgians - are fond of forests and hilly and mountainous landscapes. They do not need to see the sea or a big lake as there is a lot of water at ‘home’. Green areas with vineyards, dense woods, wildlife, some ponds or a river and thermal spas also attract Dutch speaking communities, just as other West-European immigrants. Most Dutch, who are not bound to Budapest or another city for their work, can be found in the Southwest and North of Hungary. Apart from that, they are also in the East of the country, on the Great Hungarian Plain around Kecskemét, Cegléd and Lake Tisza.

It’s rare for other foreigners to be found in the ‘tanya világ’ or the ‘puszta’ . But Dutch love the flat landscape with small woods as it looks like their ‘home’ about half a century ago. These places are almost abandoned by the local population and are now rediscovered by foreigners. South-Transdanubia turns out to be by far the most popular region among the Dutch people. The sub-Mediterranean climate and the hilly landscape attract both permanent residents and people buying a holiday house. The ‘hollandok’ and the locals seem to get along well, since the foreigners renovate the old houses or build new ones. This stimulates the development of the tiny villages and attracts other people, including Hungarian commuters from neighbouring towns. In some hamlets, the foreigners make up to half of the present population, but in general, Dutch presence is still relatively small (up to 5 per cent), even at the most popular destinations, such as e.g. Szentkatalin, Orfû, Boldogasszonyfa, Somogyharságy and Vásárosbéc (in Baranya), Tevel and Simontornya (Tolna), Balatonfokajár (Veszprém), Csemõ and Nagykõrös (Pest) and Kiskunhalas (Bács-Kiskun).

The historical factor

This guarantees that the atmosphere and identity of these settlements remain authentic Hungarian. In general, people from the Netherlands think rather positively about Hungary. The fact that after both World Wars and the 1956 revolution many Hungarians came as refugees to the Netherlands and integrated very well contributed to that image. Hungary has developed a lot during the last two decades. Because of the improved quality of life, low prices, the absence of traffic jams, Hungary becomes more and more attractive for permanent residence by retired Dutchmen. Expats are moving into the country because of the developing economy and Hungary’s location in the center of the CEE region. The total number of Dutch citizens residing in Hungary is not known. Reliable estimations do not exist as the statistics normally do not distinguish between ‘West-European foreigners’ and most of them are residing only temporary. People spending up to six months in Hungary, do not count as they are not registered residents. According to some rough estimations by the Dutch Embassy in Budapest, the total number of Dutch people spending a considerable part of the year in Hungary would be around 5,000. However, it is admitted that the number can be very well higher or lower. They are the third largest group of foreign owners of real estate in Hungary, following the Germans and Austrians.

Robert H. C. Kemkers

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