“I am partially Irish, partially Hungarian. I grew up in Ireland with a Hungarian father and an Irish mother and with a Hungarian name that nobody could pronounce.” That is how Nick Kós, Country Managing Partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Hungary, reflects on the origins of his Irish - Hungarian heritage to Diplomacy & Trade.
“I was very much aware of my Hungarian heritage in Ireland and Hungary has a very prominent place in my psychology, something I wasn’t allowed to forget because of my name and because of the family and the stories. In Ireland, I felt very much Hungarian even if I didn’t fully understand what that meant. Of course, when I came back to Hungary, I at first felt very Irish, which was largely a language issue because I didn’t speak Hungarian, actually, I still struggle with it. Hungarian was my ‘father tongue’ rather that my mother’s tongue. He tried to teach me and my brother and sister the language but never got far enough – it is something that in retrospect I very much regret. However, since I heard a lot of Hungarian spoken within the family, when I speak, my pronunciation suggests that I can speak much better Hungarian than I actually do,” he adds.
When he was a child, there were always people speaking Hungarian within the family. His father left Hungary in 1946 at the age of six. “We lived Cork, in the south of Ireland, while my grandmother, an uncle and two of my aunts lived in Dublin with more family members scattered elsewhere around the world. Christmas was a great time for us as we all gathered in Dublin in my grandmother’s house where we would have a very Hungarian Christmas with angels and Hungarian Christmas songs. It was special for us kids because it was different from what our Irish pals could experience.” Now, he has his own kids, two boys, aged 9 and 7, and a 2-year-old daughter. “The boys are swimmers and they want to swim for Hungary, not Ireland.”
His conviction is that “we need to deliver expertise to our clients, who have been up to now mostly multinationals, in a way that is relevant to people. Certainly, if we want to expand and grow within Hungary, we also have to focus on the local market, be able to interact with local businesses, local entrepreneurs, that’s very much in our focus now, we want to combine the strength of the international network and deliver that in a way that is relevant locally and personalized.”
Hungarian AND Irish
In Poland, he was considered both Hungarian and Irish, but being Hungarian seemed to help him build better relationships with his local colleagues. His Central European background helped in this sense in Moscow, too. If he had to choose where to live, he would choose Hungary partly because of the climate. ”I love being in Ireland, as well. The atmosphere is different, the context is different, and my childhood friends live in Ireland. I don’t want my children to lose their Irish identity, either,” he adds.
Since Nick Kós comes from an Anglo-Saxon professional background (albeit a Celtic base), and also because he is Hungarian, he is “sort of” accepted by both sides at PWC CEE. “I don’t consider myself an expat, not just because I’m married to a Hungarian who, oddly enough, had to marry an Irish guy to get a Hungarian name, but also I feel I understand Hungarians a little bit more easily. I hope that helps our business and the atmosphere at the company and makes a positive contribution to Hungary. I have a great desire for Hungary to be respected and successful. It is not just about the business of PWC, it is an emotional matter for me.”
When he took over the leadership of PWC Hungary last year, he set three aims: to build great relationships locally and with our prospective clients; to improve “what we do and how we deliver”; and to take pride in our work. As he points out, “there is a lot we should be proud of, but we can’t just take pride in past accomplishments, we need to do things that bring value now and that we can be proud of.”
He is of the view that “both in Hungarians and Irish, there is a great mixture of pride and lack of confidence. It probably has to do with being relatively small nations in the shadow of much more powerful ones and thus, we are looking for ways to feel good about ourselves. On MALÉV flights, they used to play a video on Hungary, the world of potentials, showing many of the inventions by Hungarians. I played that to the staff here at PWC to make them aware that there is a lot we can be proud of. We need to continue to innovate and create value.”