Expats speak about wages, living standard, and starting a business
Wages and living standard
“Since living costs are still reasonable, most of these people have a very high standard of living as do the legions of small business owners. Others though, forced to live on laughable local salaries, which can be as low as 300 euros a monts, are visibly struggling. Still, you don’t see the sort of poverty you’d find in most of India, though some deprived areas with a majority Roma population come close. Unlike in India however, no one has to starve or go without medical care, as the poorest get a minimum amount of social benefits (just enough to keep them alive) and everyone gets free healthcare and education, even if the quality isn’t great for either. The quality of everything in Hungary, compared to say, Singapore, is pretty poor. This includes roads and other infrastructure, public transit, public housing estates, airports, parks, healthcare, education, etc…” (Christian)
“Hungary is, as others also mentioned, cheap compared to Western Europe, when it comes to housing, healthcare and food, but prices for import products such as clothing, cars and electronics is the same as in the West. This is quite inconvenient for those who earn here, making 4-5 times less than a German or Dutch worker for the same job.” (Eszter)
“If you are in a situation that you are living in Hungary on a “western” salary (that is, you are a software developer etc. and have a $100K annual salary) than it is very good. Budapest is an amazing international city, a beautiful one, with splended places, historical quarters, old and new houses, lot of super pubs and restaurants, very nice places; and also nice people, a huge international community, with lots of good cultural programs etc. It is also very safe, not in spotlight of terrorism; in fact it has always been a meeting place for east and west, Hungary has a very friendly culture, with warm and open people. Budapest is an amazingly open city.
If you have a local job with a 20-30K annual salary and the continuous threat of being laid off; than it is not so pleasant. But as an expat, with better financial conditions, it is one of the best places on earth.” (Attila, UK)
“Salaries isn’t very high in Hungary by default. Neither are the other circumstances very good, like pension, health insurance and services, etc. Definitely nothing that would attract many people, to encourage them to overcome the difficulties living in Hungary, a country with one of the hardest to learn languages on Earth.
If this wouldn’t be enough, the taxes and other charges are so high that many companies try to find a way to reduce them and that usually hits the employees at some point. A common way is to register employees at minimum wage and give them anything that’s over it straight into their pockets. This means for the employees the minimum pension and health insurance, etc. The other common way is to force people to work for you as freelancers, so they give you an invoice every month with their ‘salaries’. There are many of these tricks that makes your future as an employee pretty unpredictable.”(Endre)
“Living as a pensioner in Hungary (part time) and having found a wonderful Hungarian wife (we were both already over 60 years of age when we were introduced …) I can add to the reasons given:
- Not only are wages abysmally low for many people – prices are also often higher because of the VAT of 27% which is applied to almost evrything.
- Foodstuff like butter or cheese is 50% more expensive – unless you settle for low quality …
Of course Hungarian products are very good and cheap – but there just are no “Hungarian oranges” or bananas (that’s a joke from a very good film “The Witness” – produced during Communist times and immediately forbidden …) so everything imported is expensive – but people know it exists, it’s available in the supermarkets, but many people just can’t afford it.
The people who are really scre*ed by this are the pensioners who often have less than 300€ a month …
So many of our neighbours in the village use coal, wood and anything that burns for heating (imagine the smell …) – because they can’t afford to use gas, which is available …”(Wolf, Germany)
Starting a business
“Starting a business isn’t much different either. I don’t have a business in Hungary myself, but my sister does and it’s just plain insane sometimes what she tells me about it. They keep facing new difficulties set by the government, that literally makes it impossible to legally get your business produce profit. Even if you would, there will be other competing companies that don’t even try so they can offer much lower prices than you and you quickly go bankrupt.
It is pretty difficult to get along under these circumstances, even for Hungarians.
You gotta have a certain attitude, and better be prepared to comfortably move in (dark)gray zones of law.
Those few lucky ones who have a job at a big multinational company aren’t usually affected by these tricks. Probably most of the expats in Hungary are employed by one of these.
It’s also no wonder that a steadily increasing number of Hungarians seek to establish life abroad. I’ve recently read that the scale of emigration is getting worse than it was in 1956, in times of war and revolution. It is said, London is already the second largest Hungarian city.” (Endre)
“The other big obstacle is bureocracy. That is simply staggering, even for the native hungarians. If you want to run a business, the paperwork, the permits, taxations etc. will be quite a challenge, and all in hungarian.
I have seen quite a few good people leaving this country for these, hungarians and immigrants as well. Which is clearly a loss for my beloved country.” (István)
“We have moved here because we heard that taxes are low and authorities are friendly. My husband is British-American and I’m Spanish and we run an international business. Small, but sweet. So we figured that anything would be better than what we had to put up with. How wrong we were! People, just because you hate your own tax regime it doesn’t mean that some random country really is the promise land. Headline rates are low alright. But the real amount of tax is higher than what either of us was used to. It is tax by a thousand cuts, so to speak. Plus some extra taxation by unpredictable and unavoidable fines.
We hired an accountant when we arrived because you have zero chance to understanding the language. Later we learned that even the locals don’t understand tax rules and shell out real cash on accountants – who are also somewhat clueless because rules change a lot and no one knows how to interpret them. Every time I ask our accountant what a new rule means he just shrugs and tells us to just pay up and hope for the best. As a rule, whatever is less beneficial for you applies. And then there is this hostility. Tax men are like hunters. They behave like one (ours did). He said they have collection targets ON FINES, not taxes. My husband was breathless. I am from Spain so… not so much.
In the end we payed everything the authority demanded and the accountant was just there to tell us how to pay it. Our friends also had the same issue.
We have also heard about massive corruption and political interests running the tax office and by that time I could believe it. We had a child in the meantime, so we are staying until he gets to school. He will start school somewhere else.”
Part 1 – Living in Hungary: People and practicalities
Part 2 – Living in Hungary: Wages, living standards and doing business
Part 3 – Expats about the dark side of living in Hungary.