Finding Teaching Jobs and other Job Opportunities in Hungary

Like most other countries in Eastern Europe (and for that matter around the world), Hungary’s government does not like the idea of permitting foreigners to take jobs that its citizens could perform equally well.

Obtaining a work visa is much easier if your stated aim is to teach English than if you are seeking employment with a construction company in Budapest, for example. After all, high unemployment statistics are a constant reminder to the government that there is plenty of room for improvement within Hungary’s economy. At the same time, though, there are not many Hungarians who are highly experienced with jobs on the cutting edge of technology or in fields that demand an intimate knowledge of the subtle fluctuations of a market economy. Because of this, Westerners may be called on to lend their expertise in fields such as software engineering, marketing and advertising, computer graphics, power generation, environmental reclamation, and technical writing (in English).

“What they should be doing in Hungary is worrying less about how many English teachers are needed. Rather, they should hire one person to come in and set up a computer system which would allow them to manage people more effectively. In so many ways, they are still 40 years behind.”

Generally, it is up to the job hunter to seek out, or even create, these kinds of opportunities. Budapest’s English-language newspapers may occasionally contain help-wanted ads for jobs that fall outside the scope of English language instruction, but they shouldn’t be relied upon as consistent sources of information. Most of the companies that advertise for positions that would attract skilled and educated foreigners are either partly or wholly foreign owned. Though there are some exceptions, Hungarian authorities make it much easier for foreigners to work for these kinds of foreign companies. (Under certain circumstances, a labor permit may not be necessary for jobs that involve work contracted to a foreign partner, etc.)

There are several tactics to consider when searching for a job that requires either technical knowledge or an advanced degree. If your area of interest or expertise is fairly specialized, it may be to your advantage to begin your job search in the United States or Canada.

If you are hired in North America, you are more likely to be well compensated (i.e., paid a hard currency salary on a Western pay scale). If you leave for Hungary before you begin your search, contact the agencies listed below. But remember: no matter where you are, the best way for you to find work is to network as much as possible. Send out resumes and cover letters to companies that do business overseas, arrange to meet with someone who has worked or lived in Hungary, make contact with a Hungarian person who might maintain either business or family ties with Hungary, or consult the director of a foreign-exchange or study program in Hungary through your college or university. You might even find out if the city where you live has a sister city in Hungary. If so, make contact with the person who oversees the exchange, and explain your interest. Spread the word any way you can that you are interested in finding employment in Hungary.

The United States Department of Commerce in Hungary publishes a list of all American companies that do business in Hungary. This list will give you an idea of what kinds of positions might be available and who to contact to get more information. The list is available from the American Cultural Center in Budapest for a small fee. Visit the center or contact:

    United States Information Service (USIS)
    VII. Bajza utca 31
    Phone: (01) 142-4122, (01) 142-3717, (01) 342-3156, or (01) 342-4122

The USIS also provides a fairly up-to-date list of English schools throughout Hungary.

Another good source of information for job seekers is the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary. They keep an up-to-date file of resumes of people who are seeking employment in Hungary, so that their members have access to a database of prospective employees. Though individual memberships cost US$250 for the first year, having access to all of their information can be very valuable, and attending events put on by the AmCham-Hungary is a great way to network with fellow business people. Contact:

    American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary
    VI. Dozsa Gyorgy utca 84/a, Room 406
    Budapest H-1068
    Phone: (01) 269-6016

Aside from English teachers, the vast majority of expatriates who reside in Hungary work for international or foreign concerns who do business with Hungary. Most of these jobs are found outside of Hungary, usually in the country where the company is based. The reasons for this are simple. When a non-Hungarian owned company wants to do business in Hungary, they send over a team of managers to set up their operation. This group usually sets about the task of hiring and training as many native Hungarians as are needed to keep the operation running once the management team has completed all of the requisite start-up tasks. And once the operation is up and running efficiently, the individuals who helped to get everything started are usually moved elsewhere, often to start up another branch or office in another part of the world. For most international companies it doesn’t make sense to employ a Westerner where a native-speaking Hungarian could be trained to do the job at a much lower salary. Consequently, unless you possess some rare talent or expertise, the chances of finding a hard-currency (well-paying) position with an international company in Hungary are pretty slim. Such a position should be searched out back home in North America.

One American expatriate who lived for over three years in Eastern Europe explained:

“Many of the expatriates who showed up three or four years ago in places like Budapest and Prague were sent by larger companies who wanted to establish a presence in the newly opened markets of Eastern Europe. Now, their numbers are waning. These people are moving on or going home because they’ve completed their goals. The locals they hired have been trained and their operations are up and running.”

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