An overdue update from Budapest

Hello everyone. I've been meaning to give you an update from Budapest for a while now, but for some reason all the stress of emigrating, finding a flat and dealing with complete incompetence left me unable to take a breath, sit down and actually write this post.

Now I feel slightly better and I have some spare time to reflect on my first 45 days in Budapest, as well as just how hard it is to relocate. Not the actual physical moving from country to country, but the emotional and psychological stress it places on you. I'll talk more about that a bit later.

But first a bit of an update on how my relocation has gone so far.

In case you don't know why I'm suddenly in Budapest, here's the back story. I work full-time online as a community manager and one of the major advantages of my job is that I can do it from absolutely anywhere.

So why, I thought, would I be based in Denmark? There's absolutely nothing wrong with Denmark, but after having lived there for some 26 years I felt like a change of scenery would do me well. After extensive research I had narrowed down my choices to 3 cities: Prague, Budapest and Berlin.

Out of my 3 candidates I had my original sights set on Prague. Czech was slightly closer to a familiar language and I had a great inside contact in Anthony Lauder, who graciously answered all my questions and helped me decide.

But then I went to the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin and had a chat with Alex Rawlings, who by August would have lived a year here in Budapest. We talked about the challenges of moving to a country where you don't speak the language and English is not as common as in Northern Europe.

Immediately I saw the dangers of me moving to either the Czech Republic or Hungary. I had already tried relocating once, back in 2010 and I spent most of that year locked up in my bedroom either playing video games or doing nothing.

And that was in England where everybody spoke English. A language I speak quite well.

I just dreaded to think how my life would turn out in the Czech Republic or Hungary. So I immediately discarded those and went for the safer option of Berlin. I spoke German already and I had contacts there to make the transition easier, and if everything went tits up I was like an hour away from Denmark.

So I packed up my bags with most of the essentials and left Denmark permanently. First stop was Budapest to enjoy a week off but also to take part in Richard Simcott and Alex Rawling's Polyglot Workshop. It was a great motivational booster and it was great to reinforce all the right thinking and behaviour.

As I went about Budapest in that week, I just really liked it. I felt like I was on an adventure in a faraway land and there was a vibe or a soul to the city that really appealed to me. The city seemed to have everything and better yet it was very affordable. I decided, based on what I saw, to abandon my plane ticket to Berlin and just stay.

However, there were a few very significant problems with this.

Crazy June

June was an absolutely crazy month to try and relocate in. First there were two independent language learning challenges: iTalki and Add1 Challenge. I finished the former but have resigned for Add1c for the time being. That's $97 down the drain. How's that for more motivation next time? 🙂

Anyway, add to this I was working the busiest month of my job ever. Due to colleagues taking time off I routinely had over 40 hours of work every week. So here I was in the middle of a relocation doing 2 language challenges, trying to set myself up in Hungary, working my job and trying to spend time with new friends as well as producing regular content for Actual Fluency, including the podcast.

It was impossible. Something had to give and regrettably AF was first. One of my proudest achivements was the consistency with which I put out episodes on the Podcast, and it really hurt me not even being able to record new episodes here in Budapest as the internet I have is not stable enough.

I totally understand if people are upset and disappointed in the lack of updates, but you have to understand this website is just a hobby for me. It represents my lifestyle, but if I'm totally overwhelmed and burned out I simply can't put out the content I want to.

Some people have been very kind and sending me messages, asking if I'm okay and giving me a lot of support when they learn about the predicament I'm in. This has been huge for me and I want to thank you guys for being there when I needed it.

I also sometimes get asked if I'm living off the website, and while Actual Fluency does make a little money, with stress on little, it's not nearly enough or consistent enough to even get close to supporting a lifestyle – even in Budapest. I do the interviews and the writing on here completely as a hobby because I love to share and help others who might be in a similar situation.

Being off the air has allowed me to really think about the future of the Actual Fluency brand and I have some amazing ideas and concepts coming up that I would like to share with you very soon. You'll find those at the end of the post.

Settling in

I'm writing you this message from my very own flat in the heart of Budapest. Sadly the internet has still not been installed, but at least I can use the data connection on my phone for temporary access.

Things have quieted down a bit now. I've got the flat, I got the bank account and my colleagues have returned from holiday meaning that my hours will drop slightly in the next few weeks. This will give me more time and mental energy to work on my language learning as well as Actual Fluency.

I'm really looking forward to returning to a normal lifestyle where everything just works and I don't need to worry about bureaucratic stuff. I found out there's an accounting company on the floor above mine and so hopefully they will help me get properly registered. Once that's done I think everything should be great!

Making friends and socialising

One of the fears I had about relocation was obviously the risk of isolation and loneliness. I've always had a life principle to attend as many socials as I possible can and through friends I have made some great connections down here already. In fact now it's getting to the point where I have to take an evening off socialising one in a while, because otherwise I simply go out every evening.

Another great place to meet people I've discovered is a language meetup. I went to the German meetup a few days ago and have already made some great friends from there. I'll try to participate in as many meetup groups as possible. If you're in one be sure to say hi!

Getting in shape

I also started working on getting in shape. For too many years I've been obese and I've just come to a point where I'm absolutely sick of it. There are a lot of people who say obesity is a disease, but that's just not true. Obesity is a symptom that you're making mistakes regularly and also that you are not as good as you could be.

It's not really about being able to run a marathon or show off a perfect six-pack, but more the fact that the healthier you are, the more productive you'll be as well.

Ditching French

This decision wasn't easy. The reason being I had already started it and done an amount of lessons with my friend Sebastian. Sadly though I'm not a big fan of learning multiple languages at once, and so the dilemma was really;

French is so similar to English I could probably learn it in 3 months or less. It would be a relatively short time investment for a lot of gains.

vs

I'm in Hungary and a lot of people don't speak any English, so learning Hungarian is a huge priority and the sooner I can start speaking the better I will speak in a year from now.

In a sense it wasn't too difficult to jump onto Hungarian. I haven't really started yet, still need to settle down as I mentioned above, but hopefully it won't be long before everything is nice, calm and collected.

Accepting I'm not perfect 100% of the time

I've always been a bit of a perfectionist. If I don't perform to my utmost I get disappointed in myself lowering my general morale. This is very unproductive and it sets me up for huge failures.

Basically it's okay to take a break once in a while, it's totally okay to have a food treat sometimes and so on and so forth. Beating myself up over minor slip-ups or the fact that I didn't manage to finish the Add1 Challenge while dealing with all these things to do is only going to lead to bad results.

Instead I try and do my best and focus on the wins rather than the losses.

In the last 2 weeks I've been to the gym 13 out of 14 days. I could be annoyed at myself that I missed that one day, which wasn't my fault by the way, or I could be really happy that I did go such an amazing number of times when I basically joined the gym as a super obese couch potato who used to dread the morning.

This blog was originally a stride towards perfection. Becoming the next hyperpolyglot.

Now I realise that my purpose is different. This is why I'll be making some changes to the site over the next period of time.

The winds of change blow over Actual Fluency

Change is good. Usually.

I've spent my last two weeks of inactivity here on the site to really think about what Actual Fluency stands for and what it will stand for in the future.

My first realisation was that the Podcast is my main focus and my flagship product. I'm a huge fan of the audio format so going forward the site will reflect this fact more. Basically I'll move the podcast forward to highlight it and then include the blog as a bit of a side-gig.

It also means that I will relax my previous goal of 1 blog post per week. Instead I'm going to develop one or two new podcasts for Actual Fluency to offer, where I can talk more in-depth about the struggles of my personal journey. I'd love to share my story more, but I also don't want the main podcast – The Actual Fluency Show – to be too centred on my person. That's just not the point.

So that new podcast would be an audiolog, a similar format to that of vlogging – except no video.

I'll probably also start doing a podcast that is more bite-sized and contains musings by me of random topics. This would often be language learning related, but I don't want to restrict myself as I believe language learners in general are people seeking more than just how to learn more foreign languages.

We're seekers of a better life, a richer life. Not monetary riches – although some might definitely desire this too.

The website will also receive a bit of an overhaul to accommodate these new changes. In the process I'm getting rid of the VIP system as I feel like it didn't really catch on and it was just taking time away from content creation for me.

My book

I had a really large portion of my book written, but I didn't feel like it was speaking my message so I've temporarily scratched the manuscript and been working on a new one that I'm super excited about. I know this has been a while coming, and I personally hate people who keep saying “It's coming” but trust me, it's a high priority for me.

The unfinished manuscript will be offered as part of my email-list, so be sure to sign up to that for ways you can read that content.

Thanks to everyone

I just wanted to end this post by thanking everyone for their patience and support of AF over the last few months. It's been incredibly awesome to get your supportive messages and to know that there are people out there who actually care about what I do. Thank you especially to Thomas, John, Keith, Bob, Russ, Oscar and Chenelle. You guys have always been there for me and a podcaster could not wish for any better fans. I will not let you down!

All the best

-Chris

  • Celine says:

    Hi Chris ! Don’t be too hard on yourself, nor too impatient. There are a lot of changes in your life and relocating was of course a priority over updating the blog. 45 days are nothing ! Moreover, many people are currently on holidays and don’t even look at Internet. We also have lives so we are not waiting behind the screen for you to update…

    I see in your posts big and logical decisions (learning Hungarian instead of French… of course it is more important !). I can feel your excitement about the upcoming new challenges. Getting in shape is important too. I myself will begin today a fitness program (I am not out of shape but want to be healthier and tonic) and am excited about it. As per language learning, don’t be too ambitious (like doing 2 hours of sport every day), otherwise you may give up…

    So take your time, don’t rush, there is no need !

    Good luck with everything !

    • It’s totally hard to not be hard on myself 🙂

      Thanks for the support and good luck in the fitness too! I aim to go every day, but with relatively relaxing alternate days and obviously missing days due to travelling and other commitments.

  • Israel Lai says:

    I figured it’d be hard to take on French in Hungary. And I totally feel you, as I’m not managing to do anything I’m supposed to either, because of being in a foreign country! Best of luck to your new life and hope your decisions are worth it.

  • Emma Sibley says:

    I don’t think anyone could begrudge you taking some time off to settle in. Relocating to a new country is huge! It also makes perfect sense to switch to Hungarian, how hard can it be after Russian!?! 😉 Sounds like you’re finding your feet now, and I look forward to hearing about all your new adventures! Удачи 🙂

    • Apparently very hard!! There’s like 19 cases and double the endings for nouns alone! Oh well I’m looking forward to de-constructing the language and hopefully speak it very soon 🙂

  • Megan says:

    I moved from America to Hungary not knowing anything more than, “Hogy vagy?” and only owning a communist era grammar book from the 1950s. I didn’t have time for a language class and had no access to the internet – but after little over a year of constantly chatting with locals, I finally got the language down! (more or less, haha. I have a feeling perfect fluency will always be just out of my reach) Hungarian is a beautiful language and I’m so glad you get to learn it. And enjoy the food! They are such wonderful cooks! Sok sikért a tanuláshoz, és remélem hogy te is szeretni fogsz ezt a különleges nyelvet! Én most a dán nyelvet tanulok, és szerintem a te nyelved sokkal nehezebb, mint a magyar!

  • dandiprat says:

    Good luck with Hungarian! Don’t beat yourself up about the Add1 Challenge. We live and learn. I personally found completing the iTalki Challenge to be extremely tiring to complete and I didn’t have all the things going on that you did. I missed listening to the podcast working, but I understand that you had pressing things to take care of.

    • Thanks a lot for the support. Great job on finishing the iTalki challenge! I personally think that was one of my biggest improvements for my Russian last year. Now the podcast is back and hopefully you’ll like the upcoming guests 🙂

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