Forgive me an indulgence if you are one of our many Hungarian readers, but as a second-language publication, it should come as no surprise that we champion the contribution made to Hungary’s economy by expatriate business people of all nationalities, or that we organize the annual BBJ Expat CEO of the Year awards, and produce the Top Expat CEOs publication. After all, for all that we have been owned by a Hungarian publishing house for about a decade, we were established 27 years ago by a group of largely, though not exclusively, American expats.
I have now worked considerably longer abroad than I did in my native United Kingdom, which would seem to indicate that I like the expat life. And that is perfectly true, though I rarely think of myself as an expat at all, if truth be told. This is where I live, and where my Hungarian wife and my Anglo-Hungarian children live, so this is home.
For the special report on banking that accompanies this issue, I finally had the opportunity to sit down for a face-to-face interview with Kevin A. Murray, the head of Citi’s operations in Hungary. He has been here three years, but in that time he has also taken on responsibility for the oversight of Citi’s other businesses in Central Europe (specifically Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia). That makes scheduling appointments somewhat tricky, so although we have seen each other at various business chamber events and at the Expat CEO gala, of course, we had not found time to get down to a detailed discussion. You will find the results of that conversation inside (see “Inclusivity, Openness and a Meritocracy”, Page 15) but I wanted to touch here on one subject that did not make it into the final interview because of space pressures.
Murray, you see, knows something about the life expatriate, having worked and lived in India, Japan, Senegal and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States and Hungary. (He also had time to fit in a career with the United States Air Force that saw him reach the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, but that’s another story.) So how, you might wonder, does Hungary compare? It is a question he says he gets asked a lot.
“Every place is different, every place has its own sweet spot, and every place has given my wife and I wonderful memories,” he tells me. “But if you ask me where my favorite spot is, I will tell you it is where my home is, and right now my home is Hungary. You have to make your home where you are at, otherwise you look at things as just being temporary, and you miss out on so much. You need family support and you need to be comfortable, and if you have that, the expat live is wonderful.”
That’s a pretty good summation of what the experience has to offer: travel, memories, friendships and experiences. And if you are lucky, they even pay you, as well.