For several years now, an increasing number of German citizens have been moving to Hungary, with a high proportion of them being pensioners. There are several reasons for this move, such as cheaper prices and a lack of immigrants. Bence Bauer, head of the Hungarian-German Institute for European Cooperation, recently wrote an opinion piece on the phenomenon, published on Corvinak.hu.
The expert points out at the outset that when he talks about Germans moving to Hungary, he means strictly only German citizens, not those who may have Hungarian ancestry and therefore may have dual Hungarian-German citizenship.
According to data from the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, there were 16,537 Germans living in Hungary in 2019, rising to 22,310 in 2023 – and the year is not even over yet.
The figures show that in just four years, the number of Germans living in Hungary has risen by 34.9 percent, with an increase of 12.9 percent in the last year alone.
As mentioned above, the proportion of retired German citizens is outstanding. According to Bence Bauer, only a small proportion of Germans living here work or study, meaning that a large proportion are economically inactive, i.e. either retired or are family members. It is also worth looking at bank accounts, that show roughly how many pensioners live here, based on whether their pensions are paid into a Hungarian bank. However, the proportion of German pensions paid into Hungarian bank accounts is somewhat lower than the real numbers of German retired people living here. The reason for this, Bence Bauer points out, is that some thousands of German pensioners who are already officially living in Hungary still claim their pensions into their German bank accounts.
What is behind the mass migration though? According to German media reports, the main motivation is financial, as life is much cheaper in Hungary than in Germany. However, public safety and a more livable environment are also cited as reasons. In his opinion piece, Bence Bauer points out that the number of crimes in Germany rose by 11.5 percent last year – a figure that is stagnant when examined in the long term. In Hungary, however, the same figure has fallen by 64.5 percent in the last ten years, giving an accurate picture of why pensioners feel safer here.
Per capita, the contrast is even greater: in Germany, the number of offenses per 100,000 inhabitants reached 6.762 last year, compared with 1.732 in Hungary, i.e. only a quarter of the figure in Germany.
Apart from financial considerations, the fact that it is cheaper for German pensioners to buy their own flat or house in Hungary is also important. In Germany, even the upper middle class is finding it increasingly difficult to buy their own home, but in Hungary, especially in rural areas, property prices are not a problem, with many pensioners choosing smaller settlements around Lake Balaton, for example.
As Hungary Today
wrote about it earlier, based on a report by Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), Germans are choosing Hungary in droves mainly for political reasons, but low prices are also an attraction. According to the report, many Germans who move to Hungary say they do not feel at home in Germany, especially since the refugee crisis in 2015. Many are moving mainly to the area around Lake Balaton, with Keszthely and Marcali being the most popular towns in this regard.
Spanish newspaper ABC also reported on the phenomenon, highlighting that for German pensioners, especially those who are right-wing, Hungary is already more popular than certain Spanish regions, such as Costa Brava.
In Szőlősgyörök, for instance, on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, there are around 600 properties, more than 10 percent of which are foreign-owned, mainly German, writes Sokszínű vidék. According to Mayor Péter Klotz, German pensioners, who used to spend their holidays at Lake Balaton and visit the village when they were still working, are settling here. “A total of five German couples have moved here over the past few years, with the latest addition this year being a new family. We have noticed that the Germans have integrated very well into our community. They actively participate in all of our activities, even the Hungarian events, which they do not really understand, but we explain to them what it is all about. They are interested in Hungarian culture and sometimes even donate to the events,” the mayor pointed out.
What is more, Germans moving here are not alone: A number of companies, professional services, organizations and individuals are helping people to move here. In the Transdanubian region, the Balaton Zeitung is a kind of hub for the German community in Hungary, supporting not only the settlement but also the thriving of the German-speaking people living here, writes Bence Bauer. Germans can easily find professionals, services, friendships and even pastors who speak German. Moreover,
German media services also help them to find their way around here, with the expert mentioning Budapester Zeitung, or the public television’s daily German-speaking news program, but also our sister site, Ungarn Heute.
Not to be neglected are kindergartens and schools offering German language education, as well as Andrássy University Budapest, where German-language higher education is available. Another major link is the German-Hungarian Society (Deutsch-Ungarische Gesellschaft), which, since 2022, has an office in Hungary as well. In cooperation with the Hungarian-German Institute, they offer programs and organize get-togethers for many German residents, highlights Bence Bauer.
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