21 October 2013 - PETER KOVASSY - GUEST EXPAT


PETER KOVASSY


- GUEST EXPAT -

G'day guys,

Today I introduce another expat, a guy with whom I went to secondary school - PETER KOVASSY, or 'PK' to his old schoolmates. Peter has had an interesting life but the poor guy now lives in Lugano, Switzerland. Don't ya feel sorry for him?

Welcome, 'PK' ...



IN WHAT COUNTRY WERE YOU BORN?

I was born in Melbourne, Australia. However, not only am I an Australian citizen, but a Hungarian citizen by birthright, (both parents being born in Hungary).

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR JOURNEY TO LIVE OVERSEAS. 

My parents were D.P.'s after WW2 and arrived in Melbourne in 1949. Because of their heritage, I had a predominantly Hungarian upbringing. I can speak, read and write fluent Hungarian.  Clancy and I went to the same secondary school, and I have a Mechanical Engineering degree from Swinburne University. (Famous Australian playwright, David Williamson, was my thermodynamics lecturer).
I joined the Hungarian Scouts when I was 11, not knowing that this would be a major influence and turning point in my life. In 1977, I set off for Europe to find my roots.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE COUNTRY IN WHICH YOU NOW LIVE?

My new partner lives in Switzerland.


 LUGANO LAKESIDE

WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME AN EXPAT?

Actually, I've been an expat twice. While travelling through Europe for three years in the late '70s, I met my future wife whose Hungarian parents migrated to America after WW2. She joined the Hungarian Scouts in New York, and we met while connecting with the Hungarian Scouts in Europe. (Hungarian Scouting in Hungary itself was banned by the Communist regime). I moved to New York in 1983 where I married her and our first son was born. After four years, we moved to Melbourne where two more sons were born.

After 24 years of marriage, we divorced and I travelled to Budapest in 2009 to give support to my youngest son who received a scholarship to study there for a year. I also studied there and received my CELTA qualifications to teach English as a second language, which I did for almost two years. During my stay in Hungary, by chance I met a Hungarian Scout visiting from Switzerland who I met while I was roaming Europe in the late '70s. Romance blossomed and now I've been living in her home town of Lugano for three years.  

WAS IT AN EASY DECISION?

I felt that the recent events in my life were leading me in the direction I finally chose. So it was a relatively easy decision to make. I miss my three adult sons, but they have their own lives to live. The internet keeps us very much in contact.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT LIVING OUTSIDE YOUR OWN COUNTRY?

Here in Europe everything is so close. One can hop over to another country very easily and experience its people, history, way of life and foods. I also enjoy the white winters.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN EXPAT?

I rarely have the chance to have a good yarn in English. Also, even if you can understand the local language, understanding the local bureaucracy is always a challenge.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR HOST COUNTRY?

Switzerland is a relatively safe country, very clean and there's plenty of WATER, (unlike Down Under). In Lugano, all the public drinking fountains run continuously 24/7. When I first saw this, I was astounded. Of the three main lingual areas of Switzerland, I'm glad I live in the Italian region. There is only one Italian canton, which is called Ticino, and they are more laid back here than elsewhere in Switzerland. Italy is 20 minutes by car and if we're celebrating a birthday or whatever, off we go to an Italian restaurant.

Oh, I almost forgot! Swiss chocolate is the best and it's so cheap here.




WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT YOUR OWN COUNTRY?

I miss our informality. In Europe, the languages all have the formal and informal forms of address, and you have to be careful not to offend. Because Australia has a multicultural society, our supermarkets have foods to cater for all nationalities. Here in Lugano they cater to the Italians, with a little French and German thrown in. Australians are very spoiled with the abundance of choice of foods.  I also miss fish and chip shops.
 
DO YOU SPEAK ANY FOREIGN LANGUAGES?

As mentioned earlier, I speak Hungarian fluently. My Italian and German are basic.  My partner speaks fluent Italian, French and Hungarian. She does a good job of German and English too. Many Europeans can speak three or more languages. It's easier if you don't live on an isolated island like Australia.  

WHAT ARE YOU INVOLVED IN NOW?

At present, I do some proofreading of English text on a Hungarian website. I'm also trying to get some private students to whom I can teach English. This isn't easy in a country where there are three official languages, (German, French and Italian), and most people are striving to learn these three before trying for English.
 
HAVE YOU ALWAYS DONE THAT? EXPLAIN.

I started teaching English in Budapest in 2009. Before then I was a mechanical engineer specialising in the lift industry. Up until this year, I was still doing some consulting work over the internet.


IS IT CHALLENGING BEING A FOREIGNER ?

Learning a language is probably the only thing that I find challenging. Everything else I take in my stride quite easily due to my travelling experiences in the late '70s. European countries are becoming more racially mixed so that one doesn't feel as foreign as thirty years ago.

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?

I don't have one favourite author. I enjoy reading Agatha Christie books - the murderer is usually someone you least expected. John Grisham's lawyer-themed books are also a good read, especially "The Innocent Man," which is a true story of the American justice system gone awry.

I also enjoy anything to do with time travel. Like many of us, I have an idea for a book - I'd like to bring Leonardo da Vinci to the present and blow his mind with how we've progressed. I'm not a writer, so it will forever be an idea buzzing around in my head.    

Lately though, I'm reading a lot of biographical books - Churchill, Gandhi, Khrushchev, Mao.


 DANUBE, BUDAPEST

YOU WERE EDUCATED IN AUSTRALIA BUT ARE WELL TRAVELLED. DID YOUR TRAVELS INLUENCE YOU PERSONALLY?

I would say my Hungarian upbringing has influenced me the most personally. When I was bumming around Europe for three years in the late '70s, I was already armed with a basic knowledge of Europe and the travelling rounded this out. Those three years also taught me how to be street smart.

Now that I've lived in Hungary for almost two years I've come to the realization that although I'm a citizen of two countries, I'm still  an outsider of sorts in either country. I will never be a "fair dinkum" Aussie or Hungarian. I'm not bemoaning this; it's just that I often wonder what it would be like to be 100% whatever.


HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS? WHAT DID THEY MEAN TO YOU?

Over the years, I've received a medal and various commendations from the Hungarian Scouting Association and the Hungarian Community in Melbourne for my volunteer work with the youth.

I've given myself a medal for one event in my life that I consider a personal best. While I was in Athens in the late '70s, I took the bus to a village called Marathonas and ran back to the Athens sport stadium where the first Modern Olympics were held - distance 42kms. If you know your Greek and Sports History, you know what this means.

OTHER THAN WORK AND FAMILY, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?

I love going on one day cycling trips, although it's a bit hilly in Switzerland. Back in Melbourne, I enjoyed street orienteering. This isn't as demanding as bush orienteering because you run through suburban streets and parks, and you don't need a compass.

As an engineer, I love to tinker and fix things. At the moment, I'm working on a cuckoo clock - what else would you tinker with in Switzerland?

IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

Firstly, I'd say that all men and all women are equal and have the right to equal opportunities, (and pay), and to be able to choose their own destiny without government, social or religious interference. I also feel that too many people demand their rights whilst ignoring their responsibilities.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.

Getting up without lower back pains would be a great start. After making myself a cup of herbal tea, I sit down at the computer to check out my overnight email and news from Down Under. All year round there's always some sort of festival or outdoor entertainment in Lugano, and I especially like to go to the summer concerts in the park. For those hot days, a soak in the lake is so soothing. To top it off a yummy gelato hits the spot.  


LUGANO LAKESIDE

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?

In the long run, I feel that we're fighting a losing battle. In the 60 odd years that I've lived on this planet, the population has increased over two and a half times. Together with greed and selfish behaviour, the environment won't be able to sustain humanity. Earth has existed for millions of years before man, and will continue to exist for millions of years after us. It will take care of itself without us.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
       
            Getting my Swiss permanent residency status.

WILL YOU RETURN TO LIVE IN AUSTRALIA AT SOME STAGE?

I visit Australia every three years or so. I cannot say at this point whether I will resume living there.  Although my sons aren't married yet, I reckon when the grandchildren come along I'll have to rethink my plans.

ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?

I get very dismayed at the way mobile phones have taken over people's lives. They're turning many of them into rude users who are completely oblivious to their surroundings, and don't know when it's inappropriate to use their phones. My partner works in a mobile phone repair call centre, and it's sad to hear the countless stories of people getting aggressive and abusive when, through their own stupidity and negligence, damage their mobiles and expect instant repairs because they need their devices for every minute of the day.

 LUGANO SCHNITZEL
IN THE SHAPE OF AUSTRALIA!





Check out this video about the use of mobile phones:




INTERESTING PHOTOGRAPHS, VIDEOS
AND ITEMS OF INTEREST:




2010 Anzac Day photos:

Just outside Budapest is a small cemetery for fallen soldiers of the Commonwealth. Shot down Australian pilots are also buried there. The Hungarian government maintains the cemetery and provides honour guards for the Anzac Day commemoration. 

Representatives from the Australian and Turkish embassies participate, and in that year, Tim Fischer (Former Australian Ambassador to the Vatican, former Deputy Prime Minister  and Vietnam Veteran) was there. I had a brief chat with him.  


     Lugano Christmas Lightshow:

Every year Lugano puts up a lightshow on the fa├žade of the town hall. I filmed this YouTube clip in 2011.





Women's Aussie Rules in Lugano:

To my astonishment, I found out there's an Aussie Rules footy league in Switzerland and Italy. What was even more astounding was that females also play the game, albeit with reduced numbers on a smaller ground.  On a continent where soccer rules I find this extraordinary.



       Bruce Airhead:

Every summer Lugano organizes a weeklong Buskers Festival. This character is an Aussie expat from Essendon who does this act for a living, and he does quite well out of it. (The clip is actually from England because my clip was too long and a bit shaky).  


Cycling in the Swiss Alps





Fun Cycling:



I saw this Beer Bike Ride contraption in Budapest last year. Every barstool has a set of pedals, and while one person steers, one pulls beer and the rest drink and pedal to their heart's content.




Also in Budapest is a six-person alcohol-free version bike.




Clancy's comment: Man, 'PK', we thought you were doing it tough. I think I will ring the 'old boys' and tell them to stop sending the cheques. By the way, you can have that white stuff they call snow. I know you think it's white, wet and wonderful ... but I love the heat.

Thanks for the interview, mate. Love ya work!

I'm ...






Think about this!

Just ask 'PK'.