Budapest Expat Dougie Arnott Awarded Medal For Services To UK-Hungary Relations

  • 17 Jan 2019 1:47 PM
Budapest Expat Dougie Arnott Awarded Medal For Services To UK-Hungary Relations
Long-term expat Mr. Douglas Arnott was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the UK’s New Year’s Honours list for 2019, having served as the Chairman of the Robert Burns International Foundation in Hungary for the last five years.

The BEM was conferred to a total of 358 people this year, with only four living outside the British Isles named for this prestigious award. 

Dougie, an unassuming yet proud Scot living in Budapest, has worked with the Robert Burns International Foundation (RBIF) for a total of seven years to help sick and underprivileged Hungarian children.

RBIF has been operating for around 20 years and has raised hundreds of thousands of Euros to fund equipment in paediatric health-care in Hungary, as well as supporting other charitable goals.

Organising a Burns Supper is the main activity of the RBIF, held in the ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel Budapest since 2004. It will take place there again this January on the 26th, and there are just a few places left Dougie says - click here for more in the Loop.

This special expat community event includes all of the elements of a typical Burns Supper, and more, including traditional food such as Fresh Haggis (flown in especially from Scotland), plenty of Scotch whisky, and pipers who travel from Scotland specifically for this festivity.

This 'Big Burns Supper', as it's known to differenciate it from other Burns events in Budapest, has no administration costs as those are covered by sponsors.

XpatLoop has been a media supporter of RBIF for many years, here's one example Big Burns gallery from 2002 for your interest.  

To see professional photos from last last year see here and to see what happened in 2017 just follow this link.

We recently asked Dougie a few questions about 'Big Burns' and his BEM award, and here below is what he had to say.

Before interviewing him we naturally looked online first for any background information.

Dougie's company EDMF Language Services published an article on 2017-02-06 highlighting that, "In 2017, EDMF was one of the main sponsors of the Burns Supper." 

"Founder of the company, Douglas Arnott, has been organising the charity event for 5 years. EDMF not only participated in organising the event, but provides continuous support for the foundation".

This article by Dougie's company continues, "The Robert Burns International Foundation not only boasts a long history, but it also has a line of distinguished supporters.

The honorary president of the foundation is Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the most successful coaches of British football, while its patron is Iain Lindsay, Ambassador of the UK to Hungary."


1. How long have you lived in Hungary, and what brought you here?

"I first came to Hungary in 1993, travelling through on my way to Romania with a group of students to teach English in a town for a month in the summer.

I ended up returning there for a year to teach in the local school before heading back home to start university. After graduating I came back to Hungary in 1998 and have lived here ever since."

2. In total how long have you been suporting RBIF?

"I started working with the RBIF in 2012 to head up a project we organised in collaboration with the British Embassy to buy a specially equipped minibus for the Hungarian Junior Paralympics Team. This coincided with the 2012 Olympics held in London. I became chairman of the RBIF in 2014."

3. How much time does RBIF take up?

"The work varies depending on the time of year, though the workload does seem to be increasing. We start preparations for the Burns Supper in September, and it gets quite intensive from October through January.

We spend February tying things up after the event, and from March to June we focus on the projects for the year, identifying beneficiaries, vetting the projects, arranging the finances, etc. Most of the projects are medical in nature, and involve public-sector institutions, so the project durations can be quite lengthy.

June and July are mostly spent preparing for the Charity BBQ, held in early September, while the autumn is dedicated to visiting the project locations to ensure the money has been spent as promised, and making contact with sponsors for the next Burns Supper.

All told, it really is an all-year round activity now, and probably averages out at one day a week."

4. How do you balance work for RBIF with your day job?

"If I was employed somewhere else I’m sure my boss would have something to say about it, but as I run my own translation company, EDMF Language Services, it gives me the flexibility I need to fit the RBIF work in. There are periods where 16+ hour days are quite common though…"

5. Do you receive any payment or get any benefits as Chairman of the RBIF?

"Everyone at the RBIF works as a volunteer, from the Curatorium, our executive body, to those in the organising committees for the events. We all earn our living from our day jobs at different companies.

This means none of us receive any compensation for the work we do. If you help as a volunteer it is because you feel there is a need, but expect nothing in return. I think everyone involved gets their reward from seeing the impact that our projects have around the country.

We can only do this with the generous help of our sponsors of course, who year-in year-out help us financially and by providing their services for free, it’s a collective effort."

6. How do you feel about receiving a British Empire Medal?

"The BEM came as a complete surprise, it wasn’t on my radar at all. That said, if this is a reflection of what we have achieved at the RBIF since 2012 then I think it demonstrates at the very least that we are heading in the right direction, which is good to see."

7. How do you think you have most helped UK / Hungary relations?

"My role as Chairman of the RBIF is to make the most out of the funds that we raise, and use them for the purposes we have committed to.

In the course of this activity I am in regular contact with many Brits and British companies operating in Hungary, as they represent a large number of our sponsors and supporters.

On the other side, I spend a lot of my time talking with representatives of Hungarian organisations, particularly in the health sector, as this is where a lot of our donations are placed. I make sure that our beneficiaries know where the money has come from.

Every year at the Burns Supper we make sure and give feedback to our guests, showing them exactly what we did with the funds raised in the previous year, and passing on the thanks and gratitude of those whom we sponsored.

It is important to keep the flow of information open from the sponsors to the beneficiaries and back, and I hope that this goes some way to boosting the relations between our two countries."

8. Can you tell us about other ways you have supported UK / Hungary relations?

"Unless a Hungarian wife counts, I think my work on UK/Hungary relations is all covered by my work at the RBIF, my EDMF Language Services Kft. work is probably irrelevant here."

9. What percentage of money raised by RBIF comes from corporate donations, and has that percentage increased over the 5 years you've been chairman?

"Last year, direct corporate donations and additional corporate donations in relation to the Supper amounted to around 53% of our total fundraising.

If we assume that we hit the same total fundraising target this year, then this ratio could rise to 58% as we have doubled the Supper-related corporate donations already.

The main corporate backers in one way or another are Budapest Airport, FirstMed, Generali, Deloitte, BP, BlackRock, Woodbrook Wealth, Provident, Qatar Airways and CBRE.

It’s definitely increased because we didn’t used to collect corporate donations in connection with the Burns Supper as we do now.

We hit a ceiling in terms of Burns Supper earnings a few years ago and switched approach. This obviously had a knock-on effect on revenue, as did the fact that over the last six years the Supper attendance has risen by around 75%. Both have contributed to the higher revenue.

We now expect 340-350 people every year for the Burns Supper."

10. How long do you intend to remain the Chairman of the RBIF?

"As long as I’m enjoying the role of Chairman and feel I can contribute to the success of the RBIF, I’ll be happy to continue."

Key Details About British Empire Medal

The BEM is awarded for ‘hands-on’ service to the local community, and in the case of voluntary / philanthropic work the following characteristics and more are considered: a sustained commitment, evidence of success, and a low-key approach to giving or at least not designed to enhance public prestige".

Officially this award is made is for, "long-term charitable or voluntary activity, or innovative work of a relatively short duration (3 to 4 years) that has made a significant difference."

A BEM is granted in recognition of meritorious civil or military service, in the case of Dougie he is officially deemed a "Non State Servant", and all recipients are entitled to use the post-nominal letters "BEM".

How BEM Relates To MBE & OBE Awards

In comparison to a BEM, the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) is awarded to people such as Iain Lindsay for, "having a major local role in any activity, including people whose work has made them known nationally in their chosen area".

Long term expat Robin Marshall, the current Editor-in-chief of BBJ newspaper, was awarded an MBE for his work in Hungary while the Managing Editor of The Budapest Sun newspaper.

A Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) is honoured for "outstanding achievement or service to the community. This will have had a long-term, significant impact and stand out as an example to others".

An honour is not be automatically recommended following a nomination, and that the relationship between the nominator and the nominee is important.

Exceptional, Excellent, Meritorious Service

Any such award winner like Dougie must have performed "exceptional, excellent, meritorious service to the UK, to a specific British or Overseas Territory or to community interests". They must "reflected credit on the UK or contributed to furthering Britain’s interests overseas". 

Dougie's nomination must have described in detail the impact and the difference that his contribution has made in, as well as detailing the challenges and difficulties faced and how they were overcome. 

In this case the nomination had to detail why Dougie is 'special, what makes the him stand out from others doing similar work and the regard in which he is held by his peers'.

Nominations of honours are usually are accompanied by two letters of support from recognised experts in a relevant field, and the final choice of award, e.g. OBE, MBE or BEM, is made after a personal decision by the Queen. 

Honourable Scots Working + Volunteering In Hungary

News of Dougie's BEM award was made public on social media by the British Embassy in Budapest, with Robert Burns International Foundation, via a Paid Partnership Post on Saturday 29 December 2018. 

Also that day Her Majesty's Ambassador to Hungary Iain Lindsay OBE commented, "Many congratulations Dougie!"  HMA Lindsay is pictured above celebrating Burns Night at his residence together with Dougie who made a poetry recital performance.

An Order of the British Empire (OBE) was awarded to Iain Lindsay, a native of Scotland, in 2002. Since his appointment in Hungary as a Scott he has been a great supporter of all the annual events in Budapest celebrating the life of Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland.

Previous RBIF chairman include Jock MacKenzie MBE who served there as a volunteer between May 2005 and January 2013, while he developed a business in Budapest.Also an expat from Scotland, Jock was awarded an MBE in 2001, "for services to the local community in Hungary".

Active Scottish Community In Hungary

Last year EDMF published an insightful interview with HMA Iain Lindsay OBE about, "his personal background with languages, and delved into the complex, serious, and unknown world of diplomatic translation and interpreting". 

Dougie's article about Iain Lindsay highlights at the start that, "Thanks largely to his social media endeavours he is extremely well known in the country. We can find him on the street wearing his kilt to present memories of Hungarian-Scottish relationships".

The RBIF websites notes that the foundation was established with the help of the British Embassy right at the very start. In a recent article about his well deserved BEM award, Dougie said, “We have strong links with the British Embassy in Budapest."

“There is a particularly strong and active Scottish community in Budapest as well, which was seen most spectacularly recently when Budapest’s famous Chain Bridge was lit up in blue for St Andrews Day at the end of November 2018.” Click here to read more of that Extra article. 

Readers may wonder if Duncan Graham will be the next Scot in Hungary to be honoured for helping to turn Lánchíd the colours of the Scottish flag, and for organising the annual St Andrew's Scottish Ball In Budapest.

Here's a link to nominate him or anyone for these types of Brit awards.

BTW Duncan would like you to know he not pay us to write that ;)

Related links

'Burns Supper', Corinthia Hotel Budapest, 26 January

See What Happened: Burns Celebration 2018 @ British Ambassador’s Residence

'Big Burns Supper' @ Corinthia Hotel Budapest

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