Xpat Interview 2: Melanie Kay Smith, Associate Professor, Budapest Metropolitan University

  • 13 Sep 2018 10:15 AM
Xpat Interview 2: Melanie Kay Smith, Associate Professor, Budapest Metropolitan University
Melanie Kay Smith is an Associate Professor at Budapest Metropolitan University and a Researcher at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Institute for Sociology. She teaches and researches subjects relating to cities, cultural tourism and wellbeing. She has lived in Budapest for more than 13 years, has a Hungarian husband and two bilingual sons Levi and Ferdi aged 12 and 8.

1. What’s been happening at work and at home since your first Xpat Interview?
I had two children since I arrived in Hungary (two boys aged 12 and 8 called Levi and Ferdi). I still do the same kind of work (lecturing and research) but now I work more than I did when the boys were younger!

2. On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are you with your life in Hungary, and why?
At the moment, it is about 7. I still love the city and my life here, but I am sad about the political situation and the attitude to refugees and immigrants. However, I am enjoying the internationalisation of Budapest that has come through tourism. Although the prices are going up, the choice of food and attractions is improving all the time.

3. What’s the best party you’ve been to while in Hungary, and why?
I don’t go to many parties these days, but if I do, it is likely to be a Zumba party 2-3 times per year!

4. What’s your favourite drink?
I love all rum-based cocktails and Pimms.

5. What hidden talents do you have?
I have learnt five languages in addition to English (French, German, Italian, Spanish and Hungarian). I don’t use them all much, but the passive knowledge is still there. I can also dance quite well.

6. What was the most interesting travel trip you have ever taken?
It was a five week trip to Thailand where I learnt to do Thai massage in Chiang Mai for two weeks.

7. If you were given a wish that could come true, what would you ask for?
For the world to move towards greater tolerance, understanding and peace rather than closing inwards towards nationalism and hatred of others.

8. What’s the last book you read, and movie you watched?
I watched Hereditary by Ari Aster which was brilliant but terrifying. I just read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Equally terrifying!

9. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
The glass is half full and refillable!

10. What is the perfect pizza toppings combination for you?
I love as many toppings as possible so usually I go for a Capricciosa. The ideal would be tuna, black olives, artichokes, mushrooms, as well as tomato, cheese, etc.

11. If you could trade places with any other person for a week, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
Probably Ruthie Henshall who is a musical star in the UK and Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot. Her life must have been exciting. My son Levi has been Billy Elliot in the Erkel theatre this year, so we are rather obsessed with musicals these days!

12. On a scale of 1 to 10 how unusual are you, and why?
I don’t try to stand out as individualistic in my clothes, activities, etc. so probably a 7. On the other hand, I am more optimistic than most, quite creative and always have new (and I think!) good ideas.

13. What’s the best website you’ve ever visited, and why?
I don’t really enjoy anything that much online (!) – websites are just functional for me.

14. Who do you admire the most, and why?
Anyone who protects and saves others from oppression. In this current political climate in Europe, I see how hard this can be. Someone like Raoul Wallenberg who saved so many Jews, for example. Today, it would be the work of refugee agencies.

15. What do you like best and least about living in Hungary?
I love the architecture and general vibe of Budapest, especially in Districts VI and VII. The weather is great – I love sunshine. I have never enjoyed the pessimism and constant complaining.

16. What has made the biggest impact on your life so far, and why?
Having my children. It has been challenging but wonderful.

17. If you won USD 30 million, what would you do with the money?
I am quite sensible with money, so I would put some into savings, a lot into properties, give a good chunk to charity (especially cancer research) and then travel the world with the rest.

18. If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
The only way is up!

19. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
I feel a strong cultural affinity with both Thais and Italians and I love the food there.

20. In ten years from now what will you be doing?
My husband and I often dream of moving to Corfu (!) but I think that we are most likely to still be in Budapest, working a bit less intensely and planning a long sabbatical where we travel further afield to Australia, New Zealand and Asia, as my younger son will then be 18.

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