Damien O’Kane, President, Irish Hungarian Business Circle

  • 9 Jun 2021 4:24 PM
Damien O’Kane, President, Irish Hungarian Business Circle
Damien O’Kane is president of the Irish Hungarian Business circle. He arrived in Budapest in January 2019 with his wife Sharon to take up a post with Avis Budget Group (ABG) as Senior Director Financial Services.

In March of 2021 Damien was appointed  Managing Director for the ABG Budapest Service Centre.

Prior to his appointment with ABG, Damien was the Director of Transition with Ingram Micro working mainly from Sofia in Bulgaria. In the past Damien and Sharon have had overseas postings in USA and Belgium.

After serving 18 months as Treasurer of the IHBC, Damien was voted back onto the board as the president. 

Damien is a rugby fan and keen golfer, although he has not had much opportunity to taste the delights of golf in Hungary. Hopefully there will be some rounds this summer.

1. When did you arrive in Hungary and what brought you here?

I arrived in Budapest in January of 2019 to take up a role with Avis Budget group at the Business Service Centre.

2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?

Yes, I have had a couple of other expat assignments. 2 years in Brussels and 18 months in California with a previous company - Ingram Micro an IT distributor. I also spent 4 years commuting to Sofia, Bulgaria and regular trips to India and the Philippines. 

3. What surprised you most about Hungary?

Everything! I was quite reluctant when the offer of a job here first came to me. I had spent the previous 4 years working in and out of Sofia in Bulgaria. This was my reference point and I was not sure about living in Eastern Europe. Then I came to see Budapest and was blown away by the beauty of the city. Once we settled in, the next big surprise was the Wine!! I think it must be Hungary’s best kept secret. 

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?

Oh, I have this down to a tee. We are lucky that we live quite central, so when friends come for a weekend I warn them that we will do a lot of walking. I love history so I will try to give them as much historical context as I can.

Start at the Basilica, metro out to Hosok Ter and a quick wander around city park. Back into town to the Parliament and show the bullet holes from the 1956 revolution, across the bridge and up to the castle district. If there is enough time, I would recommend a tour of the parliament or maybe take the boat to Szentendre for a day trip.

Some of our friends have visited the baths and recommend them. One in fact had a beer bath at szechenyi, which was a bit different. 

5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?

Has to be goulash. Yes that may be a little predictable but having experienced winter in Hungary, there is nothing that warms you up better than a paprika infused goulash. 

6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?

Mint and limes, they are so versatile…Mojito Time!!

7. What is your favourite Hungarian word?

Köszönöm

8. What do you miss the most from home?

Golf with my crew on a Weekend mornings. But most importantly our daughter who is a medical student back in the UK. 

9. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?

I originally wanted to pursue a career in journalism but circumstances dictated that i ended up in finance. Would love to have had a crack at playing professional rugby. 

10. What's a job you would definitely never want?

Teacher. I think teachers have a really tough job. As well as being an educator, by times an entertainer, a counsellor, a parent and when the need arises - a disciplinarian. A tough job that needs a special talent. 

11. Where did you spend your last vacation?

Dubai, a couple of weeks before we went into lockdown. 

12. Where do you hope to spend your next one?

Anywhere, we would like to tour a little around Central Europe. Croatia is fairly high on the agenda. 

13. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?

Very difficult question as my taste is quite eclectic. As a teen it was Meatloaf, Springsteen and Christy Moore. No Judgement! Star wars, I really enjoy scifi. My hobby - sport. Mostly Rugby and Hurling but I would try my hand at most sports. 

14. Apart of temptation what can't you resist?

Cakes, chocolate, biscuits, desserts, anything sweet.   

15. Red wine or white?

Red but a nice crisp chablis on a summers day.

16. Book or movie?

Mostly movies but I do enjoy reading, particularly non fiction. I joined the Irish Embassy book club last year to try and expand my portfolio. Suffice to say, not all writers are equal. 

17. Morning person or night person?

Absolutely night. I hate mornings. People who work with me know to avoid booking anything early in the morning. 

18. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?

Equality. Regardless of whether it is male/female, LGBTQ, minorities, I believe by building respect for each other we build a stronger society. 

19. Buda side or Pest side?

Pest, it is where it all happens. 

20. What would you say is your personal motto?

Our family motto is “Felis Demulcta Mitis” which translates as “the stroked cat is gentle”. A more appropriate interpretation is Gentle in peace, fearless in battle. In these days, I like to think that it means that we know how to relax but when a job needs to be done we get on and get things done. 

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