Ragnar Almqvist Irish Ambassador to Hungary

  • 16 Oct 2023 6:40 PM
Ragnar Almqvist Irish Ambassador to Hungary
The son of a Swedish folklorist and Irish writer, Ragnar Almqvist was born and raised in Dublin. Educated through the Irish language, he took degrees in English literature, German and Economics, joining Ireland’s diplomatic service in 2008. He is joined in Budapest by his wife, Ailbhe Keating, and daughters, Freja and Sadhbh.

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

Late August, as the World Athletics Championships were underway. Budapest was packed with Irish fans that week, cheering on our amazing athletes. It was quite a way to kick off our posting.

2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?

We’ve worked in Washington DC, Chicago, and Stockholm - all amazing experiences. I’ll never forget watching the Chicago river run green on St Patrick’s Day or hearing President Biden recite Irish poetry on his inauguration. But, as the son of a Swede, serving in Stockholm was a personal privilege, as much as a professional one.

3. What surprised you most about Hungary?

That it’s home to the best Irish bakery outside our island – Arán Bakery (the Gaelic word for bread)! That and the remarkable number of Hungarian artists committed to the study of Irish culture. 

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

First, book a longer stay – Budapest demands more than a weekend. I love crossing the Lanchíd – a testament to Hungarian imagination and determination. As a Swede and diplomat, the Raoul Wallenberg garden at the Dóhaný Synagogue is a special place. Beyond that, no visit is complete without calling on at least one bath, cukrászda and romkocsma. 

5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?

Lángos – left to myself, I would live on it!

6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?

Fresh fruit – my wife’s virtue. And craft beer – my own vice. 

7.  What is your favourite Hungarian word?

‘‘Ír’’. As the son of an Irish writer, I love that it means both at once.   

8. What do you miss most from home?

My work keeps me connected with most of what I love most about Ireland - above all our culture. But, of course, I miss family and friends. That, and the easy humour with which a total stranger will greet you on any given day in Dublin. 

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

I’m fascinated by psychology and, in another life, might have devoted myself to clinical practice.

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

I’m a luddite. So, much as I marvel at their genius, I’d struggle to be a computer programmer.

11. Where did you spend your last vacation?

In the Dingle Gaeltacht in south west Kerry – where my father learned his Irish sixty years ago and where the Atlantic coastline never fails to inspire.

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

Alongside Hungary, I’ve the pleasure of being our Ambassador to Kosovo and Montenegro. So I hope to spend our summer holidays between Balaton and the Balkans!

13. Apart from temptation what can't you resist?

Antiquarian bookshops. Good beer. And bad puns.  

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

Gaelic football - morning, noon and night. 

15. Red or white?


16. Books or films?

I enjoy film but, like Thomas Jefferson, cannot live without books.  

17. Morning person or night person?

As the father of two young girls, I no longer have the luxury of choosing.

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

The universality of human rights, the convention on which we signed 75 years ago and which, for me, remains the foundation of international order and public good.    

19. Buda or Pest?

I live in Buda and work in Pest. So, like any sensible diplomat, I’ll say both. 

20. What would you say is your personal motto? 

From Samuel Beckett’s novella ‘‘Worstward Ho’’, published in the year of my birth: ‘‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’’. It reminds me that in diplomacy, as in parenting, there is no perfect – just a constant effort to improve.

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