Revd John Wilson, Saint Margaret's Anglican Episcopal Church Budapest

  • 27 Oct 2023 3:59 PM
Revd John Wilson, Saint Margaret's Anglican Episcopal Church Budapest
American by birth, I grew up in Des Moines, went to university in Chicago (BA in Philosophy & Literature, MA in Intercultural Studies & Leadership), though eventually became disillusioned with wearing a suit and decided to chart a different course.

Inspired by the challenge of learning Hungarian, I moved to Hungary two decades ago with the aim of doing graduate work in comparative literature, but instead decided to pour my heart into the religious non profit sector, specifically working to help revitalise local congregations across the denominational spectrum.

My wife, Zsófi, is Hungarian but grew up in Austria, and we have four children, ages 10-17. I was recently ordained in the Anglican Church and now serve as Curate (assistant minister) at Saint Margaret's

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

My first experience of Hungary was in 1998 when I came over and taught English at a short summer camp up in the Bükk mountains which radically deconstructed my mental image of Hungary as a former Eastern bloc country marked by concrete walls, graffiti, and barbed wire. On and off over the following years, Zsófi and I finally moved over for good in 2006.

2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?

I've spent a bit of time in Mexico, Austria, and Germany, but measured in months as opposed to years, so not sure it qualifies as an expat experience. Does several years on my parent's ranch in Texas count?

3. What surprised you most about Hungary?

Americans call sitting in the passenger seat, 'riding shotgun', which connotes having someone there to back you up. Hungarians on the other hand, refer to the passenger side as the 'mother-in-law seat', expressing in two words a profound cultural difference that would require a full-length book to unpack. 

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

Outside of the standard stuff like Fisherman's Bastion and a walk around the Castle District, a lángos on Margaret Island (as a substitute for the Balaton experience), dinner at Náncsi Néni's, and experiencing the glory of Unicum (classic!). 

5. What is your favourite Hungarian food?

Töltött káposzta, hortobágyi palacsinta, diós bejgli, somlói galuska, nokedli...

6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?

Sour cream (my wife is Hungarian...)

7. What is your favourite Hungarian word?

Simogatás (innocently understood!!), nemigen, tulajdonképpen, meglátjuk!

8. What do you miss most from home? 

My family and old friends, TexMex food, pecan pie, the efficiency of American culture.

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


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

Cat groomer

11. Where did you spend your last vacation?

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

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

Antarctica, but given my wife's recalcitrance, skiing in Slovenia. 

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

Brownies, fixing things, playing chess.

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

Top Gun, Guns N' Roses, U2, sports (American football, basketball, baseball), and 'pyrotechnics'...

15. Red or white?

If my wife is involved, rosé, otherwise red.

16. Books or films?

Books, though recently podcasts.

17. Morning person or night person?

Definitely night.

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


19. Buda or Pest?


20. What would you say is your personal motto?

"Leave things in better shape than you found them" and "Your body can do more than you think it can, if you push it." 

  • How does this interview make you feel?