Interview 3: Andrew Prest, Member of the Board at AutoWallis Group

  • 20 Feb 2024 11:35 AM
Interview 3: Andrew Prest, Member of the Board at AutoWallis Group
1. What’s been happening at work and at home since your most recent Xpat Interview?

Click here to read his recent interview.

A healthy mix of work and play.  AutoWallis Group has continued to grow, organically and through new acquisitions. We have expanded geographically too, now operating in 16 CEE markets.  This obviously keeps me busy, but when I have time off, I like to travel and see the world.  A wise person once said you should collect experiences not possessions, and I firmly believe this.

2. What would you have done differently here if you knew then what you know now?

Not going for long road-runs along the Danube every day.  It has destroyed my knees.

3. If you could change one thing about Hungary, what would it be?

I think the education system needs some tender loving care.  It is sometimes under-resourced and as far as I can tell, too many children survive rather than enjoy their school years.

4. What advice would you give to a new expat in Budapest?

Learn the language!  It is tough to start with, but it gets easier eventually. Don’t give up at the first hurdles. Something like two-thirds of Hungarians don’t speak a foreign language, so by learning theirs you will broaden your network and your opportunities and have a much more rewarding stay here.

5. Which superpower would you choose? 


6. Who inspires your life most these days?

I don’t have heroes or icons.  I am more impressed by everyday gestures than great acts, whether they be from family, friends, colleagues, or strangers.

7. What is your most treasured possession?
My good health (besides my bad knees).  I still have all my own hair and teeth 😊

8. What are some of your biggest challenges these days?

Raising a teenage daughter.  There isn’t a handbook to guide you and gen Z are not wired the same way as us.

9. Please share a guilty pleasure of yours…

I have lots of pleasures, but feel no guilt whatsoever, I’m shameless. I eat an inordinate amount of chocolate and drink more wine than I should.  I know it’s wrong, so do as I say, not as I do…

10. What is (would be) your favourite karaoke song?

I am a pretty stubborn character, so it would have to be that staple of funerals and retirement parties, Sinatra’s “My Way”.

11. If your next assignment was on a desert island, and you could only take three things with you, what would you bring?

Iphone, satellite dish and sun cream.  (I would still be a news junkie in paradise, and northern English skin burns).

12. Unicum or pálinka?

Either, heavily watered down with soda or fruit juice.  These still aren’t a taste I have managed to acquire after three decades in Hungary.  Hungarian wines are a different story though…

13. What is your biggest professional achievement since moving to Hungary?

When I took over the automotive distribution business of AutoWallis in 2005, our annual revenue was about $10m.  It is now closer to $1 billion.  Our team achieved this through a combination of consistency and hard work and I’m extremely proud of what we built.  

14. How are your Hungarian language skills these days?

Quite passable according to my friends, but if the police stop me for a routine traffic check I am still likely to be given a breath test for slurring and speaking slowly. 

15. What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you in Hungary?

I took the Hungarian citizenship exam a few years ago, which entails a lot of preparation and covers a wide array of topics – history, politics, culture, etc.  It is notoriously difficult and involves written and spoken tests. 

The oral exams were held in small groups, so we got to listen to each other’s answers.  One candidate was quizzed on Hungarian music and when asked to name a famous Hungarian composer he froze and couldn’t answer.  The examiner tried to prompt him and suggested he thought of the airport.  To which he cheerfully exclaimed “Ferihegy!”

16. After a good few years here, what is your favourite thing about living in Budapest?
The place is so eclectic, culturally and visually. And while it isn’t an alpha city like New York or London, it still feels quite cosmopolitan and fun.

17. What unique experience have you had in Budapest?

I’ve met all kinds of fascinating and distinguished Hungarians while living here:  writers, actors, tv presenters, business leaders, politicians… Who knows whether I would have had these opportunities if I had stayed in the UK?

18. Which question would you ask if you interviewed yourself?

What’s the airspeed of an unladen Swallow?

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