Geresdlak in southern Hungary is a village of just 900 people. The picturesque hamlet is a living model of European integration. Ten percent of the population are ‘arrivistes’ in the last 11 years – from Finland.
It’s prompted action from the locals in a bid to get to know their new neighbours. Backed by cash from the EU they are knuckling down to an intensive 90 hour language course in Finnish.
Twenty four homes are owned by Finns and are used by a variety of families for holidays throughout the year.
Tibor Habjanecz the mayor reckons a least one bus load of Finns arrive each weekend. So, he says there is only one thing to do – learn the language.
“Most of the Finns already speak a little Hungarian, of course not fluently, but they speak Hungarian. So it was almost a must for us to learn Finnish.”
This hands across European borders movement has ignited a trend too. No Finnish house would be complete without a sauna. It’s become a hot topic in homes in Geresdlak and the villagers have followed their new neighbours example. The village now has the most saunas in Hungary.
Our correspondent in Geresdlak, Andrea Hajagos says: “The name of one street in the village is already written in two languages. Although the Hungarian and Finnish languages are originally from the same family they are now very different. Only a few people in Hungary study Finnish so what’s happening in Geresdlak is quite unique.”