Welcome to Part 2
This is an article about hungarian people, if you did not yet read part 1, here is the link: What Hungarian people are like (Part 1)
Here I continue with part 2:
Open and warm
At this point of the relationship, friendship, they will be very open and very warm. They will trust you many personal things that some good friends of yours in your home country would have never even thought about telling you. Do not be surprised, they are only reserved at the beginning, but when they consider you their friend, they will express their feelings openly and straightforwardly. Have no doubt.
Hospitality Volume 1
If a hungarian has ever invited you to their place, then I do not need to write anything else here. However, for those of you who never ate with hungarians at their home, you need to know that you will feel like a king or queen. Picture yourself in the restaurant of a reknowned five stars hotel, where there is staff paying attention to you at all times, just waiting for you to ask for something. Hungarian hospitality is like that.
First things first. The first thing hungarians do the first time you enter their home is present you their place. They will take you to every room of the apartment or house, even to the storage. This was strange for me in my first years in Hungary because in Panama we do not do this. In Panama guests stay only in the living room, or in the guest room which is usually small. If you are a good friend of the family, then you are invited also to the backyard or to the kids´s room and maybe to the kitchen. The bedrooms are sacred, even children need to ask Mom and Dad if they need to enter. If Dad and Mom are not at home, they do not supposed to do so, ever.
Hungarians present every corner of their apartment or house for you to be familiar with the place, in that way you will feel “at home”. They will also ask you many times if you need something, to the point of you feeling perhaps awkward (if you are not use to it). If you do not need anything, they will try to find something you need and if they find that something, they will be very happy.
Warning: if a hungarian invites you to their place, make sure you arrive with an empty stomach. If you reject their food, even if it is something very simple or small, they will be sad. If they made food specially for you, do not even think about saying no. If your girlfriend of boyfriend is hungarian and the “in laws” invite you to eat, do not you dare to say no to the invitation (a maybe is not a good idea either). Food is the way hungarians say “I love you”.
View this post on Instagram
Cocinando “paprikás krumpli” en un “bogrács”. El “bogrács” se le llama a esa olla donde se cocinan todo tipo de guisados. Esa misma olla se puede poner en una estufa, pero el sabor no queda igual (a falta del aroma de los humos). La tradición de cocinar en estas ollas se remonta a las épocas de cuando los húngaros eran tribus nómadas a caballo en los años 600 y 700. #bogracs #paprikaskrumpli #stew #guisado #cocina #cooking #budapest #hungria #hungría #magyarország #unpanameñoenbudapest #panameño #panameñosporelmundo
Hospitality Volume 2
The other side of hungarian hospitality is exactly the opposite, but it happens in a different situation: restaurants. We can say that when hungarians serve you voluntarily, they do it from the bottom of their hearts, but if is their job, feelings are gone. Many foreigners complaint about this. A common saying is “the waiter behaves as if I am doing a favour to the restaurant by eating there”. This is perhaps changing, because tourism is growing a lot in Budapest and Hungary, however the digital age is another factor, for instance reviews on TripAdvisor and the likes.
Back in June, I sat with panamanians friends of mine to watch a World Cup match between Panama and England in a restaurant. We had to wait around half an hour for drinks and around an hour for food. We did not say anything, because we were talking a lot. But there was an elder couple next to us and they asked the waiter why they were taking so long. The waiter, almost shouting, asked them “cannot you see that the restaurant is full”? This attitude is unfortunately common.
I almost forgot. Worth to mention (for you to prepare psychologically) that foreigners think negatively about Customer Service in general in Hungary, not only in restaurants.
My elder daughter and I entered a grocery store to by eggs. In the way out she sees a new popsicle (or ice lolly) and she asked me to buy it. We buy it and at the moment she tastes it, her face goes wild and she offers me to try it. I say no and her face goes back to normal. She keeps eating and she asks me again if I want to try it and tells me that it is the best she has ever tasted. I say no and her face goes a bit sad, and perhaps upset. After that I take the popsicle from her hand and try it, because I know if I do not do it, she will never stop until I try. That is how hungarians are. If they love you or like you, they feel the urge of sharing with you. If you are familiar with Hungary and hungarians, you will know that they are notoriously generous with food, but from my point of view, they are generous in many ways and not only with tangible things. They are generous with their time and also with helping. They enjoy helping to the extend that you will start thinking “what do you want from me?” It is going to feel akward sometimes.
You remember I told you that hungarians only smile and laugh with a reason? Well, this is one thing that will make them smile, if they are helping, they are very enthusiastic. If you tell them you do not need help, guess what? They will be sad.
Speaking about generosity. Listen carefully. Gifts are a must in Hungary. I feel that they exaggerate a bit, but well, I am in Hungary, so I need to do it their way. Obviously birthdays are important, but name days are as important, do not forget this please. At Easter, chocolates to everybody and to women, a poem and parfum. You do not need to buy all the women you know a parfum, you need to take a parfum with you to the women you know, recite the poem (in hungarian language) and spray once the parfum (usually a cheap one) in her head. This is usually done within families and close friends, so if you have a hungarian girlfriend, do it every year. She will absolutely love that you remember and actually do it. Valentines day of course. Women´s day is flowers, Mother´s day is flowers, actually, whenever there is anything related to women, flowers will always do. Chocolates as well, but flowers is the tradition, so you can buy flowers without chocolates but not chocolates without flowers. For men, usually it is wine and if you know that the person likes palinka, palinka as a gift will also do.
Yesterday a neighbor gave us their daughter´s shoe, because they are too small already. So, when we went for the shoe, we took chocolates for their daughter. The shoe´s value are at least 5,000 hungarian forints and the chocolate´s was 150 forints. Two things here. First, whenever a hungarian is giving you something, be it new or second hand, it is well seen that you give something in exchange. They say “így illik” which means something like “it is the correct thing to do”. Second, the financial value does not matter, what matters is the act of symbolic reciprocity and gratefulness.
Here is something else and it is related to hospitality volumen 1. When hungarians invite you to their home, you must take gifts with you. Flowers, wine, palinka or chocolates. This is because “így illik”. It is tradition and that is it. This is the way you show your appreciation for the food they cook and for the time they spend with you and also because you get to enter their “temple”.
In my country, material possessions and appereance are very important. Titles and high positions are also important. If you have a last name and it is the same as that of a famous, wealthy or powerful person, that is also important and you will have certain level of respect awarded to you without asking for it. If you have all of those things, you are like a small “King” or “queen”. It is not the case in Hungary and do not get me wrong. This does not mean that somebody with a brand new Mustang will not be respected or somebody who is a CEO will not be respected. However, you can have whatever you have, but if you have a low level of intelligence or no manners, hungarians will not respect you that much. Having said that, we can say that intelligence in Hungary is highly important, but if you both intelligent and also knowledgeable, they will love you and look up to you.
A couple of months ago I was in an all-day-long conference about inspiration. During the morning hours, we listened to the main speaker and also to people who were invited to talk with the main speaker. Among those invitees, there was one person who introduced himself as the director of a multinational. He was immaculately dressed and groomed, but spoke with great arrogance, as if he would be the smartest person on earth. At lunch time, I went to have lunch with some of the people who were in the conference, they were all hungarian. I asked them, “how do you like the conference so far”? The first thing they mentioned was how much they disliked the arrogant guy.
For hungarians your personality and intelligence are above anything else that you might consider important. That is, in most cases, regardless of who you are speaking to and to which social class that person belongs to.
Do not misunderstand the well dressed and groomed sentence. This does not mean that hungarians do not like good cloth and grooming. It only means that it is not as important as in another cultures.
Have you ever asked a hungarian in the street if they speak english and they reply “very little”, but when they start speaking they speak excellent? That is because they compare themselves to native english speakers, and so they feel they do not speak perfectly. Their way of thinking is: “if I do not speak perfectly, I better do not speak at all”.
This is a guess, but I might be wrong. I have heard many hungarians, family, friends and colleagues, saying stuff like “for my Dad or family, I was never good enough or whatever I did could always be done better, so that is the reason why I am never satisfied with what I do. Even if it is almost perfect, I am not happy, I feel ashamed and I do not want to show what I did to anybody”.
Something else related to perfection is that hungarians like to wait for the “perfect” moment to do things, but as life is not ideal, the perfect moment never arrives and they never do what they wanted to do.
Another thing. If they fail to do something perfectly, they do not try again. If something is no working perfectly, they would not feel like doing things, they would say “nem vagyok jó passzban” even if is something really small. They frequently also say “nincs jó kedvem”. This is very strange for me, because we in Panama or in Latinoamerica can have big problems and we smile and we can even party. We forget about problems easily. This can be bad too; we might never solve the problem because we always “forget” it in order to have fun.
As oppose to us, people born in the American continent, hungarians usually have a small social circle. They have one or two friends from high school, two or three friends from university, one or two “favourite” colleagues and that is it. Everybody else is an acquaintance. That is very, very few people and they are extremely loyal with each other. For me, that was weird, but with time I have learned to appreciate it. There is something great about this, and it is simple. The less friends you have, the more time you can dedicate to them. In my country and generally in our side of the world, the half of the city we live in is our “friend”. Like that, you do not have much time for so many people and friendship is rather superficial.
In the hungarian countryside, social circles are bigger and even neighbors are considered almost like family members.
If you are not considered a friend for a hungarian person, then you are an “ismerős” (acquaintance) and not a “barát” (friend). The biggest difference between a friend and an acquaintance in hungarian society is the “ciki” factor. Ciki (pronunciation “tziki”) means “embarrasing”. I will explain. If a hungarian calls a friend asking for a favour, it is alright. However, if that person is asking exactly the same thing from an acquaintance it is “ciki”. This is, I think silly, because if you are asking something normal and not half million forints, why to feel embarrased? You ask for sugar from your neighbor today, tomorrow they will ask for salt and in a couple of years you might end as really good friends.
The “good old times” are an important part of the hungarian culture. Similarly to the Golden Team, in many aspects of life, hungarians will remember the “good old times”. Of course, other cultures do this. In my country, people listen to old music, but the interesting part if I compare my country to Hungary is the following. In Panama, people start listening to old music at a much later age, maybe around 35 years old. In other words, they go back in time 20 years. In Hungary, people do this already at the age of 25. If I continue with the music topic, you can also notice that in parties or in weddings, at the middle of the night, they start playing the clasical party or wedding hits. These are a group of songs categorized as “super cool party songs” or “super cool wedding songs” and these songs have stayed with that category for generations.
With movies is the same. There are “super cool winter or christmas movies” and in a family you would see a 5 years old, a 10 years old, a 20 years old, a 40 and a 70 years old watching the same movie, over and over again and all of them would be enjoying it with the same enthusiasm. In my country, every generation would have their own “super cool” stuff.
This is a street tribute to Bud Spencer (Carlo Pedersoli) in Budapest. His movies are watched over and over and over again every year in Hungary.
View this post on Instagram
Homenaje a Bud Spencer el comediante más querido en Hungría. Nombre verdadero Carlo Pedersoli, nació en Nápoles y murió en Roma este año. No conozco ni un solo húngaro de alrededor de mi edad que no ame a este señor. Definitivamente sus películas pertenecen a la cultura húngara. #budspencer #budapest #hungria #hungría #hungary #magyarország #graffiti #streetart #tribute #carlopedersoli #iphone4s #insta #instagram #instapic #instaphoto #instalove #instagood #instalike #instacool
Last year, my wife and I were in the cinema and we bought popcorn. How innovative, hmm? At the beginning of the movie, the Whisky Robber, we were eating the popcorn. In the next row there was a Mister very upset about us eating the, guess what? popcorn. This is an extreme case by the way, because it is the only time in 12 years that somebody demanded from me to stop eating popcorn in the cinema. However, it is a good example to get my message across. Hungarians might get very irritated if you break their social norms. For example, in the escalator, if you stay still, you need to stand in the right hand side. If you are in a hurry, you walk up or down using the left “lane”. If you stand in the left lane and do not move, people will not look nicely at you. Another example is getting on the tram or bus. The rule is everybody needs to get off first, and only then you can get on. If you do not comply with the rule, they will not look at you nicely and after you get those looks you will think “how ciki”.
Silence. Very important. You remember I wrote that hungarians do not laugh out loud? And… have you ever notice in the tram or metro that nobody talks or if they do they whisper? That is because silence is expected and highly appreciated in this country. The other day a friend of mine told me that she did not come to an event (in the street), because the baby would make too much noise crying. Talking about kids. Have you ever noticed that in building´s corridors there are no kids? That is because they are not allowed to play in the corridors, to avoid bothering neighbours.
Sniffling is actually a noise hungarians do not like. Blow your nose loudly and fast, and do not sniffle anymore. Another rule, blow your nose with a tissue, not in the hand wash sink. Thank you. Hahahaha…
There are very few exceptions, but every Sunday of the year, we go to my parents in law. It’s family Sunday. If you have a Hungarian girlfriend or boyfriend, you know what am talking about. Coming back to the gifts’ topic, in Easter, all the kids receive tons of bunny shaped chocolates. The 6th of December, there is “Mikulas day” and again, all kids receive Santa Claus shaped chocolates. In new year, there is lentils with sausage and bread. In Christmas, there is fish soup. As the fish soup is traditional, it is cooked even if nobody likes it, and most probably nobody will eat from it, but it’s tradition, it has to be there. Talking about food, the traditional food stay as it is for hundreds of years. For instance, the rakott krumpli (baked sausage, eggs and potato) is eaten with pickles. That is the side dish, if you want apple with it, that’s not good and it will not be tasty. In some families they even go to the level of always cooking something with the same brand of flour for example, otherwise it will not be good enough. Good thing is that they keep their tradition and the tradition, just as the language, lives forever. But… the bad thing is that the usual thinking doesn’t allow alternatives. That’s why some foreigners think of Hungarians and close-minded people.
There are cultures which are short term oriented and some are long term oriented. I think Hungarians are some sort of mid term oriented people. If you ask them what they plan for the next 5 years, they might not be able to answer, but if they have something important going on 3 or 4 months later, they would worry in advanced, and a lot. We in Panama and maybe in many other Latino countries, we are short term oriented, so worrying about something that will happen 4 months later is for us being masochistic. For example, a Latino has an exam in a week’s time and didn’t even start studying, but he is actually cool. Not worried. The Hungarian has the same exam and he has studied the half of the material, but he is biting nails all day long. Two days before the exam; there are no more nails.
There is a slang in hungarian for those kind of people who worry more than the average hungarian; they are called “paragép”. In every group of friends, there is always one or two. This means something like “panicking machine”.
Anyways, hungarians can worry about anything, but when it is about health, it can get to catastrophic levels. I noticed this before by listening to hungarians talking, but last year IPSOS, a French market research company researched “what worries the world” and guess what? The number one topic that worries hungarians is healthcare. The second is financials and political corruption and the third topic is poverty and inequality. Just for you to compare with another countries, for instance crime and violence is the topic that worries the most to Argentina, Mexico and Peru. In the United Kingdom, Israel and Turkey is terrorism. In the United States and Canada is healthcare. In Australia, France, Spain and Italy is unemployment. What do you think? Was the research accurate?
Now, coming back to Hungary. If somebody is sick, be it something as simple as a cough or maybe chickenpox, you will understand the word “paragép”. By the way, some people will actually continue to worry after recovering completely. When does this happens? If the person does not knows the cause of the cold, he or she will think that if they do not know the reason, they cannot prevent it. If they think they cannot prevent it, they will worry about getting it again anytime soon. One more thing about the cough. If you are coughing or your nose is running and people on the bus, tram or metro stay 2 or 3 meters away from you, now you know the reason.
You can also get out of a blue an old lady telling you that “do not sit in the cold bench” because “fel fogsz fázni” (you will get bladder or urinary infection) or “kint van a derekad” (your waist is uncovered) so you will get a cold. They think that if the wind touches one´s waist, one will get a cold. Being barefoot is also something they can go crazy about. So, when they see british people in Budapest walking all over the city with flip-flops at a 15 degrees tempetaure, they inmediately mumble: “crazy brits”. Ice water? No ice water, because it is too cold and you will get a sore throat. Ice cream in winter, not posible.
Have a good day,
If you liked this post, like and follow me on Facebook.