Welcome to Part 3
Let’s assume that the same person already studied everything one or two days before the exam, so what is left is spent with practice or simulating the exam. Even like that, a Hungarian will think “I will be nervous and I will do everything wrong”. I come back now to history and soccer. The common way of thinking is: “if we failed in the last 20 years, we will fail this time too”. They apply this mindset to their daily life. My thinking is that if you fail many times, you learn, you improve and over time, you will do it better until perhaps winning. By the way, it is said that this thinking is not only Hungarian, it is central and Eastern European. Look at this meme I recently saw shared by somebody on Facebook.
The exam’s results were published and fortunately it is a “pass” but far from being “perfect”, so now the complaining follows. This can be one whole day, 2 days, a week or even a month. Complaining is a vital and crucial part of Hungarian culture. When I wrote this same post in Spanish language, many Hungarians wrote saying that yes, they complain too much, but one of them wrote: “I do not mind much the complaining; what drives me crazy is complaining forever without doing anything about the problem”. That person actually gave one good example: the workplace. Some Hungarians would complain every day about the company they work for or about their boss; but would continue to work there for 5, 10 and maybe 20 years.
There are two songs that will help me in this point, and they are both from hungarian artists:
The first is “People always talk about weather” and the second one is “Az a baj”
In “People always talk about weather” there is a part of the song that says:
“Ohh in summer you wish it was cooler
And in winter you wish it was milder
Conditions, they are never in your favour”
In “Az a baj” is the whole song, the title means “the problem is”, I will translate some sentences:
“If I cook the pasta too much, that is a problem
If is a bit raw in the middle, that is a problem
If there is not enough lemon in the tea, that is a problem
If there is too much honey, that is a problem”
If you want to listen to the songs, here they are:
Now that I wrote about “baj”, why not touch basis on problem solving? There are 2 very common phrases hungarians use. First, “az a baj” just like the title of the song (the problem is). Second, “mi a baj?” which means what is the problem. There is nothing wrong with the word “baj” (problem), but in my opinion it is used too often and so, many things that are not real problems are considered problems.
I will use the classic example of the glass of water to explain. A hungarian would tell you “the problem is” that the glass is half empty, so I will not have enough water for the next 20 kilometers. A foreigner would say “you have half glass of water” so you can go on for a while, and on the way you might find more water. Hungarians do not like the “might” because it is uncertain. So, because the glass is half empty, they would rather stay there and do not continue.
If you work with hungarians you will most probably notice this, but try not to see it as something negative. Use it as something useful. You can define problems better and you can check better the disadvantages of the solutions proposed.
In Panama, I would say we have an over population of people with high levels of self-esteem and within that population, there are some who have no reason whatsoever to have it that high. Hungary has some people like that, but from my point of view and as a latino, I think hungarians in general have low self-esteem. Once I was talking with a friend from Guatemala about Hungary. She told me that she does not understands why hungarians have such a low level of self-esteem, when they have such a beautiful country and not only that, their country is safe. Hungary does not have the best salaries of Europe, that is true. But what is the meaning of being wealthy if you cannot walk in the streets of your own country freely and safely? Yes, I know. Some would prefer to be rich and be all the time locked in their mansion posting super “cool” pics to Instagram. I do not. Anyway, that is how we latinos see Hungary, because in our countries, crime and violence is as bad as it can get.
Coming back to hungarians and low self-esteem, it is said that this is something regional (“Eastern Europe”) and that the reason in every country is the same. Too many people compare their countries to the West or to the North, but I already wrote about this in the beginning of the post, so I will leave this topic now.
There is a saying in Hungary that goes like this: “nem látja a fától az erdőt”. This means he or she does not sees the forest because of a tree. Hungarians say this when someone is focused on one small detail and that impedes the person from seeing the big picture. Now, if there is a group of 4 people and one is doing this, the other three can tell that person to stop. But.. if the 4 of them have the same tendency, there is a game over.
This has also something positive. When there is something that needs attention to detail, they do it perfectly. In my culture, people do not care much about details, and things sometimes can get pretty chaotic.
There is another saying that goes like this: “ne csinálj bolhából elefántot”. The equivalent in English is “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill”. This is also very common I would say. Some hungarians can complain and analyze a cough for days, when it is only… a cough. In fact, if you sneeze in autumn, winter or spring, a hungarian close to you would tell you right away: “meg vagy fázva” (you have a cold). For me, a sneeze is a sneeze and it does not mean that someone is ill.
You can imagine what happens if you find a hungarian who happens to have both tendencies. Good luck my friend.
If you are waiting in a bus, tram or metro stop and whatever it is, it is delayed for 2 or 3 minutes, that is it. You will see 2 repetitive activities. First, people will look at what time it is, not to see what time it is, but to see what time has passed by since the last time they looked at the time. Second, when they saw in their watch or in their mobile phone that it has passed one more minute, they will walk to the edge of the stop and try to see the bus, the tram or the metro coming. You will also hear them mumbling “mikor jön már” which means “when is it going to come”.
The other thing that make hungarians lose their patience is waiting at the “Háziorvosi Rendelő” which is like the local medical centre where you go to see your physician or family doctor. Again, the same behaviour, every other minute they will look at the time and mumble. Some of them will start complaining with the person next to them. Others will chat their friends or family via WhatsApp, Viber or Messenger saying: “I have been here already 15 minutes”, 5 minutes later they will write “already 20 minutes” and 5 minutes later they will write “25 minutes”, and 5 minutes later they will only write “30” and on, and on and on.
Hungarians and time
As you could read in the previous point, 5 minutes in Hungary is 5 minutes. In my country 5 minutes can mean half an hour. Not in Hungary. Hungarians usually are punctual and appreciate punctuality. I would dare to say that they appreciate punctuality and maybe more communication. What do I mean? If you are going to be late, say it. Even if is 5 minutes. Send a message or call the person. In that way, they will not look at the time every second minute. Important that if you say “I will be there in 35 minutes”, they will expect you in 35. Do not play the game of saying “I just got on the bus” when you are still dressing up at home.
Interestingly enough, they like to be “just in time”, but not too early. It is “ciki” to be 10 minutes early. However, they prefer to be “too early” rather than being late.
One thing about punctuality in Hungary. If you are not as punctual, you will not lose any friends. I have heard that in other cultures, being late is something extremely insulting and people will not want to be friends with you anymore. It is not like that here.
Past and future
As you already read in previous points, hungarians spend a lot of time thinking about the past, or about the future. I guess that that is why they are so nostalgic and also can worry a lot. In my country and in the region, we are more present focused nations and if you are enjoying life, that is good. However, if you are planning, that can be very bad. I appreciate that I could learn the “future focus” thinking from hungarians, because I use to spend money like there was no tomorrow. Back in the days… I am speaking as if I would be 50 or 60 years old… Hahahaha.. So, back in the days, whenever I got my salary, I paid all my bills and I spent the rest without saving one cent. I am glad I was never the shopping addicted type of person and never got into debt, but I never saved any money. However, after a couple of years of being in Hungary, I started budgeting and controlling much more my expenses and that helped me a lot in years when I was financially tight. Thank you Hungary for that.
Hungarians and money
I mentioned I learned to save in this country, so you can guess that hungarians are savers rather than spenders. They make fun about themselves saying that whenever there is something free, for instance in an hotel (the soap) or in the airplane (a blanket) or in an office (a pen), they will take it home. In a conference is another example; they would eat until getting full, so they do not need to spend at lunch or at dinner that day.
Nevertheless, this is perhaps changing because of the influence of the West and also because of social media. Back in 2006 when I got here, there was no black friday. Now there is. The first was in 2013 and every year it gets bigger and bigger and noiser and noiser.
In almost every thing hungarians are usually cheap, but not with food, otherwise they could not be generous when you eat at their place. There is always food surplus in a hungarian home. In the countryside, even more. If somebody has an apple tree, the whole town has apples. If a neighbour has a peach tree, the whole village will have peaches, and so on.
In the american continent, young people, more or less at the age of fourteen, start dreaming about a car. That is the first big thing they want in their lives. In Hungary it is not like that. The first big thing hungarians want in their life, is an apartment. Between the age of 20 and 25, the ones who can, will buy their own apartment. Now the situation is a bit differet, because real estates prices in the last 5 years have gone to the sky. Obviously not every 25 years old has the money to buy an apartment, so in some families, grandparents put some money, parents put some more money and the person also puts their saved money and the apartment is purchased. Do not imagine that here I am speaking of a 100 square meters apartment with a 20 square meters balcony. Usually it is a 25 or 30 square meters flat.
They buy what they need
Usually not what they “want”…
In my country, for example with cars, the bigger the better and decoration is paramount if you want to be “cool”. A latino would do anything to buy a super car, even if it means going bankrupt. Why? Because you need to “Keep up with” the neighbours, or with the family, or with society. Instead of trying to pay the loan as soon as possible, the next salary after getting the brand new car, will be for the sound system, the biggest, coolest and noisiest. Then the wheels and its rims. And so on, and so on, and so on.
Hungarians are not like that. Most single people do not even have a car, but if they buy one, they buy the smallest car in the market, so that if they need loan, it is as low as possible. It is only later in life that they buy a medium size car. Rarely any decorations. No sound system. I do not have one friend in Hungary who has a car with a sound system that is not the one that the car had.
With apartments is similar. When hungarians are at their 20s, it is a studio apartment. At their 30s then a one bedroom apartment, when there are one or two kids. When there are 2 big kids or 3 kids, then a 2 bedroom or a 3 bedroom apartment or maybe a house.
Hungarians and parties
Last year I when to visit my family in Panama. It happened to be that it was my primary school´s alumni 20th anniversary meeting, so I wanted to see school mates (from that time) very much. I arrived to the meeting and they were shooting the group picture and I rushed to be in it. After that, there was some chit chat and dinner started. We were around seventy of us. Most of us ate in less than 15 minutes and the next thing I see is everybody in the dance floor. Only two of us stayed talking, without wanting to dance right away. I got shocked and realized that a part of me is already hungarian. I was expecting to actually talk, but the only chance to talk to my ex-school mates was talking while dancing. I dance at home with my daughters and wife if we happen to be listening to music, but hungarians at my age do not party and I became like that too. Is not because of the age, hungarians stop dancing and partying if they are in a relationship. That means that most of the times, if you go to a night club, there will be college students or single people between the age of 25 and 33 or so. After that, hungarians do not really dance or party much, perhaps only at concerts and festivals, but that is not every weekend.
Palinka does continues in the life of a hungarian though. Dancing and party might stop, but palinka, wine or beer, that will be forever regardless of age.
This is the end. Hehe.. Hope you liked it.
Have a good day,
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