The 9th of February of 2016 I published my first post in this blog. Ever since I have written more than 80 posts, all in my mother tongue Spanish, except for two written in Hungarian. A couple of times, when I shared some of my posts in my personal Facebook account, hungarian friends of mine asked me to translate them to Hungarian or at least to English. That time has arrived. After 2 years and a half, here is my first post in English.
My 2 hungarian posts:
Mennyit tudsz Panamáról? https://budapesteshungria.com/blog/mennyit-tudsz-panamarol/
Véradás sztori – megtörtént események alapján https://budapesteshungria.com/blog/veradas-sztori-megtortent-esemenyek-alapjan/
What do I write about?
Up until now, I have written about personal stories and experiences, about different guides (e.g. what to see in Budapest in 2 days, cost of living, how to get a job in Hungary), about the Hungarian language and about cultural differences between hungarians and us, hispanic people. The blog has an Instragam account where I share pictures of Hungary (plus some from Panama) and it also has a YouTube channel, which I use to teach basic level of hungarian language to spanish speakers.
About this post
In this post I am generalizing, which is something that some people vehemently dislike. They are in a way right, generalizing is not good, but at the same time, in a country or a culture, there are always some things that are common, such as how people socialize with each other, their customs, way of thinking, beliefs, traditions and obviously the language. Having said that, I do not like if somebody judges me based on my culture without knowing me, but… I am perfectly aware of the fact that I have qualities that are common to latinos.
One more thing, since I arrived to Hungary around 12 years ago, I have only lived in Budapest, so most of what I write is written from a Budapest point of view.
How hungarians see themselves
Though hungarians are very proud of their nation and of many things they have accomplished, at the same time, they can be their worse self-critics. If you have hungarian friends or colleagues, you might have found yourself in a conversation where foreigners are talking positively about Hungary and their people, and hungarians feel extremely humbled and good about it, but they list, one by one, all the bad things that the country have done or is doing. In the case of other nations or cultures, it is the opposite. The locals would say their country is the best, sometimes arrogantly, while foreigners would be critizicing some things of that country.
You can also hear hungarians talking about themselves on a personal level, passing from self-awareness, to self-criticisim and very quickly to psychological self-destruction. Is it not everybody, but it is common. How common? Well, we can say that one out of ten people. In 2017, Eurostat released statistics showing that in only 2 countries within the European Union, more than 10% of their population feel depressed. Those countries were Portugal and Hungary. In all of the other European Union countries, that percentage stays below the 10 percentage points. The countries with the lowest percentages (below 4%) are Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia.
The next three topics are some of the reasons why hungarians think negatively about their country.
Back in the 50s, Hungary had the “Aranycsapat”. In English, the Golden Team, also called the Mighty Magyars, or the Magnificent Magyars. Even though I am not a soccer expert, I can write a lot about this, but I will stay brief. Those names were attributed to the fact that for example: between 1950 and 1956, the Golden Team recorded 42 victories, 7 draws and only 1 defeat. That defeat was the final in a World Cup, against West Germany. The score was 3-2. At that time, Germans thought that their victory was a miracle. They actually called it: “the Miracle of Bern”. Bern, because the match was in that city. Despite Hungary´s second place, the tournament´s top scorer was the hungarian Sándor Kocsis and the best player was the hungarian Ferenc Puskás, the best hungarian footballer ever and one of the greatest footballers of all time. Now you know why there is an award called: “FIFA Puskás award”. If you do not know yet, you should. It has been awarded to players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimović, James Rodríguez, Messi and Gareth Bale.
Because of the Golden Team and because of Puskás, hungarians feel extremely proud, but for them it is easy to forget; instead almost all their memory storage is occupied by the fact that they have not make it to the last 8 World Cups. That means that the last time they played in a World Cup was 1986, in Mexico. That occasion, they did not pass through the group stage.
This is a statue of Puskás in Budapest. There is also one in Melbourne, Australia and another one in Madrid, Spain.
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La bebé mirando la estatua de Ferenc Puskás, el más grande futbolista de la historia de Hungría. #budapest #hungria #hungría #hungary #magyarország #magyar #ferencpuskas #puskas #obuda #football #soccer #futbol #balonpie #insta #instagram #instagramers #instapic #intaphoto #iphone4s #panameño #panameñosporelmundo
This topic is difficult, because there will always be different ways to interpretate events, depending on where were you at that moment, or depending on where was the writer of the book you read, at that speficic moment in history. Because of that, I will not go into details. The only thing I will write is that there are many hungarians that think and feel that Hungary made a couple of important and critical mistakes throughout their history, and that is the reason why the country is where it is.
By the way, my personal opinion in this topic is that hungarians should be very proud of their history, because despite being a relatively small country against great challenges throuhgout long periods of time (Ottoman Empire, World Wars, Communism), they achieved independence, but most importantly they have preserved their culture, their traditions and their language. I also think that they have managed their country well after the end of the communist era. See that I wrote “well” and not “perfectly”. I am sure that many hungarians will disagree with me on that, but my opinion will not change.
Warning: when talking with hungarians about history, it is better if you only listen, this is even more important if you are talking about World War I and the treaty called Trianon.
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Monumento en honor a los judíos que fueron despojados de sus zapatos, fusilados y lanzados al Danubio por el partido Cruz Flechada 1944-1945 ?? #budapest #hungary #hungria #budapestians #topbudapestphoto #budapestblog #welovebudapest #ig_budapest #insta_budapest #budapest_hungary #budapesthungary #picoftheday #igersbudapest #photooftheday #summer #verano #igershungary #vacation #summervacation
What countries do they compare themselves to?
Many hungarians, around half million it is said, have moved to countries within Europe, such as Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom. In smaller quantities they have also moved to Benelux countries. Some hungarians obviously read international news or travel to many european countries, for instance Denmark or Switzerland.
Now, if you compare your country to some of the best countries in the world such as the Netherlands or Switzerland, you might not feel very good about your own.
I will now dive in into the hungarian culture
How are you?
If an english person asks another english”how are you”, the other person´s reply will most likely be “not too bad”. If an american does the same, the other person would reply “fine, thanks, and you?”. In other words, “how are you” is protocolar or just a way to say a longer “hi”. On the contrary, in Hungary “how are you” is a question and not a greeting. If you ask a hungarian “how are you”, the person will say exactly how he or she feels on that exact moment. If good, then you will hear something good. If bad, you will hear something bad.
Some foreigners see this as something negative. I do not. I think hungarians are more real or less superficial, and I like that.
I am from Panama, but our smiling is something rather regional. In the whole american continent, we generally smile a lot in comparison to europeans. I can dare to say that it is a way of life, we smile even if we are in the middle of a huge problem. Costa Rica people even say “pura vida” which means literally pure life, but I would say it means living wholeheartedly. Anyway, smiling is also a way of greeting in many countries, but not necessarily in Hungary. For me this was very strange when I arrived, but it is not anymore. Hungarians smile or laugh when there is a reason for it. But even when laughing, it will not be laughing out loud. It is not well seen to laugh too loudly. They call that kind of people “harsány” and it is not that positive. Some hungarians will appreciate if you are like this, but they would never be like that. You can only see young people laughing like this, because as teenagers, they do not care about the social norms. Well, you can also hear tourists laughing like that and even worse when there is a stag party.
Some foreigners see this as something negative. I do not. I know that I will need to smile 3 or 4 times for a hungarian to give me their first smile. I do not have a problem with that, that is their culture and I did not come here to change it.
Close and cold
Because of the two above points, hungarians may come across as close and cold, at least at the beginning. They take time to get close to people they do not know. They are like a coconut. Hard in the outside, and you need to work hard to get to the center, the good part. But… if you go further north in Europe, to make real friends, it might take you months and maybe a year or two. So, hungarians are rather a soft coconut.
Some foreigners see this as something negative. As they do not know that this is something common to hungarian culture, they feel rejected. Do not take it personal. Hungarians do not hate foreigners.
Those hungarians who are a bit more open, will bombard you with very specific and personal questions. They will not ask “how are you”. They will ask if you are married, where are you from, how often do you visit home, where do you live, do you rent or did you buy a flat in Hungary, how many sibblings do you have, if you have a dog or a cat, what do you do for living, where do you work, etc, etc, etc. If you answer to all those questions with a positive attitude, they will feel happy that you are happy in their country.
Some foreigners see this as something negative, because in some cultures, it is actually negative. In Panama we call these kind of people “metiche”, which means nosy. Hungarians do not ask all these because they want something from you, they only want to know who you are and they want to know if you are happy in their country.
In some cultures, bragging is very common. Two people get to know each other and in less than 5 minutes they will be speaking about their positions, their cars, their travels and so on. In Hungary it is not like that, if you brag they will call you “beképzelt” or “nagyképű” (cocky or stuck-up). This does not mean that you cannot speak about work or travel with hungarians, but if you are speaking about something for bragging purposes, they will feel it and they will not like it. This does not mean either that bragging does not exists in Hungary, it only means that it is less common or more discreet.
My advise to you is to be real. However, if your real you is bragging all over the place, in Hungary, adapt and try not to be you.
In some cultures, people would talk or ask you for something in a very indirect way. For instance “I need to cross in this path, can you help me please?”, but a hungarian would say “can you put your bycicle aside? I cannot cross”. Hungarians are polite and have strict norms when greeting, but diplomacy is not of high importance. This does not mean they are aggresive or that they want a fight with you, they are very pacific people, it is only their way of communication.
Once the coconut is open, hungarians are great friends. They will be loyal, they will dedicate real and genuine time to you. They will consider you a family member, literally. If you have a problem, they will do anything they posibbly can to help you. Their own life will stop until they know you are good again. Believe me.
Have a good day,
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