… and were too afraid to ask! This is a second post about Hungarians as I am experiencing them and getting to know them throughout my life in Hungary. Many cool things have been already listed in the very first article on this topic, which I advise you to read first. But guess what, you don’t have to!
Hungarians are everywhere
A silly joke circulates around Hungary. Do you know what is the 2nd biggest Hungarian city? Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc? Nope! London. The rumour says there are around 200,000 Hungarians living in London and its agglomeration. It is true that many Hungarians consider leaving the country or already left. They do not only relocate from their fatherland, but they also like to travel. During longer weekends, they like to hit on the closest tourist spots such as Vienna or Prague.
Wanna be a millionaire?
The national currency is Hungarian forint. Already from the exchange rate of 1 EUR = 310 HUF you can guess that it is not impossible to become a millionaire if you live in this country. Million Hungarian forints is roughly 3200 EUR. However to become a millionaire is not that easy as the salaries in Hungary are not the greatest and the life in the capital is not the cheapest either. To compare Budapest to your city, click here: http://www.expatistan.com/
Spending time outside
Hungarians love to spend time outside! Especially when it gets a bit warm, hundreds of people are hanging out in garden terraces, on big squares and in parks. The reason is that alcohol in pubs is more expensive than canned beer that you can buy in a nearby dohánybolt. Also, it is forbidden to smoke inside and as many Hungarians enjoy rolling their own cigarettes, they prefer to drink and smoke. This can be done only outside.
On the contrary, it is really warm for majority of the year. This includes nice and sunny weather in March. The Indian summer lasts usually until the end of October! This 8 month period gives a plenty of opportunities for outdoor get-togethers. And yes, want to meet the locals? Hang out around Deák Ferenc tér, Margit sziget or by Bálna cloose to Fővám tér.
There is a lot of people living rough in the streets of Budapest. Some of them choose it as a lifestyle, some simply do not have much other choice. It is a bit heartbreaking to see people being neglected, dirty and often wounded lying on a cardboard covered by a thin blanket in the streets in Budapest. Often, they would smoke hand rolled cigarettes and drink very cheap wine. They would get their money for living by either begging or by collecting trash or beer cans. The deposit is 2 HUF per can and they can be returned in beer recycling automatic machines.
Another way of earning money is selling a magazine (something like British Big Issue or Czech Nový prostor) and you can meet quite a lot of people selling those usually by busy metro stops or tourist hotspots. The poverty is omnipresent and sadly, I do not have the feeling that it is being tackled well as the number of people I see in the streets is over time rather increasing than decreasing. And only in Budapest I picked up the habit of keeping small coins in my pocket to be ready to give them out and if we are going somewhere for the weekend and we have some left over food, I pack it and leave it in front of the house.
However people do not need to live in the street to be poor. Often you can see grannies working as cashiers in supermarkets, although they probably should be enjoying their well deserved pension. Some are also selling flowers or pogácsa or home made cakes by the metro entrances. My most popular one is standing by Nyugati train station entrance, she has the best pogácsa in town. So if you are around, stop by to buy them and to make her smile.
Everybody is saying the Czech drivers are the worst in Europe. I dare opposing this statement as I have witnessed unbelievable things in Hungary. The drivers not only very aggressively change lanes without even indicating the intended move by the light sensor, but they also have cars in a terrible shape. Majority of the cars are actually older than 10 years and it looks accordingly. I have seen cars that were missing front and rear bumpers, mirrors and once I saw a car without front wind shield.
And yes, you do not feel very fine, when you want to overtake a truck and you were not the only one who got the idea. And although you are the first one in the row behind the truck, you just have to wait until everybody behinds you finishes their overtaking. I am sometimes even thinking whether it is some sort of Hungarian driver pride to overtake as many cars as possible in one go.
Hungarian is Finno-ugric language and as such it does not have many linguistic counterparts in Europe. This however does not keep Hungarians isolated as one would think. All in all, they live in everything but splendid isolation. So did you know that the Hungarian way to greet a person is: Jó napot kívánok (pronunciation), which literally means I am wishing you a nice day? It is rather lengthy and impractical so the people are using a shorter version, which is just Jó napot. So this would be the first sentence you need to say. The second one obviously needs to be 1 beer please: Egy korsó sört kérek szépen (pronunciation). And the most important that you need to learn and be able to say 20x in a row in a faster and faster pace is the word for cheers – egészségedre! (pronunciation)
Hungarian is not easy, but surprisingly Hungarians speak it quite well!
Czechs have the alcoholic nation reputation. I am not sure who is making the statistics for Hungary, but I am totally convinced that Hungarians drink as much or if not more than the Czechs. They drink Czech beer and Hungarian beer too (not to be too discriminatory), but they also spice it up with a shot of pálinka or 2 (distilled fruit liquor, usually around 50 percent of alcohol content).
Hungary introduced the concept of national tobacco shops (nemzeti dohánybolt) with the aim to centralize the sale of cigarettes. What came to me as a terrible surprise was actually the fact that you can buy alcohol in these shops (and also after 10 pm when the sale of alcohol in shops is forbidden!!). My most popular potential acquisition is those little hotel bar miniature bottles. These are very cheap (200-300 HUF) and no, you would search for famous alcohol brands in vain as these are mainly tiny bottles with domestically produced vodkas and pálinkas.
A little rant at the end: if the concept of tobacco shops was created to make cigarettes less readily available and to have Hungarians smoke less, then I do not think it is a very good idea to allow them to sell anything else but the cigarettes. Prove me wrong, please!
Energy drinks beating coffee
Lithuania has recently banned the sale of energy drinks to youth. In Hungary, I dare say that energy drinks are among teenagers more popular than coffee (and even if that may be only partially true, it is alarming). I see the young ones drinking various cans like Bomb, Red bull or Hell and it always makes me a bit sad to stand behind them in a shop watching how they are buying 3+ cans of over sugared water with hell lot of caffeine to survive the day. BTW there is increased taxation on taurin products in Hungary so majority of these energy drinks are containing just caffeine.
Hungarian flag is a tricolour – green, white and red. If you go to Hungary, you meet it basically everywhere – on buildings, on products, on people (yes, when there is national holiday, they wear the tricolours on their coats, so cute!!!) and even on means of public transport (during national holidays, they hoist little flags on the front, even cuter!!!).
Hungarians are very proud of their country, you can see many cars having a little sticker at the back of the big Hungary that still includes Slovakia, Romania and even the seaside of Croatia (check out the map for details).
Walking on the right
It is sometimes very confusing to walk in London, because the people just do everything the other way than you would expect, but they do it in a disciplined way so you just need to follow the crowd in what they are doing and you would be good too. This cannot be said about Hungarians.
When I was a little girl, my mummy was always very much insisting that pedestrians always walk on the right and there was no argument over that. Living in Hungary, it seems that some people’s mummies were also telling this eternal wisdom to their kiddos, but some were not so persistent. This results in people running and bumping into each other all the time as they are walking on the wrong side.
Hungarians, do the things right – walk on right!
When I was living in Budapest for a few months, I got very surprised one day that people started to throw all the useless stuff out of their flat, on the street, in front of their house. I was even more surprised to see family clans with several members to fight over the trash on the street and having their own collection guarded by grandfathers sitting in worn out sofas on the pavements.
Only then I found out that it is not the Crazy people day, but the annual cleaning/trash collection day, when municipalities order big trucks to collect the stuff people do not want any more and before the trucks come to pick it up, it becomes the pray for locals with the belief that my garbage can become the treasure for somebody else. I call this day the second Christmas.
This trash collection is organized per district, so there are actually multiple Christmases per year. Given the districts also vary in terms of who inhabits them, it is quite obvious that the richer districts provide for a better junk.
But believe me, this is not only a gift to poor people, but also to other inhabitants of Budapest, who can this way enjoy quite some fun when returning from a pub. I remember carrying a chair with us for quite some time as it sounded like a good idea (and it was darn useful).
So now you found out that Hungarian men are gentlemen with bad driving skills and affinity to walk on the wrong side. You also know that Hungarians love spending time outside and when it rains, girls put on rain shoes (and make it their fashionable accessory) and that in order to meet Hungarians, you can actually go to London instead of to Hungary. And most probably you are envious now that you do not earn your living in forints, because Hungarians can become millionaires much more easily than you. Tough luck!
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If you want to find out more about Hungarians, you can read the first part of this article here.
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