This is a light hearted look at the way I have learnt to adapt to the Hungarian culture and lifestyle. Every country has differences but they do not become apparent until you have spent time observing and learning what’s acceptable and what is not!
Generally English people are quite reserved and tend to walk with their heads down and not talk to anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. In Hungary you hold your head up high and shout “Hello” as a greeting to every person you see. I was surprised to find this happening in waiting rooms of doctors and dentists, a “Hello” when patients walk in and as they leave they say “Hello Hello”. Are you confused? Yes, I was too, Hungarians use the term “Hello” to greet and say goodbye.
English people are generally punctual, in fact, usually early for a timed gathering or meeting. Hungarians take a far more relaxed view of timekeeping, I learnt that a meeting taking place at say 1 o’clock, generally meant they would arrive at 2 o’clock. At first I found this annoying but realised this is their way of life, unhurried and easy going, I have now accepted this.
As the lowest Hungarian coin is 5 forints, when buying items requiring change of 1,2,3 or 4 forints I have learnt to accept I would not get the change. It took me a while to work out why I was being short-changed, but finally the penny dropped!
You know you are talking like a Hungarian when you can pronounce Egészségedre correctly, the term used to say “Here’s to You or Cheers! This term is also used when someone sneezes, meaning, Bless You!
Palinka (fruit brandy), the potent fiery “cure-all” does not burn my throat as much as it did when I first arrived. Hungarians are very proud of their national drink and will offer it to you at every opportunity, I discovered it is extremely bad manners to refuse it.
I seem to be developing Hungarian taste buds as I now add hot paprika to most dishes and REALLY enjoy it. Most people have heard of Hungarian Goulash but the traditional version is called Gulyás and is a soup, heavy on meat, paprika and other spices, prepared in a huge pot usually over an open fire. Absolutely delicious!
More and more I am finding myself speaking Hungarian words to my husband inside our home, in the past we have only spoken English. They seems to just pop out of my mouth, not a bad thing and a good way to practise. Hungarian is incredibly hard to learn, but I will get nowhere if I don’t try to learn.
If you are a vegetarian (which I was for a time) it can be challenging here as the Hungarians are mainly a nation of meat lovers, favouring chicken and pork for most meals. Not many restaurants have vegetarian options and salads and coleslaws are very different to their English equivalent.
I have discovered that the music played here on the Hungarian radios is mainly 80’s English disco/pop. Our builders had their radios on full blast during the summer months which was sometimes quite nostalgic. Traditional music is played frequently at village festivals, a foot tapping joyous sound which is surprisingly pleasing to listen too. Oh how my music tastes have changed!
I have learnt that Hungary are a nation of cigarette smokers, and it is rare to see anyone with a e-cigarette. I have an e-cigarette and find it hard to buy oils here. There does not seem to be a health drive as intense as there is in England to reduce or help people to stop. Tobacconists are the only people who are licensed to sell cigarettes whereas in England you can buy them in a variety of places including supermarkets. They are far cheaper here at about £3.50 per pack compared to England at over £10 a pack.