Living in Hungary: Things you’ll notice about Hungarians as a foreigner

Hungary- the land of Palinka, schnitzel, paprika, sweet wine, and all things fried. As with most countries unfamiliar to you, Hungarian cities might come with a bit of a culture shock. Here’s a list of things you should expect upon arrival to this lovely country, whether it be Budapest, Debrecen, Miskolc, or any of the smaller towns.

They aren’t yelling, it’s just how they talk

I constantly feel like people are yelling here, but it’s just how Hungarians talk. The first time I experienced one of R’s family dinners, I quietly asked him “why are they yelling so much?” He just says that’s how they talk. They’re loud; no one’s mad at you, and no one’s mad at each other.

Blowing their nose as loud as they can in any, and every public place

This might be a me thing, but I hate the sound of sneezing, people blowing their nose, loud chewing, basically anything of the sorts. People carry packs of Kleenex everywhere. Once I saw a lady pull out a LEATHER HOLDER for her Kleenex on the tram. I saw someone carrying around a pack at the gym, just incase their nose starts to run mid set, I guess. It’s always the loudest they could possibly blow their nose too. I think sniffling is considered rude here, but is everyone always sick?

Everyone’s afraid of getting sick

The heat in every store, bus, tram, restaurant, bar, and house is always on sauna mode. I swear the biggest fear engrained in every Hungarian’s brain is the common cold. It might be freezing outside, but dress in layers because any time you go inside, almost anywhere, you will be sweating. Also, as someone who usually goes barefoot, that’s not okay here. If you go into a Hungarian household, and you don’t have slippers, they will INSIST you borrow a pair of slippers, or flip flops in the summer. You might catch a cold…..

Never say no to food

It’s really rude to refuse food if you go in someone’s house. It’s also rude to not offer visitor’s food. Be prepared either way.

Service is… Questionable

I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for a while, and the service you receive in most Hungarian restaurants would not be up to par with North America. Do not expect your server to quality check your meal after dropping it off, do not expect them to be overly friendly, and expect to have to chase them down for the cheque. That’s the hardest part. I honestly have no idea what would happen if you felt the need to complain about your food. Do they take care of it? Make you something new? No idea. I don’t think it’s a thing here. Tip is often included in bills, but I always tip if it’s not. I don’t really know what’s expected. I always think that serving here would be so easy because you can be kind of bitchy and no one bats an eye and no one jumps on the server to complain that somethings wrong (when it’s not) so they can get free things. I shouldn’t get started on server problems because that might take over this post.

Poppyseeds and walnuts

These are staples in Hungarian diets. Pasta with poppyseeds and sugar, walnuts in most baking, same with poppyseeds. It’s hard to get away from them.

Say hello to everyone, and also bye

You might notice the person you’ve never spoken to saying “szia,” as they pass you on the stairs going to your apartment, or saying “hallo,” when you leave. Or they’ll walk in the gym and say “sziasztok,” which is hello or good bye to more than one person. These greetings are like aloha, they mean hi or bye, and everyone says it to everyone when they arrive or leave. I feel like the people at the gym I go to think I’m rude because I don’t usually do that. Whoops.

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As an outsider, it’s important to be respectful of the cultural differences when visiting new places. There are several other small things I’ve noticed while being here, and none are bad, they just seem strange or different to me. But who am I to judge? I’m just some Canadian girl.

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