Don't Judge A Country By It's Cleaning Crews

Budapest Keleti Train Station (click to see larger).Dear Hungarian Railways,

I teach at a Hungarian Secondary School, therefore my knowledge of the Hungarian language is not completely balanced.  By that, I mean that I’m used to hearing people called inappropriate names.  Bad words are, unfortunately, a significant part of my Hungarian vocabulary.

This is important to know because I recently heard many of these words on one of your trains.

The train was an international night route from Belgrade, Serbia.  It arrived into Budapest-Keleti at about 5 o’clock in the morning.  Without any warning of the arrival, most of the passengers were asleep until the loud thumping of the doors awoke them.

I couldn’t sleep, so I saw the whole situation.  The second the train stopped, a group of three Hungarian cleaning personnel boarded the train.  Upon realization that all the passengers were only waking up and starting to gather their belongings, they unleashed a string of dirty words that should never be uttered.

In case the passengers didn’t understand Hungarian,  they complemented their language with horrible looks and gruff noises.  Their feelings were not hidden from anyone.

The Hungarian countryside out the window (click to see larger).Without the aid of a conductor waking up the passengers, it’s only logical they will be asleep.  These three men seemed to believe it was unthinkable for anyone take more than one second to get off the train.  They boarded so fast that they would’ve beat the passengers unless they were hanging off the sides of the train at arrival.

It’s understandable that cleaning garbage at five in the morning on a national holiday isn’t a great job, but it was a horrible image of the Hungarian people.  These men were absolutely nasty to a train full of sleeping passengers.

I happen to know first-hand that Hungarians are incredibly kind, generous, and welcoming.  If this had been my initial arrival to Hungary, I probably would have gone to the ticket counter and buy the next ticket to another country.



I didn’t actually send this letter, although I feel like I should.  There’s the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I thought of a new one.  “Don’t judge a country by its cleaning crews.”

These three Hungarian men had a worse attitude than I’ve seen from other people in all of my months here combined.  It’s a shame that they could be a sort of welcoming committee.

Moral of the story:  Hungarians are almost too generous and nice.  If you meet one that is mean, ignore him and move on.  Don’t take the next train out – you’ll miss a great country.


Sometimes you see cool things out the window (click to see larger).Hungarian word of the day:


It’s pronounced with a long O that rhymes with “row”, and then a sound like the word “raw”.  It means hour.  Like the hour of sleep that I lost last night when the time changed.  Fortunately I found out about it before I was late for school Monday morning.  That would’ve been embarrassing.