Why Hungary?

I can only find elephants in the zoo. So, that can't be the reason I'm in Hungary...I’ve lived in Hungary for nearly four years.  That means that I’ve met a lot of people, and nearly everyone has asked me the same question:

“Why Hungary?”

They want to know why I came to this country.  The world is a big place, and Hungary isn’t particularly well known.  At the moment, it’s not known as being too prosperous or desirable.  A large percentage of Hungarians (especially young people) are moving abroad to find more a better quality of life.  Therefore, it usually comes as a shock to people that this is where I choose to spend my time.

But, I think they’re missing the point entirely.  They always want to know what made me come here in the first place.  Despite the fact that I often try (but rarely succeed) to convince people I only came here because I got lost, the question actually has a simple and boring answer.  I found a job.  It’s that straightforward.

A lot of people are in Hungary because of marriage. So far, I'm safe from that one!

What people should ask is why I have stayed in Hungary.  I originally came with an employment contract of one year.  When I did that, I assumed I would either like teaching and move to another country to continue exploring, or I wouldn’t like it and would go home.  Instead, I moved to the capital city and continued.  One more year of that, and then I switched back to studying without moving to a new land.

So, that’s a much more exciting question.  What do I like about Hungary?  What has kept me here?

This answer isn’t so easy…

There are a lot of reasons that I like Hungary, so I have a new goal to start writing them, one-by-one.

Cool houses, that's one thing I love about Hungary.

Reason #1:  I feel welcome here.

That sounds cheesy.  I guess it is cheesy.  I don’t care.

Hungarians often get a reputation among foreigners as being “mean” or “cold,” but I disagree with that (except if you forget to acknowledge that something was invented by a Magyar).  Most people frown when they walk down the street by themselves.  They don’t make polite conversation to strangers on a bus.  But, that doesn’t mean they’re rude.  Well, some are, but you’re always going to have exceptions (they’re probably just mad they didn’t invent something yet).

I think there are a lot of different historical reasons (that I won’t go into) of why their culture has adopted that practice, but it’s not very different from many other nearby countries.  Plus, Hungarians tend to be very jolly when they’re sitting in a café with friends.  They smile while they chat on trains.  They even have absurdly polite (and confusing) expressions that are often used in their language.

The thing is, I feel like they don’t particularly care for strangers.  But, it’s really not difficult to stop being a stranger.  I’d like to compare them to dogs (keep reading, before you think this is an insult).  I love dogs, and one of the biggest reasons is that a dog treats you very well if you give it a little bit of food and love in return.  Hungarians tend to be the same (except, they commonly greet people by shaking hands, not the other method which dogs prefer…).


I can’t count how many times I’ve met a Hungarian, and they almost immediately insisted on doing some huge favor for me.  It’s actually more difficult to get them to leave you alone.  “No, it’s okay, I can take care of it myself” is a phrase that seems to have been left out of their English textbooks.

If they decide you’re hungry, they give you food (even if you just ate).  If they decide the place you asked about is far away, they will drive you there right away (even if you don’t really want to go).  If they decide you’re bored, they’ll start talking to you to entertain you (even if, at some point in the discussion, they forget to keep speaking in English).  The list never ends...

It seems that every time I start to feel homesick or out of place, it happens.  A Hungarian pushes their way into my life and immediately includes me in something that’s going on with them.  I could give you a lot of examples, but mind your own business.  Just go make friends with a Hungarian - you’ll see what I mean.

So if you feel unwelcome in Hungary, it’s because you’re not actually talking to anyone.  That’s your fault, not theirs (but as soon as someone realizes it, they’ll start talking to you).

 A castle, maybe that's the trick to welcoming people.

Hungarian word of the day:


This word is pronounced “Cho-ko-lome,” and it’s a polite greeting to say to a lady.  It means something along the lines of “I kiss your hand.”  I told you the Hungarians are polite.  Try saying that to a lady in any other country and the year 2014…