Erasmus life in Budapest – Hungary through the eyes of French students
How would you imagine Erasmus life in a different country? Would you decide at all to study abroad and leave behind your own country for the sake of a new one which’s language you do not speak? That is what Erasmus life is mostly about: immersing yourself in a different culture, obtaining lifelong experiences and learning more about yourself. This article reveals how two French students see Hungary and what their impressions are about Budapest that might be eye-opening to us and motivate further progress in the country.
The Erasmus program is becoming more and more popular in recent years by providing opportunity for youngsters to broaden their horizon and obtain diverse experiences while studying in a different country. And what city would be more ideal for it than Budapest that nurtures culture with a number of theatres, cinemas and galleries, and also provides opportunity for professional development with several prestigious universitites.
Motivations and 1st impressions about Hungary
What motivates French students to come to Hungary while the palette of countries is variable? It is always interesting to see how foreigners perceive other countries, especially when it comes to tertiary education. Both students report that before coming to Hungary, they did not know much about the country. It was their English teacher who said that there are less-known places like Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria where they could also go on Erasmus besides the more well-known destinations.
They chose the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest to study, and even if Hungarians always feel that there are constant problems in the education system, it is reassuring when foreigners say that they came to Hungary because they heard about the good level of education in the country.
As far as 1st impressions are concerned, Hungarians have a lot to improve based on their experience. The French students report that people were quite cold and hostile to them when they arrived, and the district in which they lived for 6 months was nothing like what they expected. As we often hear, Hungarians are reluctant to speak any other languages that did not facilitate their stay in Budapest either. However, as soon as they started to pick up some Hungarian words and made an effort to communicate in Hungarian, people’s attitude also changed towards them.
The Hungarian language
They report that cliché as it may sound, the Hungarian language is really difficult to learn.
At the beginning, they could not communicate well in Hungarian, so they used English, a little Hungarian and a lot of gestures 🙂
Answering for the question of what words they picked up during their stay, they reported very interesting ones. You would never guess that more than half a year after the end of the Erasmus programme, they still remember such words. Besides recalling how to introduce themselves (“Marie vagyok, huszonegy éves vagyok és diák vagyok” – I am Marie, a 21 year-old student), they also mentioned words like utca (street), romkocsma (ruin pub), Franciaország (France), marhahús (beef) and further food vocabulary. 🙂
Funny situations and everyday barriers
Another difficulty they mentioned is the usage of forint. Being accustomed to euro, they needed to convert everything to forint in supermarkets that created inital difficulties. After some weeks, however, they got accustomed to the usage of it.
In addition to this, it is also very surprising that both of them mentioned how early Hungarians get dinner, around 6 p.m., and how rapidly it gets dark in Hungary because of which they felt that the day is almost over around 4 p.m.
Some negative impressions about Budapest
A mutual agreement was reached on the issue of poverty.
They felt that not much is done for the homeless sleeping in parks and in subways.
Nevertheless, they do not believe in the commonly held belief that Hungarians are pessimistic and always complain about something, because given the living conditions of some, they hold that Hungarians could be more pessimistic and could complain about more things than they actually do. Compared to France, they have the impression that French people should have nothing to complain about.
The biggest fear of the French students before arriving to Budapest was the Hungarian cuisine. In contrast, they loved Hungarian specialities like the goulash or the lángos, but they also tried the tejföl and the different kinds of bread. They say that Hungarian cuisine is lot more salty and greasy than the French cuisine, but it is also richer and more substantial than in France.
All in all, compared to France, life seems cheaper in Budapest for the French students, but also more difficult because of the worse living conditions and circumstances. They believe that Erasmus life in Budapest made them know more about the Hungarian culture, cuisine and architecture and having now a reference point, they see things differently in France.
The interview with the French ladies also brought to light that there are many things to be proud of as Hungarians, although significant progress should be achieved in some domains of life to make Hungary a much better place to live in.
Therefore, their impressions about the deficiencies present in the system can be regarded eye-opening for all Hungarians, but they can also strengthen the positive values that our culture represents.