Ákos moved to Spain as a university student. I asked him how it felt to leave his home country, how he coped with difficulties, what he gained and what he missed the most about Hungary.
Leaving your home country is in no case an easy decision whether it arises from the desire to enrich your CV with international experience or you just want to prove yourself in a novel setting. In any case, you might face difficulties: you struggle with the language, you come across cultural differences, or you just encounter other unforeseen circumstances where you can only count on yourself. After a while, though, once your new life becomes dull, you start to miss your old habits: hanging out with your friends or just eating out in your favourite takeaway place.
When I first arrived in Spain, I was not really familiar with Spanish, since I had never imagined that one day I would need to speak it. English was of no use in that rural small town where I ventured to start my new life. The first few months I had realised that without speaking Spanish I could not carry out even the simplest tasks, like going to the hairdresser or buying food in a supermarket. “Tell me how would you like your hair” – the hairdresser would ask me. Showing pictures just did fine at the beginning, but
I knew that eventually I had to start speaking the language. So I took classes.
Subsequently, life got easier for me. People started communicating with me, which was a very good thing as I had had difficulties establishing new connections. Finally, I stopped being looked at as a foreigner and people started to be willing to accept me as a newcomer living among them.
As a Hungarian, I had not anticipated the Spanish culture to be outrageously different from mine. However, there was a particular minuscule phenomenon, which never stopped bugging me, that is, life stops between 2 and 5 PM.
The siesta hours were sometimes considerably annoying, especially when I wanted to do some light shopping after finishing my part-time job at 2PM and I found the shops closed. This was a huge change when you think about the comfort of easily finding 24/7 shops in Budapest.
Another interesting difference I learnt was that people were seemingly exceptionally helpful. Once I was trying to figure out the bus line I needed to take to get to the university where I worked, and three people came to help me, competing with each other about the shortest and fastest way. Things like this had rarely happened to me in Budapest.
The food was great! Spaniards have a wider variety of ingredients that also includes all sorts of seafood and fish. Many dishes come with “exotic” materials such as salmon, shrimps or calamari that aren’t typically found on a Hungarian dining table. Spanish people appeared to like finding time to adhere to their Mediterranean diet, that is, to eat plenty and well. Ordering in a restaurant can be a hassle, though.
Getting your meal takes a collaborative effort and usually implies a duration of two hours: A lot compared to the 30-minute lunch break we are used to in Hungary.
This is because Spanish people like to share their food, so they should order what everybody is okay with. In strong contrast with some Hungarian habits, Spaniards like to eat out together, generally in a group of 8-12 friends.
I called Spain my home for around four years. Later, I realised how much I had liked all the noise, the traffic and the bustle of Budapest. I terribly missed my friends home, and the friendships I made with Erasmus people were difficult to maintain as people changed from semester to semester, having me start from the beginning each time. I grew tired of going to the airport, sleeping on the floor while waiting for the 6 AM flight.
So, I decided to relocate back to Budapest from March.
Nonetheless, I have learnt a lot of aspects of life and achieved both personal and professional gains while I was an expat in Spain. For sure I will miss the mild winter, the uninterrupted hours of sunshine, the spectacular beaches and the winding roads that lead inexorably through barren mountains.
Featured Image: Daily News Hungary. Málaga
Source: Daily News Hungary