Have you ever had that “oh, wow” moment when you were presented with a situation in another country that seemed utterly weird or illogical to you? Culture shock is a real thing, especially in Hungary, according to many expats. Here are the 5 biggest culture shocks that left our readers completely baffled when they first came to live in Hungary.
“To this day, one Hungarian habit I can’t get is asking guests to take off their shoes – many foreigners are flabbergasted when coming over for a dinner or a social occasion, all dressed up and glitzed up, to find themselves asked to walk around in a pair of hotel slippers or, even better – funny bunny slippers with ears. It seems one of the major ways to completely ruin the elegance, dignity and relevance of a gathering. You just can’t take a person seriously in a suit and tie who has slippers on his feet. You really make an effort to show respect towards the host by doing your best to put together an elegant appearance, and then they ask you to dismantle it by walking barefoot for the whole evening and looking at other people’s feet, socks and tights.” – Goran, Serbia (52)
“I can’t forget that day when I first took the metro to my university, and a middle-aged man casually fished out a measly tissue that must have seen days from his pocket and started loudly blowing his nose next to me. He went on enthusiastically for a good half a minute until he emptied all his ‘content’ while the other passengers didn’t even bat an eyelid. Ever since I keep observing the same thing. Wherever I go, I notice someone taking out a tissue from their pocket, blowing their nose loudly and putting the tissue back in the pocket. I’m startled by the intensity they put into it and the sound that comes with the act. Blowing your nose really seems like a serious business over here. At times, it comes across as if locals want to outdo one another and show off who can blow his or her nose louder. They do sound like a trumpet. That’s definitely one of the biggest culture shocks that come to my mind.” – Yadira, France (22)
Read more: How to make friends as an expat in Hungary
“What struck me first when I came to Budapest were the often pessimistic, negative answers I was given for asking another person how he or she was doing. It was especially true in the case of elderly people. My girlfriend’s family lives in a small village on the Great Hungarian Plain and whenever we visit them I always brace myself up for an endless rant about health issues, politics and the country’s failing economy. In my culture, when we get together with friends and family, we usually focus on positive news and conversation topics. I’ve also noticed that people rarely smile at you on the streets or in shops and restaurants. At first, I thought it was because I’m a foreigner but they are no different towards locals either. In their defense, my girlfriend explained to me a bit of the cultural background behind this cold demeanor, and now I get that it has to do with locals’ general wariness towards strangers due to the long years of communism and living under other countries’ occupation. So I don’t let things discourage me anymore. Just keep smiling and, after some time, people will warm up to you!” – Karim, Egypt (36)
“Being married to a Hungarian man, and seemingly to his mother as well, certainly has its challenges. When it comes to culture shocks, I can say a had a fair share of those. For example, coming from Sicily, where we always put fresh vegetables on the table and no meal can go with a big bowl of colourful salad, it was baffling for me at first that the main food items in the Hungarian kitchen are predominantly meat, potatoes, and bread. When we occasionally go out to eat in restaurants with Hungarian friends, they quickly polish off the meat and the sides (which is either rice or potatoes, with no exception) and toss over with covert disgust even that tiny piece of vegetable that was placed on the plate as if it was just decoration or unworthy to be eaten. I have also observed how dependent people are on energy drinks and those cheap frozen bakery products you can buy at the metro stations. Hungarians tend to follow a rather unvaried diet which is not necessarily good for them.” – Carmela, Italy (35)
“Coming from a more conservative culture, I was startled at first how openly locals discuss each other’s, even intimate, business. They just love to gossip about their friends’ love affairs and sexual encounters in great detail. I always get updated by my girlfriend about the latest happenings at her friend group, like who hooked up with who or who walked out on his or her partner.. It seems that people here are too much engaged with their friends’ love lives, which are usually considered private matters in my country. Things get even wilder after a couple of shots of pálinka, my head is buzzing after all the gossip I have to listen to involuntarily on a night out. To make matters worse, I even have keep in mind all the latest happenings otherwise my girlfriend gives me unapproving looks if I fail to remember the name of that new guy her best friend has been dating for only two weeks.” – Hamza, Turkey (28)