Social Life in Hungary

Language

One of the unique features of social life in Hungary is experiencing one of the most unique languages in Europe. The language for Hungary is Hungarian, spoken by the vast majority, although there are about 15 languages spoken, including Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese. The Hungarian language is unlike any of the country’s neighbouring languages and is only distantly related to Finnish and Estonian. It is not part of the Indo-European family of languages. The Latin alphabet is used, and there are 41 alphabet letters and groups, where certain letters come together and are considered as one.

Many people do speak English over there, especially the younger generation who are taught it in school. Budapest is a tourist centre and English is quite widely spoken, but it is only polite to learn a few phrases, and the alphabet is difficult to make sense of if you speak none. Signposts and direction are written in Hungarian.

The great thing is that if you have children they do seem able to absorb languages easily, and unless your Hungarian is very good they will soon be translating for you.

Social Life in Hungary

It can be hard to really just hang out with Hungarians as there is usually a huge financial imbalance. You are rich, and they simply cannot afford places you might regard as cheap. So be sensitive to this issue. Also, Hungarian is not the easiest of languages to acquire, but if you have a go, they are likely to try out their English. Also, why would they need new friends when they have already got their own? What can you offer them?

Family is the basis of the Hungarian social structure, extended families often living together, grandparents helping to look after the children. Personal questions are all a part of getting to know you. If you are honoured by a rare invitation to a home, flowers or chocolates are welcome gifts. Don’t take wine though, as Hungarians prefer to choose it themselves and are proud of their wines. Flowers should not be lilies, chrysanthemums or red roses, and you should take an odd number – but not 13. And don’t be more than 5 minutes late or ask for a tour of the house. If your glass is empty it will be immediately refilled so leave your glass ½ full if you do not want more.

Hungarians are leaders in water sports, including water polo – and there are thermal springs near Lake Balaton. Hungary has a tradition of horsemanship – their ancestors were nomadic tribes and horses were an essential part of daily life. There is a variety of entertainment for dancing and drinking. Indoor venues – however – tend to be deserted during the summer as most people prefer to be outside. There are plenty of dating sites to be found on the internet.

Making friends may take some time and effort – but the worst thing you can do is to put up your hands and say “They seem to be unfriendly – so I’ll be unfriendly, too!”

National Holidays

  • Jan 1 New Year’s Day
  • March 15 National Day
  • April Easter Day
  • Easter Monday
  • May 1 Labour Day/May Day
  • Pentecost 50 days after Easter
  • August 20 St Stephen’s Day
  • Nov 1 All Saints’ Day
  • Dec 25/26Christmas

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