We, Hungarians, like to believe that in general we are nice, friendly and welcoming people if it comes to the people from other countries living here. We love to read about foreigners praising Budapest, our food, our party places.
But is it really that nice living here for the foreigners?
You will be surprised.
Amanda is from Brazil and have been living in Budapest for a while now. It is interesting to see through the eyes of someone from such a far away country how we, Hungarians are, and how our country seems to be for her.
I believe that we can all have some things to think about from the conversation with her.
Dóri Padla: How long have you been living in Hungary and how did you end up here?
Amanda Pinheiro: I have been here for 2 years, I arrived in September 2017. I came here because I wanted the experience working abroad and it was Hungary where I found a job.
What did you know about Hungary before?
I didn’t know anything, to be honest. I came here without knowing the country.
What did you get to know before you came? Did you do any research on the country before arriving?
When I was applying, I was searching for the city very quick to see whether it would be suitable for me. I saw a lot of jobs in Budapest and I saw it was a very beautiful city. I didn’t know the currency – because the Hungarian currency is crazy – so I just checked if I can live in that city from that amount. I didn’t know anyone here nor I knew anyone who has been here before.
What was your first impression when you got to Budapest?
The weather was really cold! And that the language is impossible to learn. Actually, my husband came with me and he did learn Hungarian. My first impression was that the city was really-really beautiful, I believe that Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. Transportation is very good as well. I know Hungarians don’t like it, but I don’t really understand why. And I also noticed that many people are not nice. When I arrived, I was working for he Portuguese market, so I didn’t know that many Hungarians. I was mainly in contact with them in services, like supermarkets, buying something. I felt that they are not treating the foreigners well, that they are rude. My husband says that now that he speaks Hungarian, they tend to be more kind with him. But all in all, that was my impression when I arrived.
What are the top 3 things that you like in Budapest?
Talking about places, I love the city of Budapest, it is the most beautiful I have ever seen. Every time when someone comes to visit me, I want to show all the place around. The Parliament is wonderful, Fishermen’s Bastille, all the hills. I really like the thermal baths, a great way of relaxing. Have never been to any before coming here, but now I always go here. I also love the countryside, all the cities I have visited were amazing. My favourite one was Eger so far, but I also liked the caves in Miskolc and Szeged with its very beautiful Dóm.
Being here for 2 years now, what were those things that were good surprises for you?
The country is really beautiful. I am in contact with Hungarians at my workplace and they are nice, I really like them. But outside work I still find people rude. I have the impression that we are in a country where people don’t want us – foreigners – here and we are assured of it many times. In Budapest people are used to the foreigners. However, in the countryside if we enter a restaurant and they hear us talking in a foreign language, everyone just stops. They are not used to the people from other countries. I wouldn’t say exactly that we feel not being welcome here, but there are difficulties. We cannot get the European Union health insurance card – even though we are living here – or for example companies don’t really want to pay for your residence permit.
You said that your Hungarian colleagues are nice, however the Hungarian “people of the street” are different. Where do you see this difference coming from?
From knowing the person. Sometimes you say you don’t like certain types of people (by country, ethnic groups, etc.) but when you meet them and get to know them you see that he/she is just a person who can be as nice as anyone else. This is the difference. My colleagues they know me. When you are working in an international company, we are all equal, no one has to be afraid or anything like this.
So maybe we can say that your colleagues are not stereotyping, while the “people of the street” do?
Yes, maybe that too. And when I say that the people in the shops are rude, it is possible that they are not. Maybe I am just no used to it. Because for example this June I was in Brazil and went to a pharmacy. The first thing the cashier did was saying that “Oh, your hair is so beautiful!”. And it was such a nice thing from her! In Brazil you are never shy talking to anyone, they just come, say hello to each other and start a conversation. So maybe the people here are not really rude, I am just not used to the way things work in Hungary.
Hungarians are indeed a lot more closed than in Brazil. I assume that in your country if you stand in a queue, it is normal to talk to the people in the line. Here, if you start a conversation with the people waiting, there is a good chance you will get weird looks, people thinking about whether you are crazy, talking to a stranger. It is definitely a cultural difference.
And me being a foreigner, not speaking Hungarian, not being used to the things here, it keeps adding layers. One interesting thing for me was that at the workplace men shake hands only with the men in the mornings, but not with the women. Also, it was a funny story when to a work party my husband also came. When he introduced himself, he kissed and hugged each and every person – just like he would do it Brazil. And the people here were so surprised of this, it was hilarious. So, this is for example a culture difference too.
The Hungarians are not touchy ones, if we compare us with the Brazilians, that is true 😊
And I got used to that by now completely. I am not offended by not being kissed and hugged when introducing myself, I know that here this is how it works, with the handshakes.
What do you think would help the Hungarian people to be more welcoming regarding foreigners?
I think they should open themselves. Open up towards other experiences, other people, other ways of lives. So that they can see that the way they live might not fit them that much. And so that they can realise that there can be a need for a change. When you open yourself to experiences you can choose what fits you – personally – better. Maybe you don’t like kissing and hugging, then you don’t have to. But it is good to know that you have this choice. Maybe you feel better that way or maybe you feel weighted – and that is also all right.
How is the Hungarian life like for a foreigner living here?
We always talk about this with my friends, actually. Even though the salaries in Hungary are not high, you can have a really good and comfortable life while living here. You have access to leisure, you live in a nice apartment, you can pay your bills. For people who are starting their career and their lives, it is a great place to start. I would definitely recommend Budapest for them. I have visited some friends in London and Berlin, where salaries are higher, but everything is a lot more expensive too. So, if you are fresh out of the university, Budapest is a fantastic place to come and gain work experience. You are not going to be rich, you are not going to save that much money, but you can rest, have a nice apartment, go to bars, you can live quite well.
What would you suggest to those foreigners who are planning to move here or have just moved to Hungary?
To be patient and open. Because it is another culture. Once you understand how things work and why, it will make everything easier. Since we are the ones coming, we also need to be open to the culture and how it works. This way we will also feel less offended or scared or anything like this.
Or shocked 😊
Or shocked, yes 😊 Because the culture is really-really beautiful but many of us are afraid of the people. And it is just a matter of understanding, in order not to freak out. At the same time, you will find a lot of Hungarians who are really nice and sweet. My best advice for the foreigners is to wait and see and understand, it will eventually help you. Also, they should try to come to Budapest first and not a countryside city, where they would feel more isolated. In Budapest it is really easy to find not just Hungarians but all nationalities. There are a lot of meet-ups, groups, you can find very helpful people, you can find everything. The city is nice and friendly, you can kind of get away with English too. However, on the countryside it is a lot more difficult. We, foreigners should also open up our minds towards the things with which we don’t agree and be happy about the ones we agree with.
In general, I think that people all over the world should change, but they have to want to change. They have to realise, they have to change. Neither me nor anyone can force them to change. Because in that case I would be egocentric telling them that my way of thinking is better than yours. Everyone needs to realise the necessity of change themselves.
Exactly, I absolutely agree. Also, as the English proverb says: “You can lead the horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink”. If you had a magic wand, what would be that thing you would bring from Brazil to Hungary?
The behaviour of the people, the openness. I would also bring the weather 😊