I’m Hungarian and as an English teacher, translator and interpreter, I’ve been working with people worldwide. Through the years, I’ve heard interesting, funny and sometimes offensive stereotypes about my country and people. How does the world view Hungary and Hungarians? Keep on reading to find out.
1. Hungarians are pessimistic
I totally agree with that. They see the dark side of everything and they are never satisfied with everything. Gratitude is something they find difficult to practise as they are never happy with the little joys of life. If you are happy about something “minor”, people might give you odd looks, think you’ve been brainwashed or have joined a cult.
2. Hungarians are paranoid
Kind of. Hungarians tend to think that others (other people, other nations, the EU, you name it) conspire against them. It has been like that for centuries and I guess we have this mindset because Hungary has been occupied multiple times throughout its history, we have been deceived and we were involved in two wars where we were on the defeated side. Perfect evidence of this paranoid mindset is that in Hungary, houses have fences. All of them. Every house should have a strong fence, best if it’s like a wall, so no one can have a look into your property. I live in a county capital in eastern Hungary and here the local authorities have made a rule that the only type of fence you can build is one that allows 50% insight into your yard, but people still install fences and gates made of full brick, stone or full sheets of steel that enable 0% chance of anyone seeing what’s going on in your garden or backyard. In addition, every proper Hungarian has to have a fierce dog, the bigger the better, but you can even train a Dachshund to scare away anyone.
3. Every Hungarian owns a horse
We are the descendants of the Huns who used to travel on horseback and Hungarians are famous for their horse-riding skills, but in fact, very few families own horses because they are expensive and take up a lot of space. Just imagine accommodating a horse in a 10-storey block of flats where 84 families live on average.
4. Hungarians are innovative and resourceful
Rubik’s cube, carbonated water, Vitamin C, ballpoint pen, Word and Excel, coloured television, tungsten lamp, and nuclear bomb – they were all invented by Hungarians, so yes, we are pretty innovative. A Hungarian woman was also a member of the group of scientists who developed the covid vaccine.
5. Hungarians eat grease, paprika and sour cream all the time
Hungarian food isn’t the healthiest and yes, paprika and sour cream are kitchen staples, but we don’t eat them all the time. While we are very proud of our food, I know a lot of people – me included – who don’t like Hungarian cuisine at all because it’s too greasy or spicy.
6. Hungarians are xenophobic
The series of occupations and foreign rule has definitely made Hungarians suspicious of foreigners and unfortunately, there are a great number of xenophobes and racists in Hungary, but Hungarian hospitality is also famous. We don’t really like mixing cultures, though. The upcoming Halloween, for example, has been a topic of debate for years as more and more people are trying to celebrate it at least at home, but it’s the day before our Day of the Dead when we go to cemeteries, commemorate our dead loved ones and light candles on their graves. It’s a sad and solemn celebration and according to most Hungarians, it should have nothing to do with the fun time of Halloween.
7. Hungarians live in yurts
I actually heard this story when I was a student at university. A teacher of mine told my class about a girl from her circle of friends who went to France on an international student exchange programme. When she arrived at the French host family’s place, she realized that they hadn’t prepared a room for her. They escorted her to the backyard upon arrival, where the French had set up a yurt for her. They read that Hungarians live in yurts. Alternatives to stories like this are when western people ask Hungarians if we have fridges, bathrooms and running water in our houses because some people spread the rumour that we don’t have any of these.
Which is your favourite stereotype? Do you know any other stereotypes about Hungary and Hungarians? Did you find anything surprising in this post?