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They Love Me, They Love Me Not?

How long since you and me are aliens, you and me are legal aliens?

One month! One year! Two years! Five or ten. Who gives more?!

Some of us may stick with the status of visiting, others with moved to, grew up in or in love with, passing by, searching for happiness in, currently in and hundreds of other phrases when explaining how and why they ended up being here, in Budapest. In this article, some of the Budapest-based expats are sharing their experiences about the capital with you, dear readers of Hungary Today.

When blogging about foreigners living in Budapest, eventually, the time comes to reveal the list of the things expats like and dislike about this mind-bending city. Some of us optimistically tend to brush over the negative parts and rather pay more attention on the bright side, while others do the exact opposite. Optimists, pessimists, realists and the great mixture of all were asked to share their top 5 points they love and hate about Hungary and their lives here.

Let’s break the ice with a real culture seeker, Nadja, a work-away volunteer from Germany, Heidelberg. Nadja was working in Portugal, when she met two other volunteers, Kai from the United Kingdom and Alex from Canada. Shortly, they moved to Budapest together and started their volunteer work for one of the central hostels of the capital, where travelers are provided with bed and board in exchange for work.

Here’s then, Nadja’s list of things she loves about Hungary:

  1. Huge number of bars and clubs!
  2. The feeling I get here.
  3. Túró Rudi.
  4. The language.
  5. I love to walk back home after a night out and have all these lovely, small pizza shops, where they offer pizza slices for 200 – 250 HUF.
  6. The Fisherman’s Bastion, the Parliament and the view from the Margaret bridge by night.

Things I hate… well, “hate” is such a strong word! I would rather go for I don’t love:

  1. The cashier’s face, when I forgot to ask for a bag and they are swearing at me.
  2. Seeing so many homeless people outside… Even now, when the temperature is low and still dropping.
  3. Not speaking the Hungarian language.
  4. Prime Minister’s way of treating refugees.
photo: Polina Avramenko

Kateryna, a first year student at Corvinus University of Budapest from Ukraine, Mukachevo (Munkács) was also happy to share her list with us.

Things I love about the city are:

  1. The fact of how many international people live here: you can easily find mates, who are speaking your native language if it is important.
  2. The ancient, beautiful architecture is carefully preserved and perfectly combined with modern, stylish pieces.
  3. Cafe Frei with its various, delicious coffees, is my one and only favourite.
  4. Being a student and the possibility to apply for numerous scholarships, as well as the student discounts at the public transport and entertainment facilities.
  5. Ruin bars such as Szimpla Kert and Lámpás: even though I am not the most frequent visitor of these places (laughing) I love the special vibe of them and enjoy spending my time with my friends there.
  6. Hungarian people are very polite and helpful.
  7. The new trams, replacing the old ones (2nd, 47th and 49th) – they can be so cold in winter!

Things I don’t love:

  1. In spite of Hungarian people’s tolerance, they are not very open towards foreigners and its hard to integrate into their close community.
  2. Enormous amount of homeless people in subways and on the streets, resulting a smell in these places.
  3. Metro line 3.
  4. Sometimes I just can’t stand how obsessed Hungarians are with their language and history. They can talk about it for hours (but in general, I respect it).
  5. Excessive bureaucracy at state institutions… Immigration office is simply my “favorite”.
  6. High percentage of smokers, who litter all over the place.

It was especially exciting to receive the next opinion from Rob Toth, a Hungarian-Canadian dual citizen. He moved to Budapest from Vancouver in 2015, for both business and pleasure. Rob is the CEO of OODIENCE, a mergers and acquisitions firm that sells media companies globally.

5 things I love about Budapest:

  1. The polite, friendly and “cultured” greetings – whether it’s the “Sir” usage or simply the custom of greeting a room such as a dentist’s waiting room or a small cafe, when you step in and leave – the human courtesy of it!
  2. The night lights. Seeing the bridges at night, well that’s just magic.
  3. The expat and business culture. Often it feels that 50% of Budapest is now foreign, but that sure helps in business goals – so do the new laws that make Hungary one of the most tax-advantageous countries in Europe.
  4. The espresso, the food, the flavours. While the mix of international options is still modest, the foods and cafes here are often very delicious.
  5. The “center of the world” feeling, when working with time zones such as Australia in the morning here and then California in the night, or when needing to take a flight out to Asia or North America, it all feels very central.

5 things I don’t love about Budapest:

  1. The street signs and even traffic lights are very hidden or unintelligently placed. Especially the white background street signs, placed somewhere on the corner of a wall.
  2. The dog crap – especially around the West End area. How can dog owners have this little regard and respect for others to leave their dog’s turds there?
  3. The parking lots and their small parking spots. I don’t mean at a large Tesco for example, but the older, underground parking spots are basically made for large bikes not for normal sized cars.
  4. Lack of tall buildings. I wouldn’t want skyscrapers blocking the views of the Castle and the bridges but there should be a sector of Budapest built up with high rises. I miss the “concrete jungle” at times.
  5. The big lounge seats at restaurants. Very few restaurants in town offer anything more than a small table and a wooden or similarly uncomfortable chair – I miss the big tables and large leather sectionals.
  6. Bonus: The ocean. Or the lack of it. Though I do love the amount of thermal baths and the overall water-culture that is here … I miss the waves of the ocean.”

While I was writing this article, my international friends enthusiastically shared their feelings and thoughts about the country with me. Let’s continue with Nick Schreifels, originally from Colorado, USA, who is currently living in Hungary. He made it straight to the point.

Things I love:

  1. The rich history around every corner.
  2. Pálinka – the best healing elixir.
  3. There is some amazing food here!
  4. The people. My wife is Hungarian (smiling) and her family has been so welcoming!
  5. You don’t need to own a vehicle, since the public transportation or walking can get you most places.

Things I don’t love about Hungary:

  1. I think social and family gatherings can have too much alcohol involved.
  2. Besides “Gyros”, it’s a bit difficult to find good fast food.
  3. The immigration process is long and very bureaucratic.
photo: Polina Avramenko

Now, coming back to Erasmus students’ confessions: Marie, a student who chose Hungary for spending a semester of studying away from her home country, Germany also shared her pro-contra list.

Marie’s dislikes:

  1. Unfortunately, Hungarians don’t care too much for the environment.
  2. Hungarians like to complain, but take little action for change.
  3. Organization is rather chaotic.
  4. Hungary does not have a good social system for the underprivileged.
  5. Many Hungarians dislike foreigners.

Of course, completed by a list of likes:

  1. Hungarians know how to party and enjoy life.
  2. Rich history and culture.
  3. The great and unique spa and wellness lifestyle.
  4. Hungarian women are beautiful.
  5. National foods are the best cure for a hangover.

The next list is by Yerkebulan, a fresh graduate of Budapest Business School from Kazakhstan, now working at Four Seasons Gresham Palace. His bullet points were the following:

5 things I don’t love:

  1. I wish the public transport inspectors were forgiving for the first time while catching you with an expired ticket or if you forgot your ID at home.
  2. There is not enough snow to give you a winter mood, but it makes sense.
  3. Raising level of prices in some goods, as well as accommodation.
  4. Taxes seems higher, if you work in Hungary.

5 things I love:

  1. Thermal waters
  2. Town of Keszthely (by Lake Balaton)
  3. Budapest
  4. The Great Market Hall in Budapest
  5. Four Seasons Gresham Palace

Another dear friend, compatriot and co-worker of mine, the Ukrainian Maria, a student of Eötvös Loránd University from shared what she doesn’t love about living in Hungary:

  1. The service in Hungary in restaurants or supermarkets: the staff is usually not welcoming – it seems they treat this way the internationals as if the they do not care about getting tips.
  2. Homeless people in the streets and underground. It seems that there is nothing done concerning this issue and everyone has already got used to it.
  3. The fact that Hungarians complain a lot, but do nothing for a change. For example at work places if employees are not satisfied with something, they might discuss it among themselves and complain to each other, instead of taking some radical actions.
photo: Polina Avramenko

And at last, but not least, a few comments from Jen, an Erasmus student from Russia, living and studying in Finland, who has been staying in Budapest for the last six months:

Things I love:

1. Amount of parties.
2. Unique ruin pubs.
3. One of the most beautiful cities.
4. Hungarians are very welcoming and kind.
5. Everything is cheap.

Things I don’t love:

1. I’m sad about seeing so many homeless people.
2. Long queues in government organizations (the immigration/student office).
3. Education system.
4. There are not so many people who speak English, especially in stores.
5. People working in service industry trying to trick foreigners and make them pay more, for example taxi drivers’ attempts to get more money from us foreigners.

Overwhelmed with love and hate, which indeed go hand in hand, I realized that only the most passionate readers will make it till the end of this rather long article, so my self-preservation instincts suggested to split it into two parts and ease your lives with “To be Continued”.

In the upcoming article, I myself promise to join the guys, when we will continue to adore and complain about the life at our second home – Hungary. Thanks for reading!

With love,

Polina

by Polina Avramenko