The very first time I met Ximena, it was the year 2014. She booked a bed for her stay at the hostel where I was working as a receptionist back then. Always positive and energetic, I remember Ximena and her friend Anna would keep on trying to teach us, hostel workers and international travelers, some salsa! Dancing, following the rhythm and listening to Latin music 24/7 is something a Mexican resident misses in Hungary. Coming from the city of Acapulco, she was discovering Europe, and Budapest happened to be one of the cities to be visited among those others on her list. More than three years have passed since my friend Ximena settled down in the Hungarian capital; she has been enjoying her life here since then. And guess what? She is the next ‘target’ of mine for a list of the things that she loves and hates about living in Hungary. Here it goes:
“Things I appreciate are:
- The beautiful city, the art Nouveau architecture of some buildings is amazing!
- Walking by the river and admiring the Parliament and the castle at night is simply stunning;
- There is always something different to do, lots of bars or restaurants to visit, not to mention the variety of cultural events;
- The public transportation is very efficient, providing convenient movement.
- Budapest’s summer comes with great weather, so chilling on a terrace is the best treatment. I also enjoy sitting on the Liberty Bridge during summer evenings with a bottle of wine, adoring the Danube’s view. Not to forget sunbathing times on Margaret Island.
Things I dislike:
- Locals don’t seem to smile that much!
- Service in restaurants is usually rude;
- The city centre is not as clean.”
Continuing with the next participant who, being a real “Englishman in New York Budapest…”, has shared his thoughts with the readers of Hungary Today – Chris Smith:
- I feel much less constrained here than in my home country. In general, you’re allowed to just get on with your life.
- I think Hungary could be a wonderful country if people can find the motivation to improve it.
- The people. I have had the pleasure of getting to know so many lovely, friendly, wonderful people here. It’s the reason I stay.
- The culture. The culture is rich and interesting. I am often pleasantly surprised by the differences between it and my own.
- The country. As a whole it is beautiful, especially in the spring and autumn. And the cities are great; excellent architecture, history, and things to do.
The next five, the negatives:
“I’ve been thinking. It wasn’t easy for me but I’ve got it.
- Narrow mindedness. I find that people here aren’t comfortable with minorities and people who are somehow different and aren’t interested in learning about them and can sometimes be unpleasant. Also, Hungarians are often uninterested in the world outside and don’t like change.
- Glumness and pessimism. I find people to be very depressive and pessimistic in general. Everything is bad. People don’t smile. Everyone seems grumpy. Generally, people seem hopeless and unwilling to fight to improve the country. I find it depressing.
- Poor quality food. The quality of food here is terrible, and despite that expensive. Even basics like flour are bad.
- Government services. Having to get documents and papers arranged at government offices is complicated, time-consuming and exhausting. The education and health care systems are scarily bad. The government. The government doesn’t seem to be working for the people and is openly hostile to outsiders. It is worrying.
Second half being things I hate. You know generally I feel ambivalent towards Hungary. I neither love it nor hate it. But the people I’ve got to know keep me here.”
I believe that every person we meet on our life path influences it in a way, even if in the tiniest way. I received another set of answers from a student, born and raised in Sumqayit, Azerbaijan. Curious already? Because I am:
“My name is Ismayilova Nigar. I am living and studying in Budapest for three and a half years already. I moved here from when I was eighteen and it was first country I visited.
5 things I love about Budapest:
- The Parliament. To be honest, it was love at first sight, there are so many historic and cultural sights around the city! During the last three years I have been travelling a lot and I must admit that the Parliament building of Budapest is one of the biggest I have seen!
- Excellent transportation network. I have never gotten lost in this city. Metro, trains and trams are very efficient, run regular and the tickets are cheap;
- Thermal bath When visiting Budapest, you just have to take advantage of the different thermal baths. This was a good opportunity to be among locals and enjoy their culture, while at the same time receiving spa treatments, making it all to be a very unique experience!
- Ruin bars which transport you to a different world. The majority of those have an underground style unlike Budapest in general, which is a very clean place;
- More than a hundred museums welcoming tourists with various exhibitions. Fine and contemporary arts, science, history, gastronomy! You shouldn’t miss the Hungarian Jewish Museum, the House of Terror, and the Palace of Art.
Things I rather dislike:
- It can be very cold in winter! Minus eighteen Celsius was the coldest weather experience of mine in Hungary;
- From time to time, the city gets too crowded. Especially during the Christmas Market in December;
- Not everyone speaks English. Starting from taxi drivers, to shop assistants and even workers of the immigration office!
- I am missing some vegetables and fruits in local grocery shops;
- Rude service of shop assistants and waiters at restaurants.
Hostels connect people! As again, it happened to be the place where I met Kiko Juarez – a talented cook from the city of Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. As he is volunteering in Budapest, our overview of expats’ likes and dislikes broadens out.
“Among the aspects that I love, no doubts are:
- The strong human connections, when they’re formed;
- The beautiful architecture of the city;
- The resilience of its inhabitants;
- The food;
- The night party life!
That I don’t like:
- The insane amount of homeless people;
- How littered the streets are.
- The coldness of good byes. Hungarians are like “Szia” and that’s it. I’m like: damn! I might die today or something! Give me a kiss and a very tight hug!
I tried to think of more things, but I can’t. Budapest is a lovely city, and I feel so fortunate to be here!”
Susana Ramirez – from the heart of USA – the city of New York; her heart brought her to Budapest!
- “Transportation is very good in Budapest. Everything comes on time and there are always multiple routes to get to your destination;
- There are no distances in Hungary. Whether it’s within or to another country, you can travel/ get away on the weekends easily;
- It is very affordable to live here. Prices are quite cheap compared to New York;
- You have the best of both worlds in Budapest. You get to enjoy a city life on the Pest side, as well as nature on the Buda side;
- The variety of gluten free options offered in stores and restaurants.
- How much people smoke;
- The customer service. The majority of the times people are very rude and unwelcoming to foreigners;
- There is so much paper work to be filled out when applying for practically anything. Whether it is health insurance, a job application, residence permit, etc. It is made out to be far more complicated than what it should be;
- The controllers standing in the metro stations. The idea of this position seems cruel and useless since they cannot possibly monitor everybody’s ticket;
- The amount of homeless people found residing in the under-paths.”
Finally, Polina –myself. Almost 5 years ago, before moving to Budapest, I enrolled as a student the National Linguistic University of Kiev, faculty of Hungarian Language and Literature. Those who may know that I come from Mukachevo (Munkács), Transcarpathia region, which is home to the biggest Hungarian minority in the country, will most probably ask (why on earth?) somebody would travel 900 km away from the Hungarian border to learn Hungarian? I could never come up with a logical explanation, as it was never my intention, nor was it my plan. Destiny happened, as some nine months later, I visited Budapest for the very first time; another two months later, my bags were already packed, and I was ready to move, as I was officially accepted as a full-time student at Budapest’s Business School, University of Applied Sciences.
Born in Ukraine, my childhood was partly spent in Cyprus, and I studied in Hungary, Portugal and Spain – of this exposed me to different cultures and ways of living. My truest desire is to find the one I want for myself one day.
Now, let me introduce my list of likes and dislikes, based on personal experiences:
- Here, I was happy to truly fall in love;
- Budapest’s summer and spring! The first time I visited the city was summer 2013 – that was the moment I felt in love with the vibe, noise and that feeling it provoked inside me;
- International community, developed Tourism sector (not talking about low salaries within the industry);
- Transportation! If you ever dare to complain about it – be brave enough and visit Kiev’s metro or try to catch a bus during rush hour!
- Cuisine and real tastes of Hungary, avoid the touristic menu! Best option would be visiting a Hungarian granny for a family lunch!
- I just had to mention it! Turó Rudi – my polka-dot friend! Maybe it is coming from my mother’s passion for dressing me in everything with polka-dot patterns from the moment I was born. Or my childhood memories with my grand-father bringing us this delicious sweet as the best treat;
- Informality & Formality. One of the cutest things is the greeting “kezét csókolom” (kissing your hands), which even nowadays is frequently used by men towards women of a different age. By informality, I mean the usage of informal addressing to someone. Being encouraged to use “Te” instead of a formal “Ön” brings people closer.
Unfortunately, it is important to reveal my dislikes as well:
- Constant feeling of being in a rush and stressed by seeing people being in a rush. I think it is infectious…
- Back to the burning topic. I hate and don’t understand the issue of homeless people residing inside public transportation, beautiful sites around the city and on the streets. It makes the whole city look dramatically depressive and there is no reaction from the government. I have never seen anything like this elsewhere in Europe;
- Lack of smiles. I am very sad to admit it, but whenever I take a minute to look around I see 85 % of people (would it be at the supermarket, university, library or a cafe) – not smiling, but rather sad and usually complaining. Is this where the lack of motivation for change or lack of action towards change comes in to play? “I hate my job, but I will stay there for 40 years more and keep complaining about it every single day spent there.” Sadly, recently I have noticed the same attitude among my generation as well.
- The immigration office, which is a real nightmare. Especially if you don’t speak the only language workers of the office do. The same can be said about the student office, but I believe this depends on the particular university in question;
- Lack of fish on offer at grocery stores. It is all about meat and “kolbasz”!
- The last is more of a strange thing than a dislike to me. The New Year’s menu (Hi to all my Hungarian friends who happened to celebrate it with me! 🙂 While in Ukraine, we prepare the best meals; in Hungary, it is mainly sausages and snacks at “Szilveszter”;
Now you have it all. To sum up, as many of us – as many opinions. By all accounts, it takes guts to be yourself wherever you choose to be! Sending peace and happiness! Thanks for reading! Till the next article!
By Polina Avramenko
Images by Polina Avramenko