Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Balatonfured, Hungary
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?
Not formally but I am retired military and have lived/worked in many nations including two 3 year tours in Germany and work on research projects in Peru, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and other "stans".
Moving to Hungary soon?
If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?
No Hungarian is a total nightmare. But, I am (very) slowly learning the language enough to be functional. Having a translator is essential, especially when documents need translation. Hungarians love paper work and heavily document everything with lots of stamps and such falderal. I do speak German and in our area many Hungarians speak German as this is a tourist area.
Additionally, I am a pilot and there are many retired Hungarian Air Force pilots in our area who all speak English.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Not especially. My experience led me to believe this wouldn't be particularly difficult. I am surprised at how few people speak English nor are they even slightly interested in learning. Additionally, my wife emigrated from Russia to the US prior to our marriage so I had more of a culture shock after our marriage than in moving to Hungary.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Negligent. It is more of a humorous adventure than an annoyance.
Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?
Not exactly as described. Early on we experienced a great deal of attempts to steal and cheat from us which we have now gotten firmly under control. But, it is typical of third world countries experiencing enormous problems adapting to the new capitalistic economy. Hungary is a poor country with an extremely low salary base and many people are not living as well under capitalism as they were prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This has led to rampant corruption and a large amount of non-violent crime. Coupled with the removal of nearly all middle aged and older workers with experience this has caused a great deal of problems for the Hungarian citizenry. But, the corruption here pales in comparison to the Middle East or Russia. Hungary is working hard to get this under control and I can see noticeable improvements.
What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.
None in particular. I am experienced in most of these issues.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
The people here have strong family values and very high food quality. As mentioned they patiently line up in cues and are generally very polite and warm. I have not experienced any anti-foreigner sentiment at all. I notice that most workers typically do a good job without requiring heavy supervision.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
There is a defeatist feeling in many Hungarians that things are bad and getting worse. But, on the opposite scale there is this overwhelming desire to get back the territories lost following WWI. I also find it a bit disconcerting that most Hungarians do not understand they have constantly been on the wrong side of every war they have fought in. It is weird to have a national day of mourning for Stalingrad for the loss of 200,000 Hungarian soldiers there but not recognizing that they were complicit in the Nazi attempts of Hitler to conquer Europe. The same is true for the attempted and failed revolution against Soviet occupation in 1956 only 11 years after the war ended in a country still being kept under control following the defeat of Germany and the Axis nations. So, they have supported Germany twice and lost heavily but still have this amazing desire for increased nationality even now that they are members of the EU and much of this is angering their neighbors which acquired the territories lost following the wars. I find this nationalism and increased right-wing behavior somewhat disconcerting.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
Probably but unknown to me if I did.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Hungarians are fiercely proud of their traditions and very stubbornly refuse to abandon their language even though it is one of the least spoken languages in the world. So, learning a minimum of Hungarian is essential to a successful transition to life here.
More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Hungary