Find out who is a typical Hungarian. What holidays do they celebrate? What food do they eat? What do they think about their history? And why do they love wine so much?
People are those who make up the image of every country. When you think about a nation you remember stereotypes connected with its people: Germans are punctual, British – snobbish, Spanish – passionate, Mexicans – relaxed. Or, if you have friends from a foreign country, you definitely associate it with your friends. So when you want to understand a country, the first thing to do will be to know the people better. We would like to give you an overview of Hungarian people.
First of all, you will have a very basic introduction into Hungarian prehistory. Hungarian ethnicity originates from western Siberia. By the 5th century AD proto-hungarians moved to the area around the Caspian sea. By the 9th century they have already been to the west banks of the Don river. Finally, somewhere in 895 Magyars (that is how Hungarians call themselves) settled in the Carpathian basin, their today’s home. You should notice that Hungarians are not Slavic people, and largely they don’t like it when they are called like that. Actually, before settling in the Carpathian basin, Magyars invaded Slavic tribes and had kind of conflicts.
Nowadays there are approximately 14 million ethnic Hungarians, 65% of whom live in Hungary. A lot of Hungarians live in the territories, which used to be parts of a huge Hungarian Kingdom – today’s Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine. But Hungarian largest diaspora is located in the USA – 10% of Hungarians live there.
Hungarians speak the Hungarian language, which belongs to the Uralic language group, as well as Finnish and Estonian languages. It is considered one of the most complicated languages to pick up, as it is very different from the languages spoken in the neighboring countries. For example, while in English there are only 5 vowel letters, Hungarian has 14 of them! They differ slightly (e.g., u, ú, ü, ű), but can change the meaning of the word completely!
Most of the Hungarians are Catholics (around 39%), but at the same time Hungary is not a very religious country, about 30% of people decided not to answer the question about religion in the census.
Connected to the topic of religion, one of the most long-awaited holidays of the year is Christmas, celebrated on December 25. Be ready that from December 24 to December 26 everything will be closed all around Hungary, as people stay home and spend time with their families. Christmas mood already starts to fill the country by the end of November. It is mostly created by Christmas markets, where you can buy handmade accessories or pottery and try mulled wine and traditional Hungarian dishes.
Another very important date for the Hungarians is October 23. On this day 1956 Hungarian revolution against communist regime started. On this holiday people also have a day off. March 15 commemorates the start of another revolution, which took place in 1948 1949. After it Hungary became a parliamentary state.
These celebrations are the proof that Hungarians know and respect their history. Though there were a lot of dark pages in Hungarian history, people try to take it with humor. Despite the fact that Hungarians are great at many things, they are pretty bad at handling wars. They lost almost all the wars and revolutions they had to fight. If we take the previous century, they lost both world wars and revolution against communists. That is why some Hungarians joke that if there is a war, they advise you to join the side which is against Hungary.
It is not a surprise that such complicated and gloomy history left a mark on people’s mentality. It is often considered that Hungarians are pessimistic. They themselves acknowledge that they are always complaining, especially about country’s government and the European Union. Lucky they are that at least they have a sense of humor to laugh at themselves.
As Hungarian people complain quite a lot, they have to find relief in something, usually it is food. Hungarian dishes are rather heavy and fatty. If you ask a Hungarian about an essential element of their cuisine, he or she will most probably answer that it is paprika. Magyars are very proud of it and say that they put paprika everywhere. The most well-known Hungarian dishes are goulash, lángos and kürtőskalács.
Hungarians are also big wine lovers. There are a lot of wine regions in Hungary, so there is a great variety of good and not expensive wine. And you’d better not say to a Magyar that you don’t like Hungarian wine, they can take it as an offence.
Hungarians are very helpful. Most of the times they will be glad to show you the way or help with public transport. Not everybody in Hungary speaks English, but the young generation is usually much better at languages. You can also try to approach people in German. But actually the language is not an obstacle, as the natives will communicate with you with the help of gestures.
It is a well-known fact that Hungary is full of picturesque landscapes, and people use it as much as they can. They often take their families, friends and pets and go on hiking or to the lake. This way they not only spend time with their loved ones, but also lead an active lifestyle. Keep in mind that Sunday is usually a day that should be spent with a family, that is why a lot a shops and cafés can be closed, especially in small towns.
The notion of personal space is rather blurred in Hungary. It is not something extraordinary to stare at a person in metro, for example. Also if someone pushes you in a mall or public transport, most probably he or she won’t even notice it and will not apologize. Do not take it personal.
You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable, if people, walking by, have serious faces and don’t smile. Apparently Hungarians are quite suspicious of those who smile without a reason. Unlike most Western European cultures in Hungary people are not used to wearing fake smiles.