The Hungarian culture is one that varies greatly from our own. Being in the city first of all has been the largest shock for me. I have spent the majority of my life living across from a farm where the only means of real transportation was driving. Coming to the city presented an entirely different lifestyle that I had to get used to, this was a separate culture for me to experience. Now the Hungarian city Budapest is very unique in many ways. Much like New York I have noticed quite a bit of a mix of nationalities, while the primary language is Hungarian, for example of the metro stops are in Hungarian. At the same time speaking English will be more than enough to surprise. As I write this I have just come back from the barber whom we had met at a local bar. The man was about our age and was genuinely interested in us and our sports which was extremely interesting to find. It is not the main focus of a lot of the people in the EU but there is a relatively decent following of sports from the States.
Daniel, the barber, had significantly more knowledge about American Football than I did was telling me how he likes the Chicago Bears. This was simply because they have the most drafted Hungarian players, and he really likes rooting for his home country in the sport. This I found absolutely fascinating and made me realize what a lot of the allure of coming to the States. There is such opportunity and as long as you go to the right spot you can still have pieces of home because our population is so diverse. The fact that there are Hungarian football players in America, and that halfway across the world Daniel was here supporting them and everything they are doing. This is simply amazing and I believe that a lot of American’s do not realize the real influence our country has over the rest of the world, especially industrialized nations. Now Daniel and I had an in-depth conversation about how he preferred to commute in to the city and I asked why he did not live here. His response was one that you would expect, his family lived outside the city and it was quieter there. To which of course I followed up and asked why he worked in Pest, (Budapest is actually separated into two parts Buda and Pest, the barber shop was in Pest), to which the answer will not be quite shocking, money. His family owns a salon back in the town that he lives in approximately 15km away. But the small town will only provide so many costumers in a day so he tends to work in the city. This was consistent with the information that we were given during orientation, Hungary’s wealth and prosperity is highly concentrated in its major cities. While in neighboring countries, like Slovakia, the wealth tends to be more spread out throughout the country, so the city is not as impressive but the people are able to make more of a living outside of the city.
It was very fortunate that our API program set us up with what they coined as a “Tandem” partner. This person is essentially a Hungarian student that was interested in practicing their English and was willing to show us around and teach us how to live in the city and in Hungary. My partner’s name is Reka, and we were able to meet for some lunch and learn about each other’s culture. The first topic of discussion was something I knew both of us could relate to, music. I was very curious as to whether or not Hungarian music played a role in what she was interested in. Much to my surprise a lot of the music she listened to was mainstream American/National music. Essentially the same things that I listen to as well. She asked if I was interested in country music, as she had heard before, and it is a commonly held belief here that we all listen to this music. I explained to her that I was not a big fan as I didn’t really understand the allure to the music which she quickly agreed with me. In this moment we both realized that these cultural expectations can vary greatly from person to person. I think music is a great way to learn about other cultures especially in age group that is similar to mine, as the little differences in each person and culture can lead to largely different tastes. But to find out that despite these things and growing up in vastly different ways we were still attracted to the same music. This allows me to conclude that music can translate across borders, but are usually generation specific. As I would not expect that the older generations of Hungarians would like this music, who would more likely prefer original folklore music.
The photo below is one I took on a trip to Amsterdam. I though this represented the idea of diversity as the I AMsterdam sign is supposed to depict that anyone of any background is welcome in Amsterdam.