Adjusting to the culture in Budapest

Budapest culture
Updated 2019-11-05 07:13

Moving to Budapest for the first time can give you a cultural shock, especially if you are coming from a Western country. However, with the right information, you are likely to feel at home sooner than expected. Here are some tips to help you adapt to the local culture as an expat.

Discover the local cuisine

If you would like to experience typical Hungarian things, you should start by tasting the most traditional foods and drinks. Hungarians love their food, and one of the most discussed topics with your friends, colleagues or your family will be about food, what to eat or cook for the week.

Gulyas might be the most famous Hungarian dish, but the most traditional one is the Sunday lunch, a schnitzel with some boiled or fried potatoes. Even though it doesn't sound extraordinary, for those who have grown up in Hungary, this was their Sunday lunch almost every weekend. In some places, it comes as a second dish after some chicken soup, but in many families, it remains the main dish with some cucumber salad or pickles. It's just as common here as a Sunday roast in England or a pasta in Italy.

Langos and kurtos kalacs are traditional Hungarian dishes as well, but first, you have to try palinka, a very strong alcoholic drink, which is used on many occasions, from greeting someone in a family to celebrating a special event, or as a medicine. Find out more in our article Eating out in Budapest.

Socialise with locals

Hungarians love sharing their experiences, mostly bad ones with their friends, colleagues and even with strangers. In Hungary, one of the best sources for any kind of information is chatting, gossiping. Of course, this information is not always reliable, and vary from one person to another, but they are still useful, and help to connect with other people.

By this way, we arrive to another useful skill in Hungary: networking. Use it wherever you can, as with building your social circle, you can get to know about new job openings, special offers or hidden programs.

These characteristics come from their past when lots of things were forbidden, and people had to meet and share information secretly. This habit seems to live still in people when they do things unofficially, under the table, and not always following all the rules.

Beware of the traffic in Budapest

Another useful thing to learn if you move to Hungary is to be very careful with the traffic, as it can be quite chaotic and sometimes dangerous as well. Whether you are a pedestrian, a biker or driver; watch out for others, as unfortunately many people drive carelessly, not stopping at a crossing, speeding suddenly or not giving priority to the other vehicles.

Public transport is well-connected, the only time when you have to pay attention is during reconstructions, typically done in the summer when replacement buses run instead of underground or tram lines.

Explore the cultural offer

To mention positive things as well, in Budapest you can find lots of free cultural programs, from music concerts to family events, don't forget to check out local news and websites to find them.

If you want to see something more exclusive, you have a wide choice of options from theatres, cinemas, bars, clubs and cultural centres. A very unique place to spend your evening is a ruin pub, which has become world-famous over the years. You can find them usually in old, eroded buildings which were bought by bar owners who opened cheap drinking places for students and intellectuals. At least originally that was their purpose. Today, they are much more famous and expensive, attracting mostly tourists, but they are still worth to check out for their atmosphere.

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