Wherever you go on a relaxing holiday you may expect to bump into pleasant or unpleasant cultural differences. Here is a short list for tourists (not for anthropologists).
Cultural differences in Budapest – The devil in the details
Don’t expect the same little details that makes your life predictable and comfortable.
To put it in another way, do not expect to have the same kind of features, tools, solutions or maybe the same degree of comfort you are used to in your home country. Tiny details of everyday life differ in Budapest, Hungary.
Air conditioning in Hungary
For instance, air conditioning: AC is not set as low as in other western countries, e.g. 60F in the US vs 70F in Hungary, i.e. 16 centigrade can be considered typical in the USA but it would be around 20-22 centigrade in HU.
Ice Cubes in Drinks in Hungary
Ice in drinks: If you come to Budapest, do not expect to have loads of ice ice baby in your drinks. The average number of ice cubes floating on the top of your drink – based on totally unofficial, personal experience – varies from 2 to 4.
From a Hungarian perspective, if you get more than 3-4 ice cubes, you may have the impression that you are in a place where the bar, pub, restaurant owner wants to make more unfair profit from saving on the actual drinks and giving you cheap frozen water in cubes. Besides, similarly to having the air conditioning set around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), refreshments are also served less icy (fewer ice cubes).
Free drink refill in Hungary
Especially in the US, it is quite common to have the drink refill for free – not in Hungary. Free and automatic re-fill of drinks in restaurants is absolutely unknown. In addition, water may not arrive on your table automatically either. You need to ask for water, which will usually be bottled water you need to pay for.
Bus stops – no waiting in queues
In Hungary passengers who want to get on a bus do not stand in a nice and polite queue, there is a crowd attitude, and whoever wants to get on is simply trying to get in – any way (unfortunately some people do not even have the decency to be more polite with the elderly or pregnant mums – sorry). Also good to know that you do not need to wave to the bus driver, the bus will stop at all stops if the driver sees people standing there.
Coffee makers in Hungarian hotels
In Hungarian hotels, unlike in the UK or US for example, tea and coffee makers are not provided as a default accessory.
Coffee to go in Budapest, Hungary
Coffee-on-the-go is a rare phenomenon in Budapest (and nationwide in Hungary), similarly to caps for cups. Hungarians usually have their coffees sitting at a table, or just served in a plastic cup with no cap (on average in a cup of 2dl or 6.7 oz). If you want to have your coffee on the go, we recommend bringing along your favourite coffee to go carrier with you. The few places that do offer coffee to go are usually American or Australian eateries and cafes, like Starbucks, California Coffee Company, etc..
People smiling in Hungary, or are they?
Smiling and showing a general jolly mood – it would be an understatement to say that people, including cashiers, shop assistants are not really smiling. Hungarians are said to be friendly and hospitable, but it is also true that they do not wear a pleasant sociable smile all day around, not even people who could be expected to smile because of their job or position (shop assistants, waiters, cashiers, bank clerks, sales agents included). So if you should be expecting shiny happy people, lower your expectations and do not get offended or feel neglected. Why we Hungarians are generally less smiling and more complaining? Good question.
We could theorize – go back to many centuries, the Turkish occupation, then the Austro-Hungarian oppression, then the Soviet oppression, now the recession, etc. There is always something to see the glass half empty… We can just hope that Hungarians will be more satisfied, more smiley in the future, and be able to see the glass half full instead. Until then, please bear with us as less smiling but friendly folks. :)
Definitely DO NOT DO: Further Budapest warnings
- Do not have valuables with you. Learn from general Budapest warnings.
- Do not travel unprepared. Save the Budapest crime emergency phone numbers to learn how to contact the Hungarian Police just in case.
- Do not stay near the Parliament and the Heroes’ Square on Hungarian national holidays
- Do not take marijuana, drugs in Budapest. What about alcohol?
- Do not go to dangerous night clubs in Budapest.
- Do not hail down a taxi in Budapest.
- Do not buy HUF / Forint from a street vendor in Budapest.
- Do not board Budapest public transport vehicles without a ticket.
- Do not cross the road without checking the traffic in Budapest.
- Do not expect some cultural conveniences in Budapest
- Do not take valuables with you to Baths in Budapest – or preferably in the city.
- Do not go to Budapest Airport unprepared – there are 2 Budapest terminals – approx. 5 min car travel from each other: even though T1 is getting closed, T2 is a bus stop away from T1 train station.
- Do not go to touristy restaurants in Budapest – to eat pricey food of lower quality.
Check out Budapest FAQ for more useful tips!
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