Hungary is mostly a monocultural Eastern European country, so racism and gender inequality is still an issue, unfortunately. However, the central areas of Budapest are multicultural, and the racist problems are very rare or almost non-existent. People are afraid of what they don’t know, or they can’t experience, and Hungarians travel less around the world compared to other Europeans. Hungary is a Christian country initially, but only a few people actually practice their religion. There’s an active Buddhist community in the city and Islam is very rare. People of LGBTQ communities might not be treated very friendly, but in the central areas, there won’t be problems. You can also find an active gay community in the city. Overall, Budapest won’t ask you to deny who you are, you will feel welcome, but it’s not San Francisco.
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In Budapest, there’s a lot of people from the Gypsy communities, and there’s a significant Asian – mostly Chinese and Vietnamese – community as well. Local racism is an issue unfortunately but only towards the Gypsy communities. People with Asian background are integrated parts of the society, running cheap shops, groceries and small restaurants all over the city, much like they do in other cities in the world. There is a recent boom of African immigrants in the town, but it is still not usual to see a black man walking on the streets. They don’t receive racist comments especially not in the central areas.
As said, the central areas of the city – mainly inside the Grand Boulevard – are totally multicultural and racist issues are very-very rare but as you pass through the outskirts of the town or even leaving the city, you will experience more and more racism, unfortunately. It indeed never surfaces in any physical forms, but the raising of an eyebrow or unfriendly treatment might occur.
Hungary is a Christian (Roman Catholic) country, but only a few actually practice their religious beliefs. Displaying religious signs is not considered accessible. The city has an active Buddhist community; other religions are very rare. There are no mosques in the town, apart from some tiny ones in apartments for the very few Muslim people. In recent years neo-protestant communities are growing, but there are just a few churches around the city for them. The county and the town itself has a long traditional connection with Jewish communities, Budapest has the world’s second largest synagogue. The 7th district is the traditional Jewish quarter, but it is actually the party district as well. There are smaller synagogues and kosher restaurants all over the city, and even kosher Jewish thermal baths. Both parts of Judaism are present, however,, orthodox Jews have a smaller and – apparently – a more closed community.
Ethnicities and being a foreigner
Budapest has a significant German community, and there are also a lot of people from the neighboring Slavic countries. These communities are wholly integrated into the society and giving a lot of value to it with their own cultural and gastronomical heritage. The city has fantastic Serbian restaurants, great Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai food and Turkish kebab is on every corner. Most of the ethnic communities have their own cultural centers with annual festivals.
Foreigners are treated very friendly. There are two reasons behind this friendly mentality: first of all, Hungarians tend to travel less around the world than other Europeans, and they always get excited if they meet people from foreign countries. The other reason is that foreigners are usually good customers and tourism is booming in the city.
There are no special treatments for any nation. From my personal experience, Americans tend to ask about how the visited country treats Americans in general. People from the US are treated very friendly in Budapest. Hungary participated in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with supporting troops and is also a full member of NATO but bringing up foreign politics for the first session might not the best idea. Overall, Hungarians don’t just travel less but generally not very up-to-date on international politics and issues because of language barriers and the lack of interests.
Hungary is behind the current gender issues that are in progress in the Western world. Though the situation keeps getting better, women are still treated sometimes unfavorably, and sexism is a common issue. This also means that Hungarian men sometimes act more like gentlemen than their totally gender neutral counterparts. As a foreign woman, the streets are super safe for you, there is no need to worry, but you might get some sexist comments if you dress up for the party. Hungarian men tend to have Eastern European machismo, therefore,, therefore, women might receive more tension when meeting people. Physical issues, however,, however, are infrequent.
Though it sounds obvious, I have to state that everything can be visited by both sexes. There are some thermal baths with men- / women-only days, but this is more because of the LGBTQ communities. There is no ‘normal’ female or male fashion, no one asks you to dress up in a favored way. Entirely like in any other European city.
Budapest has an annual Pride parade and has an active LGBTQ community. There are some people usually in the outskirts or non-central areas who might frown upon same-sex couples kissing in public, but in the central areas, LGBTQ people will find a friendly welcome and many gay spots. BudapestGayCity has a comprehensive events guide for what’s on each day, while Hungarian Gay Bears and Human are magazines with English content as well.
The Hungarian LGBTQ communities have an extensive party scene. Garcons is the longest running party series for the city with underground fashionistas. The tape is a straight-friendly queer party held every Thursday, hosted by nu-disco and deep-house DJs. For the more adventurous, the ‘bullshit free queer clubbing’ as they say Brutkó Diszko opened their wings in 2006 and is still on the rock. Women On Women (WOW) is a party for lipstick lesbians and their friends, but it is open for queers and straights as well. Hello, Ösztrosokk, Confetti, and XOXO are also increasingly popular party series with all-night parties.
Budapest offers countless gay clubs and bars. The oldest one is Mystery Bar, popular ones are Funny Carrot, Habroló, Madrid Café, and the goes on. If you’re interested in gay cruising visit Action Bar where there are dark rooms, lockable cabins, glory holes, and strip shows. For younger generations, visit CoXx club, once a month they have naked parties as well. For clubbing, visit the historical Alterego Club or Capella, they are gay-friendly (but open for straights as well) and has a series of drag shows and dancehalls. The hottest thing now is the secret gay parties; you can get more information on them by visiting the gay scene hot spots. The pride parade is held usually in the height of the summer, followed by the Pride cultural festival.
Saunas and thermal baths are also popular choices. Visit Magnum Sauna and Sauna 69 for gay-only saunas. Rudas Thermal Bath has men-only days on every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Kiraly Thermal Bath is also favored by gays, but they don’t have men-only days.