Hungarians speak Hungarian, one of the most challenging languages to learn in the world, kind of similar in the tonality to Finnish. From elementary school, every Hungarian has to determine at least one but mostly two foreign languages which are mainly English, German or French. Though Hungarians have a very Eastern European sounding accent, most of the people from younger generations speak English or German. Older ones also have a basic vocabulary in English or German as a tremendous amount of tourists flow to the city. Most Hungarians are very friendly to foreigners; they open to meet new people around the world. Hungarians tend not to travel outside their country as much as other Europeans, therefore, they always become fascinated when meeting foreigners and often get very excited when they learn that a foreigner is interested in Hungary.
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Useful Hungarian phrases
Hungarians will adore you if you speak at least words in their language. These are the most useful phrases in Hungarian:
Szia (see-yah) – used as a general hi or hello to greet a person
Jó reggelt / napot / estét (yoh reg-gelt / nah-poht / esh-tet) – Good morning / day / evening, a formal greeting when you meet people
A nevem… (ah neh-vehm) – My name is… then say your name
Nem beszélek magyarul (nem bass-ale-lack ma-ja-rule) – I don’t speak Hungarian; in case you need to find someone to translate
Szeretnék egy… (se-ret-nayk eh-dj) – “I would like a” – When you want to purchase or buy or need something
Mennyibe kerül? (men’-nyi-beh ke-rewl) – How much does it cost?
Köszönöm (keu-seu-neum) – Thank you!
Igen / nem (ee-gen / nehm) – Yes / no
Szívesen (see-ve-shen) – You are welcome!
Elnézést (el-ney-zeysht) – Excuse me!
Bejárat / Kijárat (beh-yah-raht / kih-yah-raht) – Entrance / Exit
Hol van a… (hol vahn aw) – Where is the…
A számlát kérem! (Aw sam-lat keh-rem) – The bill, please
Egészségedre! (ag-eh-sheg-ad-reh) – Cheers!
Kérek egy sört / bort! (Keh-rack eh-dj shirt / bore-t) – I would like a beer/wine
Csókolj meg! (choc-ohly mag) – Kiss me!
Csinos vagy! (chee-nosh vah-jh) – You’re pretty!
Jóképű vagy! (yoh-cap-ooh vah-jh) – You’re handsome!
Szeretlek (ser-at-lack) – I love you
Languages Hungarian speak
Hungarians learn at least one foreign language in elementary and high school, and you can’t get a degree without having a language exam at least in one word. However, as they don’t use that language regularly, their knowledge degrades. Because of the particular pronunciation issues of the Hungarian language itself, Hungarians have a solid accent in other words. In general, young people tend to speak at least 1 language fluently which most of the time in English. The second language is always German; in some exceptional cases, it is French, Spanish or even Italian. If you sense they don’t get you, just try to speak in very simplified English.
In the central areas, all service people speak at least general English so with necessary words you’ll be fine. Same applies to offices, railway stations, and taxis. Hotel staff can speak multiple languages, and high-end restaurant staff can also speak fluent English. Signs are usually stated in English and German in the central areas or tourist spots.
Sensitive topics with Hungarians
Some problems really divide the general population of Hungary. The first one is obviously actual political issues, but in general, Hungarians are sensitive to their own politics and usually don’t really care about foreign affairs. The European Union is controversial among the Hungarians. Topics on the Trianon Treaty, when Hungary lost most of its territory after the World War,, I am also highly contentious. As of today,, more than a million Hungarians live in Romania’s Transylvanian regions, which belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Anything around that topic and about Romania, in general,, in general, is a sensitive issue. Hungarians also tend to think that they live in Central Europe so bringing up the Balkans and Eastern Europe, in general,, in general, might fan the flames. Feminism, gender issues, and sexual minorities also have controversial reception, remember, it’s a conservative country.
Overall you can still talk about these topics as Hungarians tend to discuss their life very openly with foreigners, but a tense conversation might occur.
Hungarians in general
It is impossible to generalize a nation, but some stereotypes usually fit the majority of a population. Hungarians are very proud of their heritage. They believe that the country itself is a historical miracle or so to have survived a thousand years in the heart of Europe and it’s still independent. Hungarians also feel special in Europe as the ancient Hungarian tribes came from Asia in the 8th century and settled down in the Carpathian Basin. Therefore they don’t have European roots like the Germans, French or others.
The Hungarian language is unique, only Hungarians speak it, and only a few remaining groups of people can be found as language relatives in the world, which is not the case in English, Latin or Slavic languages. Hungarians are proud of this heritage and separate themselves from other Eastern European nations as they speak Slavic languages and have European roots in their history.
Because of the Asian roots of the nation but the European location, Budapest is sometimes referred to as the Paris of the East and the country itself as the last gate between East and West. Balkan traditions are understandably imprinted in the Hungarian culture, the occupying forces also left cultural traditions in the country. The 50 years of Soviet-era socialism still shows its marks not just in the architecture but also in the behavior and culture of the society.
Hungarians are always complaining, and they get seriously mad about politics and financial issues. People are often marked as grumpy, closed and introvert. Hungary led the suicides per capita lists for tens of years in the 20th century.
This grumpiness however mostly showed to locals but not foreigners. Having a conversation with foreigners is almost always very open and intimate. Hungarians love to chat and seriously get excited if a foreigner is interested in them. This is due to the lack of travel among people and also it’s a ‘small-country effect’; they feel adored when someone recognizes them. If you can even speak a few words in Hungarian, they will feel super happy and treat you as their best friend.