Culture Shock :: Budapest

7 07 2008

Unfortunately the heat wave in Budapest kept us from exploring Hungary in the detail we were hoping to, but there was at least one major element of culture shock while visiting this beautiful city – Magyar. See, I’ve already lost you haven’t I?

:: Language Barrier ::

Magyar is the Hungarian language and if we’re going to talk about culture shock here, then this is a big one. The language is Uralic which is completely different from Latin based languages such as our own. So what does that mean? Who cares you say? Well, it means that we couldn’t read ANYTHING. The signs, the menus, the labels on the food at the grocery store, none of it was decipherable. At least with Latin based languages we can sound out a word and often guess what it means. But not in Hungary. We had to eat at cafeteria style restaurants where we could actually see the food in order to order anything and even learning the basic pleasantries like please and thank you was a stretch. To quote Wikipedia “It is commonly considered to be one of the most difficult languages for speakers of English”, and we were in the thick of it.

Just to give you a little taste of how difficult it was, try to pronounce Magyarország, which is the Hungarian word for Hungary. Go ahead, I’ll wait… Okay, now try to do it knowing than the ‘gy’ is pronounced like a ‘dj’, the ‘a’s are pronounced as an ‘uh’ sound, ‘sz’ is just like ‘s’, but ‘á’ is an ‘ah’ sound. And that is just the beginning. Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, try reading this newspaper below.

Hungarian News Front Page

Luckily Budapest is a big city and enough people spoke a little English, German, or French and we were able to get by on the few words we knew and a lot of international sign language – the trusty ol’ point-and-smile method. My suggestion to you is that if you plan to visit Hungary, a little studying before you leave will go a long way.

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3 responses

7 07 2008
colonna

Szia! (i learned that on the internet)

See I bet you wish you had that picture dictionary now! Doh… I knew I should have gotten that for you.

My trusty online translator also tells me that
“sör” = “beer”
“vécé” = “bathroom” and
“szendvics” = “sandwich”…
That is about all the words you need to get by!

Hope you are well!!!!

8 07 2008
peter

Well lots of people speaks English here around. And language is only a shock if you have all your valuables at the end of the day. It’s more probable that you get pickpocketed than to meet someone who doesn’t talk at least some words of English. 😉

And most restaurants have 2-3 language menus anyway.

8 07 2008
brooke

Hey guys! I don’t have anything interesting to say – just wanted to say hello!! Hope all is well – thanks for all the posts and pictures! Sounds like you are having a great adventure!!

Love,
Brooke

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