Hungarian Stereotypes – Are They True?
There are stereotypes about every nation, and us Brits are certainly subjected to a huge range – some slightly unfair but, usually, more accurate than we’d like to admit!
I decided to do a bit of googling to discover what are the main stereotypes aimed at Hungarians and offer some careful analysis on how accurate they are. A lot of these came from articles written by Hungarians so I’m hoping they aren’t too controversial!
All Hungarians have horses
I previously had no idea that this was apparently on of the major Hungarian stereotypes, it’s not like there are many horses wandering around Budapest. Although, the statue at Heroes Square does show the original 7 tribal leaders all on horseback.
Having said that, the first movie I watched in Hungarian was Kincsem, telling the story of the most successful, unbeaten horse in racing history. Given that Kincsem won 54 races from 54 starts, and the next closest, Australia’s Black Caviar, “only” won 25/25, maybe there is something to this Hungary/horse connection.
But, overall, I’m going to have to say this isn’t true. There seems to be a perfectly normal and reasonable level of horse ownership.
Paprika with everything
Well it depends if you mean csilipaprika, füstölt paprika, csípős paprika, édes paprika, kaliforniai paprika… so, yes, it’s fair to say that paprika is quite prevalent in Hungarian cooking. It’s absolutely not a bad thing though, the versatility means it can be used to drive flavour into all kinds of dishes. It can be sweet, smokey, spicy and always adds a pop of colour to a dish.
I’ve even been accused of being too Hungarian by adding paprika to any kinds of dishes where it doesn’t traditionally belong. It will still require a period of adjustment before I tuck into a bell pepper for breakfast though.
The food is fatty and not good
WRONG! I’m a big fan of Hungarian cuisine and, while the traditional dishes not always the most sophisticated, it’s always tasty. Plus, given my heritage, who am I to complain about a nation’s cuisine?
What I have noticed is that many of the traditional dishes, both sweet and savoury, are often created from a core set of ingredients. If you have flour, eggs, sugar, meat, fish, potatoes, sour cream, cabbage, onions, tomato, fruit, walnuts and of course paprika, you can put together a dizzying array of Hungarian staples. From Paprikás Csirke and Hortobágyi Palacsinta to Meggyes Rétes and Diós Hókifli, you’re well on your way with these pantry essentials.
The language is impossible
It’s certainly not easy, and often regarded as one of the most difficult in the world to learn. The sentence structure, grammar and vocabulary is very unfamiliar if you’re used to English or other European languages. On the plus side it’s very logical, for example the alphabet is very precise and all letters within a word are pronounced. If you read something you can figure out how to say it, and if you hear something you can (maybe) work out how to write it.
It’s also true that making any effort at all is greatly appreciated. Of course in Budapest it’s rather too convenient to get by with English, but even throwing in a few words from page one of a phrasebook gets a surprisingly good reaction. Which is helpful, because that’s firmly where I’m stuck!
Hungarians are pessimistic and complain a lot
This is a tough one to answer because it’s quite difficult to differentiate from my natural British cynicism. I also usually can’t tell if Hungarians are complaining due to the issues mentioned above. In fact, I often totally misunderstand the tone of an overheard phone conversation. What sounds to me like an angry complaint often turns out to be something like wishing a happy birthday.
As with anywhere, it’s impossible to paint everyone with the same brush. Some people are optimistic and some are not. Maybe I’m such a joy to be around that everyone seems optimistic from my point of view!
All Hungarian men have a typical moustache
This seems like a particularly lazy one, I couldn’t even say what a stereotypical Hungarian moustache looks like. I haven’t yet observed any special or unique trends regarding facial hair.
Hungarians don’t like the cold
Well, I often feel somewhat under-dressed here, but us Brits are notorious for getting our pasty white legs out at any opportunity. I think, though, that there is some logic to it. For us, 20ºC is almost as good as it gets and immediately warrants shorts, t-shirts, a barbecue and, if you’re really advanced, a paddling pool filled with beers.
This however leaves you no further options if the mercury keeps climbing up to 30, as is typical for Hungarian summer. If you’re already down to shorts and t-shirts in April, what are you going to do in August? So yes, I might be the only one at the tram stop with my legs out, but it’s only because I can’t comprehend that it might not be raining next week and may even get hotter.
Hungarians are resourceful
I noticed this one listed a couple of times and it relates to the ability to “find the small gate” or, in other words, find a loophole, ignore unwritten rules or “enter a revolving door behind you and come out in front”. The suggestion being that a long history of occupation by various powers has led to a sense of opportunism and desire to work around certain regulations or penalties.
What I do know, however, is that I am definitely not proficient at any of this. As an example, the first (and now only) time I used the metro without a ticket (a not-uncommon occurrence) I was stopped and fined by the BKK guards within one stop. Being polite and British doesn’t necessarily help and you cannot be naive, but I would say this applies in many parts of the world.
Hungarian women are beautiful
Well, one of them certainly is!