Dirty Deeds, Done (Not) So Cheap

The text might not be very legible but reads “tantric massage salon” in Hungarian and English

Hungarians couldn’t care less if you witness their relationship with their body. Coming from Finland – a country where (unless alcohol is involved) you often can’t tell who belongs together other than by the glare of the woman if you happen to talk to her partner – the contrast couldn’t be stronger. Here, the evidence is pretty clear and – literally – in your face. Couples have no qualms about PDAs, especially when a third person steps closer (random stranger, mutual acquaintance, doesn’t really matter). The human body was created to be with another human body. Hungarians model this attitude every day, not just on the streets but also in various establishments. 

It’s an open secret that if you want cheap thrills, Budapest is the place to be. Especially for the guys. Budapest knows this, and – in the spirit of true Hungarian hospitality – will go out of its way to accommodate you. Walk down Váci u. and you’re guaranteed to run into at least one guy with a sandwich board advertising for a variety of strip clubs – all within a few feet – shouting the names of various parts of the female anatomy into the crowd, and not just in one language. 

They know what sells here. They know what attracted a certain demographic to this part of the world, and they’re not shy about making this public. Despite a hermetic mentality, Western goods still sell better than anything local. A Hungarian drugstore chain, Azur, either went bankrupt or was sold out (haven’t completed the research on that yet, nor have I started it to be honest). For a country that prides itself on “ours” there sure are a lot of foreign brands here. In fact, nearly all grocery chains are German, and the drugstores most certainly are. 

Back when I first lived here, and already before, I was safe in the knowledge that in terms of medical services and beauty products Hungary was leading the world market. Of course these are all private, the ones I’m talking about. I’m not too keen on putting this theory to the test, but the doctors I did encounter here were more likely to go down a natural route than prescribe pills as in other places. I’m not saying this is perfect, and we all know the system here has its faults (many faults to be precise), but when it works, it works. Personally, I’d rather be referred to a physiotherapist than be pumped full of pills, but your mileage may vary. The thousands of health tourists coming here would agree as well. Hungary knows this and caters to it.

But it has not yet learned its lesson. Hungarian health services, providing you go private, are excellent (and the reason I’m stressing that is because my old dentist here managed to save a tooth my dentist in Finland insisted had to be extracted), but like with non-Hungarian food, it works best when they stick to their own (remember, this is the country that puts ketchup on pizza, or in a pasta bake. And while I picked up the ketchup-on-pizza habit here, I’d never do it on authentic Italian pizza). 

Rushing to meet some friends today, I spied this little gem pictured above. Which perfectly exemplifies the Hungarian way. Wanting to be like its hipper, cooler neighbors, yet not quite getting the message. Everyone knows the devil’s number, or at least the widely accepted version of it. The pitch is obvious, this is naughty. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Not to mention the colors. The neighborhood very respectable, very downtown. The ploy is blatantly obvious. A closer look reveals something slightly more subdued, less danger than advice, an ancient Far Eastern practice. 

But the inversion of the triple number for “life” – with corresponding color scheme – is still more enticing than a plain old sign telling you that here’s where you can recharge your batteries, albeit for a high(ish) price and a little while. 



  1. What was the title? Was it the one where they used Budapest for Italy, and it was because the director really loved Budapest? Something about two guys being in love with the same girl but not knowing about it. One of them lost his father and tells his new friend not to bother praying to God, as “he’s too busy. I’ll pray to my dad for you. Dad always helps.” Saw it ages ago, and firhit the title. Just remembered how they were in Italy, but it was really Budapest.

    Thing is, it’s liberal on the surface. They know how to lure tourists over here, so that part is liberal. But the core mentality is very racist, anti-Semitic, and conservative.


    • Just to be sure I understood you, are you saying the core mentality of Budapest is “racist, anti-semitic, and conservative”, or that all of Hungary is that way?

      Good post, by the way.


      • Obviously, you can’t lump all people together, and I’m half-Hungarian and can pass for one easily, so I hear and see it firsthand. Unfortunately, racism does run very deep all over the country, and the first instinct tends to be to judge by race, religion, etc. Racial slurs, classification by country and religion, come too easily. From what I heard from friends who don’t speak the language, they love it here, but tend to stay in their own groups of other expats. People are very friendly and extremely hospitable, but anything different makes you vulnerable. I also have Hungarian friends who are not like that, but the subtle or not so subtle shades of racism tend to outweigh liberal thought. Not full-on, full-out prejudice (though that can happen, too), subtle shades. Glad you liked it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for such an illuminating answer! I suppose Hungary and the United States might be similar in that racism runs deep in both countries. Here, though, it seems to be strongest in the older generations, and weakest in the younger. Is that similar to Hungary?

        I just started reading your blog today, but I already love your writing style.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome! Having lived / grown up in the U.S. as a French-Hungarian kid and teen, I identify as all three. And yes, there are huge similarities between the two. The older generation here isn’t even all that familiar with other skin tones. And if you get most of your info by hearsay, you tend to form a certain opinion. Not making excuses for them. Trying to get to the bottom of their mindset.

        Right now my tactic is to point out the positive in individuals e.g. this person has such pretty eyes, had such a great conversation with this person, wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them, etc. It works about 60% of the time.

        Thank you for the compliment. I’m not being polite when I say I like your blog and writing, too. Just had a cursory glance for now, as need to be somewhere, but am I right in understanding that you run a coffee shop?

        Liked by 1 person

      • P.S. the younger generation does seem more open. But many stand behind the authoritarian government in that family is important here (think Italian-Americans for comparison), and the party knows how to play that angle. Family is important everywhere, but the ties are expressed much more openly here. If that makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your mention of the importance of family does indeed make sense, especially the reference to Italian-Americans. This is all very new to me, but I’m finding it fascinating.

    I used to own my own business, but it was a sales agency, rather than a coffee shop. The coffee shop I talk about on my blog was one that I used to frequent — the oldest in Colorado Springs, at the time. And the most diverse in terms of clientele. Everyone from the mayor to the local homeless people used to meet there. It has since gone out of business, though.

    Thank you for your kind words of encouragement! I much appreciate them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had one of those places where I lived several times, the diversity is what gives it energy. I noticed the similarities with Hungary mostly with my Italian and Italian-American friends, hence my mentioning them. However, in Hungary the general consensus seems to be, we can’t really trust the government, except for family, family you can always trust. At least in most cases. Of course, these are observations on my part. I wouldn’t presume to speak of or about an entire group. But hopefully people can get an idea and take it from there.

      You’re most welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh indeed. And that’s leaving out the kind of vultures you describe in one of your books. I think that should also provide a better understanding of Cousin Fester. There are some good people here, of course, but a melting pot it’s not. Multiculturalism is a dirty word around here.

      I mean, I hate multiculturalism when it’s deliberate as in, “ooh, why don’t you play with the little [insert nationality and / or color and / or religion].” Instead of, “why don’t you ask the little boy / girl to play so he / she doesn’t feel lonely.” But I cannot imagine living my life with the same people, in the same place, excluding others because they don’t look the part. And I’ve been around this c*** all my life. But hey, maybe that’s my mission here. To learn from the locals. And teach them. I’m already teaching kids not to use racial slurs, so baby steps.

      Liked by 1 person

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