Who Am I – and what makes me who I think I am? 

My friend and I were talking about what it means to be Hungarian. Unlike me she was born and raised here, very culturally aware, and definitely one of the people who make me proud to be Hungarian. 

My friend was also my go-to person when it came to delving deeper into my cultural identity, immersing me in the culture via literature and art. She knows about my constant search for identity. So when I told her over coffee that I was really thinking of what makes a Hungarian, she lobed the question right back at me. And since I can’t introduce myself in just one sentence, I had to immediately go for all three. So here, off the top of my head, is the first list. A list to be expanded in a second post, because me being me, I had to put the question to my friends via Facebook. 




Ok, dear friends, I’m using you shamelessly for a blog post. What makes you a national of your nation? Comment or pm. I won’t use your name, would just like to get as well-rounded a view as possible. 

The ones I came up with spontaneously. 

American: eternal optimism; belief in free speech (yes, even the idiots), providing it does not incite hatred; anything is possible if only you believe; innocent until proven guilty; you must prove yourself to get ahead, can’t expect everything to be handed to you (while this is painfully obvious to me, our  roommate in Norwich, who hailed from my mother’s native country,  had different views on account of his PhD. I have a cousin, several aunts, and uncles, also in that same country, who think the same); respect for the self-made person with or without a degree; pioneer spirit; identifying with cultural songs such as Summer Wine (yes, I’m obsessed with the song, which should come as no surprise to those who know me). 

French: café culture; respect for history; mistrust towards authority; love for Paris; bluntness; love for perfume; proud of country’s beauty and language but still putting Paris first, I may not live there, but it’s mine; doing things my own way; you have the right to go on strike; pride in art, literature, and all the other things we contributed to the world. 

Hungarian: hospitality (I noticed this when I started giving very detailed – and very unsolicited – advice to some friends when they were in places I knew, even to the point of suggesting they contact my family and friends, and showing strangers around); coffee and café culture; connecting everything to death (the only way to see love is through the eyes of death); always finding a way out; fascination with Mongolia (that magical, mystical potential homeland of our ancestors; doing a double take when an ethnic Hungarian refers to him or herself as Romanian because their ancestors were born in Transylvania; love for really morbid jokes; prone to depression.

TBC

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22 comments

  1. My country’s history and fighting for tolerance but freedom of expression which is more at stake now with the ruling power. But, we are the biggest democracy on earth, our penchant for everything traditional, rooted yet at the same time, modern. I love the coffee culture, too, We, Indians, can die for friendship but drench in the blood of enemies. We are the land of Kamasutra yet so sex shy. Chaotic! Yet we love the country. I love the insight you have on different countries and make for amazing read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Considering how much I’ve seen I’d better know a thing or two about cultures. Though yes, not everyone is open. But isn’t the whole point of being with people to experience their ways? You’d think at least. Then again, I love stories, and I love people.

      I do like the rooted-yet-modern approach. Traditions are good, as long as you’re not too rigid about keeping to them. Hungary likes its traditions, a lot. The arguments put forward at times by some groups, are – to be extremely polite – very interesting. Multiculturalism is often seen as a threat, which is a pity. I absolutely believe you can (and should have) both, the old and the new.

      Same thing here, though. People don’t do the Kamasutra (because here that’s just “too alien for our culture,” don’t even get me started), but the human body with all its functions is natural and has to be shown off. Biggest porn industry in Europe, but a woman still needs to be virtuous. Especially in some circles, and we’re not even talking religion. Freedom of speech is not even a necessity anymore, since adherence to the law and (here we mean) good Christian values is paramount. But barely a generation ago people were fighting for freedom of expression and won. We wouldn’t die for anyone (well, some of us would), but we’ll roll out the red carpet for you as a guest.

      What I find even more interesting is how living abroad, we tend to internalize the host country’s ideas of what our nation should be. We become more of our nation than we would if we lived back home. At least there’s a strong danger of that. Probably explains a lot of radicalism on all sides of the equation (many Hungarians abroad embrace populism).

      Nothing beats coffee! Tea is a ceremony, or something you drink to help your body function. Coffee just feeds your soul.

      But you just gave me a great idea for my exhibition in July, so thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to be of service. Take what I say with a huge pinch of salt though. I see it more as an individual commentary than the definitive guide. And now that I’ve covered my tracks, I can bash the country all I like. 🤣 Just kidding. It really does hold a special place in my heart.

      Like

  2. So glad. I stopped by. Very interesting read.

    So what makes me a national of my nation. I have never thought about it. I guess it’s just our nature to put everyone in a box. For example, what is the national of someone born to Nigerian parents in England that has spent equal measures of his life in India, China, Saudi Arabia, France and Germany. Just to make it more interesting for you considering this question, he speaks all the languages of these countries and has never spent a day in Nigeria and no more than a 10th of his years on earth in England.
    Now, society has decided for their own sanity (we already know dogma is society’s middle name) that this gentleman has to pick one or perhaps two nations.
    Society! Really?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Omg! I love this guy! Seriously, growing up I didn’t meet many people like him, and I was in a similar situation. Never really went to school in my passport country (France) until college, and by then I’d already picked up a huge complex about my French. Mother from one country but with dubious heritage no one really discussed, because a) oh the shame and b) we’re now fitting in. Father speaking Hungarian but born in Romania. Found out about Romania when I was a teen, not in the nicest way either. Hated Romania because of that, plus all the ethnic German kids at the public school I attended identified as German. I hated Germany, because it kept me from America (we’d switch between both countries), and because where we lived was xenophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Turkish (not enough other groups at the time for them to hate. Think of the most square, most bigoted place in your country, since unfortunately every country has such a place, and you have an idea of the town we lived in).

      But aside from my American friends everyone was rooted to the region. The Americans at least understood what it meant to have ethnic heritage. In Germany a lot of people had roots in Poland, but they kept it hidden. Sometimes you’d be friends with someone and find out 30+ years later. I was so lucky to meet a group of Hungarians when I was eighteen. They helped me understand and accept my Hungarian side. It was through them I found out that Transylvania used to be part of Hungary, that by the time my father was born it was already part of Romania, but those with Hungarian heritage identified as Hungarian. My father was the least racist person I’ve ever known, and his only problem with Romania was that during communism he didn’t want to go back, because he never really learned Romanian but the little he did, he forgot. And the authorities wouldn’t believe him.

      I was too young to understand about my godfather, that there was a complicit understanding, until his white German wife made a comment about how he couldn’t be quite sure of his exact ancestry either, because his ancestors had been slaves in Alabama. He was a great person, and we just bonded, but even though we never talked about the heritage part, it was there.

      When I lived in Finland, I worked with a lot of Somali kids in their mid-teens who’d also lived in at least two places. I told them that I consider them as they see themselves, “if you tell me you feel Finnish, to me you’re Finnish. If your brother and sister feel British or Somali, that’s what they are to me.” But those who’ve lived in the same place all their lives with firm roots don’t get it.

      Later on, in college, I started meeting more people like your guy. I’m not saying we’re all a happy-clappy family, because individual interests always trump cultural heritage, but even if we didn’t click or disliked each other for other reasons, we understood each other without having to say anything.

      I’d joke around with some friends about “this is our Hungarian / American / whatever side,” which is where this whole post came from. Society puts its labels on us, because like you said it makes them feel safe (safe from what though?) but then we start searching as well. At least that was the case with my friends. We’re everything and nothing. It takes us thirty seconds at least to introduce ourselves. And when it comes to defining ourselves (for them, for us) we’re all of the above and then some. But we can fill that void in no time at all. We absorb, we fit in, naturally, with ease. But if you look a little bit different from the average person where you are, they’ll make it really hard on you. Because, like you said, dogma is society’s middle name.

      Which is also why I’m doing this blog. To keep finding others, talk about it, help those younger than us. We’re not the freaks for being what we are, those who can’t think outside their proverbial box are

      Really glad you stopped by and thank you for your comment! Looking forward to more such conversations!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I understand the challenges you must have gone through. Writing is always a wonderful therapeutic outlet that help’s focus energy to deal with every day issues. I do love the concept behind your writings.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! That means a lot! But I didn’t intent to make it sound so tragic. Fact is, I wouldn’t exchange the lifestyle for the world. I just wish people would step outside their little box once in a while and at least accept different. Then again, I’m sure I carry my own box with me as well, from which I talk and through which I look. Because of continuous bad experiences I hate (which is a strong word) two countries and their people with all my heart and soul. I carry the DNA of one with me. The other I could claim as my own. I have friends in both, but it takes a lot to knock down these walls. I should do a post about that, because if my goal truly is to help others, or provide a platform from which to reach out, this honest introspection is a must. Especially if I’m against the happy-clappy portrayal of the Cross-Cultural Kid soul (for lack of a better word). It’s a great way of life, makes you much richer emotionally. But it’s not always unicorns and roses. And that’s what I’m trying to show as well. So thank you for the inspiration. And if I do post, is it ok to mention you?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know its not tragic at all. Sorry I forgot to mention that I do find your life very interesting and very very lucky to name a few. The challenges come along with the territory.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks again. That is very true about the challenges. Thing is, when I was growing up my life seemed special and unique. Then I met a lot of Army Brats, and there was a sort of complicity, a mutual understanding. But it’s all relative, of course. Compared to an adventurer my life is perhaps not all that interesting. Compared to someone who’s rooted to where they live, my life is perhaps super interesting. And then there’s everything else in between. But without being a snob, I would absolutely class it as an interesting life.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello! Thank you for visiting my blog. What a pleasure to read yours! I am fascinated by other cultures. My husband’s family comes from Carpatho-Russia, while my parents brought a common mix of Western European countries to my genes. I hope to see Hungary one day. So much history, and the food is wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! And thanks for your comment and visiting. Russia is a truly fascinating country for me. Though I mainly seem to have friends from St. Petersburg. Just the way it fell out. I have to say this, please do not take my voice as the definitive authority on all things Hungarian. I’m not a poster child for anything, since my experiences aren’t that neatly confined to a box. Which sounds snobby, but I don’t intend it to be. I’m just somehow always on the margins. I’m not alone, but we’re not a typical group. Having said that, I’m happy to share my thoughts, so if there’s anything you’re interested in particular, please feel free to ask! And yes, the good is wonderful. I can’t make a single Hungarian dish, do I can say this without grabbing.

      But now I’m curious. Which Western European countries? For me, the French and Hungarian is certain. Then there’s the other country I hate and try not to mention. Possibly also Lithuanian and Swedish. And Austrian.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No worries! I’m not exactly your typical California girl, either. We’ve got English, German, Scots, and Irish in my family. Grandma said we have some French and Welsh also.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wait! You mean you’re not 5″7 with blonde hair, the perfect figure, and a good or evil twin? 😂😂😂 I get the French variation of that, because I’m supposed to dress in Chanel and I’m not even sure what else. At least that was the perception in some places growing up. Meanwhile my peers in France and I all dressed in light denims, a white T-shirt, and a black leather jacket. 😂😂😉

        Welsh is such an interesting language though. I’d hear it all the time when I lived in Cardiff. Doubt many Welsh speakers kept it up once they left Wales though.

        Like

  4. Wow! I love this! I only have a minute here before I have to get back to work, but have been leaving your comment on my last post hanging in limbo for a bit – I wanted a chance to look through your page and do a bit of reading through your writing, since your comment was very specific and worthy of a little investigation – so figured I’d take a peek now. I have to say I’m thoroughly impressed with what I have seen – your attitude is very refreshing and you come across as well learned and express yourself so well. I look forward to reading through more of your work, and will go back this evening to try to more fully reply to your comment on my post. Don’t have much time right now, but wanted to let you know I was here and hadn’t forgotten you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks! That means a lot! Especially since I would say those exact same things about your blog! Not kidding or being polite.

      It’s great to get such positive feedback, of course. And I’m really happy that I’ve been able to connect with so many interesting people so far. But what’s also important, and the reason I started this blog, is to reach out to others who are “half, a third, and a quarter.” And clearly I’m hopeless at Math.

      I do the same, trying to get an idea of the other person, so no worries there at all. Besides, I’d rather wait until I can write an honest comment than simply dash something off.

      Having said all that, I do look forward to exchanging more ideas and thoughts. And also looking forward to your comments.

      Like

  5. We have something in common! Though I was born in the USA, I am ethnically German-Hungarian. I found your descriptions of American and Hungarian culture really interesting. I’m afraid there is a darker side to American culture. Sadly, we have a long history of racial tension. But I love the fact America is a melting pot. I think there is strength in diversity, so long as key values are shared.

    I am less sure of Hungarian culture, since my family folded German customs and attitudes into the mix. German culture tends to emphasize self-discipline, hard work, and order. Hungarian history, I know, is very rich. Not only Magyars, Mongols, and Huns left their mark on Hungary. Celts, Romans, Franks, Bulgars, Ottomans and more vied for the territory.

    Now we each get to add to that story…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anna,

      thanks for stopping by and for your thought-provoking comment. I figured you had to have some type of German ancestry with your name 😉, which btw, is pretty cool!

      Right now I’m not sure yet how long I’ll stay in Hungary, so I’m trying to focus my observations on what I notice around me these days, but past experiences do slip in. My godfather was a black man from Alabama, who was born in the late ’40s. Didn’t talk much about the stuff he’d seen growing up, but if you see a person you love with your entire heart and soul, who never even blinked during the worst horror movie, suddenly get up and leave the room during certain scenes involving cops, you start to form an understanding. I’m pretty sure I mentioned him in a separate post on here, so I’ll search for the link in a minute. Totally agree about strength in diversity.

      Sadly I have relatives in Europe and America who are incredible racists. We are still unraveling family history, but it’s pretty obvious that those very ethnicities they hate were very much present in our family tree. I know it’s not as easy as that, self-hatred, passing, etc. but it always gets me. There are a few posts on that, too.

      That’s what gets me about racism and xenophobia here. Just looking at people’s surnames tells you everything you need to know about the melting pot here. Yet there are so many Toths and Némeths and Lengyels displaying racism. Again, I know the answer is not a simple “do this to achieve that,” Sad thing is, I’ve lived in several countries, and the hatred is present everywhere. But as long as there’s a willingness to engage in a respectful debate, there’s hope. Another simplification, because it takes more than a few words to solve this. But, on the other hand, words are a good start.

      Hope you won’t be a stranger.

      Like

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