In the spirit of fairness, one should also present the other side of the Hungarian coin, the hospitality, that razor-sharp wit you see in random comments on forums and pretty much anywhere – which may or may not account for the language itself. That act of extending a helping hand without ever expecting anything in return. The beauty of the language itself, the richness in music, literature, performance, music, and art.
The hospitality is out of this world. My godfather is from the South (Alabama to be precise), and he really taught me about hospitality, extending it to friends and friends of friends. My mother’s culture prides itself on hospitality as well, but it’s one-on-one and self-serving (considering how much respect I have for that particular corner of the world, I’m willing to concede that I might be wrong, except that my mother has also always been huge on hospitality). Hungary is a cross between the two, the American South and its brother from another mother.
But they have to like the guest, have to have chosen him or her (which is another way to explain their attitude towards refugees but why it was, and still is, perfectly ok for Hungarians to spread out abroad. We’ve chosen this country the logic goes. So this is perfectly ok).
Hungarians are also super resourceful. We’ll make something happen no matter where we are, find a way. Except when it comes to fixing our own country. There we seem to draw one gigantic blank. I realize how incredibly Hungarian my own words sound. Defeated, ready to give up before we even began.
We are also – and this may or may not be biased – born artists. Or rather, for those of us who perform, it’s not just that we have the perfect technique down pat. We bring something else into it, that little extra. I’m speaking in general terms here, but where Germans will have all the right moves, we will access and bring out the soul of the piece. Think of those with Hungarian heritage in any performing art and look at their performances. That deep understanding that really makes the piece.
Family is everything to us, and in that we are fiercely loyal. Again, this might just be my friends, but the concept of family is also extended to stepsiblings and stepparents. Step-siblings especially seem to have a mutual understanding of us vs. them combined with, what did we do?
We also have an interesting relationship with Death. We don’t like it, but we think nothing of singing about death, loss, and dying, and feeling we had a really good time. Compare English torch songs with their Hungarian counterparts, and the heartache is always due to death in nine cases out of ten. It wasn’t the woman that cheated on the man so much as life itself, God, whatever higher power took her away from him. When love is actually present, there’s always an urgency to it, Death is always waiting on the doorstep, peeking through the window, lounging around in the garden. Only a Hungarian could have come up with the concept of mixing metal with torch music and luring people by the thousands with the presentation and sound. And, making sure they all feel like they had a good time.
I think it’s that understanding of Death always somehow being connected to love, life, and everyday chores, that makes me Hungarian, aside from my blood, from my genetic connection. Only an Italian (Coppola) would think to turn Mina Harker into the reincarnation of Dracula’s wife. Only a Hungarian (me) would assert that if you really think about it, Dracula is more of a love story than Romeo and Juliet, for what better way to show your love than join you in eternal damnation.
Of course, since we’re already playing with the clichés, it might be worth mentioning that only an Irishman could weave such a fascinating story in the first place. And I’m not even a fan of Dracula or vampires other than the Coppola movie, the Bram Stoker novel, and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.