The Thing With Hungarian Men (and Women)

Barber shop between the city and the ghetto – because no matter where you are, you have to look your best.

Disclaimer. What I’m about to write is merely my own opinion, based on my own experience and my own observation. I am by no means asserting that this applies across the board to all people. My friends and family would disprove that theory extremely quickly.

If you travel on public transportation and form your opinion based on what you’re seeing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Hungarian men are jerks when it comes to relationships. They demand kisses and PDAs on command, will tell their partner how she should dress and act, even to the point of dictating whom she can and can’t talk to. I’m not even kidding. I once ran into an adult student at a fast food joint, and she just happened to be with her boyfriend, who immediately demanded she switch sides with him, so that he was standing next to me, blocking all conversation. And I’ve seen that type of controlling behavior a lot.

Hungarian women are taught to cook, clean, and work, and the men in turn expect this. Standards must be maintained at all times, she has to show skin, but not too much (only for his pleasure, you see). But if she’s raped or accosted, it was (usually) her fault for “dressing like that and putting herself out there in the first place.” She, in turn, will fuss over her partner to no end. On the one hand because that’s what she was taught, and it’s what he expects, on the other, because she’s also been taught that without her by his side he’s a bleethering idiot.

Yet women are no prudes. They know what a man wants (them, for their well-maintained bodies and faces), and they will do anything to make this happen. This already starts in high school, and while I don’t condone pedophilia or grooming in any shape or form, some men might be forgiven for assuming the girl they were hitting on because she’d caught their eye was not in her twenties but barely in her teens.

At this point a responsible adult will just step away, or as a musician friend of mine put it when he found out the two girls talking to him were fifteen, not twenty-five, “I tried to act all fatherly, talking to them as if they were my own daughter.”

I’m not blaming the teens either, teens will have crushes, try things out, explore. It’s the adult’s responsibility to gently let them down. And having been in the position of both being asked by a student what to do because she had a crush on a teacher, and being the object of a student’s crush, I can tell you straight out that the “ego boost” was much bigger in the first scenario. It’s a really nice feeling knowing your students trust you enough to seek you out for such delicate advice. Why you would break a relationship of trust to wield power over them is beyond me (well, not quite. But that’s another study for another post). And besides, back to the male-female relationship dynamic.

Forget equal partnership as well. That Scandinavian model of both helping out in the house, it’s pretty rare. Of course the guy will help, but only on occasion. Paternity leave? If the concept does come up, both men and women will find it laughable at best, liberal at worst. Remember, this is a very conservative, authoritarian country. Everything is pretty much set in stone, and everything from south of the border is a threat to humanity as well as Hungarian values. A threat from which the man must protect his home and therefore wife / partner (often while cheating on her), strutting around on the street, driven by the bulging muscles he’s worked hard to attain.

She in turn will thank him by showing off her assets and asking him for money. For that’s what she expects of him as well. If he wants to see her in pretty clothes, well he’d better cough up the dough. If he wants that perky behind on her, well, he’d better pay for her gym membership and the dietary supplements she’s bound to need. Plus the clothes and undergarments to show them off.

And if neither my friends nor my relatives are like that, how do I dare make this assertion, not to mention know about this in the first place, you ask? Public transport is still a wonderful thing, a luxury I wouldn’t give up if you paid me a million bucks. Ditto cell phones. Everything you just read that wasn’t anecdotal was gleaned from various conversations overheard in various corners over the past year. Viva Hungary indeed.

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