Maybe it sounds more dramatic than it is, maybe less so. Fact is, I held out until June the year following my arrival, and I already wanted out. It took me another year, in which I had no rose colored glasses to ease my stay, cushion my fall, or whatever else you want to call it. But I made it, and I’m happy to say that even though I don’t know where the metaphorical winds may (or may not) take me, chances are high it’ll be in the West. Yes, I used it like that. There’s a huge difference between the Western and Eastern European mentalities, and while I’m perfectly aware that technically Hungary is in Central Europe (the epicenter of Europe, if not the world, to hear Hungarian Nazis tell it, but I heard that from German Nazis as well where we lived when in Germany), the mentality is distinctly Eastern European. In a nutshell, do as you’re told, submit to the highest authority blindly, if you’re a woman submit to your husband as well, and reject anything outside of your comfort zone. Show no human compassion, blame the victim at all times, and if someone has an affliction, or a handicapped child, make it known that this is God’s punishment. Do not show compassion, for it is weakness.
When meeting someone, show them how you’re an expert in their field. Rules only apply if they serve you, and if everything else fails, immediately hide behind, “oh woe is me,” or any variation thereof. Know your place as a woman, and always look your best. A man can be ugly and still find a wife, a woman must be pretty as a picture and beyond. As my father would say, “a woman’s crowning glory is her hair. The longer the better.” I was raised with those values, and I rejected them all. Except for one thing, my father never enforced racism. He was no saint, and we had our problems, but I can honestly say that he was the least racist person I’ve ever known. He really did accept everyone. And raised his offspring the same way. But in that he really was the exception rather than the rule.
If you’re wondering why all this is important, it’ll at the very least help you understand the Eastern European Occupant of the White House. It’ll also give you a true picture of Hungary if you read it alongside the enthusiastic outpours of new Magyar enthusiasts. I believe both are necessary. Once the honeymoon period wears off, it’s good to know you’re not alone with this. Read the following paragraph only when those blues hit, otherwise you won’t believe it.
The blues will come. It’s an inevitable process to achieve balance. After that phase, reality will step in, and – having experienced both sides – this reality will help you make informed decisions. My first year in Hungary was decent, the second was magic, the third was annus horribilis (to quote the Queen), the fourth was incredible, and the fifth as well, largely because I was on the move again. It happened organically, and had nothing to do with feeling unhappy. My advice would be, ride it out, even if it’s the most uncomfortable feeling there is. But if you notice drastic changes, if your more irritated / angry / impatient, consider getting help.