The Hungarian mentality and stereotypes – what is actually true?

Magazin 2022.07.07. Kiss Adrienn, Sándor Lili

Stereotypes represent individuals’ cognitive associations and expectations about any societal (for example national) group. We all know some famous ones like Italians are passionate, English people love talking about the weather, Germans drink a lot of beer. And what about Hungarians? How is life in Hungary? Let’s try to understand the most famous stereotypes!

1. Oh I remember those good old days…

Throughout history, there has been a continuous struggle for Hungarians to have their own voice and find their identity while under the control of various forces, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburgs and then the Soviet Union. Today these struggles continue to influence Hungarian society and attitudes. For example, some Hungarians still look back at certain periods of time in the past as Hungary’s golden years. Grandparents often remember the Soviet times as a great period, because everyone had a secure job with steady income and there were no big differences between the financial situations of families. Others believe if the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had survived, Hungary would be a more developed country today. Well, the thoughts like “What would have been if…?” do not make a difference nowadays, but remembering our history and historical events is still very important. 

2. Hospitality: let’s socialize with food!

Hungarians enjoy hosting and socializing with their family and friends. For many of them, the Sunday lunch is sacred, and every family has its own little traditions. Most Hungarians believe food is very important and much pride is associated with Hungarian cuisine. Particular Hungarian cuisine elements, such as the spice known as paprika, or the famous winter salami of Pick are highly cherished. Pálinka, a strong alcoholic beverage is also part of family lunches and dinners. It can be made of any locally grown fruit, such as pear, plum or for example apricot. It is better to be careful with the home made pálinka, it can cause severe headaches the day after.

3. Pessimism

It is a common opinion that Hungarians are very pessimistic: they are never satisfied with their current situation and they always find something to complain about. It is interesting that according to some linguists, the Hungarian language has a great role in forming the national pessimism. Our vocabulary is rich in words expressing negative feelings and there is not much optimism in most Hungarian literary pieces (and just listen to our national anthem… it is really sad!). There is an old Hungarian saying, “Sírva vigad a magyar” which means that “Hungarians make merry by crying”. Well, it seems that terrible historical events had an impact on our thinking and we are still not optimistic about our future. 

4. Great adaptability

Throughout our history, we had to adapt to various social, political and economic changes. Today on a more local level, if obstacles appear in front of Hungarians, they will often try to find a way around them. And in some cases, that backdoor is not strictly adhering to the rules. A bit of creativity can resolve everything – so why not to go on the unusual path and try something new if it is needed?

5. Beautiful women

It is always difficult to define how a beautiful woman looks like – as it is different for everyone. According to some studies, one of the reasons behind Hungarian women’s attractiveness lies in our history. Throughout thousand years, many nations have crossed our country, mixed with the Hungarians and this lead to a wide range of beauties. We have all types of women from freckled to blond, from fair-skinned to darker beauties.