How Budapest Keeps You Grounded

“I am so not prepared for this”. That’s what I was thinking as the plane I was taking to Budapest taxied to the runway. I was extremely busy over the months that lead up to my semester to study abroad; I was almost never home.

I hadn’t had any time to buy new clothes or other stuff that I was going to need, let alone time to wrap my head around the fact that I really was leaving.

Because I was so unprepared (the only thing I knew about Budapest was that there was a pretty building somewhere near the Danube) I was left with the impression that I would find it difficult to adapt to life in the city.

However the opposite happened. Every time I experienced something new like seeing my room for the first time, going to classes, wandering around in the city, I just kind of thought: well I guess this is my life now. And I was fine with it.

In fact, I was more than fine with it, I was feeling pretty confident. It didn’t feel strange to sit in a subway full of Hungarians or to walk through a part of town that I had never visited before. I was feeling like a local. That’s actually what I wanted to say to people on the street: “I’m not a tourist! I live here! I’m just like you!” Yeah… not really though.

A few days after arriving in Budapest, my roommate and I came back to our apartment after a walk in the city. When she tried to open our door, the lock wouldn’t give in. In the meantime, one of our neighbours stepped out of his apartment and started talking to us in Hungarian.

I don’t understand one word in Hungarian, but hey, I live here, I understand the people. So when our neighbour was pointing upwards while talking in what was quite a friendly manner, I said to him: “Oh, you live upstairs? That’s nice!” Like I was talking to a toddler or something. He kept on talking and pointing upwards while my roommate was trying to open the door and I kept speaking to him in English making random comments like: “Yes, the weather sure is lovely,” “It’s a really nice building,” and “Yes, sorry, we can’t open the door, haha!” I understood the guy.

Finally the door opened a little bit and my roommate saw a glimpse of the interior of the apartment. At which point she said: “Roos…what floor are we on?” At that point we were on the first floor. We lived on the second. We had just broken into a stranger’s apartment. Suddenly our friendly neighbour made a lot more sense.

We slowly turned around facing the guy who had tried to stop us from committing a felony. He had a look on his face that seemed to say ‘finally, these dumb foreigners got it’. So we did what any lady would do. We quickly shut the stranger’s apartments door, whispered “Oh my god, oh my god,” and ran past our helpful neighbour while giggling hysterically.

Things like this happened many more times. Realising the ‘big tip’ of 40 Hungarian forint which you kindly gave the sushi-delivery man is actually just 12 cent in Euro; finding out that Vörösmarty tér and Vörösmarty utca are not the same metro stops when you’re running late; getting the feeling that you’re the only one being followed by a shop’s security guard; it’s nice to know that Budapest has a way of putting your feet back on the ground when you’re getting a bit too cocky.

 

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