In August, I went to Hungary with great expectations. I barely knew a thing about this country and made a plan to get to know its inhabitants and of course explore the city of Budapest.
And so it began. I met my mentor Bogi on the day of my arrival. She is Hungarian, of course. At first, I was intrigued by many things. I remember my first trip in the crowded tram no. 4. “What kind of freaky language is this?”, I thought to myself, “Sounds like Turkish to me.” Then, Bogi gave me a first crash course in Hungarian: “Szia” and “Köszönöm”. She commented that she had never met such a slow learner. The word “Köszönöm” alone took me two weeks to figure out.
The second day continued to be very Hungarian. Bogi took me to her family’s place in Eger. We went sight-seeing and I learned a little bit about the history of Hungary. I became acquainted with Bogi’s family in the evening and was immediately greeted with great hospitality. And then they hit me with a Hungarian broadside: Tejföl, Túró Rudi, wine from Eger and Unicum. It was a great evening.
Back in Budapest everything was different. Term started and I tried to make friends. Two weeks later, however, everything had become familiar. Why is that? Everywhere I went, I met German people, tourists as well as Erasmus and Semmelweis students. When I stepped onto the streets I recognized my native tongue ever so often. Even when I ordered coffee in English and the waiter asked me where I was from, he would suddenly answer in German.
I moved to a shared flat and got to know my roommates: two Germans. To our surprise, one of Andi’s fellow students in Germany happens to be an old kindergarten friend of mine. His older sister is doing her Bachelor’s degree in media science in Bochum, just like me. One evening in one of Budapest’s many pubs, I met a person who only recently came to our house party back in Germany. I even attended a dancing course in Budapest. After introducing myself as German, the teacher explained that he is German as well and had been living in Budapest for only three years.
I have often wondered how small the world is. It is hard to feel like a stranger as a German in Budapest. That does not mean that I don’t discover new things in Budapest. But I do so mostly in the company of other Germans. I will ask Bogi if she likes to meet up with me for coffee next week. Otherwise, I risk forgetting the Hungarian word for “thanks” and we practiced too hard to let that happen.