When I decided to apply for an Erasmus scholarship and to go abroad for a semester I wanted it to be a new cultural experience. I wanted to learn a new language and spend time with people from all over the world. Little did I know that I was about to move to Germany 2.0.
I arrived in Budapest a few days before my orientation week started and when I moved into my flat with two French students, an American student and a half German/ half Turkish student I was still convinced that my semester here was going to be a multicultural experience. But my illusion has already been destroyed when I went out to go grocery shopping on my second day here. I found out that there are three grocery stores really close to where I live: Spar, Aldi and Penny. I also discovered that there’s a Lidl not too far from my apartment. All of them are German (except for Spar which is Austrian) discount supermarket chains that actually sell German products. I was really disappointed because I wanted to dive right into the international experience and try out some typical Hungarian food, but instead I just ended up buying the same products as in my home country.
When my orientation week started, I discovered even more German things. First of all, I feel like more than 50% of the Erasmus students at our institute are from Germany. They even offer a German journalism class, which of course is great, but it just gives me the feeling that I didn’t have to travel all the way to Budapest to learn this.
You can basically hear and read German anywhere in Budapest. Shop assistants and waiters or waitresses sometimes won’t speak English but a little German and the groceries aren’t the only thing where you can actually find written German language. Most of the signs at touristic spots are written in Hungarian, English and German as well and you can find bars and restaurants with German menus. It’s pretty helpful but still annoying if you’re actually trying to improve your English or even your Hungarian.
I even feel like people from other countries are annoyed by the amount of Germans in Budapest. When I introduce myself to new people at a party or at an ESN event I get responses like “Oh, you’re German as well? There are so many of you” or “Yeah cool. I’ve just met three other German girls”. I’m sure they don’t mean to be rude or hurt my feelings but it’s still not the answer you want to hear.
Even though I’m sometimes annoyed by this, I have to admit that I’m also glad about all the German cultural influences. It’s definitely easier to go grocery shopping when you actually know what you are buying (I’ve met some people who were really struggling to find cream cheese in Hungarian stores) and sometimes it just feels good to hear you own language, especially if you’re struggling with homesickness. And the best part is that I met great new people, most of them are from Germany and some of them are even from my city but I wouldn’t have met them if I hadn’t come to Budapest. And in the end, the fact that there are so many Germans in Budapest can only mean that it’s a great city and that German people love it here.