7 Prominent Hungarian Stereotypes for Doing Business Abroad
February 26, 2018
There are well-known stereotypes about each nation. Americans are loud, Canadians are polite, Italians gesticulate wildly, and Australians surf all day. Some stereotypes may have a grain of truth in them — after all, they were formed by foreigners meeting people from a particular country. However, most stereotypes are exaggerated and not true about every single member of the nation (Except for Italians: they do gesticulate quite wildly. No, just kidding!).
When it comes to doing international business, stereotypes are important to know. You don’t want to be that business partner making jokes out of turn. We’re here to help the global businessperson along. Here are a few stereotypes about Hungarians you may encounter while doing business there. Bear in mind that these are only stereotypes, nothing more.
1. Hungarians are resourceful.
This stereotype is based on the fact that some Hungarians always seem to find a backdoor or a way around a particular problem. And in some cases, that backdoor is not strictly adhering to the rules. This comes from a long history of being occupied by other countries and having to bend rules imposed on Hungarians by others.
While today this sounds less flattering, it also has an upside: Hungarians tend to land on their feet and won’t rest until they’ve solved a problem As well, this stereotype definitely doesn’t come off well in a business meeting. Going in with the mindset that your potential business partner will do anything to get the job done, especially given the political history of Hungary, is not the precedent anyone wants to set.
2. Hungarians eat lots of fat and paprika.
It’s true that traditional Hungarian dishes are rather rich and spicy. But modern Hungarian cuisine has come a long way from goulash and paprikash by introducing new concepts and healthier ingredients. While the older generation in rural areas still prefers traditional dishes, younger urban people have more varied tastes.
And restaurants cater to all audiences, including international visitors. Your business partners may have a taste for either. Keep your expectations, and stereotypical thinking, to yourself. Be grateful that you’re being invited out at all. This probably means that business is going well. Enjoy the food. It’s amazing.
3. Hungarians don’t like the cold.
If you’ve ever been to Hungary, you might have noticed that Hungarians tend to set their air conditioners and heaters on a warmer temperature than Americans. It’s also true that Hungarians usually complain more about cold weather than hot. But since Hungarians always complain (see #6), you’ll hardly know the difference.
Prepare for business meetings beforehand. Wear layers. You can easily take them off if you’re too hot, and are prepared if the business venue is a bit chilly. Oh, and bear in mind that if you want ice in your water or soft drink, you’ll have to specifically ask for it.
4. All Hungarians have horses.
This stereotype is probably based on the experiences of a few 19th century travelers. While Hungary indeed used to be an equestrian nation, nowadays most people only see horses on TV. There are still stables where horse lovers can go and ride, but there aren’t significantly more than in other countries. Unless you count the horse shows that cater to the interests of tourists, because there are a lot of those, especially in rural areas. Don’t look a gift stereotype (or business partner) in the mouth.
5. Hungarian men all have moustaches.
Again, this stereotype must have sprung from an early 20th century fashion magazine. For a while, mustaches were indeed all the rage. But that era is long gone. As in most countries, the choice of wearing facial hair is entirely up to the individuals. We’re not really sure how this would affect your business meeting. But, if you’re adverse to facial hair, having a Hungarian business partner doesn’t guarantee anything.
6. Hungarians are pessimistic and always complain.
While it’s true that many Hungarians seem to focus on the negative side of things, this vision of “doom and gloom” is not ubiquitous. Especially since Hungarians tend to have a dry sense of humor as well, which makes pessimism more fun. Or at least funnier. In a business setting, this “stereotype” can actually be beneficial.
Keeping an eye out for gaps, discrepancies, and the more “negative” side of a business relationship or a business deal is important and easily overlooked in first-impression meetings. Having someone who’s willing to take on that responsibility and isn’t afraid to speak on tough issues is an asset you want in your business partner.
The persistent complaining also comes from focusing on the negative. And Hungarians indeed like to complain: they see it as an excellent way to let off steam and frustration. But it’s also a cultural misunderstanding.
Hungarians tend to have a dry sense of humor as well, which makes pessimism more fun. Or at least funnier.
The English “How do you do?” has a direct translation into Hungarian: “Hogy vagy?”. But Hungarians mostly use this phrase if they really want to know about the other person’s health and wellbeing. This may cause many misunderstandings, especially with the older generation, who upon hearing this question would launch into a long list of complaints. Don’t worry though, your business partner won’t mistake your simple pleasantry for an investigative question into their health.
One way to avoid listening to complaints is paying your Hungarian supplier through Veem. Our unique multi-rail technology allows you to send payments quickly, easily, and securely. Since both you and your business partner know the basic information regarding the payment (amount, scheduling, fees), there are no unpleasant surprises in the process. And your supplier will definitely love our great foreign exchange rates. Traditional wires are a thing of the past. Bring your international business to the next level with Veem.
7. Hungarians have passionate opinions about everything and argue all the time.
In general, Hungarians are a proud and passionate people. Whatever the topic, most Hungarians tend to have a strong opinion and are not afraid to voice it. But bear in mind that this is only true for casual environments. When working, Hungarians are rather professional and formal. But, if you really want to know what your Hungarian business partner is thinking, maybe it’s best to grab a pint after meeting in the office.