1. Sip your pálinka
Either you chug down the Hungarian national snaps or you don’t deserve the warm feeling of it sliding down your throat. No real Hungarian would ever sip his pálinka. I am still not sure though, if it is better to feel the pain in my throat several times on an easily bearable level and to live with the mockery, or to feel it just one intense time and to save my face. Either way, once the pálinka has arrived in your stomach, a cozy feeling of warmth starts streaming through the center of your body and you immediately forget all your troubles.
2. Mispronounce Deák Ferenc tér
Deák Ferenc tér in the center of Budapest is one of the main meeting areas of the city, be it for an afternoon stroll or as starting point for your evenings. Consequently, it is one of the Hungarian names you’ll inevitably have to learn to pronounce correctly if you don’t want to make a complete fool out of yourself. It’s neither Deek nor Dake and definitely not Dick. Repeat after me: De-ak. A little bit like day-yak, but not quite. Just listen to the lovely voice coming out of the boxes shortly before you exit the metro. Not that hard, is it?
3. Ask for the wine menu in your dodgy neighborhood bar
You have two choices: white or red. Don’t ask for the wine menu and certainly don’t ask if you can taste the wine before you make your decision. You are not in a fancy wine bar, where people discuss the berry-like aftertaste with a hint of chocolate. And while some of these places do have a little selection of different wines, they are definitely not the right place to play the wine connoisseur. So don’t use up too much of the barkeepers time and just order the house wine already.
4. Mix up certain vocabulary
You wanted to shoo away the annoying guy, but instead of “Baszd meg” somehow you ended up with “Bassz meg”? Congratulations, you just crossed the small but significant line between telling your unwanted admirer quite firmly to carry his business elsewhere and inviting him for coitus.
5. Don’t know your fröccs
Fröccs, the most famous Hungarian summer drink, is basically wine mixed with soda. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. There are various ratios in which it can be mixed and you better know the difference between Krúdy fröccs and sportfröccs, the former containing 9-dl wine, the latter only 1 dl. There are at least half a dozen other combinations, some stronger, some not so strong, so you better start learning your vocabulary if you don’t want to end up completely wasted on what should have been a quiet evening out.
6. Call Hungarians Slavic
While many other people in this part of Europe are of Slavic origin, Hungarians or Magyars came from the area around the Ural Mountains and started venturing west in the direction of the Great Hungarian Plain in ancient times, with a long stopover of some hundred years in southern Ukraine. Needless to say, the full story is a little more complicated. I strongly recommend that you do some reading, but if you don’t want to make a complete fool out of yourself, just don’t throw the term ‘Slavic’ out until you know exactly what you are talking about.
7. Go to Instant on the weekend when you’re just too old
While Instant is undeniably one of Budapest’s best party places, it tends to attract a rather younger crowd, especially on the weekends. So if you show up there in the prime of your life with, let’s say 28, this will make you easily look like a jailbait-loving sugar daddy. Rest assured, these spring chickens my seem innocent, but they know exactly how to get more than a couple of drinks out of you.
8. Don’t properly pronounce egészségedre
Hungarian may not be the easiest language to learn and if you didn’t grow up with some of its special sounds like dzs and gy, you’ll probably never manage to pronounce them correctly. But this is the one absolutely essential word: Egészségedre. No I am not kidding you, this is a real word. Depending on context, it can mean ‘cheers!,’ ‘you’re welcome,’ or ‘bless you.’ It is pronounced somewhat like “egg-a-shag-a-dre” — but maybe you better ask a Hungarian for a live-audio-example.
9. Start a discussion about Trianon
The Treaty of Trianon, the trauma of Hungarian history, is a peace treaty between Hungary and the Allies of the First World War, where Hungary lost a big part of its pre-war territory. Still a sensitive topic for many Hungarians, you will definitely lose this discussion unless you know your facts exceptionally well. So better keep your mouth shut and drown whatever you wanted to say with one more pálinka.