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12 Side Effects of Living in Budapest

by Ash Merscher Oct 24, 2017

Your time in Budapest will surely be filled with amazing architecture, nights spent in ruin pubs, and endless bowls of goulash. But you may emerge with a few new habits in tow.

Here are 12 side-effects of living in Budapest.

1. You’ll eat snails.

Not the animal, but rather the Hungarian pastry called “csiga” (meaning snail) due to its curvy appearance. Popular orders include a pizza csiga or a chocolate csiga, but I prefer the walnut csiga.

2. And order lemonade at a bar.

Hungarians know how to concoct the perfect lemonade: sparkling water, homemade flavored syrups, and lots of fruit. You can go for the classic which won’t contain just lemons, but also limes and oranges too. Or opt for a trendy mix like strawberry basil or lavender ginger. They’re not too sweet, not too sour. They’re perfection.

3. You will always have exact change.

The lowest bill you can carry is 500 forints, and no one wants to count out coins for less than that. So cashiers will most likely expect exact change. If you don’t offer it, you’ll be asked for it multiple times (they won’t believe you). And if you really don’t have that 20 forint coin, you will be the most hated person in line.

4. And be comfortable without small talk.

You will greet everyone with a polite ‘hello’ or ‘good day’, but that’s about it. The trams and metro in Budapest are nearly silent, even during the morning rush. This is because Hungarians keep to themselves without indulging in small talk. You quickly learn to stick to the hi’s and bye’s and be content in silence.

5. You will either forget about fashion or you develop your own style.

Fashion is very personal in Budapest. Of course, you’ll see plenty of people sporting the newest trends, but for every fashionista, you pass, you’ll find someone wearing clothes from another decade. Style is individual and not very important, and clothes are mostly practical, especially in the colder months. The upside: you can basically wear whatever you want and not worry about what anyone else thinks!

6. You will learn to love and expect all four seasons.

Budapest has very lengthy and distinct seasons. You get a bit of everything: frosty winters, floral springs, sultry summers, and colorful autumns. Each transition is anticipated and appreciated. Just when you think you can’t take another dark and cloudy winter day, spring arrives and everything is good again.

7. Your privacy will take on a whole new meaning, or lack thereof.

Going to the doctor in Budapest is like going to a museum. Metal cabinets are filled with glass vials of assorted medicine. Tools line the shelves of old offices. Light streams in through antique window panes. And doctors will have you disrobe right in front of them… and the nurse, and maybe even the receptionist, too. Privacy means something totally different here. I suppose all the days soaking in thermal baths next to strangers changes your perspective a bit.

8. You will find out about the secret Hungarian Sea.

Consider it a ritual to spend your summer weekends at Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe. It’s referred to as the Hungarian Sea, since the country doesn’t claim any coastline of its own. It’s wide enough to feel like a sea, and it’s the perfect way to cool off during the summer months.

9. And put paprika on everything.

If you wonder why 90% of the food you order in Budapest is red, it’s because of paprika. You can buy bags of the spice because it truly goes with everything. Paprika on my potatoes, on my eggs, on my cucumbers, on my cabbage, on my meat, in my soup… the list goes on.

10. You will become an architecture snob.

You can’t beat Budapest. It’s impossible. Not even the likes of Vienna or Paris will impress you anymore. Even with numerous communist-era buildings dotting the waterfront, you can still find every possible architectural style, front Roman ruins to Gothic Revival, to Art Nouveau.

11. And become better at balancing than a yogi.

All the afternoons spent on the tram/bus/metro, hanging onto a leather strap swinging from the ceiling as the driver whips and twists, stops and starts, while trying to balance your bags and a sopping wet umbrella, will make you a master of your own two feet.

12. You’ll become a fan of water sports.

You may have imagined getting into soccer while living in Europe, but Hungary is all about water polo. Hungarians are exceptionally good at the sport. So good, in fact, that they are the world leaders. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself ditching the field for the pool, too.

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