Sunday, February 10, 2013

Not just a Hungarian issue

This week our land-lady told us that our neighbors were uncomfortable with us having black people over to our house.  They were concerned with safety in the building.  I stared at her, "OH MY GOSH! You are kidding me!"  Both Will and I stood there with this naive idea bouncing around in our heads, trying to make some sense of it.  "Yeah Hungary," I responded with sarcasm.

Since this conversation, the prejudice issue has been a topic of conversation between us and our land-lady, us and foreign friends, and Will and The Neighbor.  Our land-lord, who is a super nice Hungarian lady, explained the issue quite well in an email:

Xenophobia is a problem in Hungary but very much so because most of the people live in a very homogenous context, never in touch either with people of any color or different cultural habits, or even disabled in any way, so they just do not really know how to relate to that - and it is very much different to grow up in such a multicultural, melting-pot society as yours.  I know the difference as we lived in the States almost for 2 years, had Eszter (daughter) go to school there and it made a world of difference... e.g. you know how we are, but I have to tell you that I remember that Eszter was about 3 when she saw a black guy on the bus first time in her life and was quite scared of him, which made me very embarrassed.  On the other hand, imagine how unique it was for her then... It is unimaginable in the US but in fact most other Western European countries.  But also, I bet that in our village none of the kids my son's age have ever seen a black or Chinese or Indian person in their lives.  Or a blind one.  When we lived in the States (or even first landed in Paris or London), it was really a very dramatic, revelational experience for me.  Or having a black friend in Colorado when we lived there.  But most people never had such a hands-on experience.  I am sure that now so many people, especially young ones studying and working abroad, it will change.

I understand that Hungary is a very homogenous culture.  But having grown up in an all white community myself, it makes me even less sympathetic to this thinking.  I think our neighbor is another example of the prejudice so interwoven a much of Hungarian society.  And Hungary is not alone.  Many countries and cultures (even my own) have issues of prejudice, which let's be honest, are created out of  ignorance and the unknown.  However, I also think that our land-lady is right - the next generation can change it.  In Hungary.  In America.  Across the world.


  1. That's really interesting. Here in Singapore, there is a lot of racism as well. The hierarchy goes something like this: Chinese, Singaporean, Westerners, Thai, Indonesian, Philippino, Indian. It's quite sad. Even I am targeted as a non-Asian white girl. I've come to learn just how it feels to be stared at and treated as less of a human.

  2. Indeed your neighbors and Hungarians can be sometimes a bit overcautious when it comes to other cultures or people, I wouldnt call that racism,
    Its our history in the last 500 hundred years, Hungary and hungarians suffered a lot because of differeent cultures and invading empires(mongols,turks,germans,austrians,russians, now globalist banxters), I think if a country has been invaded and decimated about 5-6 times its understandable if some of us are little bit more cautious, thats all, it shouldnt be mistified, thats far from racism.
    Also a lot of people in the US. are lets say "closet nazis" or racist, no offense, but if you count your non european friends like african, chinese and so on like yeah we had a nice christmas party or dinner with that and that family who are by the way bla bla bla, newsflash thats racism and many do that.
    Also forced multiculturalism didnt work out to well in the US. neither in some parts of Europe like France,or the UK, when people can walk public in burkas but you cant have a christmas tree at your school because its"political not correct" than you might have a problem, just saying,
    And lastly hungarians are not anymore a homogenous group of people if somebody says he or she missed some history lessons, we are a mixed nation with germans, slavs, turks, serbs,the list goes on, what makes us unique is our culture and language wich is homogenous. I guess if we were such a horrible country people wouldn expat here in masses, we are not a police state have no NDAA or reinforced Patriot Act, and are fairly tolerant compared to other nations, case closed, and thank you.

    1. Pocok, from your comments it is obvious you were offended. I agree with you that all cultures have racism - America is one of the worst, as I said in this post. Mostly I was expressing the conversations I've recently had with Hungarians. This post was mostly written by a Hungarian actually (refer to the quote from my land-lady's email). It's pretty obvious you and I have different views of prejudice and what that means. Different viewpoints is what makes the world interesting. But I will admit that prejudice of any kind saddens me so much, and this was definitely one of those times!

  3. Im only offended by doublestandards, also Im fine with everybody no matter where he or she may come from if its a good person who values Human life.
    But leave people their freedom, the US. was founded on freedom, on personal freedom, dont force other people what to think or not even when they do disagree with you, some of us want their christmas trees their hanukka bush or their kwanzaa left alone where they are, to much political correctness kills personal freedom, until nobody gets hurt everybody can do and say what they will, thats my policy, I hope I wasnt too enthusiastic, if yes Im just a crazy hungarian:)
    all the best.


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