Recently on YouTube, I watched an old clip of the hit TV show Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? during which the host asked a perky American blonde the following question: “Budapest is the capital of what European country?” After much hemming and hawing, the woman finally gave her answer: “France.” E-gads!
After my eyebrows finally came down, I thought…I better make sure no one reading my new blog is expecting posts about the Eiffel Tower or Paris Fashion Week. And so, I offer a brief primer on Magyarland.
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. With about 1.8 million inhabitants, it is the largest city on the famed Danube, which is only blue if you wear heavily-tinted sunglasses. Hungary is in Central Europe. If you say Hungary is in Eastern Europe, a Hungarian will correct you. Landlocked, Hungary is surrounded by seven countries: Austria, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, and… (I had to look this one up) Slovenia. The Hungarian flag is red on top, white in the middle, and green on the bottom. Just like a watermelon.
Hungarians (no relation to Huns) refer to themselves as Magyar. They speak Hungarian, also called Magyar. A heck of a hard one to master, Hungarian is an agglutinative language. That means Hungarians string lots of prefixes and suffixes together to make stretch limousine-like words that don’t fit on Scrabble boards.
Hungary is part of the European Union, but does not yet use the Euro. They use forint here, which expatriates like myself commonly refer to as Monopoly money. Currently, 1000 forint is roughly about $4.50. It is way more fun to say, “I’m carrying a thousand” than to say, “I’ve got $4.50.”
An American in Budapest