Hungary

When I am in Hungary, I am lost to my English family. There is a side to me that they will never completely understand, they will never get. It makes them realise that, no matter how fluent I am in English, really I am a stranger in disguise. They don’t actually know where I came from or where I am heading. This makes them feel insecure. It makes me feel insecure too because I am reminded how footloose I am.

I return to Hungary each summer for a couple of weeks; a bit like a migratory bird. I need to go home to connect with the ‘source’ and to evaluate and redefine my life. I talk for hours with my closest friends and family which is followed by weeks of reflection. What shocks me every time is how much grip Hungary still has on me. The visit shakes me to the core every time and my annual trip often becomes a catalyst for life-changing decisions. Hungarian and Hungarians speak straight to my heart and soul. It’s this magical combination of the language and the people. The language is rich and expressive, the people are brutally honest. And me, I am an impostor whose comfortable veil of anonymity is suddenly and alarmingly torn away. There is nowhere to hide; my thoughts and feelings do not just belong to me anymore. They are exhibited in the wide open for all to see and comment on. Anybody on the street or on the tram can freely and directly tell me what they think of me and how I should live my life because it’s their God’s given right as Hungarians. It’s Hungarians amongst each other. Face to face, man to man. No beating around the bush, they say it as it is. This year for example, when the weather turned colder at lake Balaton and I complained to a market seller that this always happened when I came here on holiday, she literally told me to ‘go back wherever I came from’ because I brought the bad weather. This wasn’t meant as a joke. Being the customer is obviously not a trump card in Hungary.

Spending time with my countrymen made me realise that some of the qualities (e.g.: my honesty, directness and impatience) that my English friends appreciate or hate (?) in me come from my ‘Hungarianness’. I stare into people and tell them what I see. It freaks them out. Like other Hungarians freak me out. Being back in England, I am shrouded in the impenetrable foreignness of English. It can’t touch me; it can’t hurt me. Not nearly as much as Hungarian can.

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