There”s a feel-good community gathering foreigners who study, work or just simply stay in Budapest. We got curious and took a peak at how these get-togethers, organized every other Wednesday in Ankert, go down work.Turns out that most foreigners share CNN”s positive attitude and find both Hungary and the language fascinating – which might not be as difficult to learn as Hungarians believe.
It’s about 9 p.m., and Anker
is already packed. As we’re navigating between the mile-long wooden tables, Hungarian and English chatter fill the air with a touch of French here and there.
One of IMP’s (International Meeting Point) founding members says that more foreigners are expected to show up after the Champion’s League games are over (Ankert does not broadcast football games), then adds that get-togethers are not deemed successful without at least 200 participants.
It all started with Ivan, a French guy living in Budapest, who often met up with his homeland buddies, but could not invite friends of other nationalities to hang out with them. The solution was obvious, nevertheless brilliant: Ivan and his girlfriend decided to create a community for all sorts of foreigners crashing in Budapest.
The first meetings took place in Trefort Kert, their wintertime shelter was Vakegér, and when summer rolled around, they headed over to Ankert. This fall, there were plans to go back to Vakegér, but an unexpected problem popped up.
“The owner said that Vakegér is way too small for more than 300 people, and our group exceeded that number a long time ago. We had to find a new spot, and Ankert’s winterproof sections came in handy” – said Ivan.
In the beginning, it was mostly Ivan’s friends who attended, but they only spoke French , which bugged the Britons and Americans. But as they say, good things come to those who wait, and IMP soon became the foreign talk of the town thanks to Facebook and word of mouth.
As the number of participating nationalities began to rise, English became the official language of IMP’s get-togethers – although about half of the crowd consists of Hungarians seeking the companion of expats. Györgyi, the other founder, says that they stopped counting the nationalities at around 40, and positive feedbacks come from as far as Mexico.
An Australian dude tells the tale of his travels around Europe, and the time he spent in London. Then a Dutch girls joins the conversation, chiming in with his two cents that he can’t be Australian, he’s clearly Swedish – based on the looks of his beard. As we dig ourselves deeper into the crowd, we bump into a Costa Rican and at least sic French guys. It’s just like an Erasmus party: everybody’s having fun, drinking, and making jokes about curious cultural differences. This similarity, by the way, is not a coincidence, Erasmus students are regulars at IMP. Couchsurfers are also represented in the crowd, they regard IMP as one of the best partying opportunities in Budapest.
Even if someone’s overly shy, IMP’s so-called ambassadors will kindly assist introverts in loosening up and finding the right people to have a chat with. When they’re done praising their ambassadors, Ivan and Györgyi say they are intent on introducing someone. “Szia, Ted vagyok, hogy vagy?” (“Hi, I’m Ted, how are you?”) – he says with the broken Hungarian of a random George Kovács who’s just returned to Hungary after 60 years in the US. However, he’s quite the opposite of this cliché, he’s only been in Hungary for 5 years. “I lived in Ónod. Have you heard of Rákóczi?” – he asks, and from then on, it’s clear that it’s not going to be one of those let’s-pretend-we’re-not-bored-of-each-other’s-blabbering type of conversations.
He gets much more talkative after a few pálinkas – not that he didn’t say anything without an alcoholic boost. The most difficult affix to understand was the transitive -t, but he found a solution for that, too. His favourite word is “krumpli” (“potato”), which he thinks sounds much cooler than its synonym, “burgonya”. He says he could go on for hours about the oddities he experienced in Hungary. For example a couple of weeks ago, he just wanted to get something for luch, so he went into CBA’s luncheon section. He pointed at a symphatic pasta dish, but froze in terror upon seeing the seller girl sprinkling caster sugar on the food. Turns out that he bought darás pasta, for which jam or caster sugar is really necessary, but he cannot comprehend until this very day why Hungarians must use sugar instead of tomato sauce. Regardless of such gastro-accidents, he loves living in Budapest.
“I think Hungarians have a false self-image of their country, because they have no idea what living abroad is like. Hungary isn’t perfect, but every country has its unique flaws” – says Ivan. “Here, a 16-year-old girls can wear a mini skirt in the summer and will get home in one piece even if she’s alone. In France, this would be impossible. People read an article about an attack and say it was the girl’s fault for wearing revealing clothes.”
When Ivan moved here, his friends back home critized him for leaving the French Riviera for some crappy country in Eastern Europe, but now they visit four-five times a year. “French Erasmus students cry when they have to go home, because they love the city and their lives here. I think when a Hungarian moves abroad, they come back within half a year” – says Ivan.
IMP is on a Christmas hiatus right now, but will be back on the 8th of January with tons of foreigners – and with Hungarian-speaking Ted – in Ankert. More information here.