Culture shock 101

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I feel like a stereotypical dumb American for not considering that Hungarian keyboards would be different than English keyboards. I spent 5 minutes staring at the keyboard in the library wondering why there was Z key instead of a Y and how I was going to type my password in. I was going to make a joke about Hungarians missing the memo on QWERTY keyboards...except I just realized QWERTZ keyboards are for real. Suffice to say, I won't be using a computer in the library again! 

My international marketing class is a master's level course, but so far it is comparable to basic marketing courses at Kelley. Corvinus University is the best university in Budapest, but it does not compare to IU. I would say it's comparable to Purdue University. Bazinga! You can miss up to 25% of the classes and the majority of the professors do not mind if exchange students skip class to travel. One of my professors is the former Hungarian Minister of Industry and Trade and President of the Hungarian National Bank. Color me impressed!

What is most interesting in my marketing class is hearing about American culture from the perspective of Europeans. My professor is Hungarian and has worked in several countries as a marketing exec and the rest of the class is from across the EU. When we discussed how September 11th affected the global marketplace, I was quite surprised that everyone talked about it from purely a business standpoint. Of course I was only in 6th grade in 2001, but I don't recall Americans being concerned about how such a tragedy would effect the global economy. The professor asked what major events have impacted the global economy and almost every single event mentioned by the EU students was American (9/11, Enron/Arthur Andersen scandal, Iraq war, subprime mortgage crisis, etc). I've been told time and time again how important the US is in driving the global market, but I did not understand until now.

One student thought the McDonald's menu in Europe was the same as in the US since McD is a global company. I thought that was funny, especially since the McD in Hungary sells "New York sandwiches" and other strange things. My roommate ordered iced coffee at McDonald's last week and got hot coffee poured over ice cream and ice! Interestingly, the first Starbucks in Hungary didn't open until this past September. Coffee culture is a recent trend here. Subway and Burger King are the only other American chains I've seen. Hungarians absolutely love American culture and listen to Top 40 American music.

I've always been fascinated with people from foreign countries, but now I'm the foreigner everyone wants to talk to (especially the Hungarians). A Dutch classmate was thrilled to find out I was American because he had never met a native English speaker before. It is quite amusing because sometimes the students who don't speak English as a first language have trouble understanding each other through their accents and I have to interpret for them :)

I think I'm going to be pretentions when I return to the US and keep calling my cellphone a mobile (rhymes with crocodile, not noble) and pronounce wi-fi as wee-fee. I do have a mobile here but it's expensive to send an SMS/text because you are charged different rates depending on which company your friend uses and the same goes for phone calls. However, incoming calls and texts are free. The first two numbers of your mobile denotes which company you use. Some Hungarians have more than one phone so they can SMS their friends using a number from the same company. Moral of the story is that I'm never taking unlimited texting and qwerty keypads for granted again! Shallow, but oh so true.

The broken English on the screen cracks me up. Long press = hold.

Side note: This is day 8 in Budapest and I'm on my second jar of Nutella. My diet consists mainly of Nutella on crackers, spoonfuls of Nutella, knock-off Kellogg's corn flakes, and yogurt until I can decode labels and be sure I am not buying paprika paste. Mr. Nutella can thank the American students studying in Hungary for singlehandedly increasing his net sales in Budapest. Did you know World Nutella Day was Februrary 5th? I know this because my roommates and I were so desperate that we googled Nutella recipes. The good news is that I have no idea how bad it is for me since the label is in Hungarian. Cheers!
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11 comments:

Ashley H said...

Woah there Liz, "it's comparable to Purdue University." And since you're overseas, I thought I'd inform you that Purdue just beat IU in men's basketball tonight. Bazinga!

On a friendlier note, Budapest sounds amazing! The differences you are noticing are between American culture and Hungarian culture are very interesting. The more I read about your experience, the more I want to study abroad! I guess I'll just have to settle for a trip overseas :) Well good luck with your classes and I'm loving this blog! You should really consider getting into journalism, you could start your own nail polish blog haha. As if there aren't enough you read daily ;)

Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVE nutella!!!!!!! it turns everything into cake and/or awesome -michael e

Ashley Recupito said...

HAHAHA laughed all the way through it... keep blogging kido.. keeps me from being productive at home.. ahh!

Kamilla said...

hahaha! This reminded me of a post I did while in London (http://travelingpages.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/london-phone-calling/) And one of the greatest discoveries upon returning to Bloomington was that the Willkie cstore now sells Nutella

Kristen said...

haha I had the same problem with the Danish keyboards. The @ symbol is one the 2 key, but to get the @ symbol you have to press with a key called altg instead of the alt key.

Estefanía said...

This post made me smile & laugh out loud. :D Awesome. Hope you're loving Hungary!

Christina said...

"Coffee culture is a recent trend here."

What?!?! How do the mothers function in the morning?! :)

Amateur Historian said...

You are incorrect!
The coffee culture in Budapest is very old, dating back to 1541 (the year of the Ottoman conquest)...
The first coffeehouses reached Western Europe through the Kingdom of Hungary, (thus this was the mediator between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire).
Coffee first arrived to America in 1720 (yeah, Hungarian coffee culture predates American coffee culture by 179 years)!

In the 17th century, coffeehouses existed on every street corner in Budapest, and 2 centuries ago (1800) the number of coffeehouses in Budapest exceeded 400...
The city is now full of coffeehouses, including centuries old historic ones!
Cafe Ruszwurm is a good example. This Baroque coffee house operates since 1827, and it's the favorite place of the famous Austrian Empress Elisabeth (also known as 'Sisi' or 'Sissi')...

Liz said...

ah thanks for the correction. i had read that coffee culture tapered off in the 1930s because of the world wars and then communism because many of the coffee shops were destroyed or the commies closed them because they were seen as a center of underground organizations.

Amateur Historian said...

Yes, you are correct.
The culminating point was indeed the 1930s. WW2 inflicted heavy damage to Budapest, and the oppressive communist regime limited the influence of the local coffeehouse culture...


The Habsburgs Emperors and the Communist party feared the coffeehouses for a very good reason!
The Hungarian coffeehouse is NOT just a place to drink coffee, but a sociocultural hub, celebrity hangout, and a revolutionary hotbed...
All Hungarian revolutions originated in the local coffeehouses, including the very first anticommunist insurrection in history (1956).

But that's not all.
The local freedom fighters had a global reach, greatly influencing other nations around the world!
The USA is a good example:
Hungarian volunteers decisively influenced major American armed conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War for Independence, the Civil War, the 2 World Wars, etc...
-Just a quick citation from official US Military Historic documents, as a relevant example:

... The "father of U.S. cavalry" was a Hungarian Hussar named Michael Kovats, who
volunteered his service to the Continental Army in 1777 in a letter to BenjaminFranklin.
He ended the correspondence with “Fidelissimus ad mortem,” or "Most faithful unto death."
He served in the Continental Army during the
Revolutionary War and recruited, trained, organized and led the first American cavalry into battle. The Continental Congress awarded
him the rank of Colonel Commandant.
He was killed in action against the British in South Carolina. Part of the The Citadel, The
Military College of South Carolina, is named in his honor...

-> Some fun facts:
For centuries, the Hungarian coffeehouses offered free paper, pen, and ink, to attract creative people, and promote the idea of coffee stimulating the intellect.
As a result, many intellectuals, poets, writers, composers, artists, students, professors, etc, established their headquarters in the local coffeehouses, and attracted other customers eager to meet the celebrities!
The modern idea to offer free wi-fi Internet access to customers in coffeehouses originated as a modern twist to the centuries old practice in the Budapest coffeehouses...
:-)

Anonymous said...

Amateur Historian:

Really interesting about the early Budapest coffee houses, thank you!

Where I can read more about them? Books? Anything would be appreciated.

Kave Lover

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