Whenever you travel to a new country and intend to stay a long time it takes time to acclimate to the new culture. For me, the past 2 weeks have been just that. I have been settling into my new home for the next two months.
Since I have travelled to European countries before, I already had suspicions on what life would be like. There are a few things this time that stand out though: public transportation, language, and money. I feel like if you have a basic understanding of these three things everything else is easy.
Having lived in a suburb my whole life, I never used public transportation. I rode a school bus for several years but that is in a category of its own. Where I live, if you want to go somewhere you drive. In Europe if you need to go somewhere you take the bus, metro, tram, or train. Since arriving in Budapest these modes of transportation have become a part of my everyday life. And let me tell you, it hasn’t been so bad!
One of the reasons public transportation is looked down upon in America is because it is not efficient. Buses tend to smell funny, never seem to show up when they are suppose to, and take forever! (or maybe that is just my experience…) In Europe there are not only a lot more places they go, but they actually work! They’re affordable and efficient.
For where I need to go I walk 10 minutes to the metro station and then hop on the next metro train. This either takes me where I need to go or I connect with other buses or metros. I have never had to wait more than 5 minutes for the next bus or train to arrive. The only downside of public transportation here is that during certain times and on holidays it can gets very crowded.
When travelling outside of America, there is always a language barrier. While English is an international language, it is always good to speak a little of the native language of where your visiting. Unfortunately for me, Hungarian is hard to learn. Thankfully, Budapest is a city where you can get around with only English skills. But I don’t want to.
I think it is important to be respectful of those native to where you are visiting. Everyday I use DuoLingo, a language-learning app for mobile devices, to try and pick up some basic. I will also ask someone around me when I want to learn a new phrase or know what something says.
A main reason this is important to me is because I am doing ministry with children throughout the week. Along with teaching them English, I try to learn the same phrases in Hungarian. This way I can introduce myself and ask them how they are doing in their language, which makes them feel like they are valued.
The money is the last point that has been a major change. Everyone always mentions that America has the ugliest money, and it’s true. It is also what I am most confident in using. Every time I travel there is a new monetary system to get use to: euros, denars, pounds, and now, Hungarian forints.
I have heard a lot of stories where travellers do not want to change their money over to that of the country they are visiting. This would be the same as someone trying to use Euros in America. It’s not polite. As I mentioned above, while in Hungary I am using Hungarian forints, which is very different from anything I’ve used before. As an approximation, $1 is equal to 300HUF. Basically, by American standards, it is not that hard to be a millionaire, you only need about $3,500. There is also just the getting use to new coins and colorful bills of various amounts.
Luckily for me I do not have to worrying about buying things everyday. When I do though, I plan ahead if I will use my card or coins and bills. If I do use forints I tend figure out in line the amount so that I can have it readily available for the cashier. Otherwise by the end of my time here I would end up with a large amount of coins I didn’t use.
Overall I have really enjoyed my time in Hungary so far. It is a country rich in history and full of beautiful sights to visit. I have been able to go to castle hill and the citadel at night, see the parliament building, walk across the chain bridge, and that is just the beginning of all of it! While there have been some difficult moments regarding the language, money, and transportation, I am slowly becoming more confident in my abilities and with my interactions with people (if I’m around others though I still tend to have them speak the Hungarian for me).