Low on energy
As I learnt yesterday, enjoying is not something that comes natural to Hungarians. Smiling without an obvious reason risks to be seen as something suspect, while openly displaying happiness is likely to cause confusion. Few events can spark a feeling of community and belonging. Still, I refuse to believe that all Hungarians are depressed all of the time. I am tracing down some English-speaking Hungarians today to ask what they do to cheer themselves up from everyday sorrow.
Hungarians are not masochistic about their sorrow, they just have a hard time escaping the ongoing rhythm of what the Parisians would call Metro, boulot, dodo: get to work, work and sleep. Saying that they are fatalist may be tempting but it would be more accurate to say that they feel like having no energy left after carrying out their daily tasks. Laszlo (27) is quite good at making plans, but he is usually too tired to carry them out in practice: `I work 40 hours a week in a call centre, but the times are quite inconvenient: from noon until 8 in the evening every day.`
`Hungarians enjoy laughing at little rabbits who go to the forest`
Zsuzsi (22, photo) says she often needs to cheer up her friends who are complaining about their everyday lives: `Sometimes, I will try to make them feeling good by giving them a compliment, which may be quite a random one about how there hair looks great today. My preferred strategy is to tell them about something bad that happened to me, preferably something that is worse than what they are going through. Just to make them see that their problems are not the end of the world and that they are neither the first nor the only ones to experience such problems. The bad thing is that I usually end up feeling like I am the reason they feel unhappy.`
`It`s somehow more acceptable to play depressed than to do something out of the ordinary. People dwell in their sorrow, and they don`t feel comfortable leaving behind what they know, even though the something they know is not necessarily something they like. That can be quite annoying. Fortunately, there`s also many exciting things going on, like Debrecen`s Summer Carnival for example. That`s when big carriages full of flowers pass by in the streets, with everybody singing and dancing. The event temporarily makes people forget about their problems, but the negativity of everyday life strikes them again when they get on the way back home`, Zsuzsi says.
`People don`t want to do moderately crazy things. They may drink and party a lot, but they do few things that involve enjoying reality. I will join a survival weekend in the north. Out of the entire university, there are only three groups of people joining, on a total of 400 participants. I wonder why so few people are interested in such an event. Their minds are probably occupied by obligations.`
Zsuzsi explains that Hungarians have many jokes to compensate for the negativism that reigns their thinking: `About policemen, blond women, Gypsies and Jews, but the majority of jokes use animals to show the difference between smart and stupid. Many jokes start of with `Little rabbit went to the forest?.`, or they describe an episode in the life of `Aggressive little pig`. There`s also Moricka, a school kid who usually gets in trouble with parents and teachers.`
Many Hungarians count reading and writing among their hobbies. For Zsuzsi, it`s reading rather than writing: `The books I`m reading are at the moment not too prestigious, because I have to study, which leaves me too little time to go for the real stuff.` Daniel (19) is more of the writer type: `I would like to become a rapper. I like writing lyrics and novels, but usually just at home because I am a beginner. Daily life is a recurrent subject in my work: life, love, relationships..` Daniel`s friend Attila (23) would like to work in a big company at the communications department. He is preparing for his ambitions by studying Liberal Arts, which is a mixture of philosophy, theology, history and communication. He will be proud when he sees his plans materialize. Until then, he spends his time going out with friends to have drinks and watch football. He is happy that the young generation is not as depressed as the older generations, even though he thinks that Hungary could still qualify as the world`s most depressive country to live in.
Marta (21) sings in a choir, likes bowling, skiing in Slovenia and reading books. Her favourite international writer is Gabriel Garcia Marques. Marta is studying theology and wants to become a reformist pastor once she has graduated: `Most of my friends are doing the same studies and religion is one of our main topics of conversation. We don`t read the news a lot, nor do we talk about it a lot. My objective for the future as a pastor is to help people who have problems and to teach them how to live their lives.`
For many young Hungarians, a combination of alcohol and parties seem to work quite alright to at least help them escape from the rut of work and sleep. Szylvia (24) is one out of Hungarians who amuse themselves consuming alcohol and drugs: `I like to use XTC, weed and speed ? the light drugs, no heroin. I like the parties at friends` places, where socialise and talk. On the whole, I would like to have fewer problems and more money. I recently bought a house and I want to do some repairs on it, but I haven`t made much progress yet. I would like to change jobs so I can earn more money, but I can only do that after having gained sufficient experience in the current one.`
Fortunately for the future of Hungary, many Hungarians engage in more constructive activities. Football is not as popular as it is in Mediterranean countries, but it can definitely rely on the support of decent crowds. Waterpolo has its fans, some people like biking, many girls do aerobics. Swimming and jogging are popular ways of staying healthy. For the rest, the national pastime remains complaining. About health, about wealth, about the lack of both of those and about politics.
The idea of leaving the country to start a new life abroad does appear in people`s minds, but once again, everyday obligations make it impossible to take such an unconventional step. Welcome to the real-life example of a vicious circle.
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