- -  Day # 251  + +

EU > Hungary > Szeged

Hungarians and change

Szeged, HU (View on map)

As I wrote in earlier articles, Hungarians are not very happy about the situation their country is in. The economy is declining, politicians are unable to change the tide and the people have little hope for improvement. All of that is leading toward`s today`s question: what changes does Hungary need?

Barbara (23):

..wants changes for Hungary but is satisfied with her own life
The economical situation in Hungary went trough a short improvement in the 1990s. After the change of the system in 1989, Hungary was seen as one of the most accessible former communist states. Foreign investment lifted the overall economic standard ? a development which should have given another boost when Hungary joined the European Union. But it didn`t. And now, Hungarians reluctantly see other former communist states, `even Romania`, overtaking them.

`Unemployment is a big problem, especially in the East of Hungary`, Barbara (23, photo) explains. `Many university graduates are unable to find a job that even distantly related to their field of specialisation. They have no choice but to work in underpaid jobs, or to escape Hungary to look for opportunities abroad.` Barbara also thinks that many young people lack a sense of planning and goal-orientation: `They don`t seem to take their lives seriously. They don`t take advantage of their freedom in a constructive way. I am happy that my parents taught me to be independent and take rational decisions.`

Barbara doesn`t think my own life needs many changes. I changed my studies two years ago and that was a bit of a risky decision, but I am still happy about it. I was studying chemistry and my parents would have wished that I continued. But when they saw I really wanted to change, they supported my choice. Right now, I am studying environmental science and I work at the reception of a driving school to pay for my studies. `

Barbara is not afraid that the lack of employment and opportunities will make people want to return to the communist days. `In those days, even talking about changing things was enough to get you in problems. Anybody just talking about importing ideas or products from the West had to fear imprisonment. Even though everybody had jobs at the time, very few young Hungarians will think of communism as a solution to their problems. Maybe some old people have nostalgic feelings about the time, but they should also remember the negative side of the story.`

Andor (20) thinks he is too lazy and would like to change that. `I am always late when it comes to handing in assignments for university`, he complains about his own performance. His friend Peter (24) would like to quit smoking when he becomes father, even though he doesn`t expect that to happen in the next 5 to 10 years. Iudith (25) has plans to emigrate to The Netherlands to escape the sluggish situation in Hungary.

Iudith (25) tells me that the political situation in Hungary is causing many people headaches: `There are two camps which are opposite to each other and they cannot make any compromise between them. Everything in Hungary seems somehow related to politics. Even singers and artists hook up with one of the two parties. The whole political scene is way too heavy and too bureaucratic.`

Korn?l (27) holds politicians responsible for cutting the country in two: `There is no common ground. Half the people want change, the other half don`t. And those who want change do not want to pay for it. There is no more middle way. When communism fell, many new political parties were created. Barely 20 years later, only two big ones and a small one are left. Socialists and conservatives at the two extremes of the spectrum, then a handful of liberals to complete the menu.`

`The two big ones cannot ever agree, while few people care to vote for a small party that is not going to be able to make a change anyway. In the meanwhile, the divide between the two political camps is growing deeper and deeper, leaving no room for any shades between the two extremes. Anything that would help the country get back on track only seems to have secondary importance to whatever it is they are fighting about. If one party says one thing, the other party will claim the exact opposite. One side decides that the health care system should be remodeled after the American one, the other will claim it should not. A referendum is held, the result is disregarded, a lot of money and energy is spent and nothing is achieved in the process`, Korn?l says.

Korn?l explains that the phenomenon of passivism is not limited to politics alone: `It`s interesting to see how some of our world famous inventors could only get something done after they left the country. It shows that we Hungarians are definitely able to take life into our own hands, but only after we manage to find a way out of our own context, which seems to be a rather skeptical one.`

Valeria (27) fears that Hungarians have somehow lost faith in themselves and in their futures: `Many feel unable to direct their lives in the way they want to. They only cherish small expectations, and most of those rely on circumstances rather than their own initiatives. Since the moment Hungary joined the EU, many young Hungarians have left the country. They do not want to `waste` the best days of their lives in Hungary. Some plan to come back, others will just stay away.`

If she could, Hedi (25) would want to change the mentality of Hungarians. Her ideas correspond to what many other people have already been telling me during the last few days. `Hungarians should be more open`, she says. `Both to each other and to foreigners. Neighbours don`t know each other. If they do, they seem to have a jealousy between each other that seems to make them prefer the other one to be worse off than they are. There is some kind of unwritten rule that those who escape trouble should be pulled back into it.`

In her own life, Hedi would like to have closer ties with her family members and the friends from her home town. `I left home when I was 14 and stayed in the secondary school dormitory in another town. Since then I have been studying and working in Budapest and here in Szeged and sometimes I just feel like I don`t really know my own family. Sure, we talk on the phone, but it`s always about abstract subjects. I don`t know how they feel, what they do and what they think about what they do.`

Dealing with communist legacy
It`s interesting to see how each of the former communist states has a different way of dealing with `the system`: the people and the rules that limit their freedoms. Bulgarians seem to want to feel stronger that the system. Romanians, as they literarily told me, enjoy `fucking up the system`. Hungarians seem to manipulate themselves in such a way that they can deal with it. The Irish ? having suffered under the English rather than the Russians ? tend do the same. With one major difference: they turn fate to their advantage instead of incurring it at their own expense. So here`s one more time that one little poem from Ireland, just as a little source of hope to any Hungarian person reading this website:

May God give you...
For every storm a rainbow,
for every tear a smile,
for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share,
for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.

P.S. to Hungarians: no need to learn this one by heart!

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