I’m a Dirty Immigrant: The Hungary I know and love

On this blog I’ve stopped commenting on the policies of Viktor Orban and his insane bunch. There are many other ways to influence the world. Like co-writing the energy benchmarking report on Hungary for the European Commission or biking to Paks Nuclear Power Plant (and the rest of the Danube) to understand Hungary’s and the region’s energy policies.

[update: I finally found a fresh poster. Further down is a poster my neighbors tore down - but because I got up early for my morning one, I found this one intact. ]
[update: I finally found a fresh poster. Further down this row of billboards is a poster my neighbors tore down – but because I got up early for my morning one, I found this one intact. ]
Of course, having said that I want to spend just 15 minutes reflecting on the anti-immigration rants and policies Hungary’s government is pushing. Because, well… I’m an immigrant in Hungary. I think overall my ‘assimilation’ as Orban pointed out is what good immigrants do, is progressing well. I have developed an appetite for fish soup (usually made from carp) and Hungarian pastries (can anyone do poppyseed ‘mak’ better than the Hungarians!? – I think not).

Field Research: Me eating fish soup at a restaurant in Paks
Field Research: Me eating fish soup at a restaurant in Paks after biking 140 km from Budapest to Paks.

Nonetheless, the current anti-immigration billboard campaign the government has launched is particularly stupid. The thing is – in my 10 solid years of living in Hungary and my frequent visits since 1998, I have never been treated in a rude way because I’m a foreigner. If I’ve been ripped off or cheated it was because I am human. Those people cheating me also cheat Hungarians (kind of like the political class of Hungary). Once I even survived a train trip in the biking car of a train to Balaton with a member of Jobbik. We had a great conversation – in Hungarian.

A few months ago, just as the hate campaign by the government was beginning I was getting ice cream with our children (dual citizens of America and Hungary) and I met a mother from my son’s ovi (nursery). I was giving her my impressions of Hungary and how I like it. But then it felt weird, because Orban was just coming out with his hate campaign against foreigners. I told her that I really felt the government no longer represents the people of Hungary. Because from my experience Hungarians are really open to me, my kids and to the other foreigners I know. They are also strongly aware how other countries treated Hungarians fleeing the Communist regime in 1956. Countries like Germany, UK and the US took them in.

Thus the ‘counter’revolution to Orban’s current billboard campaign against Hungarians is the true Hungary I know. The ground swell to deface and tear down the anti-immigrant billboards is the Hungary that I know and love. These are true Hungarians that are open, hospitable and want their country to be part of Europe. The Orban government is an anomaly that does not represent the best, or even average, of what Hungary is.  Hungarian’s accept a lot of shit, but just like Turkey’s Erdogan just lost his election because he did not accept or align with the majority of Turks (which I also know well), Hungarians know that Orban represents the same political and economic regime that they sought to get ride of before 1989.

The thing is, my Hungarian is far from perfect, I can figure most things out, but I can’t even understand what is written on these billboards. Sometimes I’m such as stupid immigrant. Looks, like I need to keep studying Hungarian to understand what I should do to please Orban and stay in Hungary. To understand the posters better I’ll have my daughter and son help me with the translation. But then I’ll have to explain to them how their father is not a burden on Hungarian society and that maybe I should just go back to America. But then I wouldn’t be able to write about Hungarian and European energy policy. Looks like I’ll be staying here, paying taxes and putting up with my ‘burden’ status.

In pursuit of Danube fish soup this past weekend. At the Danube bend, Visegrad in the background.
In pursuit of Danube fish soup this past weekend. At the Danube bend, Visegrad in the background.