10 Hungarian Habits I Lost When I Moved to the US

04/29/2015 03:56 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2015

At age 17 I left my home country, Hungary and moved to the US. After nearly 9 years of living, studying and working here, yet again, I took another courageous step and I left. Since then I've only been back as a visitor as part of my on-going travels. For the past 6 years, I've been living a nomadic life moving around the globe as my heart dictates. Though, I haven't been living here for a while, I can't deny that the US had left its marks not only in my heart but on my personality as well.

1. Eating two or three course meals for lunch.
Traditionally, in Hungary lunch is the main meal. It is not only cooked, but it includes three courses: you start with a soup, eat your main meal, and often followed by dessert. On the contrary, in the US, dinner is the biggest meal of the day. Lunch is usually a sandwich, maybe a salad, often on the go.

2. Wearing slippers in the house.
Though this was never my favorite habit, in Hungary when entering your home after taking your shoes off you right away switch to your slippers. When you are visiting someone, entering a yoga studio, a dance class, or any other place where you have to take your shoes off, be sure they will offer you slippers. And you will be expected to wear them. Being known for causing heart-attacks to my grandmother for refusing to wear slippers as a child, I was happy to lose this tradition leaving my country.

3. Selecting your seats when buying a movie ticket.
In Hungary movie tickets are assigned to your seats. For popular films people generally tend to arrive early or buy their tickets ahead to assure good seats. In the US you select your seats once you are already in the theater itself. Unless the theater is full you would also leave at least a couple seat between you and others, while in Hungary you often get seats aside next to strangers even when other choices are available.

4. Saying good-bye with "hello".
The Hungarian word for "hello" is "szia" (pronounced similarly to the English "see ya"), but we also use "hello" just as often. In Hungary you can use "hello" or "szia" both for greeting someone or saying good-bye. Do you want to confuse an English speaker in Hungary? Start a conversation with "szia" and end it with "hello".

5. Dressing up to go to the supermarket.
Forget about make-up. In the US it is completely normal for people to go to the grocery store in their workout clothes or even in their pajamas. Heck, it is even normal to go to school in your PJ pants. In Hungary you would've never catch me in daylight walking into a store in my running shorts, but in the US I am absolutely not embarrassed about it anymore.

6. Having your Christmas present brought to you buy baby Jesus.
Hungarians decorate their Christmas tree on December 24th. Presents are being exchanged on Chirstmas Eve as well, and according to Hungarian tradition they are being brought by the Jezuska (baby Jesus) or the "angyalkak" (angels). Santa is not part of the Hungarian tradition, instead he represents "Mikulas" (St. Nicolas) arriving on December 6th putting candy into children's boots. In the US on the other hand, Christmas trees are decorated way before Christmas, usually in early December. Gifts are being brought by Santa Claus to be opened on Christmas Day morning.

7. Having a name-day.
Hungarians not only celebrate birthdays but also name-days. Name-days are about celebrating the day of the year associated with one's first name as traditionally placed in the calendar. It is similar to a birthday celebration though it is somewhat smaller without candles and counting years. Since it is not celebrated in the US, I have given up on my name-day.

8. Not carrying my ID when going out.

In Hungary drinking is legally allowed over 18, but for the most part nobody cares. Though rules got stricter and you may get carded at the supermarket or liquor store if you look young, but you would never get carded at a bar.

9. Hiding on Easter Monday from "sprinkling".
"Locsolkodas" (sprinkling) is a Hungarian "Easter Monday" tradition. Traditionally boys walked house to house knocking on the door of the girls from the town. After singing a little song or reciting a poem, they ask a permission to "sprinkle" and sprinkled the girls with water. In exchange the girls gave them painted eggs. Nowdays, boys use cheap perfumes to sprinkle on the girls hair and usually receive chocolate eggs or sometimes money. Since the perfumes don't smell so good many girls dislike this tradition.

10. Not asking "How are you?" from everyone.
Hungary is not much about small talk. You don't ask the cashier at a store how is she just to be polite. In fact, you only ask someone about their well-being when you are actually interested in their real answer. In the US "How are you?" is a routine, it is expected, and it certainly has not much meaning behind it. Anything but an, "I'm good, thanks. How are you?" would be an inappropriate answer.