During the Cold War, Hungary was oppressed by the Soviet Union and fell deeply into financial crisis. With a corrupt president, Hungary had to depend on foreign businesses in order to improve its status; this is when many Chinese took the chance to make money and traveled to Hungary, including my grandparents. Ever since, from generation to generation, my family has been working in Budapest, Hungary, and gained much success over the years.
It had been reported that Hungary contains one of the largest Chinese communities per capita; therefore Hungarians are gradually influenced by Chinese daily. The widespread Chinese influence in Hungarian territories caused Hungarians to hold different opinions towards the Chinese. Most of the judgments can be separated into two obvious categories: welcoming and discrimination. More interestingly, the people making those judgments are often stereotyped as well.
When I first arrived in Budapest, I noticed the great cultural differences between the two countries. Contrary to the large and busy homeland of mine, Hungary is way more quiet and simple. As much as I loved the beauty of Hungary, I felt different, overpowered, and unwelcomed when I stepped into the public’s eye. As a Chinese, my full black hair and differently shaped face made me stand out in the crowd. I often felt people staring at me as if I was an endangered species. It may just be purely curious stares, or they may not even be staring at me, but the long duration of the stares frequently made me felt uncomfortable.
Additionally, I often heard Hungarians whispering behind my back when I was walking down the streets. Little did they know that I do understand the basics of Hungarian and many times I heard mocking and stereotypical jokes. My Chinese friends- many of them lived in Hungary longer than I did- told me that this whole hatred towards Chinese had started long ago since when Chinese began to hold some power in the Hungarian business world. For example, the natives constantly felt the Chinese were taking over Hungary and gaining all the opportunities for more wealth; to them, we are obstacles to their success.
After staying in Budapest for a period of time, I noticed that not all Hungarians dislike Chinese; many of them respect Chinese and welcome us to their community just like anyone else. The majority of the people who welcome Chinese are people from the higher classes. I clearly remembered that one time I was taking public transportation home and there were two friendly old ladies beside me. They constantly looked at me and whispered to each other. But to my surprise, they greeted me and started to give compliments as if I was their granddaughter. It was the first time I felt warmth in public, and it was also the time I realized that not all whispering indicates mocking.
Furthermore, when I was young my parents frequently brought me to business dinners. There, I met many Hungarian businessmen who were all extremely cordial; many of them even spoke Chinese! Knowing the difficulty of learning Chinese, I sensed their effort in trying to create friendship with Chinese.
Since then, I began to realize that I was making judgments towards all Hungarians from what I experienced from the minority of them. I started to notice the great number of Hungarians who faintly smiled at me, and those who said hi to me.
Overall, after moving to Hungary, I learned many lessons through my experience. There may be Hungarians who dislike Chinese, or even hate Chinese, but this doesn’t mean it applies to all Hungarians. Many of them may look like they hate you due to their emotionless face, but if you think about it, you will notice people in general are usually emotionless when in public alone; you may also be one of them.
In this world, there will always be opposites and judgments towards one another, there will always be discrimination and racism towards another ethnic group. As long as you treat others the way you want to be treated, good impressions will bring great friendships.