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Question about the vibe of Christmas markets

Sziasztok!

We are recently back from a lovely trip to Germany for the Christmas markets, and are considering an "Austro-Hungarian Empire" trip for 2023. :) (Salzburg, Budapest, maybe Vienna and/or Bratislava if we have enough vacation days left.)

Trying to set my own expectations. In Germany our favourite part of our December trip was the happy, friendly vibe. The markets were full of locals, or maybe near-locals on a day trip. Everyone was in a good mood. It was NOTHING like the typical "every shopper for themselves" experience I have at home in December! We had several opportunities to strike up conversations with people in the markets, usually as we shared a table and drank gluhwein. We've been to Germany a couple of times, and while we really like Germany, we have never found it that easy to connect with locals. (We don't speak German but learned a few key phrases as openers.)

So--my question is for those of you who have attended Christmas markets in Hungary. Is this atmosphere similar in Hungary? I spent a month in Budapest a few years ago, and while the people I worked with and got to know were absolutely lovely, the people I encountered in public were generally quite reserved. I would LOVE the chance to chat with people as we did in Germany; honestly that's what made that trip special. Again, we don't speak Hungarian, and I wouldn't expect a lot in, say, Szentendre or Eger, but in Budapest it was easy to find English speakers, and I can dust off my few polite phrases in Hungarian so it looks like I'm trying.

We'll probably still go, even if the answer is no, Hungarians are reserved even at Christmas markets--but I'd love to know what to expect.

Posted by
6113 posts

I would say that the Budapest markets were similar to those in Berlin, but as we don’t speak German, we didn’t converse with people there.

Posted by
18550 posts

In some regards, in the cities including Eger and Szentendre, it might be easier to find English speakers than you would think. You could live in a large thriving country like France or Spain for a lifetime and never need anything but French or Spanish and still meet all your personal and business needs. Now imagine a very small country of 10 million people who are part of the EU and must do cross border business daily to meet the needs of the country, but they have an incredibly obscure language; what do they do? They learn English.

I am not sure how to categorize the friendliness of Hungarians. Yes, a bit more reserved I guess, maybe like the US in 1970? And over time I have seen that loosen up quite a bit. Unfriendly? No. I have been traveling there for more than 20 years now and have almost as many friends there as here. To be honest, I have about the same comfort level with Hungarians as I do with people in my American neighborhood.

Posted by
245 posts

Thanks Mister E and Jennifer. Good point about the greater need for English, or some lingua franca--not a lot of opportunities to use Hungarian in any sort of international context!

So let me refine my question a bit--in your experience, does December, the pending holidays and the opportunity for a hot (probably spiked) beverage as you wander about the markets lend itself to a cosier, friendlier atmosphere than your average Thursday or Friday in the big city?

Posted by
1995 posts

Go to anywhere that has alcohol-Biergartens and Weihnachtsmakts and Germans will be a lot friendlier:)

Posted by
245 posts

Ahh, so maybe we missed the chance at gemütlicheit during our May visit by not going to biergartens...noted!

Posted by
4292 posts

I noticed in your report that you spoke with a lot of non-Germans. You could definitely expect the same in Budapest. In my 2 weeks in Budapest in October, I enjoyed a lot of short interesting conversations - many with other tourists and some with Hungarians. I had conversations with Israelis, Germans, Dutch, British, Swedish, Lithuanians, as well as Americans and Hungarians. In a busy restaurant, like many other places, you couldn’t expect your server to necessarily stop and chat (but I doubt that’s what you meant, although that happened occasionally also). I was never outside of Budapest, though, so can’t speak to other areas. And I was not there for Christmas markets, so I have no idea how that would be in a crowded and busy setting.

Posted by
18550 posts

JoAnne, I think it has more to do with you then them. TexasTravelMommy could charm a tick of the back of a Rottweiler I am tad more reserved (but who isnt) so I dont do nearly as well.

Still, I was in Budapest this past December and met some charming tourist and Hungarians alike at the markets. Some imbibing, others not; although the more they drank the more they seemed to enjoy me.

I had a lovely evening with a few other RS people, built a good relationship with the check out lady at the local market (we laughed at all the tourist with no cash the night the internet went down and no one could buy food), got comped at two different wine bars, had my name placed on a bar above "my stool" (actually that was the prior trip, but it was still there this trip), there is a butcher that loves because I bought two of his 25,000 forint per kilo steaks; and I established a remarkable relationship with a local service provider.

I travel there frequently so I have some regular acquaintances (but had to meet them the first time) who hug and kiss when i arrive (guys kissing me creeps me out so fortunately its only the old farts that still do it); and I get the occasional invite home for dinner.

And that's from a socially clumsy guy.

Posted by
4292 posts

I am still trying to figure out what to do with such an overwhelmingly positive visual image as a compliment….. 🤦🏻‍♀️

But if you wind up there for a few days, you should post on the forum. There are a lot of us who end up in various places at the same time and I have had a few really fun meet up meals with fellow travelers, in addition to the random short encounters.