Weekends and weak knees in Hungary

It is difficult to get decent information about anything in Hungary during the weekend. As if the world stopped on Friday night. I don’t know what would have to happen during the weekend that Hungarians could find out about. Perhaps World War III.

There’s an obvious cultural divide between Hungary and the United States when it comes to weekend news. In Hungary there are no newspapers on Sunday, while in the United States the papers are ten times bigger on Sunday than on weekdays. The American model is that people spend at least part of their Sunday morning immersing themselves in news, catching up on celebrity gossip, working the devilish crossword puzzle, or clipping grocery store coupons. (That model obviously includes both national and local newspapers.) On television too: in the United States Sunday morning is the time for high-profile political interviews. In Hungary one can find, in my opinion, too many political programs during the week, but once the weekend comes there is practically nothing.

This is just to introduce the fact that not much happened during the weekend in Hungary. Or, most likely, a lot happened but we don’t know about it. However, I managed to catch two pieces of news today: (1) after all, the government is going to give some money to Budapest in order to tide the Budapest Transit Authority over, and (2) in principle the government and the Hungarian Medical Association have some kind of understanding concerning compensation for the lost co-payments.

And with this, another personal (mea culpa) experience comes to mind. When I was a junior faculty member at Yale University, I ended up being "director of undergraduate studies." This may sound fancy, but basically it was extra work without any extra compensation. The tenured faculty members didn’t want to do it, so they dumped the job on some unsuspecting junior faculty member. And thus I became the person who had to deal with undergraduate majors in Russian and East European Studies. Fortunately there were no more than twenty or twenty-five students. A year into the job I decided that our rules and regulations in the "Blue Book" (the catalog of courses that also included departmental requirements) were not rigorous enough. I proposed that the REES faculty rewrite its section of the Blue Book, and they accepted my revisions. From here on, I sternly said, those students who turn their senior papers in late will receive a grade of C regardless of the quality of their work. A year later my decision came back to haunt me. Our best student was late with his senior paper. I was supposed to give him a C. I couldn’t. There I was red-faced going against my own rules and regulations.

Anyway this old story came to mind when I read the news of today. I heard that after all it seems that the trade union of the transit workers was right in its decision to strike. BKV will get 10-12 billion forints from the central budget. Although Gyurcsány was adamant a few days ago that not a fillér would be given to Budapest on behalf of BKV, now after all there is money. It doesn’t sound good. Reminds me of my old self. Another piece of news is that after all the family doctors will be compensated for their loss of co-payment income. But why? Didn’t the prime minister say that there is no way? This is bad policy. Every Tom, Dick and Harry will ask for more money and, if it goes this way, they will get it. And what will happen to the convergence program?

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Dr Keresztes

Has anyone researched whether people are sourcing more News through other media outlets maybe or the Hungarians may have different priorities? And what is wrong with having a different model of lifestyle, why do you think Hungary should mirror USA? Isn’t that the beuaty of living in a different society, the media can be very destructive to nations. Hungarians may be feed up with reading politics after a long week at work.
Hungarians also have seen the manipulation of politics over many years and dont want there energy drained of reading negative media day in day out, so maybe the Hungarians have there priorites correct and USA should mirror our Sunday chill out day..

Dr Keresztes, A good comment. I enjoy living a Hungarian lifestyle; it gives me much more time for my family and my interests – current affairs, for example. Here, the social is more important than the political. All Hungarians I know think that the serious Hungarian media are hopelessly biased, if they read a particular newspaper or follow a TV program it is because they are committed to the views expressed in that outlet, not because they are seeking information. The adolescents I teach not do follow the news, period. If they have opinions it is because they have been told something by somebody they trust. The outcome for debate however is very bad, and bad debate is the ground of bad politics. When I look at my decision to migrate to Hungary and raise a family, I wonder if I haven’t made a Faustian pact. Everyday life is Hungary is much less stressful: less crime, more time. The town I live in is beautiful, its parks and gardens are full of wildlife I wouldn’t see in the UK. My UK sourced wealth provides me with a much higher standard of living than it would if it was spent in… Read more »

It seems that your favourite,the PM, has a bad case of French disease (i.e., caving into interest groups that threaten the peace). The cave in to BKV and the doctors really means Szili is correct (Hu. is again running to the abyss), but, of course, has the exactly wrong answer for the problem. Now that everyone knows that this Government will ultimately cave-in when under pressure, this is just the start of a “hot summer”. The teachers, ifthey were smart, would go on strike tomorrow. Next should come te garbage men, police and firemen. FIDESZ can support all of them, and the Government can oblige. Grim.


This reminds me of the brilliant remark Mike Flanders made in one of his musings. (He of the Flanders and Swann duo.)
During the political turmoil of ’68 in the midst of strikes and demonstrations he observed how the papers were not published, radio played only music, etc. He concluded that if there is no news paper, then obviously there is no news either. “It is simply marvellous!” he said.
The denizens of Budapest seem to subscribe to the same theory: they loved the BKV strike, felt to them as a holiday and they are asking for more of the same.


the teachers are too comfortable to want to strike. 22 teaching hours a week, vs 30 in the UK.


The full time contract was for 20 lessons a week, upped to 22 as part of the austerity package. We are of course working an additional 18/20 hours marking and preparing lessons.
I’ve never heard any discussion about assistants, class sizes are small – for langauge teachers at least.

Odin's lost eye

@ Dr Balogh
You said ***** I proposed that the REES faculty rewrite its section of the Blue Book, and they accepted my revisions……etc *****
Take comfort we were taught “Orders are for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of fools”.