Lifestyle in Hungary

Yesterday I wrote about the lack of mental exercise on the part of the vast majority of Hungarians. Continuing education is still a foreign concept although a serious effort is underway to make the idea more attractive. Fitness is also becoming a topic of conversation. Fitness centers are fashionable, especially in well-off circles. The prime minister himself is very fit. Not a pound extra on him. In fact, some of his female admirers (judging from the comments on his blog) are outright worried about his weight. He is a very tall, lanky guy who often talks about a healthy lifestyle. He blogs about what he eats for lunch (practically nothing) or what he does early morning in the fitness center. Several times a week he runs. Not just a couple of miles but half a marathon. The former prime minister is an avid soccer player, but judging from his appearance I don't think that he stuck to a rigorous training program. As far as I know neither man smokes. That is rather unusual in Hungary where over 40% of all adult (and not so adult) males smoke.

There is a lot of talk in the media about dieting, and more and more people are trying to lose weight. There is a whole clinical unit that deals with the overweight and the obese. The results are about as dismal as anywhere else in the western world. A few years ago Hungarians visiting this country couldn't get over the number of obese people they encountered, and indeed then there was a striking difference between the United States and Hungary. Perhaps today there are still fewer people who can be called obese in Hungary than here, but the number of overweight people is surprisingly high. The problem there as here is the lack of physical activity. The era of heavy physical work in Hungary is gone, thank heaven, but what has remained is a growing health problem.

In the United States, a country that has evolved into a nation of haves and have nots, both educationally and financially, health consciousness is largely the prerogative of the haves. A well-educated, well-off American does what the Hungarian prime minister does: runs or jogs, swims, goes to health clubs, is careful about what he eats, and doesn't smoke. The less educated and the poor don't do any of these things. It's enough to go into a Wal-Mart, look at the overweight people, and survey the rows and rows of junk food.

In Hungary there is a much smaller gap between the haves and the have nots. And there is an equally small gap in health consciousness. While in the United States only about 12% of people with a college degree smoke, in Hungary about 35% of doctors do. In the U.S. the better educated people are aware of the latest medical developments. First of all the media is full of medical news, and of course there is the internet. In Hungary, by contrast, medical knowledge is a rare commodity.

There are times when I don't want to believe my own ears. Saturday morning on Napkelte is a hodgepodge of topics–theater, literature, medicine, etc. The man who conducts the interviews is an overweight fellow with a career in theater and television. He was an actor, a director, the head of a theater. His name is István Verebes. It is hard to imagine that he ever was an actor because he has real difficulty expressing himself. The words just don't come. The second problem is that he cannot breathe properly. I don't know what is wrong,  but it seems serious enough. While he is looking for words he breathes heavily. He tried to go on a diet, he failed. He tried to stop smoking, it didn't work. Verebes's conversations with doctors about medicine are incredible. His latest was with a cardiologist and the very high mortality rate due to circulatory problems. I guess I don't have to go into the details of what the cardiologist had to say because we all know: lifestyle is very important. One ought not to be overweight, one ought not to smoke, one ought to exercise. To which Verebes between heavy breathing asked: "Is this scientifically proven?" One says: that's not for real.

I don't know who is responsible for this general lack of medical knowledge. I suspect the doctors who until very recently didn't share "their secrets" with their patients. The patients didn't ask questions either. They simply didn't want to give offence. After all, they depend on their doctor's good will. I hope that all this is going to change because otherwise the Hungarian mortality rate will remain high. And Hungarian society can't afford this given the low birthrate.

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Odin's lost eye
This piece amazes me and explains one of the things I find the general ignorance of the outside world in Hungary. The Hungarian will argue with you that black is white generally from a position of total ignorance. During my career in computing which lasted some 40 years I would be expected by my employers to had taken at least one course the year at either the manufacturer’s training centre, at a local college of further education or at a specialist provider. I would also be expected to do several courses of self study a year. I have no degree in computing. The reason for this is when I started in computing nobody had degrees in computing and no university taught computing. It was concidered a ‘Black Art’. Since the advent of the personal computer I’ve had to learn five different versions of Microsoft operating systems. Now that I’m retired I am having to learn yet another computer language to support my hobby. I have often wondered why people living over here who seem quite intelligent do not seem to have any hobbies at all much. My hobby is model engineering and building a variety sheds and other things from… Read more »
Janos Panos

Yeah, the medical thing about doctors and such. Its amazes me how much people just get the medicine order and that’s it. In my home country you ask from the doctor & nurses that why this happened, what caused this, how I could avoid this. My Hungarian friends say that if I do that in Hungary, I insult doctors.

Eva Balogh

Janos Papp: “My Hungarian friends say that if I do that in Hungary, I insult doctors.”
Hungarian doctors are all powerful. People are at their mercy. Or at least people think that they are.

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I have been thinking on moving to Hungary. That is why reading this post is very important to me. Now I have a sneak peak on what is going to happen in my life in that wonderful place.

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I would, however, like to emphasize a point I obliquely in that review. My primary criticisms are not aimed at Mr. Diallo whatsoever. He is clearly a very skilled photographer and photographic post-processor. His knowledge shines through despite the impediments presented by the book’s truly awful design.

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I’ve been to most countries in Europe but Hungary. It is definitely on my list of places to visit.