This is one of a series of posts to show what we can learn from other countries. England can be proud that it’s likely one of the least xenophobic countries on earth, despite attempts by the media to make it so. You have to go a very long way in England to find a redneck racist, due to our sense of fair play, and treating everyone the same.
Hungary is a landlocked country with no coastline and like Bath and Tunbridge Wells here, is known for its spas and hot springs. It has a much smaller population (under 10 million compared to 60 million in England) and the language is notoriously difficult! Mostly flat, it borders many countries (including Ukraine which has obviously seen in influx of desperate refugees fleeing the war). Other bordering countries are Romania, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.
Hungary is known for its lakes including the Danube (nearly 1800 miles that passes through 10 countries to the Black Sea) and Lake Balaton (the largest freshwater lake in central Europe). Both offer home to endangered fish (like salmon and sturgeon) along with 400 species of birds. The Great Hungarian Plains are home to imperial eagles, mouflon sheep and wild boars.
Two actors with Hungarian heritage are Tony Curtis and Peter Falk (a lifesize statue of Lt. Columbo stands on a Budapest street, legend is that he was the ancestor of an important Hungarian politician).
there are limits on building heights
In Hungary, buildings are not allowed to be more than just over 300 feet (around the height of Big Ben). This means it’s free from ugly tower blocks and skyscrapers. New Urbanist architect Andres Duany (who created the lauded Floridian town of Seaside) says building sky-high buildings is bad town planning, as it alienates people from community (say Grenfell Towers). Most experts say no building should be more than four storeys high. Andres says ‘There’s an argument for density that supports public transit. But there’s not an argument for tall buildings that need elevators’.
it looks after its underground
To be fair, so does England. But aside from London and Chicago, Budapest runs the oldest subway systems on earth (it has a maze of 200 caves, a real subterranean city), linked by many beautiful bridges.
it spends 5% of GDP on education
This has resulted in a 99% literacy rate, one of the best in the world (including slightly above ours). Yet England spends just 4.2% on education (a lesser amount than the previous year).
it celebrates its national spice
Whereas everyone in Hungary boasts about its paprika spice (there are 8 grades and 2 museums dedicated to the main ingredient in goulash), in England native spices like wild carrot (toxic to cats) and sweet Cecily are often treated as no more than weeds. We can even grow chillies, but you won’t find homegrown organic versions in supermarkets.
it uses fruit brandy to heal ailments
The national fruit brandy (Pálinka) has been taken by people in Hungary for over 500 years to heal everything from headaches to menstrual pain. Unlike most boozy tipples, brandy has no carbs (so good to keep weight down) and is a good aperitif. Fruit brandy also contains antioxidants to keep your heart healthy. So as long as you don’t over-indulge (nor drink while pregnant or driving), it’s one of the better boozy options. Gibson’s (The Cotswolds) is a nice homegrown version.
what Hungary can learn from us
Hungary remains one of 5 countries worldwide to still produce foie gras, a food that involves force-feeding geese or ducks, until their livers turn to pate. Although illegal to produce here, it’s still legal to sell, so boycott shops, restaurants and hotels that serve it.