International Business Seminars

International Business Seminars - Academic Country Snapshot – Hungary

Academic Country Snapshot – Hungary

Below is a list and summary of additional academic resources and articles to expand your knowledge on Hungary before your trip abroad!

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History Resources



Hungary’s history is a fascinating tapestry woven from conquest, empires, and resilience. The Magyar people, arriving around the 9th century, laid the foundation for the nation [Britannica]. King Stephen I solidified Hungary’s place in Europe by establishing Christianity as the state religion in 1000 AD. The medieval kingdom reached its peak in the 14th and 15th centuries before facing challenges from the Ottomans and Mongols. After centuries of Ottoman rule and Habsburg control, Hungary became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867. Defeat in World War I led to the Treaty of Trianon (1920), which significantly reduced Hungary’s territory. Following a period under Soviet influence, Hungary emerged as a democratic republic in 1989. Today, Hungary is a parliamentary republic led by President Katalin Novák and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Check out this resource for more information. 

The Magyar People» The Habsburg Empire»


Economic Resources

Overview» The Hungarian Forint»


Government Resources

Government Structure» Road to the European Union» Legislative Process in Hungary»


Geography Resources

Overview» The Hungarian Puszta» Lake Balaton»

Customs & Traditions Resources

Name Day Traditions» Hungarian Easter Celebrations» Luca Day»


Dress & Clothing Resources

Embroidery» Hungarian Gatya» Contemporary Fashion»


Special Considerations Resources

LGBTQ+ Protections» Accessibility in Hungary» Traveling in Hungary with Children»


Language & Dialect Resources

Hungarian Alphabet» Hungarian for Traveling»


U.S. Embassy & Consulate Resources

What's the difference between an Embassy, a Consulate, and a Mission?» U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Hungary»


Fun Facts About Hungary

  1. Budapest is home to the first metro in continental Europe LINK
  2. The inventor of the Rubik’s cube is Hungarian. LINK
  3. The Hungarian alphabet has almost twice as many letters as the English alphabet. LINK

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The Magyar people, also referred to as Hungarians, have left an undeniable mark on European culture. Arriving in the Carpathian Basin around the 9th century AD, their unique Finno-Ugric language stands out from the surrounding Indo-European tongues [Hungarian]. Their equestrian traditions and distinctive clothing styles, like the furred kurtka coat and the embroidered kalocsai paprika pants, continue to inspire fashion designers. Musically, Hungary’s vibrant folk traditions, featuring instruments like the cimbalom and the use of pentatonic scales, have influenced composers like Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, whose works are celebrated worldwide [Oslo gov]. Even the culinary world reflects Magyar influence, with paprika, a spice introduced by the Ottomans, becoming a national treasure used in goulash, stews, and even chimney cakes (kürtőskalács) – a delightful Hungarian pastry enjoyed around the globe. For a more in-depth look into Hungarian culture, click here.

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The Habsburg Empire, a powerful European dynasty for centuries, significantly impacted the Hungary we know today. Following Hungary’s defeat by the Ottomans in 1526, the Habsburgs gradually gained control, eventually ruling over a portion of the former Hungarian kingdom [Britannica]. This period, spanning from the 16th century to 1867, saw attempts to centralize power and impose German language and culture, leading to resentment among Hungarians who desired autonomy [Britannica, Austria-Hungary]. Despite these tensions, the Habsburgs also played a role in modernizing Hungary, investing in infrastructure and promoting economic development. The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 created a dual monarchy, granting Hungary greater internal self-government. This period of relative autonomy fostered a distinct Hungarian national identity, with a resurgence in Hungarian language and cultural expression. However, the empire’s dissolution after World War I left Hungary with a complex legacy: a desire for independence intertwined with the challenges of redefining its borders and national character.

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“Hungary’s current economic system, an export-oriented market economy, stands in stark contrast to its past. Prior to World War II, Hungary was primarily an agrarian society [Britannica, Hungary]. Following the war and Soviet influence, Hungary adopted a centrally planned economy in 1948, mimicking the Soviet model [IMF]. This system emphasized state control over industries and aimed for rapid industrialization. While initially successful in creating jobs, it ultimately faltered due to inefficiencies and reliance on expensive Soviet resources [IMF]. Recognizing these issues, Hungary initiated reforms in the late 1960s, introducing some market mechanisms (“Goulash Communism”). However, the full transition to a market economy came after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. This shift was challenging, leading to initial decline and unemployment as Hungary integrated with the global market. Today, Hungary’s success hinges on its export-driven approach, with a strong focus on foreign trade, particularly with the European Union. 

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The Hungarian forint boasts a long and dynamic history, but it hasn’t quite made the switch to the euro. The forint’s first iteration, the “florentinus,” was introduced in the 14th century under King Charles I and was based on the gold florin of Florence. After a hiatus, the forint reappeared as the official currency in 1868 during the Austro-Hungarian Empire [The Hungarian Currency]. However, the most relevant forint for modern Hungary was established in 1946 after World War II to combat hyperinflation that had rendered the previous currency, the pengő, worthless. The forint initially remained relatively stable, but faced challenges during the transition to a market economy in the 1990s. Despite these hurdles, Hungary has achieved economic progress, and the forint is now a fully convertible currency. Interestingly, though Hungary is a member of the European Union, it hasn’t adopted the euro. This decision likely reflects a combination of economic factors and national identity considerations [Britannica

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“Hungary is a parliamentary republic, meaning it has a Prime Minister as head of government and a President as head of state. The Prime Minister, currently Viktor Orbán, wields significant executive power and leads the Cabinet, which includes various government ministers. The President, János Áder, holds a largely ceremonial position. The unicameral National Assembly holds legislative power and elects both the Prime Minister and the President. Check out this resource for more information.

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Hungary’s road to the European Union began after the fall of communism. Eager for political and economic integration with the West, Hungary submitted a membership application in 1994. Following several years of preparation and alignment with EU standards, negotiations officially commenced in 1998. By 2002, Hungary secured an invitation to join the EU in 2004, alongside nine other countries. Public endorsement came through a referendum in 2003, where a strong majority (84%) of voters approved EU membership, paving the way for Hungary’s official accession on May 1st, 2004. Check out this EU resource for more info.

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Here’s a breakdown of the process for a bill becoming law in Hungary. A bill can be introduced by a member of the National Assembly, the Government, or certain other entities outlined in the Constitution. The bill is assigned to a relevant committee within the National Assembly for detailed examination. Committees can hold hearings, invite experts, and propose amendments. The bill then goes through a series of readings in the National Assembly: First Reading: The bill is introduced and debated in principle [1]. Second Reading: The committee report and proposed amendments are discussed and voted upon [1]. Third Reading: The final version of the bill is voted on by the entire National Assembly. A simple majority is usually required for passage. After passing the National Assembly, the bill is sent to the President for signature. The President has several options: Sign the bill into law, veto the bill and return it to the National Assembly with their objections, or request the Constitutional Court to review the bill for compatibility with the Constitution. If the President vetoes the bill, the National Assembly can attempt to override it with a two-thirds majority vote. Once signed by the President or passed by a veto override, the bill is published in the Official Gazette and becomes law on the effective date specified within the bill itself. Check out the Hungarian government’s website for more information.

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Hungary’s geography offers a surprising variety for a landlocked country. The mighty Danube River bisects the nation, carving out distinct regions. To the west lies Transdanubia, a hilly landscape dotted with vineyards and crowned by Lake Balaton (sometimes referred to as the Hungarian Sea), Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake, a popular resort destination. East of the Danube stretches the vast Great Plain, a fertile basin formed by the receding Pannonian Sea millions of years ago. This region, while mostly flat, also features the unique “puszta,” a grassland ecosystem known for its grazing animals and historical significance in Hungarian culture. Finally, along the northern border, low mountain ranges add a touch of scenic elevation to Hungary’s diverse geographical tapestry. Click here for a full overview of Hungary’s unique geography. 

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The Hungarian puszta, a vast, grassy plain stretching across the Great Hungarian Plain, is more than just a landscape; it’s woven into the very fabric of Hungarian identity. For millennia, these grasslands have served as prime pasture for hardy livestock breeds, forming the backbone of a nomadic and equestrian way of life for Magyar tribes [UNESCO]. The puszta fostered a unique culture centered around herding, horsemanship, and the distinctive music and dance traditions that continue to captivate audiences today, like the fiery csárdás [Hungarian Culture]. The vastness of the puszta also became a symbol of Hungarian resilience and national identity, a land both beautiful and harsh that shaped the Magyar people’s character.

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Lake Balaton, nicknamed the “Hungarian Sea,” holds a unique position in Hungary’s geography and history. Formed less than a million years ago from the merging of smaller lakes, Balaton is Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake and a major tourist destination. The northern shore boasts a volcanic past with rolling hills, vineyards, and historical sites like the Tihany Peninsula, a UNESCO tentative World Heritage Site due to its cultural and natural significance [UNESCO]. In contrast, the southern shore features flatlands lined with popular resorts. Historically, Balaton served as a transportation route and a source of fish, but its transformation into a leisure destination began in the 19th century with the arrival of the railway. Today, Balaton remains a vital part of Hungarian culture, offering recreation, natural beauty, and a window into the country’s geological and settlement history. Learn more about what there is to love about Lake Balaton her. 

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Hungary’s cherished tradition of name days (névnapok) stretches back centuries, originating from the Christian calendar of saints’ feast days. Children were traditionally named after saints, and their feast day became their personal day of celebration. Over time, the practice expanded to include most names, even those not directly tied to saints. Today, name days are seen as equally important, if not more so, than birthdays [Hungarian citizenship]. Celebrating someone’s name day involves well wishes, often accompanied by flowers (especially for women) or a small gift. Colleagues and friends might offer greetings, and families may gather for a special meal or cake. The tradition fosters a strong sense of community and provides another opportunity to connect and celebrate throughout the year. To learn more about this tradition click here.

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Hungarian Easter traditions weave together Christian customs and ancient fertility rites. Decorating eggs, a universal symbol of Easter, takes on a special artistry in Hungary. Traditionally, women dyed eggs with natural materials like onion skins and beetroot, creating intricate patterns. Today, various methods are used, with markets selling vibrantly colored eggs. Easter Monday’s custom, “locsolkodás,” has playful roots. In the past, young men would drench unmarried women with buckets of water, symbolizing cleansing and spring renewal. Today, it’s a more gentle affair. Men sprinkle women with perfume or cologne, often reciting a short poem, and receive painted eggs or a small treat in return. Easter feasting is another highlight. Families gather for a hearty meal featuring lamb, boiled eggs, braided bread (kalács), and horseradish. This rich spread breaks the Lenten fast and signifies the joy of Easter. Check out this resource to learn more about Hungarian Easter traditions!

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Steeped in folklore and marking the winter solstice (originally the shortest day of the year), Luca Day (Luca-nap) on December 13th holds a special place in Hungarian traditions. Its roots lie in pre-Christian beliefs about darkness and evil spirits holding sway during this time. People once believed witches roamed freely, causing mischief. To ward them off, houses were cleansed with garlic and poppy seeds, brooms were hidden to prevent witches from using them for flight, and farm animals were protected with special rituals [itsHungarian]. Traditionally, boys would go from house to house dressed as Luca characters, reciting spells and songs in exchange for treats. Today, the celebrations are less focused on warding off evil. A popular custom involves carving a small three-legged stool, the “Luca stool,” out of different woods on each of the 13 days leading up to Christmas Eve. Legend has it that if someone sits on the stool at midnight mass on Christmas Eve, they can see witches. Another tradition involves sowing wheat kernels in a dish on Luca Day, a practice believed to bring good fortune and a bountiful harvest in the coming year [Daily News]. Luca Day remains a lively time for Hungarians, reflecting a blend of ancient beliefs and festive cheer.

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Hungarian embroidered white shirts, both for men (ing) and women (blúz), are a cornerstone of Hungarian folk dress and hold historical significance. Their roots trace back centuries, likely influenced by Asian nomadic garments and evolving alongside Hungarian cultural identity. Early versions were simple tunics, gaining elaborate embroidery over time. These shirts served as everyday wear for peasants but also took on special meaning for celebrations and festivals. The motifs and colors used in the embroidery varied by region, serving as a visual representation of a wearer’s community and social status. Today, Hungarian embroidered white shirts remain a cherished symbol of national heritage, worn with pride on special occasions and showcased in cultural performances. They are also popular souvenirs, admired for their intricate craftsmanship and beautiful designs. Click here to read more in-depth on this traditional skill.

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Hungarian gatya, traditionally loose-fitting trousers made from white linen or hemp, hold a unique place in Hungarian history and clothing culture. Their origins likely lie with the nomadic Magyar tribes who settled in the Carpathian Basin around the 9th century AD. These early gatya were practical for horseback riding, offering comfort and flexibility. Over time, gatya styles evolved, becoming wider and gaining decorative elements like embroidery or ties at the ankles. For centuries, gatya remained the primary garment for Hungarian men, particularly peasants and working-class individuals. However, with Western influences gaining ground in the 19th and 20th centuries, long pants became more common. Today, traditional gatya are primarily seen in folk dance performances and worn by some shepherds in rural areas. Despite their diminishing everyday use, gatya remain a powerful symbol of Hungarian heritage and a reminder of the country’s nomadic past. This article provides more information on this important piece of Hungarian culture and history.

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Hungary’s contemporary fashion scene is a vibrant mix of innovation and tradition. It has shed the limitations of the past and emerged as a hub for talented designers gaining international recognition [Study in Hungary]. Budapest, the capital city, serves as the heart of this movement, boasting prestigious fashion schools like MOME University of Art and Design. Hungarian designers often draw inspiration from their heritage, incorporating subtle nods to traditional motifs or embroidery into their modern creations. However, the focus is firmly on contemporary style. Labels like Nanushka and Dóra Abodi are known for their bold designs, high-quality materials, and a distinctly Hungarian aesthetic that has found favor with celebrities and fashionistas worldwide. Budapest Central European Fashion Week (BCEFW) is a major platform showcasing the best of Hungarian fashion, attracting international attention and buyers [Daily News]. Overall, Hungarian fashion is shedding its past image and becoming a force to be reckoned with in the global fashion scene.

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Hungary’s LGBTQ+ rights history is a story of progress followed by setbacks. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1961, but progress was slow. Registered partnerships for same-sex couples were only legalized in 2009, and same-sex marriage remains banned [Equaldex]. The age of consent has been equalized for all sexual orientations since 2002, but discrimination based on sexual orientation is not explicitly outlawed [ILGA Europe, Hungary]. Recent years have seen a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric from the government, with a 2021 law criticized for restricting access to LGBTQ+ content for minors and hindering education about LGBTQ+ issues. Despite these challenges, Hungary’s LGBTQ+ community remains active, organizing pride marches and advocating for equality [AP News].

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Accessibility in Hungary for travelers can be a mixed bag. Budapest, the capital city, is generally considered the most accessible Hungarian destination, with many historical sights boasting ramps and elevators. The Budapest metro system is also partially wheelchair accessible, with some stations featuring elevators and wheelchair-friendly platforms. However, many other parts of Hungary, especially smaller towns and villages, may have limited accessibility options. Public transportation, restrooms, and historical sites outside Budapest might not be equipped for wheelchairs or have significant steps or cobblestone streets.For travelers with disabilities, thorough research and planning are key for a smooth trip in Hungary. Several resources can help you plan an accessible vacation in Hungary, including the Hungarian National Tourist Office and websites like Wheelchair Accessible Travel [Wheelchair Accessible Travel]. Check out Accessible Hungary for even more resources for your next trip.

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Hungary can be a fantastic destination for a family vacation, offering a blend of historical exploration, outdoor adventures, and cultural experiences that will keep kids of all ages entertained. The capital city, Budapest, is teeming with child-friendly attractions. Kids will love exploring Buda Castle, taking a ride on the funicular railway, and marveling at the impressive statues in Heroes’ Square. The Budapest Zoo and the Hungarian Railway Museum are also guaranteed hits with young visitors. Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, many of which feature kid-friendly pools and slides. Spending a day soaking in the warm, mineral-rich waters is a great way to relax and unwind after a day of sightseeing. Hungary’s largest lake, Lake Balaton, offers a variety of activities for families. Kids can swim, build sandcastles, or go for a boat ride. There are also several amusement parks and water parks located around the lake. Hungary has a number of other activities that are perfect for families, such as horseback riding, cave exploring, and hiking in the Bükk National Park.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5

Check out this link for resources to help you learn the Hungarian alphabet easily!

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Here is a helpful and thorough summary of Hungarian words and phrases to learn on your next trip to Budapest.

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Check out this video from the National Museum of American Diplomacy explaining the difference between each organization and how they function together to protect US citizens traveling abroad. LINK

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LINK to list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Austria

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