Living in a new country didn’t feel that different at first because of my surreal state of mind. Streams of hormones gorging through my veins kept me anxious; it was the good kind of anxious. I’d been processing my new environment and learning how different it was from the former. I had never left Nigeria until then.
I can’t describe with ease how it felt, but I bet it feels like being that blue shivering emoji icon in the midst of other relatively normal similar emojis.
It literally felt that way ‘cause I froze my ass off.’
One of my earliest experiences which made me realize I was different involved long stares that were a little bit unnerving. I’d often think I wore my shirt on backwards or there was a gigantic sign stuck on me. It wasn’t uncommon for toddlers to point at me while tugging at their mums and saying fekete.
Fekete, the meaning of black in Hungarian was one of the first words I learnt.
I’d later come to realize that I didn’t need a sign stuck on me. In a way, I was a sign.
Nigerians are inherently good at masking their feelings, forging on and just really hoping that tomorrow will be a better day. Hungarians however are different, and so they may tend to unleash that in form of passive aggression at the workplace.
Once I went to a food shop, I was getting a couple of drinks and at the counter I changed my mind about a bottle of wine. I demonstrated that I would be paying for the other bottles except that one and asked the lady at the counter if she’d return it. Boy, she was not happy. She flipped. Got totally upset about my request and began cursing out in magyarul. Shocked and embarrassed, I turned around to the line of people glaring at me and just walked out.
Since Hungary was a nation densely populated by Caucasians, they never really saw black people until the mid 90’s. So they always seemed so fascinated by African prints and braids. The question, “is this your real hair?” comes up quite frequently, which I actually do not mind compared to the unauthorized touching. Wasn’t there a rule about touching black hair without permission? I forgave the defaulters though, on account of their curiosity. I imagined it looked a wee bit like Medusa’s head to them.
All in all, Hungarians are not the most welcoming or friendliest people but if you think about it, neither are Nigerians. As a foreigner, the language barrier is always there and they may tend to not pay any attention when you’re trying to communicate. This reaction is not the same when encountering fellow Hungarians.
However making an attempt to understand them made a world of difference. This is when the adaptation instinct kicked in and I realized that while the differences between my former and latter environment will always physically be there, it didn’t need to be from my viewpoint.
They’ve contributed so much to the modern-day society — like my favorite tool, the pen — and are quite more humble than the average Nigerian. They have a societal system bounded by law and order, a rich culture, and delicious meals even though I’m not a fan of the native cuisines. I prefer afang soup.
In my 5 years of living in Hungary, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the warmest, most accepting people I may ever known and I do hope these types of people also surround you in your corner of the world.
Alexander (I.O.U) exist as a mere piece in a world so great and in incomprehensible times. She pens down her soul in a journal and cast it away only to open it again. She is the one. The elusive Prima Donna and can be found on Instagram @idaraabasi and on Twitter @luverdozeee.
The beauty of today’s contribution is the need for understanding. It makes a huge difference and can help us not to misjudge people. I also drew a bucket full of comparison with the language barrier which inhibits genuine communication as I have experienced this several times. It’s a common challenge where your first language is different from the national language, many things get lost in translation and any conflict is exaggerated. But most times, when that gap is bridged, some of the initial reservation becomes history and we are open to a floodgate of wonderful experiences.
The series continues on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. So do remember to visit on those days as there are more eye-opening contributions and I do not want to enjoy them alone.
Share these articles online, discuss them with real life friends and virtual friends on social media, and above all, I will encourage us all to be civil.
The goal is not to foster hate as stated earlier, but to help us understand the unique interactions of different races in different countries.
How we became racial conscious/aware.
What led to racial stereotypes and prejudice?
Dealing with people of other races and how we can improve on our humanity.
Thank you and join me on this journey as we learn more On Race.
Fekete : Hungarian Word for Black
Magyarul : The Hungarian Language
Afang Soup : A Nigerian soup prepared mostly by the Cross River and Akwa Ibom People.
Follow the links below for other contributions on this series
Cover Photo by Dominique Kane via switchinghemispheres.com
Make Art Not War by Bret Culp Photography via bretculp.com