Information for HunBud Missionaries
written by Jarrod Ribble, December 1996
Quick Reference: Weather Transportation Food Accomodations Language
The weather in Hungary is mildly seasonal. Winters are cold, but not too
cold. I don't think I ever saw it get below -6 C (about 15 F) - and that would
have been really cold. It does snow, but not so much that it causes a big
problem. If you have a good overcoat, hat, gloves, scarf and thermals you can
stay outside almost all day. Although I can't imagine why you'd want to.
Summers are fairly humid, and it can get uncomfortable to be in the sun too
long. It wouldn't be so bad with shorts and t-shirt, but we don't have that
option. Short-sleeve shirts are a real blessing on hot summer days. A couple
pairs of machine washable slacks are nice, too. You probably won't be wanting to
wear dry-clean only wool suit pants every day. it can get uncomfortable and
Hungary's very flat, and in spring and fall rain can blow in without much
notice and it blows out just as quickly. A nice compact, lightweight umbrella is
a real blessing. I suppose a really light waterproof raincoat would be good,
too. I always had my umbrella in my bag at that time of the year, which wouldn't
have been worth it if it had been unwieldy.
Hungary is a fairly densely populated place. Public transportation is really
good, so most missionaries are expected to use it. Bicycles aren't allowed. Many
zone leaders have cars, but not those serving in Budapest. Trains are probably
the best way to travel between cities. They come often, are usually on time, and
don't cost too much. Buses also travel regularly between cities and aren't bad.
They do a good job of filling in the gaps. If you're travelling from one side of
the country to another, often you'll have to go to Budapest first and then to
your destination, even if it's way out of the way.
Travel inside of cities is done mostly by bus. Budapest is a special case,
since it's really pretty huge. Budpest's mass transit includes buses,
street-cars, subways, and the HÉV, a "suburban railway system." The system you
use most will depend on where you are in Budapest. They're all pretty good. Most
of the people in Budapest use the public transportation system, so it runs
often. You don't even really need to know when things run, because most routes
run about every 10 minutes. I've heard you need to watch out for pickpocketers,
and I've heard stories about missionaries who have had things stolen, but other
than that the transportation is pretty safe. Though you might see some pretty
Outside of Budapest the city transportation varies. All of them have bus
systems, but the frequency and layout of routes can be quite different. The
transportation you'll use will depend on the city, where you live and where you
work at the time. Walking's good, too. It keeps you fit.
Your shoes will be your greatest friend. I bought a nice pair of Gore-tex
lined shoes in my first city. You can find all sorts of good shoes in the
country, and service for any shoes you might have. Bring something comfortable,
more comfortable than dressy. Conservative, polishable hiking-style boots are my
Hungarian food is really good. It's spicy, too. The main flavor is paprika,
which comes in many varieties, not just the red powder you sprinkle on deviled
eggs. Paprikas are peppers, and the legendary Hungarian can eat food that will
fry a lesser man's mouth. In reality not every Hungarian likes hot peppers, but
a large majority of them do. A proper Hungarian meal starts with soup, has a
main course, and ends with sütemény. Some favorites are stuffed cabbage (töltött
káposzta - cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and pork), stuffed paprika (töltött
paprika - peppers stuffed with rice and pork, served in a tomato sauce), goulash
(gulyás - a soup with large pieces of meat and various vegetables), chicken
paprika (paprikás csirke - diced chicken in a sauce flavored with paprika and
sour cream. Served with noodles or galuska) and potatos paprika (paprikás
krumpli - potatos in a paprika sauce, also often served with noodles). They cook
with more oil than most Americans, but it certainly tastes good. Pork is king,
as historically it was the easiest to keep ahold of. (Hungary was occupied by
Turks for a good long time, and Muslims don't eat pork.) A great event to see is
a pig killing (diszno vágás), a family affair that starts with killing and
butchering a fattened pig and ends with sausage making and a very fresh meal.
It's quite an event, especially in the country.
There's no worry about water or special viruses. I believe Hungary is the
only mission in the Eastern Bloc that doesn't require the famous "peanut-butter"
shot. Mothers can be relieved, because food is plentiful, safe, and actually
quite good. There's even more and more opportunities to find "foreign foods"
like peanut butter.
Missionaries usually live in apartments as single companionships. The
apartments vary in size, usually about two rooms in large apartment complexes.
Most of the people in the cities live in apartment complexes. They're usually
pretty comfortable. The heating is either a central heating system that serves
several buildings or gas heaters installed in most rooms. The hot water is done
the same way, either heated centrally or by small inline gas heaters placed
above the bathtub. The former is pretty expensive and has the drawback of annual
service which means there is no hot water in the apartment for about a week. The
latter is cheaper, but it doesn't heat fast enough for you to ever get any
decent water pressure. It can also be dangerous for sister missionaries. There
have been more than one sister to start her hair on fire by getting too close to
gas appliances. The kitchens are usually really small, but adequate for
missionaries' needs. More and more apartments have automatic washing machines
inside of them, small ones that sit next to your bathtub. It makes laundry much
Hungarian is considered by many to be one of the most difficult languages in
the world for English speakers to learn. It's not really related to any other
languages in the area. It's considered a distant relative to Finnish, a member
of the Finn-Ugor language family. Other than that it's really quite different.
It's a beautiful language, and not impossible to learn. It just takes a lot of
practice. Reading in Hungarian is easy, once you know the basic sounds. Each
letter in Hungarian writing corresponds to a specific sound, which never really
changes. It makes it really easy to read words you've never seen before and
pronounce them perfectly.
Hungarians are proud of their language and their history. If you make the
effort to learn something of them, the people you meet will be impressed. It's
well worth the effort, too, because the history is great and inspiring and the
language is really beautiful. Hungarians pride themselves on a rich library of
poetry. Unfortunately, it's not really something that can be shared with those
not familiar with the language, as the poems really lose their artistic quality
On being called to the best mission in the world. Work hard, love the people
as you serve them and Hungary will become a second home. It truly is a choice
land with a choice people, and all those priveleged to serve there can show
their thanks by losing themselves in the work.
Note to returned missionaries: Updates are appreciated
and wanted! If you have anything to add, or if something has changed, please let us know.