Hungarian Business Etiquette

“Üdvözöljük Magyarország!” (“Welcome to Hungary!” in Hungarian)

Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe bordered by Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and Ukraine. The country is home to the largest lake in Europe, Lake Balaton, as well as the second-largest thermal lake in the world, Lake Hélvíz. Hungary also has astounding architecture, including the largest synagogue in Europe, the largest medicinal bath in Europe, and the second-largest territorial abbeys in the world, among other big and beautiful structures. Hungary is known for its hot springs and thermal lakes, with over 1,500 of these warm waters throughout the country. A popular tourist destination, the country welcomes more than 10.5 million visitors a year. Hungary is flourishing in various business industries, including mining, metallurgy, construction materials, processed foods, textiles, pharmaceutical chemicals, and motor vehicles.

Before you fly off for your business trip to Hungary, lets learn about the dos and don’ts of Hungarian Business Culture.

THE LOWDOWN

  • The largest city in Hungary is the capital, Budapest, located on the coast of Lake Balaton.
  • The official language is Hungarian, but efforts are being made to protect and reintegrate minority languages such as German, Romani, and Serbian, among others.
  • Hungary’s government is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic. The population is just under 10 million people.
  • Hungary is a historically Christian country, although today there is no official religion. About 70% of Hungarians are Christian or Catholic.
  • Family is important in Hungarian culture. Many generations of extended family live together and grandparents often help in raising the children.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Hungary focuses mainly on increasing water quality, in addition to waste management and air quality.

DRESSING SHARP

  • Business dress in Hungary is elegant and formal; business suits and dresses are recommended.
  • In the winter people tend to wear darker colors, whereas in the summer they prefer lighter and brighter colors.
  • Clothing should be pristinely clean and tidy, and accessories fashionable.
  • Keep your suit-coat on. It is more professional to stay in your suit, but if you get warm, ask permission before removing your jacket.

MAKE OR BREAK MEETINGS

  • Schedule an appointment at least two weeks in advance. Make sure this appointment is written.
  • Avoid scheduling appointments on Friday afternoons. Mid-December to mid-January and mid-July to mid-August are also tricky times for business meetings.
  • Punctuality is essential - it is considered rude to be late. Never cancel a business meeting at the last minute as it is viewed as being disrespectful and could destroy your business relationship.
  • Your first meeting will be more about getting to know each other than business. There will be some small talk and conversation before getting to work, but wait patiently and don’t rush into the business conversations. Agendas are not followed in order, but often used as a starting point for further discussions.
  • When meeting your colleagues, shake hands. Men typically wait for a woman to extend her hand first. Address people by their title and surnames.
  • Business cards should include your surname before your first name, as well as any advanced university degrees and the founding date of your company. Have one side translated into Hungarian.

DINING DECORUM

  • It is rare to be invited to a Hungarian’s home for a meal, but they often hold business meals at restaurants.
  • Business meals are formal, so dress as you would for work. They typically happen during the evening and occasionally during lunch time.
  • Business meals are usually more about spending time together and entertaining. Hungarians want to spend time getting to know their colleagues, so business is not usually discussed.
  • When out to eat, taste a little bit of everything. Keep your hands visible at all times, but don’t rest your elbows on the table.
  • Your host will start the meal with a toast, usually wishing the guests good health. Don’t start eating until the host does. At the end of the meal someone will probably toast the host for their hospitality. If you’re drinking beer, never clink glasses.

GIVING AND GETTING GIFTS

  • It is not customary to give gifts at a company or in a business setting.
  • If you are invited to someone’s home, bring a gift like chocolates, flowers, or western liquors. Hungarians take pride in wine from their country, so don’t bring a bottle of wine to them.
  • If you decide to bring flowers, get them in odd numbers, but not 13 as this is unlucky. Chrysanthemums, red roses, and lilies are not appropriate for these occasions.
  • Your colleague will probably open the gift right when it is received.

DOWN TO BUSINESS

  • Get to know your colleagues and let them get to know you. Hungarians will not do business with you until they feel they can trust you. This means spending a lot of time with them, eating out, entertaining, and they will probably invite you sightseeing or to a cultural event.
  • Business will be conducted slowly as Hungarians are very detail-oriented. They want to understand everything before making an agreement.
  • Contracts should be clear and concise. If conditions change, your colleagues will expect the contract to be revised accordingly.
  • Hungarians are direct. They say what is on their mind and expect you to do the same. They tend to be wary of people who do not share their thoughts and feelings. Eye contact is also important as it implies you are trustworthy.

Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Hungary, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb!

Viszlát! ("Goodbye!” in Hungarian)


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