Us Europeans

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Nr. 21: Slovenia

Slovenia is a small country squeezed in between the Balkan, the Mediterranean and the Alps. Its two million inhabitants became EU citizens on 1 May 2004 and the country has been steadily catching up with `older` EU members.

Posted by Bruno

Of all the different people I have met on this trip so far, Hungarians seem to be the least attached to their TV. Greeks seemed to have one for every few square meters in the house, with the one in the kitchen preferably switched on all day. Some Portuguese housewives ? so I was told – could easily spend entire days watching Brazilian soap operas. Hungary is a little more moderate in its TV consumption. The local way of setting priorities does not leave Hungarians much time to stare at the black box.

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Hungarians are fed up with domestic politics. Recent years have shown staggering growth in the Hungarian economy, politicians have fallen over each other and over themselves and none of the political parties has been able to drag Hungary out of the crisis it is currently going through. Prices are up, unemployment is up, the government has fallen apart on several occasions. New elections are on the way, or maybe they are not. And maybe people do no longer really care. Here`s a quick glance at the political news in Hungary:

Posted by Bruno

Hungarian Angéla

Upon completion of `Us Europeans`, scheduled for 1 August 2008, I will have spoken to several thousands of young people living in the European Union. About their daily lives, their countries, their traditions and ambitions, their frustrations and hopes. Up until now, most of the articles have been related to a subject rather than a person. Starting from today, I will dedicate one article per country to just one single person ? as was by the way the original plan for the entire project. Today, I am presenting the first victim of this new practice: Angéla from Szekesfehérvár in Hungary.

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Beyond the borders

No country likes to see its territory distributed among its neighbours. Still, this happened to Hungary a number of times. The most drastic reduction took place in 1920, when the infamous Trianon Treaty was signed. The treaty allocated more than 70% of the territory to neighbouring countries and cut the size of the population of the country down from 21 million to only 7 million. Inhabitants of the seized areas were incorporated into the population of their new home countries and lost Hungarian citizenship. Despite no longer being Hungarians, they held on to their traditions and still form distinct ethnic groups in particularly Romania and Slovakia, but also in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia.

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Presents and parties

Getting to a birthday party without a present would not be very polite in many European countries. In Hungary, it`s the raising of the glasses that counts more than anything else. Presents are preferably liquid and alcoholic, but they may also they represent something home-made; edible or artistic.

Posted by Bruno

Asking Hungarians about who or what inspires them is quite a challenging project. It may well be a question that is impossible for them to answer, especially for those Hungarians who have no connections with anybody outside Hungary, do not speak foreign languages, and live outside the major cities. They may simply be lacking a source of inspiration, or, more probably, they do not tend to think in terms like inspiration. A combination of `obligation` and `dedication` would seem more of an accurate description of their motives.

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Food philosophy

I am happy and proud to announce that I have found the one thing that unites Hungarians in a positive way. Something that enlightens their hearts and gives them a sense of belonging. It`s called `Túró Rudi` and its uniting power reaches well beyond what it physically represents: a chocolate bar filled with cottage cheese, packed in a white piece of plastic with red dots. To be kept in a fridge to prevent it from turning sour.

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Hungarians and change

As I wrote in earlier articles, Hungarians are not very happy about the situation their country is in. The economy is declining, politicians are unable to change the tide and the people have little hope for improvement. All of that is leading toward`s today`s question: what changes does Hungary need?

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Six months abroad

Since the integration in the European Union, Hungarians have not flooded Western Europe in the way the Poles and the Romanians have. As I found out during previous day, the delayed interest in foreign languages forms an important barrier. Added to that, Hungarians seem to be very fond of their own country and region. Moving from one city to another can already represent quite a challenge. Still, many young citizens are tempted to visit the outside world. Temporarily moving abroad used to be luxury, but for Budapestian students and graduates, it`s already becoming business as usual. Today`s question: which European destination would you choose if you were to study or work abroad for 6 months?

Posted by Bruno