Business Etiquette in Hungary

When doing business abroad it is important to understand the local culture. Culture includes areas such as a country’s norms, values, behaviours, food, architecture, fashion and art. However, one area of culture that is important for the international business person is etiquette. Understanding business etiquette allows you to feel comfortable in your dealings with foreign friends, colleagues, customers or clients. Knowing what to do and say in the right places will help build trust and open lines of communication.If you have plans to visit Hungary, it is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with Hungarian culture and etiquette before you depart. My assignment is to write about the Hungarian etiquette of greetings, giving business cards, shaking hands and giving gifts and flowers.

Hungarians can be reserved and perhaps appear contemplative on first meeting, but conversely they can also be more open when greeting in more social situations. In Hungary both men and women greet by shaking hands, altough a man should usually wait for the women to extend her hand.It also noticeable that old people may still bow for women. Close friends – between 2 girls or between a boy and a girl – or relatives typically meet by kissing lightly on each cheek, starting with the left. You may find that when immersing yourself in Hungarian culture, you’ll be doing more meeting and greeting in the ‘normal’ way of kissing and greeting than you might be used to. You may have to adjust your perception of what is an appropriate amount of personal space.

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Hungarians don’t mind sharing personal space as much as other reserved cultures.In more formal circumstances, meeting and greeting is much more traditional, in that handshakes and maintaining eye contact are considered normal proper etiquette. Looking away or down might not be interpreted as shy, as it could come across as indifference or boredom. There are different types of greetings in Hungary for greeting and also for saying goodbye. „Szia”, „szervusz”, „szevasz”, „hello”, „csa”, „cso” words are very common to use between friends both for welcoming and saying goodbye. For formal greetings you can use „Jo napot kivanok” which means I wish you a great day, „Udvozlom” which is I welcome you.

For formal saying goodbye you can use „Viszontlatasra” which means see you soon. Children say „Csokolom” to adults which means I kiss you and „Tiszteletem” is also common to use for younger people to greet the older men but not women. One aspect of etiquette that is of great importance internationally is the exchanging of business cards. Giving business cards and especially how you give them has crucial importance in business life all around the world. The asian people think of business cards as an extension of introducing yourself on paper.They believe a business card is a representation of who you are so think of it as you are that business card. Be sure to present your card in clean condition, no different, than you would your own body.

Present your card in your right hand or both hands, facing the person to whom you are giving it. Never give a card in your left hand because it is considered a total insult in some countries. By presenting your card with both hands, it is the highest form of respect. It is also important how you receive a business card because it can tell a lot of things about the person how he/she receives a card.Always receive a card the same manner how you presented it. Either with right hand or with both hands. Take time to look at the card. It is nice if you ask a question about the card or if you make a nice comment about it.

Sometimes you have to write additional information which is not on the card. In these cases be sure to write the information on a seperate piece of paper, never on the card. The japanese people believe it is like writing on the person’s face. Keeping business cards is also part of proper business etiquette, so remember not to keep the cards you received in your wallet or pocket.Buy a separate card carryier case and keep it in a pocket which is located on the upper part of your body. Do not put it in your back pocket and sit on it. It is very rude.

About the content of the card it is good to know that if you have a foreign business partner you want to give a card to, it is advisable to have one side of the card in English and the other side to be translated into the appropriate language. And also that when you present the card, the side with the appropriate language has to be face up. In Hungary business cards are exchanged without formal ritual.

The side which is translated into hungarian should list your surname before your first name because that is the proper way in Hungary. It also should include any advanced univesity degrees and the founding date of your company. When business people meet all over the world the most common and recognised gesture is to shake hands. Even this simple routine is done differently in many parts of the world. In the UK it is usually a single right hand that does the shaking. Very few people shake with their left hand and it is deemed rude to offer your hand without taking our glove off first. In India it is common to offer your right hand and once the hand shake has been initiated you put your left hand over the other parties’ left hand.

This means that the initiator has now given a two handed hands shake. The receiver does not need to respond but can also reply by using his left hand as well. In the Far East and some parts of Asia it is deemed impolite for a woman to shake a man’s hand. A woman should only shake a mans hand if she has sexual interest and feels that it might be reciprocated. Even the length of the hand shake differs.

In the UK people might shake hands for three or four shakes whilst it is common in the Middle East to keep the hands held limply together for an extended period even after the initial semi firm four shakes. In America people are taught to shake the hands firmly but there are some people in who use a bone crunching hand shake which is way too hard. This might be acceptable in America but will definitely be frowned upon in China and even some parts of Europe. Some French people might give you a kiss on the cheek as they shake your hand.One thing for sure is that handshakes do matter. A great handshake starts with eye contact and a smile because it is not just about physical gesture. It is about connecting with the other person.

You should keep your hand open and make sure your handshake will be a hand shake, not a finger or palm shake. A good handshake is firm but not overpowering. Always make your grip firm, but make adjustments based on the firmness of the other person’s grip.

The handshake should have a nice up and down motion, not a back and fourth one, as if you were jointly trying to saw some wood.Also notice that some people prefer a long handshake, other prefer them much shorter. Observe the other person and adjust the duration situation, how well you know the person, and what seems comfortable to them.

If the smile and eye contact has not continued throughout the handshake, finish it out that way. It sounds like you have to do a lot of things at once but remember one thing: Focus on the other person. In Hungary it is common to shake hands for greeting both in formal and informal circumstances. You shake hands when you meet the person and also when you say goodbye.Remember to take off your gloves because it is very impolite and disrespectful to shake hands with your gloves on. There are some people who will even refuse to shake your hand if you are wearing them.

The handshake should be firm and last for about 1-2 seconds. In life, it is customary to celebrate joyful events with the exchange or giving of gifts. Despite which end you are on, the act of gifting can be fun and exciting. There are, however, certain unspoken rules of etiquette that should be followed. If you happen to receive two of the same items as gifts, you have several options.You can always keep both and have a spare on hand. Your other option when receiving two identical gifts is returning one of the items.

If you choose this option, speak with the person who gave you the gift and let them know that you appreciate the gesture, however, you did receive two of the same item. Explain to them that you will be returning theirs to the store so that you can exchange it for something else. Ask them if this is okay. In most cases, gift givers want you to be happy and satisfied with their gift so they will not be offended. Your last option is regifting which must be handled delicately.

Discretion is imperative. Only regift items to those individuals who are not within the same circle as the person who gave you the gift. The item must be new and in its original package. Make sure you rewrap the item and include your own gift card.

Also, do not regift just for the sake of clearing out some clutter. Make sure the person you are regifting to will actually like what’s inside. Properly thanking people is also important. For birthdays and general occasions, sending out thank you cards is only necessary if you have not already thanked someone in person.

For special occasions such as weddings and anniversaries, thank you cards are the proper way to thank someone for their gift, even if you have already spoken your words of gratitude. Thank you notes should always be handwritten and sent out promptly. The last item of consideration is deciding who to gift to. As a general rule of thumb, you are usually only obligated to buy presents for those people that you have traditionally exchanged gifts with.

If someone gives you a gift that you do not normally buy for, simply say thank you and tell them that you appreciate their thoughtfulness.Nothing more needs to be said. Maybe you can start a gift giving tradition with them or maybe not. Do not feel obligated to have to run out and buy them a gift.

In Hungary when visiting a company it is not necessary to bring gifts but if you are invited to a hungarian home, the gift giving custom of the country is to bring a host/hostess gift such as chocolates, flowers or liquors from your home country. However, as a liquor, do not bring wine as the hungarians are proud of the wine they produce and, as a flower, do not give lilies, chrysanthemums or red roses.Also, be sure when giving a gift of flowers, they should be given in odd numbers, but not 13, which is considered an unlucky number.

When receiving a gift, you should open it immediately and in front of the gift giver. It is a well known fact that a bunch of beautiful flowers is the perfect way to express your sentiments with a loved one. The only decisions to be made are which flowers the recipient would appreciate the most based on what you know about their favourite colours, smells etc. To gain extra brownie points why not bring flowers for all the females in the house, your partner’s mother, sister or roommate.When you are invited to somebody’s home it is a lovely way to show your thanks by giving flowers. To ensure your gift does not create more work for the host you may like to consider a potted arrangement or to send flowers direct to them the following day with a short thank you note. Also be aware of that all flowers have a meaning. The Victorians used to use flowers as a symbol to express their feelings.

If you give flowers as a gift, make sure that you know what the flower symbolises. Always remember to obey the rules of global etiquette, have good manners and be attentive towards other people and they will treat you the same way.

Author: Wilbur Brady


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