If you ever go to Hungary, and you happen to ask someone about a restaurant where exceptional goulash soup is served, don’t be surprised if 8.5 people out of 10 reply, “I don’t speak English” (even if they do). The reason is not related to our average IQ, which is fortunately relatively high, but it’s based on our Eastern European bringing-up.
In Hungary people are very shy and inhibited thanks to 40 years of strict Communist breeding. We have been taught to keep quiet and we are very good at this. Even today, a couple of generations later, it’s still coded in our genes and it is a difficult task to laugh and enjoy something without asking permission before doing it.
In our schools the expectations are very high. If you cannot pronounce the “th” sound perfectly by pinching your tongue with your teeth, you fail and go to jail.
No, just kidding, but it’s still not easy to pass English exams.
Teachers compliment-wise are very stingy. They usually don’t say anything laudatory, as it would be harmful pedagogically (based on Russian scientific researches from the 70s, which we have to take really seriously).
If you want to have a certificate in English in Hungary, prepare for the worst – you have to talk about the blue jay’s ritual dancing habits or paraphrase the rules of Malay football in English, subjects that you’ve never heard of in your life and probably you couldn’t say a word about even in Hungarian.
For this reason when a typical Hungarian goes to a different country, it is a challenge to her/him to start speaking confidently in the language of the country she/he visits. We always can see the little guy in the black jump-suit with the pitchfork on our left shoulder, saying, “Don’t even think about saying anything, your pronounciation is horrible, you might even hurt someone.”
Don’t be afraid, the little guy is wrong, take courage and speak!