Three Magical Hungarian Phrases That Every Tourist Should Know

One of my friends is headed to Budapest, and he asked me for some advice about navigating Budapest, given that I lived there for a time during college. And my biggest recommendation is to learn these three magical phrases:

1) Jó napot kívánok
2) Beszél angolul
3) Köszönöm szépen

These mean “hello”, “do you speak English”, and “thank you”, respectively, which doesn’t sound that impressive or magical, but whenever I used these phrases in Hungary, people would magically become much more helpful.

I have two guesses as to why I had so much success: 1) given that Hungarian is rather obscure and not useful/intelligible with other languages, I don’t think many tourists make any sort of effort to speak any of it, so Hungarians appreciate it when tourists try; and 2) because these are the formal forms of these phrases, Hungarian people find it kind of quaint or amusing that a tourist might try using them and thus become more helpful. I mean, if someone came up to you and said, “I wish you a good day” or “thank you beautifully” (the literal translations of phrases #1 and #3), wouldn’t that put you in a better mood (ignoring of course that the latter phrase isn’t colloquial at all) and more willing to help that person?

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