2021. 01. 08.
Polak, Węgier: dwa bratanki
Cultural bonds and shocks between two nations vol.1.
Tartalom értékelése (2 vélemény alapján):
Polak, Węgier: dwa bratanki

The famous saying mentioned in the title exists in both languages, and even though it was created hundreds of years ago, from time to time it still appears in discussions on the relationship of these two nations, and if there is something, that can shortly describe this special bond, these words can really do it. Lengyel, magyar két jó barát, as the Hungarian version of the verse claims, means that the “Pole and Hungarian are two good friends” if we translate it literally. However, it is really difficult to transfer the spirit of this sentence to a third language, and one has to use it very carefully not to make a cliche of it.

As the previous article about the winter holidays also referred to this topic in a nutshell, the two countries share a lot of values, cultural components and even the way of thinking in some sense, which is visible in the folklore, history, mentality, traditions, habits, legends, everyday language and so on. Therefore, even though we are talking about two nations being far from each other in genetic and linguistic terms, the common experience, situation, geographical location and intensive interactions really brought them closer to each other.

Although these similarities are very remarkable and important points of finding a voice towards each other (sometimes it is even scary, how many details are exactly the same among the Visegrad folks), the issue would not be that interesting if we could not see how many differences are still out there to explore making us both unique and original, Eastern-European and ourselves.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

Some parts of these cultures are based on ancient heritages, others come from outer influence (for example from German, Latin, Russian, etc.), while it is very likely that many motifs and elements were imported from each other and characterize only the two of us this way. Just let’s pick up a Hungarian world, barát (friend) from the beginning: it comes directly from the Polish/Slavic word for brother (brat), so the connection is quite obvious.

No matter that you are a young and open-minded student from Hungary, just like me, the cultural shock will inevitably find you, even if you come from a culture close to the Polish one and have some international experiences. Some basic stereotypes are quite similar, like both Hungarians and Poles are said to be creative, hard-working, precise, ambitious and devoted.

It is also true according to some opinions that we tend to complain a lot, even though we can also be very social and treat all the possible circumstances with a sort of self-irony and try to seek alternative options or 'fool the system' to change our situations. Many say that if the two nations meet somewhere abroad, we will definitely greet each other with a lot of warmth, but if two of us from the same country do the same, suspicion might appear from the beginning.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

It is also common in both cases that it is a bit difficult to break the ice, unlike in Western countries like Italy, Spain, or the US, but once if you establish new friendships, they will indeed last for a very long time and you can count on the people you met (this one also goes for Czechs and Slovaks). The mentality, as many experts suggest, has a strong connection to the communication skills, and indeed, if we have a look at the characteristics of these languages, we can see that a vast share of the vocabulary is similar.

Due to many Slavic words that Hungarian adopted during the centuries it is no wonder of course, but after spending some time among Poles, it is also possible to notice many proverbs, phrases and grammar structures which are many times the loan translations of each other (fun fact: using this expression itself is also one of them, since it is called ‘mirror translation’ in both tongues). For instance, the word of 'responsibility', so felelősség and odpowiedniość, both come from roots meaning 'answer'. This way they refer to the 'ability of answering', although, if we have a look at another English one, 'response', we will realize that it is a loan translation from a third origin: Latin (and possibly German).

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

In terms of proberbs and common phrases, if someone is much taller than the other one, they are ‘taller by a head’, and people who talk a lot ‘make a hole in your belly’. When you feel something bad and awkward coming in the air, it is ‘the silence before the storm’. If you are angry at something in these languages, you might say that ‘the knife opens in one’s pocket’ or you would ‘choke someone in a spoonful water’.

Besides, we both say that the road to Hell is built by good intentions and if something is very pricey, it costs ‘an astronomical sum’.The person who is rejected in their love ‘has been given a basket’ and those who read a lot, so the bookworms are ‘book moths’ in these countries - however, if you have a lot of things to carry, in Poland you will 'feel like a camel', while in Hungary people will rather say that you are 'like a donkey'. It might happen to you that you have to devide your attention and cannot focus on something completely: in these situations, a Pole would say that they keep 'one eye' on that issue - for us it is a bit different, since we keep 'a half eye' on it, although it certainly sounds very strange for other nations.

Sometimes though the concept beyond a phrase is entirely different: if we take the word 'angry' as an example, the Polish version, zły also means 'bad' and 'evil', but the Hungarian equivalent, mérges could be translated as 'poisonous' which certainly does not make sense in many Western languages. In spite of this huge difference, the grammar case is the same, and both countries say something like 'angry on someone' literally. We also both have the word no, and although it is used in similar situations, in Hungary it is more like an expressive phrase, and in Poland it can be an alternative way for affirmative answer (so 'yes').

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

If something, like a device or concept works properly, it is more common to say that it ‘goes’ (Hungarian megy or Czech jde) or ‘walks’ (Polish chodzi), although it is also possible to hear such things in Spanish, German or English. However, the famous Polish phrase jakoś to będzie (it will be somehow) and its Hungarian equivalent, lesz, ami lesz (what will be that will be) are more iconic and special.

Their secret is most probably that they somehow show the genuine way of thinking of the people in this region with all of its melancholy, passivity, while it also feels like a kind of chill, relax and stressless lifestyle on its own.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

There is another very stoic phrase that underlines this attitude: if you just accept what is going on around you, in Poland you say tak jest życie (such is life), but Hungarians prefer to keep it short with ez van (this is it). It is more international maybe, but might give us a similar impression, when we can hear ‘we will see it’, so zobaczymy and meglátjuk - although, again, the Czech version, uvidíme is quite the same as well.

The imperative verb ‘wait!’ so the Polish czekaj and Hungarian várj are also very popular phrases in everyday communication, that might look a bit weird for some foreigners.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

Well, maybe we share our view on the future and the passage of time, the sense of time is a bit different though. Some Hungarians are usually very precise and even stressed about the appointment, but Poles, from the other hand, seem to be a bit more flexible - not like some notorious Mediterranean nationalities for sure, but they do not want to live their lives in such a rush as many people from my country do.

This natural ease of the Polish mentality can be experienced in many other daily situations, like walking on the streets, shopping, calling a taxi, eating in restaurants or using public transport. Even if two Poles meet each other for the first time and do not feel sympathy or anything additional, sometimes they treat each other as old friends: they begin a sort of small talk, chat, share personal experiences, they express kindness, respect and interest.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

Nothing is a mechanical process connected only to a certain service, but there is always something human in the background, which is of course, optional: an additional spice to make your day and get some love. 

They also have a frequently used adverb we might hear in these dialogues: namely spokojnie (calmly), which can remind us of the Italian calma maybe, and shows that there is really nothing to be worried about. Hungarians, in return, are more obsessed with the details and the duties, but rather in a negative way, while they are more introverted sometimes if it is about their daily routine.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

However, if they have a chance to meet foreigners, they are way more open than Poles, and they are not uncomfortable either, if they are able to speak, to switch to another language and our storytelling skills are also outstanding. The only lack is the fact that they are more likely to keep the distance towards each other and not to trust new people compared to the Poles, who are, on the other hand ,ask you in English with a higher chance, if they notice you are from abroad.

The differences in sense of time can be also described through basic expressions of the languages: Hungarian uses different greetings for the morning (jó reggelt), the majority of the day (jó napot) and the evening (jó estét), while the Polish dzień dobry (good day) is used for both the morning and most of the day.

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

What is more, sometimes you can even hear it in Poland after dark instead of dobry wieczór (good evening), although a Hungarian would already consider this section of the day as evening.

There is another tiny thing: if you say a farewell in Hungary in the evening, it is more likely to be viszlát, so ‘bye’, unless if it is late a night (jó éjszakát), but Poles prefer to use dobranoc (good night) in such situations more often than do widzenia (good bye).

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

It is even different how we call ourselves and each other. Saying Polak (Pole) and Węgier (Hungarian) in Polish both come from other European languages and are international, but Hungarians refer to themselves as magyar, while lengyel is the official way to say Polish, and polyák remained only an ancient phrase having survived as a surname.

The word lengyel, by the way, comes from the name of the Polish forefather, Lech, and it is only used in a couple of tongues like Lithuanian or Turkish. Something else: it is also a fun fact that none of us use the international version of ‘Italian’, but both włoch and olasz originate from another, but common root to describe these people.

Polish and Hungarian are also infamous all around the world for being two of the most difficult languages on the globe due to their grammar and special sounds, although the competition between them might be a never-ending story forever. Most probably one of the few things in terms of communication we will never think the same is the use of letter combinations 's' and 'sz' that are totally the opposite of each other, which is often kind of confusing for outsiders. 

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

There is one aspect we do agree though: we do not always like to import international words if we can have their own, so saying ‘perfect’ (tökéletes; idealny), ‘car’ (kocsi; samochód), or ‘party’ (buli; impreza) do not really follow most of the languages. However, there are some words being international in Polish, but not in Hungarian, like cell phone (komórka), pony (kucyk) manager (kierownik), meeting (spotkanie) or sandwich (kanapka).

These worlds are mostly international in Hungarian, but, as a matter of fact, we have other unique solutions for hotel (szálloda), computer (számítógép), temperature (hőmérséklet) or climate (éghajlat). 

Photo: Ferenc Ocsovai

The slang - as a specific field within the language - is variable in both cases: international vocabulary including cool or okay are also used noth in Hungarian and Polish, but there are unique words equally used, like spokoluzik, zacnie or zajebiste for Poles and király, menő, baró, and zsír for Hungarians.

Although some of these terms might be a bit old-fashioned or they are not general for everyone in these countries, they are good evidences to prove that there is an organic development, a lot of spontaneity, creativity and freshness in both of these cultures. 


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