“Just don’t meet any Hungarians.” Informal Hungarian community in Great Britain

In one of our previous posts we provided a brief overview of Hungarian community life based on formal institutions. Now, with the help of some interview excerpts, we would like to present how Hungarians living in Great Britain perceive each other and how the Hungarian informal community life works. Importantly, we do not claim that this is the general perception of Hungarians living in the UK towards their compatriots. Not only because the interviewees we talked with belong to a particular social group (mainly low-status workers), but also because the number of interviews does not allow us to form a complex picture on this issue. Nevertheless, from the 30 interviews we conducted, we have collected the opinions that were most frequently voiced.

One of the opinions often expressed by our informants was that the Hungarian community in Great Britain doesn’t hold together at all, “they don’t really like each other” and “they are often ashamed of each other.

“- So here the Hungarians, as I noticed, are ashamed of each other. Well, to be honest, there is a reason for that. Therefore, they are not very much looking for a relationship with each other. For example, the Hungarian parents who enrolled their children in school mostly met Hungarians only there. They could talk to each other only there.

– Did they make friends while the school lesson lasted?

– Oh well. Until they get to know each other better. But, for example, if two Hungarian children attend a common class at a London school, they will not be friends either.” (Hungarian teacher in the Hungarian supplementary school in London)

We tried to understand the cause of this phenomenon, and most responses suggested that Hungarians often deceive or exploit each other. According to one of our interviewees, there are many Hungarian-related “dark agencies” in London, where Hungarian employees are cheated and exploited. These agencies do not officially declare employees, do not pay taxes on them, so the employees have no rights, they have no national insurance number or tax number, they cannot complain to anyone etc. These “dark agencies” usually employ Hungarians who do not plan to stay in Great Britain for a long time, have low qualifications and speak English poorly.

“Unfortunately, we are the only nation who take advantage of each other in a foreign country and who do not help each other. I was deceived by many of my compatriots, so I avoid Hungarians in the UK.” (Middle-aged Hungarian man)

Another explanation for why Hungarians do not seek each other’s company could be the following:

“I didn’t move to England to make friends with Hungarians. I am not saying that I am not looking for the company of Hungarians, but rather I am looking for the company of foreigners. I would like to improve my English language skills.” (Young Hungarian man)

We’ve also heard many times from our interviewees that because they work a lot, they simply don’t have time to live a social life.

In general, we can say that Hungarians living in Great Britain are members of different informal Hungarian communities (especially local Hungarian-related facebook groups), but overall they do not keep in touch, they don’t participate in Hungarian community programs and few of them is involved in the Hungarian community.

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