Prospective expats headed to Hungary often wonder what to expect of day-to-day societal norms. Read on to learn more about diversity and inclusion in Hungary.

Accessibility in Hungary

Although there have been huge improvements in recent years, Hungary is not the most accessible country for disabled people, but the locals are friendly and helpful towards those who need help. Few pavements have ramps or slopes for wheelchair users, and many shops and restaurants have barriers that make access difficult.

BKK operates the bus, tram and trolleybus network in Budapest, and they acknowledge that there is still a long way to go in the accessibility of Budapest’s transport network. Improvements are being made and 90 percent of the buses are now low-floor vehicles. At night and on weekends, only low-floor buses are in operation in Budapest. Low-floor vehicles are in service along almost a third of the tramlines in Budapest and the vehicles have dedicated spots where wheelchairs and prams can be also fixed. Improvements are being made to the metro system. All the stations along metro line M4 are step-free, and a few of the stations along M2 and M3.

Lowered curbs have been introduced at all new and refurbished pedestrian crossings in the city, and BKK is starting to introduce tactile paving and audible traffic lamps at intersections assist blind and visually impaired people.

There are laws in Hungary that protect the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. All employers with a workforce of more than 20 workers, in both the private and public sectors, must hire five percent of people with reduced working capacity.

Further reading – BKK’s downloadable journey planner application displays accessible routes.

LGBTQ+ in Hungary

Homosexuality is legal in Hungary, and discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation is illegal. Although same-sex marriage is prohibited by the constitution, Hungary recognises “registered partnerships”, which offer same-sex couples most of the rights and benefits of married couples. Unregistered cohabitation for same-sex couples is also recognised and puts same-sex couples on an equal footing to unmarried heterosexual couples.

Progress on gay rights has stalled recently, however, and the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán passed legislation in 2021 that ended the legal recognition of transgender Hungarians.

Hungary is one of the most socially conservative countries in Europe, but attitudes to LGBTQ+ people are changing. 39 percent of Hungarians now supported same-sex marriage, compared to 18 percent in 2006. A poll taken in 2016 found that 64 percent of Hungarians agreed that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should enjoy the same rights as straight people.

Gender equality in Hungary

Hungary is a conservative country with traditional values, but stereotypes and gender roles in society are slowly changing. Under communism, women gained greater access to secondary and university education, and family dynamics have continued to become more progressive since Hungary joined the EU in 2004.

There remains some gender inequality in the workplace and women experience higher levels of job insecurity and discrimination. Hungary ranks well below its European peers in the EIGE Gender Equality Index and it has pledged to invest in gender equality to further improve the economic status of women.

Katalin Novák, the first female President of Hungary, has declared that she wants women to have better opportunities and to not have to choose between motherhood and a career. The government aims to increase women’s employment and create more flexible day care facilities to help women return to the workplace.

The average pay gap between men and women is 18 percent. Some Hungarian women seek roles with international corporations, where there is often a stronger focus on pay equality.

Foreign businesswomen are likely to be treated with respect but should be prepared to expect traditional attitudes from their male counterparts, as Hungarian men tend to be chivalrous and somewhat protective toward women.

Further reading – European Institute for Gender Equality

Women in leadership in Hungary

Only one-third of senior executives in EU member states are women, but in Hungary, the proportion is much higher, with 42 percent of managerial positions being occupied by women, according to a survey published by the European Union’s statistical office, Eurostat.

Despite how having a female president, women remain woefully underrepresented in parliament. Following the 2022 elections, female MPs held just 13.6 percent of the 199 seats.

Mental health awareness in Hungary

Expats can be at greater risk of mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety, which can be exacerbated by loneliness and the stress of living in new surroundings. International companies are becoming more aware of mental health issues, and many have adjusted their policies to provide better support. This includes ensuring that mental illness is well covered by the company’s chosen employee healthcare schemes, as well as promoting knowledge and decreasing stigma by holding in-house workshops.

There is a low understanding of mental illness in Hungary, and the social acceptance of people living with mental disorders is well below that of other European states. The effectiveness of social services and the quality of the social care system have improved during the past decade in Hungary, but the sector is still underfunded.

Most expats choose to visit a private doctor or therapist. There are some well-respected clinics in Budapest with English-speaking staff. A good health insurance company should be able to recommend suitable professionals.

Unconscious bias training in Hungary

Unconscious bias is an implicit set of often stereotyped ideas an individual carries about groups of people different to themselves. These ideas are not purposefully adopted but rather develop subtly over time, and people tend to hold unconscious biases about groups they never or rarely come into contact with. In Hungary, for example, some local employers will prefer men for certain roles.

Unconscious bias can profoundly affect both personal and work conditions. In the workplace, unchecked bias undermines vital aspects of the company, with negative effects on employee performance, retention and recruitment. In a bid to create a better work environment, many companies are beginning to institute unconscious bias training. There are also a number of online resources that can be used to improve self-awareness regarding bias.

Useful resources

Diversification of the workforce in Hungary

There is a thriving and diverse expat community in Hungary with people from countries all over the world, but particularly from Germany, Austria, and other nearby European states. Expats often stick together, but many make good local friends too. The offices of international companies based in Budapest buzz with foreign languages, including English, German, Russian or French.

The local population is not diverse, with very few non-EU foreigners living in Hungary. Black people are something of a curiosity, and may attract interest but are unlikely to be met with any racism.

Further reading

Expat Arrivals: Interview with Starr, an American expat living in Hungary
Fodors: "I'm a black American in Budapest. Here's why I feel safer here than home"

Safety in Hungary

People arriving in Hungary have no need to be concerned about safety. The country has an extremely low crime rate, and little violent crime, and although there have been reports of pickpocketing and theft at tourist hotspots in Budapest, most Hungarians are honest and welcoming to foreigners. Women should be vigilant when going home late at night but are unlikely to experience any problems. The public transport system is reliable and safe.

Calendar initiatives in Hungary

4 February – World Cancer Day
28 February – Rare Disease Day
March – TB Awareness Month
17 May – International Day Against Homophobia
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day

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