Business meals are a wonderful opportunity to get to know your Hungarian business partners and to develop personal relationships. Be sure to accept an invitation to a meal – and if the business is not getting off to a good start, take the opportunity to continue discussions at this informal level.
Meals in a restaurant
Hungarians really enjoy showing off their national cuisine to you – in several courses. Be prepared for lavish hospitality in a local restaurant. Let your visitors recommend some Hungarian specialities and don’t forget to praise the good food.
You should be punctual for a business dinner in the evening in a restaurant. For private invitations, you should give your hosts ten to fifteen minutes more time.
Private and work-related topics are not strictly separated in Hungary. The transition is fluid.
Toasting with beer is frowned upon in Hungary. The reasons for this are historical: after the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1848, the Austrians toasted their victory extensively with beer. However, you can toast to a successful collaboration with all other alcoholic beverages.
In the restaurant, the host, i.e. the person who issued the invitation, is the one who pays. He often does this as discreetly as possible by handing the waiter a credit card on the way to the toilet. The tip is often already included in the invoice amount; if it’s not, 10 per cent is appropriate.
Thank your hosts for their hospitality and issue a return invitation.
After work activities
Because work and private life are not strictly separated in Hungary, it is quite possible for colleagues or business partners to meet after office hours and do something together. Sports activities such as tennis, football, bowling, running, golf or sailing are popular. A visit to a bar is not necessarily to be expected, on the one hand, because of the zero per mil limit and on the other hand because Hungarians like to go home early to spend time with their family.
Hungarians are also very interested in the culture so that visits to museums, exhibitions, festivals, operas and concerts are also often on the agenda.
Despite the mixture of the professional and the personal, invitations to a Hungarian’s home are on the rare side. If you are invited by your business partner to visit them and get to know their family, this is a great sign of trust and should be valued by you as such.
Take a bouquet of flowers for your hostess and a speciality from your home country for your host. A bouquet of flowers should consist of an odd number of flowers, but never of 13; 13 is bad luck. Do not give red roses, chrysanthemums or lilies as gifts. Red carnations are associated with socialism.
Expect an elaborately prepared menu with several courses. It is customary for the hosts to serve the guests, put everything on their plates and top them up. Don’t serve yourself unless you’ve been asked to do so several times. It’s also considered to be very rude to leave food on the plate.
Be sure to praise the food and thank your hosts for their wonderful hospitality.