Hungary is a relationship culture. Business relationships are therefore always also personal relationships. Congeniality and mutual trust are the be-all and end-all of relationships. At a first business meeting, Hungarians will not only see a representative of a company in front of them, but also an individual person.
A first meeting provides an opportunity for both parties to get to know each other personally and will therefore take place in a rather relaxed atmosphere. Nevertheless, you should pay attention to being well-groomed and not dressed too casually when you arrive. The dress code corresponds to the conservative business standard in the Hungarian business culture. Men wear suits with light-coloured shirts and discreet ties. Shiny shoes made of high-quality leather are also part of business attire. Businesswomen are well dressed in a trouser or skirt suit with a blouse.
Men greet each other in Hungarian business life with a strong, expressive handshake. Women usually prefer a less powerful handshake. As a man, you should wait until the woman gives you her hand first.
By the way, you only shake hands with women when you meet them for the first time; later on, a friendly smile is enough. This is regarded as respectful behavior towards women – and should not be misinterpreted by foreign businesswomen as being in any way condescending!
Once you know each other well, you greet each other with a kiss on the left, then on the right on the cheek.
Forms of address
In Hungarian, a distinction is made between the formal and informal “you”. Depending on the degree of relationship, there are even three different forms of address. The relationship-oriented Hungarians tend to find the formal form of address unpleasant; they feel that it comes across as distant and cool. As it’s easier and more pleasant to work in a familiar atmosphere, people move fairly quickly to the more informal form of address.
The Eastern name order is used in Hungarian. This means that Hungarians first give their surname and then their first name. For instance, you would introduce yourself as “Miller Peter”!
For married women, the name in its traditional form consists of four parts: husband’s surname – husband’s first name – wife’s surname – wife’s first name.
Academic as well as professional titles are also used in Hungary.
At the beginning of a business meeting, business cards will be exchanged. They include names, academic titles, the position in the company and of course the contact details.
One side of the business card is usually written in Hungarian, the other in English. On the English side, the name is usually written in the order “first name – surname”.
At an initial meeting, the content of the business project is usually of secondary importance and is only addressed once a good interpersonal relationship has been established.
Don’t think of small talk as a waste of time, but as a good opportunity to present yourself in a good light. Be prepared to answer personal questions about family, children and your career. Please be sure to ask any questions you may have! Think of personal questions as sincere interest on the part of your partner and don’t fend them off as an invasion of your privacy.
Without strong personal relationships, there are few business opportunities in Hungary. If you can build up a foundation of trust through extensive small talk, your future business will run more smoothly. Spending more time getting to know each other will definitely pay off!
You can’t really impress Hungarians with formal presentations and written material. In Hungary, the product never speaks for itself.
So don’t bore your Hungarian contacts with too much dry information on presentation slides. It’s better to casually share what makes your products special. Highlight the concrete benefits for your Hungarian partners. At a later stage, you will be able to provide more detailed information, which will be highly appreciated if you are interested in working with them.