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The first week of your Erasmus can be a scary and exciting experience at once. For some it’s a huge change, especially in a fairly different culture with different values, customs, and environment. Even for those, who had been travelling a lot before their Erasmus. It’s completely natural that the cultural shock kicks the door in and you’re scared.

Hungarian culture is not that distinct from the Western cultures, so if you come from those countries, you’ll be quite okay. Still, it’s still a bit scary due to the fact that you are (almost) on your own in a new country with language barriers.

Many students have been there, including the writer of this article. In time you’ll release the tension and enjoy your Erasmus to the fullest.

I had a Canadian girl as an Erasmus buddy. I remember the first time when we met at a bar at an Erasmus Student Network event at the beginning of her Erasmus. She was very cautious, reticent, and visibly anxious about this experience.

After a couple of weeks, she found her company, she was completely free of her stress and was enjoying her Erasmus experience to the fullest by constant parties and travelling within Hungary and to other Eastern-European cities.

To make this temporary period shorter we collected some good advice on what to do during the first week of your Erasmus in Budapest. We hope these tips will help you endure this unpleasant, but short period easier!

Tips for your first week of your Erasmus in Budapest

Our 15 good pieces of advice for your first Erasmus week are the following.

  1. First things first: get to your accommodation from the airport
  2. Get to know the neighbourhood of your accommodation
  3. Find supermarkets and local shops where you can do your weekly grocery shopping
  4. Try some amazing local beer and/or wine
  5. Buy a public transport pass
  6. Walk around town, visit the most famous sights in Budapest
  7. Get to know the Hungarian gastronomy
  8. Try some amazing street food
  9. Visit your Erasmus university
  10. Take care of your most important administrative tasks
  11. Contact your future Erasmus buddies
  12. Look for ESN programs and university communities
  13. Practise some basic Hungarian
  14. Start a diary or a blog
  15. Your parents will call you daily, be patient with them!

1. First things first: get to your accommodation from the airport

Travelling from Liszt Ferenc International Airport to the city centre is relatively easy, but depending on your choice it can be expensive. You have three options:

  • Bus 100E that gets you to the city centre. If your place is near Astoria or Deák Ferenc tér, choose this option. The special airport bus ticket costs 2200 HUF (5.5 EUR / 5.9 USD).
  • Bus 200E combined with metro line 3. This requires you to change to metro line 3 at Kőbánya-Kispest, but it’s way cheaper than bus 100E. The reason is that you can use the regular public transport ticket or pass for these vehicles, while bus 100E requires a special ticket. If your place is somewhere along metro line 3, then opt for this option!
  • Bus 200E combined with a train connection. Regular public transport tickets can be used on trains within Budapest. Trains on this route go to Nyugati pályaudvar (Nyugati railway station), where you can change to tram 4 or tram 6 (a central tram line in Budapest), or take metro line 3. If your place is in the vicinity of Nyugati pályaudvar, or along the line of tram 4-6, choose this option!

If you come by bus and not by an airplane, you’ll most likely have a shorter trip to your flat or student accommodation. Budapest has an excellent public transport system so you’ll have no problem getting to your place.

Right after you arrive, settle in and relax. Eat something, or watch an episode of your favourite TV show! 🙂

2. Get to know the neighbourhood of your accommodation

After you had some relaxation head out and check the close proximity of your accommodation. Where is the bus stop? Where is an Asian shop? Are there any good restaurants, or local pubs nearby?

If you smoke and it is especially important now due to your heightened stress then look for a so-called ‘Nemzeti Dohánybolt’ (national tobacco shop), where you can buy cigarettes.

Even more important finding proper supermarkets and shops in your vicinity.

3. Find supermarkets and local shops where you can do your weekly grocery shopping

It’s easier to stress about your forthcoming Erasmus semester, if you’re not hungry and have plenty of food at your place. Find suitable supermarkets in your vicinity and do a big grocery shopping.

Treat yourself! Are there any specialties in the supermarket that can’t be purchased in your country? Go for it!

4. Try some amazing local beer and/or wine

Starting with some culinary experiences will make your initial cultural shock easier. A good local beer like Soproni is a good choice if you want to be more relaxed at your home. Or even better, if you want to drink something while looking at a wonderful view like next to the Danube.

Wines are also an excellent choice to lower your initial stress. Every supermarket and local shop sells wines so you’ll have plenty to choose from.

If you look for a good Hungarian wine, then look for those products that are sold at a minimum of 1000 HUF (2.5 EUR / 2.6 USD). This is a kind of “entry level” for wines in Hungary, where you can be almost absolutely certain that the wine will taste good.

We must add however, that there are some hidden gems that are painfully cheap, yet taste amazing.

5. Buy a public transport pass

Getting around the city is best by a combination of public transport and walking. Budapest has a great public transport system consisting of numerous vehicles like buses, trams, 4 metro lines, trolley buses, and suburban railways (HÉV).

BudapestGO is your go-to application, with which you can buy tickets and passes everywhere in a comfy way.

We recommend you to buy tickets or a pass, travel to the city centre, and from there walk around the city!

6. Walk around town, visit the most famous sights in Budapest

As you are getting to know the city, it’s best if you take the time to visit some of the most famous sights & attractions in the city.

The Hungarian Parliament is a good start as it’s in the city centre, next to the Danube, and you can get to other amazon places even on foot. If you’re there it’s best to take tram 2 as it’s voted as one of the best lines in the world with the most beautiful scenery.

It’s a good time, too, to start thinking about what you want to visit in Budapest (and also in Hungary ) during your Erasmus semester!

7. Get to know the Hungarian gastronomy

Continue treating yourself! Hungarian cuisine is amazing, and Budapest has some truly remarkable restaurants, pubs, caffé, bakeries, and confectioneries. We recommend you to browse through some of the best places in our related article, or just pick one randomly when you walk in the city!

8. Try some amazing street food

Budapest is famous for its staggering street food culture, so pick one randomly, or from our street food place list, and grab a bite!

The most typical Hungarian street foods are hamburgers, soups, pottages, grilled sandwiches, lángos, chimney cake (kürtőskalács), and kenyérlángos (basically the Hungarian version of pizza).

Student_Housing_Budapest_Monaco_room

9. Visit your Erasmus university

Now that you walk in the city, it’s best to visit your Erasmus university. This is where you’re going to spend a lot of time so it’s wise to familiarise yourself with the building, its halls, the library, its neighbourhood (are there any good pubs nearby?), local restaurants etc.

As you’re there, you can even do the necessary at once: taking care of your administrative tasks.

10. Take care of your most important administrative tasks

Learning agreement, subjects, credits, signatures etc. The international office of your home and your Erasmus university must have informed you well about all the compulsory tasks by the time you arrive at your foreign university.

It’s best to take care of all the burdening admin tasks so you can enjoy your time without any administration bugging you constantly.

11. Contact your future Erasmus buddies

Now that your current task is to enjoy yourself and look for all the amazing programmes and studies you’ll have during your semester abroad, why not accelerate the fun a little bit? Contact your fellow Erasmus buddies, start a chat and meet up somewhere in the city.

It’s a bit like jumping into deep water, but it’s best to start making friends right from the start! Thus, your anxiety will be lowered. And most importantly: cultural shock will kick in, no matter what. But it’s easier to endure with others than alone.

Even better, if you’ll live in student accommodation with fellow Erasmus students. This is the easiest way of making new friends as you live with them together and see each other on a daily basis. If they propose to go out, do not hesitate to join them!

Another great advantage of living in a student accommodation is that if you have any question or concern, these fellow students (or even the owner of the dorm) will help you any time!

12. Look for ESN programs and university communities

Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is quite active in Budapest, so make sure to stay in touch or contact them as soon as you arrive. Usually they make online groups so you can communicate with others and stay up-to-date with random parties, events, and programmes.

If you are a bigger social butterfly then search for university clubs that take international applicants. These clubs can be a good choice if you want to deepen your professional knowledge as well.

13. Practise some basic Hungarian

Despite the fact that you’ll mostly use English it’s always wise and useful to learn some of the local expressions. Sure, many people, especially the younger generation speak perfect English in Budapest. But some Hungarian never killed anybody.

Here are some useful expressions for your everyday life in Budapest.

  • Köszönöm! – Thank you!
  • Igen – Yes.
  • Nem – No.
  • Nem tudom. – I don’t know.
  • Jó reggelt! – Good morning!
  • Jó napot! – Good afternoon!
  • Jó estét! – Good evening!
  • Sajnálom! – I’m sorry!
  • Elnézést! – Excuse me!
  • Elnézést, merre van a(z)…? – Excuse me, where is…? (e.g. the bus stop)
  • Szeretnék kérni egy… – I’d like to have a(n)…
  • Igyunk egy… – Let’s drink a(n)…
  • Sör – Beer
  • Csapolt sör – Beer on tap
  • Bor – Wine
  • Feles – Shot (like a shot of vodka)

14. Start a diary or a blog

It can help a lot if you talk or at least get your feelings and thoughts out. And when it comes to cultural shock, a diary or a blog is an excellent means of managing your concerns and anxiety of Erasmus.

15. Your parents will call you daily, be patient with them!

Erasmus and living abroad is most likely a new experience for your parents as well. They will be very anxious about your well-being (even if they don’t show it), especially at the beginning. You’ll notice that they call you or write on a daily basis.

It’s very important to stay patient with them. I can say from personal experience that this is not an intrusion to your personal space or a lack of trust, they just simply worry about you. Don’t get offended and speak with them as much as they want. In time they won’t contact you that frequently if they see that you’re doing alright.

When my parents called me daily while I was acclimatising in Lisbon, it was a bit frustrating and at one point I told them diplomatically that they don’t necessarily have to call me daily. Even though it was meant to be a mild nudge, later it turned out that they took it quite hurtfully. Yep, it was a mistake.

Be patient with your parents and let them have this same experience at least partly!

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