The commute home from work looks a little different in Budapest. In the United States, we complain about bumper-to-bumper traffic, focusing on the road and the cars in front of us, but that isn’t what I’ve observed while on a study abroad trip in Europe.
One afternoon on my way back from class, I watched a father-daughter duo as they occupied two seats, enjoying the time together while they rode home on the bus. The little girl, who could hardly keep her eyes open, rested her head on her father’s chest as he wrapped his arm, complete with grocery store bags, around her. While my dad and I would have to wait until we got home to greet each other in such a way, the duo shared time together even on the road, a luxury we don’t realize that we are missing.
In Hungary, and in most European communities (I’d be willing to bet), quality time is viewed from a slightly different perspective. While we “Americans” seem to schedule our quality time, the locals value time together and seem to effortlessly find ways to spend time with one another whenever they can. From their seemingly endless meal times and transportation to smoke breaks and even the slightly uncomfortable acts of PDA, community is a natural addition to their daily routines, something that is almost a foreign idea to us.
After arriving, we caught up on our sleep and ventured downtown for our first official dinner in Budapest. We found an inviting Italian restaurant complete with outdoor seating and sparkling lights, probably a small addition to lure tourists in. Regardless, we committed and were greeted by our waiter, Carlo. We ordered drinks and entrée items, and it seemed like the food was delivered within minutes.
We ate and enjoyed each other’s company. What felt like 30 minutes was almost two hours, and we eventually had to ask for our check. In the U.S., even meal times are rushed when we should enjoy the moments that we have with one another. But, we are an ADD culture, focusing more on we must do next, losing sight of the value in the present moment.
In the last week, I’ve noticed that on every street and every corner, there is some form of public transportation – trams, buses, metros and taxis. Yes, there are cars and drivers, but Budapest makes it easy for those without their own set of wheels to get around. That being said, though, people can enjoy each other’s company even on the go. Where focusing on the road would normally take an American driver’s attention away from the conversation, hopping on a tram allows everyone to take part in the time together and leave the driving to the professionals.
Friends can smile, chat, enjoy the ride … whatever their hearts desire. But, we are an ADD culture, focusing more on we must do next, losing sight of the value in the present moment.
Two “taboo” things in the U.S. are public smoking and PDA. Yes, they both happen, but people tend to turn their noses up when they encounter it. The voices in our heads say, “We are in public. Please stop!” We are trained to keep those things to ourselves or even refrain from them altogether.
Hungarians have a different idea. It is extremely common to see a group of people huddled together for a smoke break or a couple “embracing” one another on the metro. This is normal, but this isn’t a norm that we are used to or even comfortable with. What we deem as “inappropriate” is a common, everyday activity, another way to spend time with one another. But, we are an ADD culture, focusing more on we must do next, losing sight of the value in the present moment.
A very “Baylor” topic of conversation is love languages. Sure, I had discussed the idea prior to college, but it wasn’t until my freshman year that I really gave it much thought. In the last few years, I’ve discovered that my love language of choice (to both give and receive) is quality time. For me, the most valuable thing in terms of relationships is to spend time with someone. This is where conversation, growth, understanding and connections happen.
Some of my best memories come from coffee dates and day-long adventures with friends, and because of that, I am probably even more aware of the ways that quality time happens around me. Hungary is different though – while we focus on networking and achievement with our friendships, Hungarians seem to emphasize relationships and intentionally invest in one another simply because they want to.
While most cities in the U.S. don’t favor a system of public transportation and quality time is limited on the go, I don’t want this to stop me from valuing the time that I have with those important to me. I witnessed an intimate moment between a father and daughter and found a deeper appreciation for the relationships that I, sadly, take for granted. While we are an ADD culture, we are not committed to that role. We can make a change. We can learn to value our time and each other in ways that allow us to find a new love for the language of quality time.