What it means to grow up in a multicultural city

“Fele apă, fele viz” – a half Romanian, half Hungarian saying, translated as “half water, half water” that actually means… nothing.

I would want to add a cultural touch on how it is to be born in a city where people are speaking two languages. (in this case: Romanian & Hungarian ). I am sure that most of us found ourselves in situations where we don’t know a certain language but we have to speak it in order to get along or get something that we want.
I know a thing or two about what it actually means to grow up in a city where there are cultural differences – in a good way, of course, that I want to underline in the following examples.

  • Going to the store

You want to buy gum, you only know Romanian so you ask for gum and how much it is. On the other hand, the sales person starts speaking in Hungarian and tells you the answer in his/hers language. You don’t know Hungarian, so you ask politely “what?” or you simply say: “I don’t know Hungarian” and in the end you still sort it out, you get out of the store with what you wanted to buy and there is no harm. In most of the cases you start to mime in order to be understood and eventually both of you will start laughing.


  • Going out

–  It means to go out with both of your Romanian and Hungarian friends and translating everything in both languages so everyone can understand everything. In this situation in the end you realize that you did not say a word that night, you just translated what others said.
–  Just going out for a walk with your friend and some people that are speaking a different language pass by, you know the language, so your friend will ask you what they were talking about. How could you know? You weren’t even listening.
–  Watching a football game and easily understanding each other because “gol” means the same thing in both languages. Sure it is written differently but it still means the same thing.

  • When someone finds out you know a language that they don’t

–  Explaining the differences in alphabet until you can’t pronounce anything right anymore. J is I, I might be J and I is probably I.
–  Constantly explaining what it is written on the walls, on the front stores, on the statues in the park.

  • “ Friends & Language”

–  It adds up. You might only speak Romanian, and study in Romanian and probably work in an environment where there are Romanians but I am sure you have at least one Hungarian friend that you spoke to or currently speak to. And Hungarians can’t deny they have a Romanian friend either. Maria, Laci, Arpi are to name a few.

–  You say you only know one language but you do understand the other. Admit it. In addition, you also know some words as well.

  • Food & Music

–  Gulaş, Kurtos, Sarmale, who made what, when? They are all so good and we all eat them.

–  You know at least one song in either languages. For Example: you know “Az a szep” either in the Romanian version or in the Hungarian version

To leave all aside my favorite conclusions are:

  • You will definitely talk using words from both of the languages that you know.
  • If you move to a foreign country, you will definitely miss being in a community where people speak the two languages that you heard growing up.
  • Everything mentioned above applies vice versa. And this post is not meant to be harm or bother anyone, not at all, it is meant to underline the fact that I am grateful I grew up surrounded by Hungarians as well as Romanians and I know other people who are proud too. Because in the end, my generation grew up playing together and not caring which language you would speak because we all played using the same toys and got along well.


More ideas soon.



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