Culture Shock, the Curse That Keeps on Giving

Culture ShockI thought I had better post something lest people think I have skipped off of the planet.

One would believe that after 14 years, the culture shock would have worn thin if not shed completely. Perhaps it has, but there are still times when one just wants to scream “Are you f*cking kidding me?”

This last week, we had three such experiences, but two of them are intertwined. Experience 1: After deciding we needed to change the curtains in our bedroom, we went to seven different stores that offer fabric for various reasons to see what they had to offer. Not a single store sells ready-made curtains or drapes. If we wanted to partake of their selections, we would then have to find someone to do the sewing, most likely making these ultra-expensive curtains. At least one person in each store was willing to share what they seemed to think was coveted information: Kika or Ikea.

Loving Ikea for some things, their designs for curtains are not within my scope of good decoration. Either the patterns are bizarre at the least, or the colors are garish. As a last resort, we traveled over to Kika, a higher end home furnishing store.

We are very familiar with Kika; we bought the vast majority of furnishings there for two apartments. Therefore, we are very familiar with the amount of money we would drop there on curtains. Our primary goal was to block light. The current hangings are sheer, adding color to the room, but not an adversary for keeping the morning sun from shining in. We had covered the windows with almost milk glass colored contact paper, but even that lets in too much light.

Experience 2: After much browsing, we found a color, texture, and density that would work for us. To save time, I just took a photo of the tag on the sample to show the clerk. When I showed her, she pantomimed that I would have to order it. Of course! After 14 years, there have been slim occasions where any store has anything in stock. Almost 90% of the stock has to be ordered. Heaven forbid you should just be able to take home what you want to purchase. I placed the order for four panels. They have yet to arrive.

On our anniversary, Ron suggested we explore Budapest ArtWeek. This was a special event where one ticket (a wristband) provided entrance to 60 programs of exhibitions, guided tours, and an open studio day over a six-day period. We both love art, so this seemed ideal.

Looking at the calendar of events, Ron found three in Szentendre. We had not been there for some time; this was a fun excuse to spend the day there, have an anniversary dinner and then return home. “Dual Game” was one exhibit listed for April 19 was at the Szentendre Museum at Fő tér 2–5. Two other offerings were scheduled at the Ferenczy Museum – Demolished Movements (in the Barcsay Room) and Fényjátéktér (in the Szentendre Room). The museum is at Kossuth Lajos utca 5.

Not needing to rush, we left Budapest around 12:30, arrived in Szentendre by 1:15 where we immediately stopped for a coffee. It was rather alarming to see or rather not to see tourists filling the streets. Quite the opposite in fact, the streets were empty. Many shops that were once thriving had windows covered over, obviously out of business. The only people outside were the business workers standing in their doorways, waiting for customers to justify their wages. Having been here in the dead of winter when there have been swarms of people, being a sunny spring day in April was quite queer. One shopkeeper offered her opinion that tourism is down since people are afraid of terrorism, thus they are afraid of flying. Regardless, it bordered on creepy.

Ron stopped at the tourism office to see if they had a brochure on this weekly festival. The young woman attending the desk had no idea what he was talking about. We showed the website on my phone, but her immediate reaction was “That is in Budapest”. Apparently, the title Budapest ArtWeek confused her. We then scrolled down to the museums in Szentendre with offerings for April 19, but she was still ignorant of the facts. As we left, we could not help but notice an oversized Budapest ArtWeek poster right on the tourism office door.

Szentendre is not that large, at least not the touristy area, so we wandered around. It continued to be shocking how few people were in the town and how many businesses no longer existed.

We found the first museum, but the construction equipment trailing out the front door did not bode well. Entering the lobby, only one woman attended the desk, but of course no English. We showed her the phone with this museum listed, but she saw Budapest ArtWeek and said “Budapest”. When we showed her the listing for the very museum we were standing, we got the shoulder shrug. After more botched attempts at communication, we decided it was best for our blood pressure to leave. As we walked from the counter, we noticed a pile of brochures for Budapest ArtWeek sitting on the counter. I wanted to use them to slap somebody. Ron made me resist temptation.

At the second museum, it was a repeat situation. One woman was pacing back and forth in the lobby like a caged panther. Not a single patron could be seen. She

Get me out of here

Get me out of here

feigned ignorance of the event as well. There was a large poster on the door of the museum. Insisting the museum we were looking for was down the street, we finally gave up and left.

Right next door, there was a young man waiting anyone who wanted to occupy his restaurant seats. Ron asked him where the museum was pointing now to a printed brochure. The guy looked at it and said in English “It is right there” pointing to the building we just left. Ron explained we were there, but were told it was not the correct place. Looking confused, the guy pointed to the entrance to his restaurant showing the street and the number. He then said “That is the next number and this is the same street.” We thanked him and again repeated that the woman inside refused to acknowledge the existence of an art show. Scratching our heads, we walked away.

It is no wonder this town is dead. Frustrated and furious at their lack of interest, I wanted out of there. We dampened our emotions with a beer sitting in the sunshine along the Danube before returning to Budapest for our anniversary dinner.

Szentendre is no longer on my list of recommendations.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI.

We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.