Saturday, 14 May 2011


Where. One of our friends once asked ma cherie where in the world to go when looking for beautiful boys. Without thinking, he spewed 'Hungary'. It was my belief that his recommendation was based on the exoticism or mystery resting on former Communist states much more so those of once Russian republics. The fact that the Bel-Ami outdoor [read forest and running rivers] shoots are held in Hungary, also the locus of actor recruitment for these money spinning films, may have contributed to the idea.

In a year's time, I was back for my second visit to Budapest which enabled me to validate ma cherie's statement and look at the local citizens up close. Yes, there were pretty guys in all public venues [trains, coffee shops, shopping centers, even hospitals] and they could actually pass for movie actors in Bel-Ami or in the Hungarian movie industry if there is one. But. These boys looked like they came from a single race [read white] unlike the products of mixed [African, Asian, Latino] races that abound in cosmopolitan cities of Europe as Paris, London, or Amsterdam. This observation  led me to hypothesize that there might be undertones of racism which scared me once in Berlin or of simple disdain for peoples who are not Caucasian in appearance or origin.

As I stayed at a busy branded hotel in the city's center catering to many tourists, I had a perfect laboratory for proving my investigation. Comparing the tone of speech and body language in the interaction between front office staff and guests of different nationalities led me to conclude that there is a built-in attitude reserved for customers of different races. I could have been a victim of discrimination myself had I not been aware and prepared for confrontations.

Everyday, I would take a 30-minute trip consisting of a train-bus combination and noticed that despite the congestion inside the transport, the passengers would stare at those who don't look like them and I found very few of non-whites. They didn't smile as easily and there were only two occasions of friendliness that I came across: a young mother who responded to my inquiry on directions and an old woman who volunteered information when she noticed my perplexity while looking at a tram route map. Hotel personnel who would have been trained on fine hospitality did not flash those dazzling smiles no matter how insincere but were versed on the language of 'how are you doing today' or 'I hope you enjoyed dinner'.

Hungary's Parliament building
 Gothic and rococo architecture shows the beauty of a country struggling to remain afloat with budget cuts so as not to follow the Greece-Ireland-Portugal example. It has opened up to the West [especially the USA] but may have a long ways to go in accepting Asia. Their transport system is wonderful -- trains, trams, and buses are punctual and frequent; clean and orderly -- although their underground terminals may need sprucing up. The airport is of world class. It appears that peace and order are not a problem in the capital. The suburbs are homey, typically of Europe.

There are reasons to visit and not-to. Are the boys/guys worth the visit? As if that were the purpose of my own visit. Yes, they are pretty and different. But do you want a date with someone whom you can't really talk to? The Bel-Ami films are always dubbed or subtitled to appeal internationally but interpreters shouldn't be brought along on dates. How does dating someone of another tongue actually work? Will that lead to sex just as well? Trying that out in Hungary may be uninspiring because their language is off-kilter to English and does take a while to learn. Takers?