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Hungary: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Hungary

Business etiquette is much the same as elsewhere in Europe and the USA. Upon meeting, shake hands (one waits for women to offer their hands), then say your full name (Hungarians give their surname first, then their forename). Visitors should also shake hands on leaving. Giving and receiving gifts is common.

Hungarian is a difficult language, but a few words will go a long way. As so few foreigners speak the language, most locals engaging in international business will speak some English, although Hungarian translators are usually available on request and can be booked through travel agents. Businesspeople are expected to dress smartly, with suits the standard dress for men. Business cards are widely exchanged. The best months for business visits are September to May. Appointments should always be made and punctuality is essential.

Hungarians are generally friendly and hospitable and it is usual for business visitors to be invited to lunch or dinner in a restaurant. Hungarian businesspeople prefer to do business with people they know and trust, so it is worth taking the time to build relationships. This is particularly true of the older generation.

Standard working hours are 0800 to 1630 Monday to Thursday, often finishing early in the afternoon on Friday.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1630.

Economy

Hungary has few natural resources other than bauxite, natural gas and some oil. For this reason, it relies heavily on foreign trade, which accounts for half of its GDP.

The country has a fairly well-developed industrial economy concentrated in chemicals, plastics, pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, computers and telecommunications, mining, construction and aluminium (from bauxite deposits). It has also traditionally been an exporter of agricultural produce, particularly fruit and vegetables, maize and wheat, sugar beet, potatoes and livestock.

EU membership was a high priority for the Hungarian government, and the country achieved this goal on 1 May 2004. Hungary’s economy underwent a serious blow during the international financial crisis of 2008 resulting in an estimated growth of just 0.8% in 2010. In 2011, unemployment ran at an estimated 10%, while GDP growth was estimated to continue at a rate of just 0.8%.

GDP

US$147.9 billion (2011 estimate).

Main exports

Machinery and equipment, manufactured goods and food.

Main imports

Machinery and equipment, manufactured goods, fuels and electricity.

Main trading partners

Germany, Austria, Romania, Italy, Russia, Slovakia, France, UK and China (PR).

Keeping in Touch in Hungary

Telephone

Most public telephones use phone cards, which can be purchased from newsagents, hotels and post offices. The area code for Budapest is: 1. If dialling beyond the capital or to mobile phones, callers must prefix the number with the national dialling code: 06, and then the two-digit area code.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with major international mobile phone companies. Coverage is generally good. A local prepaid SIM card may be bought relatively inexpensively to make and receive calls within Hungary.

Internet

Wi-Fi is ubiquitous and often free in hotels, restaurants and bars. There are internet cafés in most towns, and some libraries have free terminals. Connections are generally good.

Media

There is generally a high level of freedom in Hungary's media. The country's private broadcast media compete with state-run radio and TV. Public radio services compete with numerous local radio stations and national commercial services. Hungary's national and local newspapers are independent and privately owned, some by foreign groups and investors.

National dailies include Magyar Hírlap, Népszabadság and Blikk. Hungary’s main TV broadcasters are Magyar Televízió (operating two channels) and Duna TV (satellite). Private TV stations include TV2 and RTL Klub. Public radio broadcasters include Magyar Rádió (operating Kossuth, Petőfi and Bartók networks, plus Radio Budapest, an external service). Private radio broadcasters include Danubius Radio, Est and Juventus. A number of English-language newspapers are published in Hungary; these include the Budapest Business Journal, Budapest Times, the Budapest Sun and The Hungarian Quarterly. The monthly Where Budapest has useful listings for shopping, dining and entertainment.

Post

The Hungarian postal system is reasonably efficient and reliable. Airmail takes three days to one week to reach other European destinations.

Post Office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1800, Sat 0800-1200.

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