Valley Overseas: Don’t Speak Hungarian, but I Do Speak “Gangnam Style”

 Welcome to Valley Overseas. We’ll hear from students exploring new lands full of strange customs, seemingly impenetrable language barriers, and Euro-trash. They’ll dish out the good, bad and the ugly of living in a home-stay, and the tales of discount airlines. From mixed-up vocab to drool-worthy people in fantastic fashions, let us show you the experiences of a lifetime.

“It’s nice we have this room to ourselves,” said my friend Alex mere seconds before a group of Hungarian teenagers entered.

“Oh,” he whispered. “I spoke too soon.”

Alex, my other friend Sarah and I were spending the weekend in Budapest, Hungary, and we’d already searched the entire two-story bar for seats. There were no others, and we weren’t moving.

Neither were they. The group of seven guys sat on the armchairs that were clustered around us to foster conversation. But apart from “palinka,” the word for plum brandy, not one of my friends knew an ounce of Hungarian. This led to awkward head nods in each other’s general directions.

Finally, a short guy in a track jacket broke the silence.

“Hello!” he said with a wide smile, his crewmembers following suit. “Hello!” said a skinny kid with a buzz cut. “Hello!” chimed in the third, sporting dreadlocks and stained jeans.

“Hello,” I said. They all responding with giggles and spoke excitedly amongst themselves. I can only imagine they were saying, “What else can we say to the Americans?”

Finally, one had an answer.

“Goga Still?”

“What?” I said. His group gathered around again, whispering to each other. “Goga still, goga still, goga still,” I heard.

A friend helped him out: “Gangam Style?”

“Ah, Gangnam Style,” I repeated with a smile.

“Gangam Style!” they all cheered. “Whoop, whoop Gangam Style!”

Their faces lit up once again as they broke out into the dance, whooping and jumping and laughing. It was as if they were celebrating their success at communicating with the tourists.

After they had their K-Pop fun, there came another head-nod-filled pause as they searched for the next English word to shout.

“Harry Potter!” said dreadlocks, pointing at Alex. I’d never have noticed it before, but Alex, with his dark brown hair and thick-rimmed glasses, does look like Harry Potter. We all shared a good laugh. (Except Alex.)

Ruse No. 2 having completed its course, the friends consulted each other once again to pool their English knowledge. And the result was this:

“I farting wit my hand!”

Lo and behold, kid with buzz cut is indeed making farting noises with his hands. Then, his friend in a track jacket pulls us aside.

“Gomoko?” he says. When we don’t understand, he takes out a pen and paper and draws a tic-tac-toe board. “I second in all Europe,” he adds.

“You guys,” says Alex, “we’re sitting with the second best tic-tac-toe player in Europe.”

“Congratulations!” we say, shaking his hand. What an honor. Meanwhile, buzz cut continues to make ze farting wit ze hand. This goes on a while, and I can’t stop laughing. Actually, I’d lost it a while ago.

OK, so we didn’t discuss important things like politics or religion. In fact, we exchanged about 15 words total. But, as cliché as it sounds, humor is a shared language.

And so is “Gangnam Style.”

Photo: Still of Gangnam Style music video, Courtesy of YG Entertainment