Living in Budapest: Reaching My Breaking Point

January 18, 2011
culture, hungary, living abroad
Living in Budapest

It all started about a month ago, when my husband and I moved to Budapest. In one of my klutzier moments I dropped my phone in the elevator. The Blackberry broke open, one part went into the elevator, the other fell onto the floor, and the phone battery fell through the cracks. At first I felt pretty fortunate. A battery has got to be more replaceable then a phone. Plus, someone could probably get it out of the elevator shaft for me. That first idea was not so practical. It turns out that elevator cleaners in Budapest only come twice a year, and you have to pay three hundred dollars if you want them to come earlier. Three hundred dollars is definitely more expensive than a new phone.

My next thought was going to the local phone company, Telenor, and seeing if they had the battery I needed. I went to the store, opened my phone, showed them the missing battery, and the salesperson just shook her head, “no.” I asked where I could get one and she wrote the name of a store. When I came home I discovered the store was a factory a few miles out of Budapest. That wouldn’t work (although my husband went back to the same store one week later and saw the battery on the wall after they also told him they did not carry it). Since Budapest does not have random people selling phone parts on the street (gotta miss New York), I tried going to a few smaller electronic stores. But they all wagged their finger at me when I showed them the missing battery and sent me back to the evil Telenor.

Like any good American, I then resorted to Amazon.com. Amazon would charge me $3 for the battery and $38 for the shipping. Our used phone only cost $50. At this point I was getting despondent-am I going to make it in this country without Amazon? But Amazon.com has a European sister-Amazon.co.uk. There I found the battery for $10, and with free shipping. In my mind I thought: I beat the system. None of these stores had it, but I found the battery myself and it was cheap. I ordered the battery and called my husband triumphantly, explaining that I had solved the problem.

I then received the e-mail below from the shipping company:

Dear valued customer,

I had sent your order many days ago.
but during 29-Nov. to 05-Dec., there was heavy snow weather.
all the airplanes didn’t go to UK in China and Hong kong. So, there is a delay.

Now, it is near the Christmas, there are large quantity packages in the post office,
if the weather is not good, it is easy to delay.

before, if there is no the snow weather, the delivery time is about 9 to 15 days.
Now, due to the bad weather, it will be delay more 2 or 3 weeks.

I hope you can receive your order before Christmas or the New year.

If you haven’t received your order until the Christmas and New year,
you will receive it after the New year.

During these days, I am very sad. In my heart, I am very sorry to let you delay to receive your order.
in the China post system, the update speed is slowly, it only show the time that the package leave China (shenzhen).
So, I also always call the China post and ask the situation.
I will try my best to do everything before you receive your order and I hope you can forgive me.

I hope the bad weather will be end quickly.
I hope all my customers will receive their order soon.

I will stay near the computer, if you have any questions, I will reply and help you soon.

Merry Christmas!

Best regards,
Kelly

At this point, I’m not sure if Amazon.com’s European sibling is so reliable (although they seem nice). We are also not sure if it is European at all. Our battery looks more like it is coming from China. My husband kept telling me it was a scam, but I insisted I had beaten the system.

At this point I am living in a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. It turns out that in Budapest when people deliver packages they don’t really deliver them. They just leave a note in your mailbox and then you pick it up from the post office. Those who have been following our e-mails will know that we cannot open our mailbox because the last tenant walked away with the key. Yes, just walked away with the ONLY key. The building company claims they will get a locksmith to put in a new lock, but of course, that has not happened yet. So now, even if it is not a scam, I have no way of knowing if this battery has arrived. I know you are thinking that this was the breaking point-it wasn’t.

I waited patiently. Finally, today, we get a message from our property manager who did some recon and found the battery at a local post office. I immediately write out all of the information about the package and swagger up to the post office window to request my phone battery. The woman looks at me like I’m crazy. “English?” I ask. She shakes her head. “Anyone speak English? I tried.” Another shake of the head. She yells and shuts the teller window on me. THIS was my breaking point. I burst into tears. It was just too much. The move to Budapest had been going so smoothly, and I even had a new phone at this point. But all the pent up frustrations of moving to a new country, with a new language, overwhelmed me.

Suddenly, A Hungarian woman (read Angel) grabbed my arm and said, “What’s wrong? I speak English. I’ll help you.” My savior then whisked me from mailperson to mailperson and finally after going from one office to another we found my package! It had more languages on it then the Rosetta Stone, but it was there. I thanked the woman many times and wished her a Merry Christmas. I quickly put the battery in the phone- IT WORKED! I couldn’t believe I had cried over something so silly seconds before. It was incredibly embarrassing. I guess that is the nature of a breaking point though. And every once in a while you reach one. Now that I got this last one out of my system I am ready for the next goose chase I get sent on in Budapest. Bring it.

To read more about Na’amit’s experience in Hungary here.

About Naamit Sturm Nagel

Naamit Sturm NagelNaamit Sturm Nagel has traveled throughout Europe.

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