Business etiquette

Hungary flagValues and beliefs are measurements of the importance a person gives to something. The way values and beliefs are expressed forms the attitude that is then revealed through words and behaviour. Usually unwritten, these values and beliefs govern the expectations of social behaviour within a society, social class or group. Accepting attitudes and values as essential elements of every culture with a huge influence on people’s behaviour can contribute to improved intercultural understanding and reduced misunderstandings when doing business with foreign partners.

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Corporate social responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become important in Hungary after its adhesion to the European Union in 2004, not so much under the pressure of consumers, or civic pressure, but rather as a result of the expectations of multinational corporations with Hungarian subsidiaries. Just like in other countries, the activity of the CSR sector is visible in the spreading of the concept through books and studies published on the subject and best practices collections circulating on the web.

In Hungary, ecological problems are less marked than in the other countries of Central Europe. Nevertheless, the high standards demanded by the European Union remain a challenge, especially in terms of water pollution, waste management and air quality. A great deal of money has been invested in improving waste management, with the aim of increasing water quality.

Since 2005, Hungary has reformed its environmental policy in order to get closer to EU standards. Investments, administrative measures and industrial restructuring have triggered quite important improvements. Still, additional investments are called for to ensure the protection of the environment and the control of industrial pollution. The most difficult challenge remains a cultural one, namely to instil an awareness concerning environmental protection.

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Punctuality is extremely important when Hungarians meet foreigners. If possible, try to arrive about ten minutes before your scheduled meeting time and allow for heavy traffic when travelling in a city, especially in Budapest. Nevertheless, traffic is always a good excuse for being late. Compared to business meetings, public events almost never start on time, and a delay of 5 to 10 minutes is typical. To be a “little bit late” is not a problem if you are a foreign collaborator. Such a lack of punctuality will not influence business negotiations or the final result.

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Gift giving

In Hungary, gifts are not usually expected, except at Christmas time. Small presents, like a corporate gift (such as a diary or pen engraved with the company logo) or a souvenir representing the country you are coming from (such as liquor, artisanal handicrafts or porcelain) would be acceptable but not necessary. An exchange of corporate Christmas cards will also be appreciated.

If invited to a business partner’s home for a meal, it is normal to bring flowers, high quality chocolates or a bottle of liquor from your country. It is important to note that there are a number of cultural conventions surrounding the giving of flowers. Flowers should always be given in odd numbers, except the number 13, which is considered bad luck. Also, lilies, red roses and chrysanthemums, as these are typical at funerals. Bringing a bottle of wine may be a difficult choice, as Hungarians are immensely proud of their wines.

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Business dress code

In business meetings, Hungarians prefer traditional elegance. Cleanliness and tidiness are an absolute necessity. Any formal business clothes are acceptable, with dark colours being preferred during the winter and lighter ones in summer. During normal office hours, Hungarians dress less formally. In small or medium sized businesses, there is usually no official dress code and employees tend to wear casual business attire.

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Bribery and corruption

With respect to corruption, Hungary has approved and signed the most important international conventions against corruption. Although corruption continues to represent a problem for the country, Hungary ranks among the least corrupt third of 176 countries (46th place according to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2012) (

Corruption is perceived as highly prevalent amongst underpaid government officials. Party financing and internal financial control are also areas where corruption is rife, due to the lack of cooperation between state institutions. In the health care system, the practice of giving “gratuities” is very common, where it is considered a cultural norm rather than serious corruption. There is no independent organization charged with the duty of fighting corruption. Responsibility for law enforcement is divided between the Police and Border Guards, with certain criminal offences under the investigative remit of the Customs and Excise Authority.

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