Something is wrong with the Hungarian forint outside Hungary, or at least, that seemed to be the case during our recent travels. No one seemed to want it and we wondered
At first nothing seemed amiss with the Hungarian forint. When we arrived in Budapest, we found businesses accepting both forints and Euros interchangeably. Though the forint was preferred in most situations, we found businesses and cab drivers equipped for transactions in euro.
Then our problems started. After crossing the border into Romania on the overnight train, staff refused to accept our forints. We initially brushed this off but upon arriving in Bucharest, the station money exchange office didn’t accept them either. We couldn’t give our leftover forints away to banks or independent money exchanges in Bucharest proper. Nobody wanted them in Moldova or Russia either. The mystery began to baffle us and we decided to investigate the matter further.
It turns out while Hungary joined the European Union ten years ago, there has been a more conservative change in government in recent years. Many Hungarians apparently want more recognition as an autonomous state, rather than a homogenous part of the European Union. This could no doubt have some possible ramifications on the availability of currency exchanges between countries that are more active EU supporters.
In addition to this, Hungary plans on completely switching over to the euro in six short years. Banks and individual enterprise may have stopped dealing with the Hungarian forint on the grounds that it will soon become obsolete in its home country anyway. Adoption of the euro has been further stymied in Hungary due to its high national debt. Hungary falls short of fulfilling the appropriate criteria for fiscal implementation. Meanwhile, the Euro, not without its detractors, remains the standard currency in most Western European countries.
Another reason that neighboring countries fail to accept the Hungarian forint may be due to the region’s tumultuous history. In the 1920s, the Treaty of Trianon shrank Hungary to one-third of its original size. This put millions of ethnic Hungarians outside their country’s control, a fact which still sparks disputes to this day. In the decades that followed, Germany and Hungary became closely linked because the former nation supported the latter’s claims against their neighbors over the lands they had lost.
Despite pledging their eternal friendship to the Yugoslavian people, Hungary invaded the same country shortly after the fact at Germany’s instigation. Hungary was in turn plundered by invading armies from several neighboring states during the Second World War, resulting in a heavy loss of life. They eventually lost a good portion of their lands and had to undergo a forced population exchange. Communism was instilled in the country under the influence of Russia and eventually led to a quelled uprising in 1956. Soviet forces didn’t leave the country until 1991.
Needless to say, there is plenty of continued mistrust between states in the region. It is only in very recent years that Hungary’s extremely poor relations with its neighbors have begun to thaw, due to treaties that were set up to ease the tension. Some of the refusal to change the Hungarian forint could, therefore, simply stem from an unwillingness to have any further interaction with old enemies.