Chinese Hungarians never die

On 15 March Hungarians commemorate rising up against Austro-Hapsburg rule in 1848, beginning the revolution that lead to their freedom. As a national holiday, it's almost as important as National Cake Day on 20 August.

My Darling is fiercely patriotic and always wears a large cockade in the red, white and green of the Hungarian flag for a few days around 15 March. Last year, a day or so before freedom day, we were strolling down the Rakpart in Budapest near the Danube when some swine lifted it from her lapel. Yesterday, mooching through the city, I saw a cockade in a shop window the size of My Darling's head. I knew I had to buy it or she'd be hanging the aforesaid pretty head in shame come revolution day.

The lady behind the shop counter was Chinese. I bought the cockade, thanked her in Hungarian and she wished me good day in the same language, so fluent it put me to shame.

What part of China are you from?

When I was an exchange student at high school in Rochester, Michigan in 1979 I knew a boy named David Weng. We were in journalism class together. One day I asked David where he was from. 'Chicago,' he said.

'No, before that,' I said. 'Your family.'

'I have no idea. Somewhere in China,' David said before turning back to writing a profile of the leader of the school's cheerleading team. (Who performed her first few cheerleading ra-ra-ras of that football season with her leg in a cast.)

Visitors to America get used to people describing themselves as 'Asian-American', 'Afro-American', 'Venuso-American' or whatever. I don't know if it's still the same but everyone I met, wherever their family was originally from, was proud to call themselves American. Does it have something to do with pledging allegiance to the flag?

I'm probably extremely naive, but, faced with the tidal wave of refugees we're seeing in Europe, shouldn't we include them in? As working, tax-paying members of any country, they're surely an asset.

Tell me, Grasshopper, why do Chinese Hungarians live forever?

In the old days, when a Chinese person in Hungary died they gave their passport to another Chinese person. (Allegedly.) So, technically, Chinese Hungarians lived forever and presumably the Hungarian government couldn't tell one Chinese person from another.

I realise now that the Chinese are not a great example of assimilation. They're more known for keeping themselves to themselves, wherever they are. But it made for an arresting headline.

Happy Hungarian Freedom Day!