Sziget Festival Guide: 15 Tips on How Not to Be a Jerk

A girl crowd surfing on the hands of the audience at the concert of Rudimental at Sziget Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, photo by Ivan Kralj

Sziget is an island in the Danube River, and for 25 years it is the home of the Sziget Festival, the leading Hungarian music festival.

Every year this Budapest institution attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, interested in consuming concerts, parties, performances, movies, lectures, workshops, games, food and drinks, in its artsy and relaxed environment.

The audience covers the vast spectrum from young to old, from straight to gay, from Pink to punk fans, from Sado Opera to real opera lovers.

Being on the Island of Freedom doesn’t mean you are free to do ANYTHING you want

The place of the event is promoted as the Island of Freedom, and many szitizens come to express their identity, or just joke with it.

But don’t be literal! Being on the island of freedom doesn’t mean you are free to do ANYTHING you want or what your little mind comes up with.

After a week of Sziget Festival hands-on experience, this is my list of things you should never do on this, or any other similar, festival. Follow this Sziget Festival guide if you don’t want to be considered a jerk!

Sziget Festival ultimate tips

1. Don’t experience Sziget Festival through the big screens!

At one point of their concert, Bosnian Dubioza Kolektiv needed to wave to the Sziget audience and shout: “Hellooo! We are here, you know?!”

Audience of Dubioza Kolektiv in front of the big video screen at Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary, the artists is holding a sign saying "Hey!", photo by Ivan Kralj
The excellent Dubioza Kolektiv promoted downloading music via torrents, criticized dehumanized consumption of the concerts via the video walls, as well as gave a variety of political messages

Technologically advanced, Sziget Festival provides the live footage of the concerts at its main stages via three huge screens.

But if you have already made an effort to get into the first rows, or even better, if you have already made an effort to travel for your favorite bands from Australia, Hong Kong, or any other of 100 countries from which visitors traveled to Hungary, why spend the evening with your eyes glued to the video wall?

The event is live, you are alive, jerk, so don’t let the artists see you preferring their 2D version on the sides of the stage where they stand.

If Dubioza Kolektiv can see you not looking at them, there is a big chance you can actually see them directly, with no help of the screens that are installed there mainly for the audience that wasn’t as lucky as you were, so they couldn’t even approach the stage!

2. Don’t spend the entire concert with a mobile phone in your hand!

Sure, it’s understandable you want to prove to your social media followers and fans that you were there at Sziget Festival, just meters away from, let’s say, The Naked and Famous. You might even tag the band into your footage, hoping that this is the way to get noticed by your favorite stars and even get “liked”.

However, your video will probably be crappy, shaky, and overexposed, and your mobile phone will not even record the loud sound properly. So just don’t!

The flashing mobile phone screens in the audience, filming the concert of The Naked and Famous at Sziget Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, photo by Ivan Kralj
At Sziget Festival, this is the way how some audience responds to the call “Hands in the air!”

Did you know that professional photographers are usually not allowed to take pictures of the concert after the first three songs? So if the professionals cannot make them, why do you think that your amateur footage will be of any worth?

If the festival is protecting you from having your view blocked by the potentially annoying pro photographers, why do you think that your amateur filming of the concert is not as annoying to the persons behind you?

During the same TNAF concert, I have seen the visitors tagging their friends on social networks in real time or even checking the sports news, just 10 meters from the stage.

I’ve seen the worst example of a dehumanized Sziget jerk during the Pink concert. This girl spent the entire concert on the shoulders of her bearer, with a selfie stick in her hands. I haven’t witnessed ONE single moment when she would film the singer or the band. Her camera lens was always turned towards herself, while she was singing Pink songs high above the audience. Even when Pink, in the concert finale, started to fly over the crowd, just meters away, for the selfie stick girl this was not as nearly spectacular as filming herself while lip-synching the live song.

Free your hands and enjoy the music!

For more content on selfie idiotism, read this article on selfies in galleries!

3. Don’t continue dancing if you just threw up on the dance floor!

With Sziget Festival growing older, it seems its crowd is getting younger and younger. It may be happening with all popular festivals out there.

Younger partygoers generally have a harder time estimating their limits when drinking, and this could be the reason why constant ambulance sirens during Sziget Festival are a regular atmospheric background for Budapest citizens.

If one of the friends in your group throws up on a dance floor during a concert (I witnessed this the very first day of the festival), don’t just hug her, hoping that now she might get better. Hugs don’t heal overdosing with alcohol! More beer to fill up just emptied stomach won’t help either!

This girl was throwing up during the concert at least twice, with the constant gag reflex play of her throat. It did provide more dancing room for her friends. Only jerks can stay around the throwing-up ‘dancer’ comforting her with hugs.

4. Don’t throw your cups or cans in the air!

A38 stage audience space at Sziget Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, the floor is covered with used plastic cups, photo by Ivan Kralj
Concerts at music festivals usually produce carpets of plastic cups! Sziget Festival is not an exception

Temperatures at Sziget Festival can get quite high (up to 37 degrees Celsius this year!) and you might conclude that everyone would appreciate sprinkling them with some beer or cocktail leftover. Well, they don’t, jerk!

If you are lazy enough to throw your trash in the garbage bin (which, true, might be unpractical during the concert), dispose of it under your own feet.

Nobody else should care about your plastic cups, your cocktail bucket, or your flying ice. You are dangerous and stupid!

5. Don’t get so high that you will appropriate other people’s tents!

Anouk from the Netherlands came back to her tent and found an unknown male sleeping.

“I pulled him out by his legs, he still didn’t want to wake up. He grabbed my tent, so I kicked him in his stomach”, she says.

Luckily, this happened during the daytime, so Anouk was not alone. Her tent neighbors took things into their own hands. The testosterone quickly rose to the level of physical conflict.

The problem is that if you get wasted (which on Sziget, as at most other music festivals, is not that hard), crossing the line may cost you more than you could imagine.

This guy was continuously returning to the conflict zone, which made the tension even greater, and finally, only fear of real injuries saved him. Don’t be a jerk – take drugs only until you still remember where YOUR tent is!

Look at the video of this breaking and entering on Pipeaway’s Youtube channel:

6. Don’t intervene in Sziget Festival’s art installations!

Sziget Festival visitors gather around the art installation of enlarged light matches, watching one of them climbing the artwork, photo by Ivan Kralj
With buckets of cocktails, even climbing the art installations might seem like a great idea

Just because you have a color spray, that doesn’t entitle you to write over the artwork. If your creativity was any worth, Sziget Festival would probably have paid you to come.

Nobody cares about your colorful interventions, climbing the installation or getting stuck in it, or even dismantling it to pieces.

If you are destroying the artwork, you are just ignorant and should go to the local junkyard next time, and not to an international arts festival.

7. Don’t jump on Sziget Festival performers!

One could assume that the majority of the Sziget Festival audience is there to party with their favorite bands, DJs, and drinks.

It is great that festival still offers to its audience less commercial content too, such as opera, theatre, dance or street performances. That doesn’t mean that a typical visitor will always know how to behave in an unknown environment.

They might confuse the indoor performance space with a bar where they can just chat with their friends as loud as they want.

When on the street, these jerks’ stupidity can even get a physical form. After the Big Bugs from the Dutch Mr. Image Theatre appeared on Sziget Island streets, I felt truly sad for the artists’ hardship.

No, jerks, you cannot sit on performers or bend their costumes! You cannot hump them just because they are selflessly trying to entertain you, you ungrateful idiots! And no, just because they play bugs for you, it doesn’t mean you can step on them and try to crush them! You shouldn’t do that with regular bugs either, so why are you training your jerkism on people?

See humans attacking bugs on Pipeaway’s Youtube channel:

8. Don’t stand if everyone behind you is sitting!

While waiting for the Australian Limbo performance in the Magic Mirror tent, everyone found a place to sit on the floor.

But a certain group of people found the good spot from where to see the performance, yet refused to sit down. Quickly, the situation escalated to the rest of the audience shouting unanimously: “Sit down! Sit down!”

Even public shaming did not make them all comply. So, if you don’t want to be considered a jerk, sit closer to Sziget stages or stand further away. But don’t block the view of the majority for your own commotion!

9. Don’t save seats for “friends who will come”!

As the whole Sziget Festival audience gets the right to see all content under the price of their festival ticket, it is important to arrive early if you want good seats in, for instance, Cirque du Sziget tent.

At one of the circus performances, a girl reserved three empty seats in the first row. While all other audience was sent into the back of the tent, these seats have been there free and empty.

Nobody is VIP who can just show up at the performance start time and get the best seats in the house. And no, girl, your jerk friends did not show up!

Audience members laying on several bean bags with legs in the air, at the classical concert at Sziget Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, photo by Ivan Kralj
Selfishness at the classical music concert: Some lay on the bare floor, some on as many bean bags as they managed to appropriate

10. Don’t lie on three bean bags if other Szitizens are lying on the bare floor!

You might think that Sziget Festival has provided you with bean bags as modular Lego elements that enable you to assemble your private armchair or even sofa.

But, sorry, jerk! Just because you have arrived earlier than others to the movie projection, it doesn’t mean that everything you found is yours. Other people should not lie on the floor just because you wish to rest your legs in the air!

Sziget is about sharing, so make new friends, not enemies! Also, no, you cannot bring the bean bag to your tent just because you thought it would make an excellent pillow!

11. Don’t take 12 flags and 7 balls at Sziget Festival’s Special parties!

Every evening, Sziget Festival organizes the so-called Special parties, where the spirit of the community under the Sziget flag should be celebrated.

10.000 beach balls being thrown in the air at the Special party of Sziget Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, photo by Ivan Kralj
At one of Sziget Festival’s special parties, 10.000 beach balls are thrown in the air. Well, 10.000 minus those that “got legs” even before the party started

On this occasion, the festival gives away thousands of flags, beach balls, pom-poms, clapping sticks, or any other similar accessory that can make Szitizens cheer together.

However, it is so sad seeing many just coming over to “steal” the free props with no intention of even participating in the party.

So, yes, you jerk, if you plan to get some free balls for your whole family, don’t just empty them of air and walk away in the unknown direction! Stay around and participate in the special party if you want the free prop for later fun!

12. Don’t pee next to someone’s tent!

Sziget Festival provides just enough urinals and toilets visitors can use for free. Therefore, there is no reason for you to get your thing out and pee just next to someone’s tent! That equals peeing in your own pants. So if you think other Szitizens will enjoy your smelly pee running down their tent, just pee in your pants next time. Jerk.

13. Don’t jump the queue for the taxi! (or security line)

The long queue for the taxis at Sziget Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, photo by Ivan Kralj
Taxi queues at Sziget Festival might seem long, but the system is very efficient and the wait rarely exceeds 15 minutes

Sziget Festival has secured very efficient systems of control at the entrance as well as providing an organized taxi stop to go back to Budapest center.

Even if the line of the waiting Szitizens looks long, the wait is really not. So don’t pretend you are deaf, or that you are limping, or that you are working for the festival, or that your friends are at the front, or give whatever lame excuse you can think of to try to jump the queue. You are just being a pathetic jerk!

14. Don’t be asked to wash your feet!

Red interior of Luminarium art installation, inflatable labyrinth of tunnels and domes at Sziget Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, photo by Ivan Kralj
New rules at Luminarium this year: Stinky feet, keep out!

Luminarium is a standard Sziget Festival attraction. Designed by British Architects of Air, it is an inflatable sculpture of some 800 square meters of tunnels and domes, that serves as a colorful labyrinth Szitizens can explore or just chill in.

From this year, Luminarium creators have installed a washbowl at the entrance, intended for people with smelly feet.

Well, I don’t know who initiated the new measures of protecting the freshness of Luminarium air, but if you go to places where you need to take your shoes off, wash your feet beforehand, jerk! You should wash them even if you don’t go to such places, you know.

15. Don’t enter a Turkish bath in your filthy Sziget trunks!

Naked audience member at the concert of The Naked and Famous at Sziget Festival 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, photo by Ivan Kralj
Naked fan of The Naked and Famous band proudly shows his costume for the evening

Some combo tickets for Sziget Festival allow you to visit famous Budapest baths in your free time.

Some, such as the Rudas Baths, are traditional ones, so you will find most of the visitors in loincloths, covering only their private front. Sure, bathing trunks are also acceptable for easily intimidated tourists. But clean ones. Locals complain that Szitizens are bringing Sziget dust into the environment where the primary intention is purity.

Then again, why would you even come to a place where everyone is practically naked and you are the only one in pants? Really? Does that not make you feel even more exposed? As in… Everyone is looking at you?

You, jerk, didn’t even shower before entering the baths! And one of you, jerks, even bathed in trunks where your undies were protruding out, in gangsta style. Really? Bathing in trunks and underwear underneath? You are the king of jerks, congratulations!

If you are looking for a place to stay during your Sziget Festival adventure, find the best-priced accommodation in Budapest here!

Sziget Festival Tips – Conclusion

The 25th edition of the Sziget Festival was attended by 452.000 visitors. It is statistically normal that some of them would be jerks indeed. But your intention should be not to be one of them!

There are plenty of ways to have fun and be one on Sziget and similar festivals – you really don’t need to shine up as the biggest festival jerk. Let Szitizens remember how they were laughing with you, and not at you!

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Sziget Festival ultimate don'ts: 15 instructions on how not to be a festival jerk

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Ivan Kralj


Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

  1. Very good ways to not be a jerk. I think these are great instructions for most festivals and concerts. I’ve experienced the people being on their phones the whole time and people standing up when others are sitting. We once went to a concert with very mellow violin music and there was a group of girls who spent their time twerking to the violin, I thought that was worst dance craziness I’ve seen, but a girl throwing up and then continuing to dance, takes the crazy dance experience to a win.

    1. This twerking at a violin concert reminded me of girls I saw flipping their hair in Angkor Wat, for a photo. I wonder if they do these sexy poses in Christian churches as well!
      Or that recent Czech tourist who washed her intimate area with water from the temple in Bali, and then apologized by saying that she didn’t know the water was – holy. The question is: what kind of person you need to be to wash your p***y with ANY water in the temple AND then post it online because you think it’s very – cool?
      More and more lame and ignorant people think they can claim some puberty level of fame by switching off their brain cells. This only means that it becomes less and less complicated to manipulate these people (by politics, marketing etc.), and that does not promise the brightest future.

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