the european mama: dealing with a hangry person

How you be, loyal so-and-sos? Ready to read some funny shit, I hope? Because BOY OH BOY HAVE I GOT A TREAT IN STORE FOR YOU.

Today’s guest blogger is Olga Mecking from award-winning ex-pat blog The European Mama, and guys? This lady is one of the sweetest, smartest, and most adorable women I’ve had the privilege to meet on the Internet. She will charm your pants off in FIVE languages, y’all. FIVE.

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Originally from Poland, Olga now lives in the Netherlands with her German husband and three (count ’em three) children. She blogs poetic about ex-pat life in the Netherlands, how to parent multilingual kids, and what it’s like to speak waaaaaay more languages than I ever will. Let’s hear what she has to tell us about “hanger” management!


“I think I should write a blog post about dealing with a hangry person,” I told my husband, after I’d just recovered from one of my notorious hanger episodes.

“Yes. Yes, you should,” said my husband, still traumatized and trembling from said episode. I’m pretty sure he was agreeing with me solely for the sake of self-preservation.

If you don’t know what “hangry” means, it’s probably time to learn, because I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself at some point. “Hangry,” if you’ve never come across the term before, is nothing more than a portmanteau word combining the adjectives “hungry” and “angry.” Get it? “Hungry” + “angry” = “hangry”? It’s just that simple.

Except when it isn’t.

When my husband and I started dating, he was blissfully unaware that when I say the words “I’m hungry,” it constitutes an emergency on par with a child telling you that she REALLY needs to go pee RIGHT NOW. For the record, I am usually a sweet, friendly, and wonderful person –but there are two things that turn me into an unreasonable monster. One is being with other people for far too long. The other one is when I’m hangry. The type of hangry that only a pregnant woman can pull off, except for the fact that I’m not pregnant. In fact, the only time I wasn’t hangry was when I was pregnant, but that’s because I was either puking, suffering from heartburn, or just feeling too full to eat.

So for anyone who doesn’t know me well, the metamorphosis from amiable Olga into the Incredible Hangry Hulk can come as a huge and unpleasant surprise. And believe me, I understand why it’s so shocking. After all, how can such a nice, kind person become so terrible and full of rage? More importantly, how is a loved one expected to deal with such a transformation?

This very question is why I decided to write up this following list of tips for dealing with a hangry person:

1) Understand that the words “I’m hangry” are always an emergency. Yes. They are. There is no “I think I may be hungry in a few minutes,” or even “I think I need to eat something soon, but I should be able to manage for another half an hour.” No. It’s either “not hungry” or “hangry”, with no gradation in between.

This means that when you hear “I’m hungry,” you must always assume that “hungry” means “hangry,” or more probably, “I will kill you if you don’t bring me some food RIGHT. NOW.” So act quickly. Cook something, find the nearest restaurant, or order take-away. In other words, do anything it takes to appease the hangry person while preserving your own life in the meantime.

2) Phrases such as “Why are you in such bad mood?” or “Relax! You’re not starving,” or “Are you sure you want to order that much food?” are totally unhelpful. If you can’t think of anything useful to say, just stay quiet and get out of the hangry person’s way. If you absolutely HAVE to say something, try one of these phrases:

  • “Here’s your food.”
  • “Your food will be here shortly.”
  • “You can have my food.”
  • “You can eat my arm.”

You get the idea. If whatever you want to say is not about food or the imminent arrival of food, keep your mouth shut.

3) Speaking of ordering food, the non-hangry person is always in a tricky situation. You want to help the hangry person to get the food she so desperately needs (I’m assuming the hangry person is a woman, though men get hangry too), but you don’t want to make a hasty or unwise decision, resulting in her getting the wrong food… because that would be a tragedy. So be careful. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and she will tell you what she wants; in that case, you can simply relay her order (ACCURATELY, PLEASE) to the waiter. If she can’t tell you what she wants – “Whatever you want is fine” or “I don’t care” or “Anything will do” — due to being apathetic and/or having low blood sugar, it’s best to order something she usually likes. If you use your brain, you may just survive… but not always.

4) While waiting, don’t try to divert the hangry person’s attention to something that isn’t food. It will not work. You will either be faced with an angry outburst the size of an ornery elephant, or a healthy dose of we-will-all-die-if-I-don’t-eat-right-now despair. Trust me, you don’t want any of either of these things.

Also, don’t try any comforting gestures such as patting on the back, caressing of the arm, or saying things like “There, there.” You may just end up being “rewarded” for your good intentions with a punch to your face. Instead, try to become invisible and pray to whatever higher power you believe in that the hangry person’s meal comes soon. Here are some suggestions of things to do while waiting:

  • Stare incessantly at the waiter
  • Nag the waiter
  • Bribe the waiter with whatever you have to offer
  • Do whatever else is necessary to make food appear

(Side note: you might feel like these things fall under the category of “impolite,” “rude,” or “completely unacceptable in polite society,” but you would be wrong. Nothing short of murder is off limits when it comes to helping a hangry person get her food.)

5) Don’t speak to the hangry person while she eats. No small talk. No “how is your food?” No “I bet you’re feeling better now.” Nothing. Just let her eat in peace. Because if you don’t, you may just get devoured along with the rest of the meal. Hangry people know no mercy. I mean, you don’t talk to a tiger while it eats its prey, do you? Of course not. If you find yourself faced with a hangry person mid-feed, your best bet is to keep schtum and not draw attention to yourself.

6) After the meal is over, wait a little until the nutrients from the food hit the hangry person’s  bloodstream. You will be sure to recognize the signs – her face will become softer and the desperation in her eyes will disappear. However, the surest sign that the hangry period is over is when the hangry person finally graces you with a smile. When she does, then and only then is the time to benefit from all you did for her and bask in the warmth of being a hero.

But whatever you do — don’t mention her hangry behavior to her! Just enjoy this feeling while it lasts, because the next hanger attack is closer than you think.


Now, I realize that this is a long list and it’s going to be hard to remember all of these tips, especially when in the moment. So I will give you one important message to take away from all this and that is this: If it won’t make food appear faster, don’t bother.

You’re welcome.


Olga Mecking is a Polish woman who lives in the Netherlands with her German husband and three trilingual children. Her blog, The European Mama, was launched in July 2011 and gives readers insights into Olga’s life as an ex-pat in the Netherlands. Initially a trilingual blog, it is now primary in English. Olga blogs about her life in the Netherlands, being an ex-pat, multilingualism, and parenting.



Photo credits:
“Godzilla”: Film still from Ishirō Honda‘s 1954 film Godzilla.