Your experience of culture shock in Romania


Living in a foreign country implies to discover its culture, to learn and master the cultural codes.

How did you deal with that? Share with us your culture shock stories where you experienced a funny or awkward moment in Romania.

What is your advice regarding the don’ts and what would you recommend to avoid any mistake?

Thank you in advance for sharing your stories,


There was no cultural shock per se, but there was the shock due to the "lack of culture" to be precise, and then there was the after-shock once the realisation of "how bad it really is in RO" set in.

We've been here 2.5 years & still find some things a bit odd. It took me ages to stop saying hi to people - this sounds exactly like the Romanian 'lets go!'.The first man who came to the house to give us an estimate shook Robin's hand & said 'Romanian men don't shake hands with women!

People around here also never knock at the door, they just yell a lot from the gate to get your attention unless we know them well in which case they just stroll in the door.

Weddings are a trial. We live opposite the Casa Cultural & dread them. It's okay being blasted with Menele music all day but they don't stop until 4 or 5 in the morning. Okay if your a guest I suppose but not if you want to sleep.

The dog barking is of course unbelievable to someone from England & it won't be stopped by rounding up the strays. Romanians love dogs & everyone around here has at least one. The problem is that they're all kennelled outside. we get the late night doggy chorus every night, but you get used to it.

What gets me most annoyed is the general attitude that overcharging foreigners is okay. Luckily ANAF are having a purge on shops which don't display prices which has made life a lot easier.

And of course begging is terrible & difficult to ignore as it is often persistent or using children. Give the kids food not money & master the handy phrase 'nu am bani de loc!'

I have been surprised by how we have been generally accepted & helped since we got here. Locals & even people we don't know have put themselves out when we have a problem. We've had our car pushed when stuck in snow, been given preserves, milk, cheese tuica & even pork by locals, had loads of interpreting done when stuck. In that respect people are a lot more open than they were back home.

And Christmas with all its traditions here in the village is a delight!

Hello folks. I am a Canadian Chef living in Brasov my wifes home city.we moved here in march 2015 from canada/toronto
we were here last year for a visit thats when i fell in love with this city
as for culture shock i would say thats an understatment.
first lets talk about the cuisine
I have been cooking International cuisine for the better part of 25 years and found romanian cuisine a little bland
I have been to several restaurants in the city and im sorry to say i have not been impressed. I think  brasov is about 10years behind canada in the cuisine sector. but thats ok i have been in a few kitchens already and showed them a few tricks.
Im not here to complain so im just kinda comparing what i am used to and what i am recieving now, my wife warned me that i would be stepping back in time but i didnt know how far lol.
One great item you have in romania is the high speed intrenet WOW Its fast and cheap. in canada you pay an arm and a leg for this kind of speed.
I find it funny here that you can find everthing online here but you cannot do anything online . you have to go to the location and stand in this stupid line up and wait  and wait and wait. i find that really dumb.everything should be avaliable online to reduce the stress of lineups. what do these poor people do in the middle of a blizzard??
I left and sold just about ever electronic item in canada because alot of items will not work here like led tv /dvd recorder/playstation/etc.....
when i started to shop i noticed brasov did not have any of the lastest models of LED TVs avalable very strang kinda funny. anyhow i did however found somthing acceptable and enjoying it .
I am learning more romanian by the day and i also found more people i meet speak english. as a matter of fact i will be working in a kitchen that everyone speaks english what more than a canadian ask for
as a saftey point i feel more safe here in brasov than in toronto as the crime rate with guns just went up to 56 per cent you fear to walk the streets at night not safe at all.
to conclude my rant. I am enjoying this country very much I am trying by best to embrace the romanian culture as sometimes its hard to let go of the past and accept the future.

Welcome to Brasov :))

When I first came to Romania, I didn't have a job. My wife took on a private art student, who came weekly to her art studio, where we also lived. When she came, I would take my laptop to a cafe and pay 15 RON for a coffee, or I would go to my inlaws' and be in their way. So my wife suggested I should get a membership at the Central University Library on Calea Victoriei. She contacted them and all I needed to do was to go for an orientation in English when available. She called one day and the woman who did the English orientation tours was available, so I went down. The woman showed me around, where I can request books, where I can use my laptop, where I can go to the bathroom, etc., and then she brought me to the office where you request a card. She gave me a form and said she had to run to her office and she'd be right back. I filled out the form while waiting in line.
When I got to the front of the line, I handed the woman (who didn't speak English) the form and my USA passport. She looked over everything and then said a sentence in which I recognized the words "foto" and "identificare". For me, as most Americans, "photo identification" = "driver's license," so I gave her my still-valid Pennsylvania license. She looked at it for a moment, then looked at me. She pointed to my photo and asked me something that I thought I understood. I said, "Yes, that's me!"
She took my things over to her coworker's desk. I waited patiently until I heard a loud "SHHHICK!" I looked over to see her coworker holding half of my driver's license in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other! I shouted, "WHATTT!!" so loud they both froze, looking up in horror. They didn't understand English, but they understood that! I frantically reached towards my passport, just out of my reach, and started shouting, "Please! Passport! Give me my passport!" They tried to calm me down soothingly, apologizing profusely but not giving me my passport. Someone got the English-speaking woman, who chastised them for cutting my license and apologized to me. I retrieved all my documents and - following my panicked foreigner instincts - left without another word.
When I got home, though, it was a different story. My wife was livid! I assured her that my license wasn't valid here anyway, and I could get a new one next time I went to PA. Didn't matter. She marched me back there with both halves of my license and she demanded to know how they could perpetrate such idiocy with a foreigner. Those apologies were nowhere to be found now that they were addressing a Romanian. It wasn't their fault! People bring in old IDs sometimes. I should have spoken Romanian.
It turns out she hadn't asked me for "photo ID," but "a photo for your ID". They required members to bring their own photographs?! We asked, "Don't you have a photocopier?! At the Central University Library?!" And yes, they had one - but it was upstairs! And rather than going upstairs to photocopy someone's US Driver's License, they opted to cut out the picture from it.
I had never in my life encountered such methods. At the Central University Library in the capital and biggest city in the country, they mutilated the foreign legal identification of someone who didn't speak their language. And, in the end, they didn't give a goddamn about it. The English-speaking woman did in fact apologize and she stated that it was her fault. Looking back, I realize she tried to take responsibility, but the other functionaries were so defensive and ignorant that no one let her speak.
Anyway, I had the last laugh: They gave me a free membership for 2 or 3 years, and in the end my license would have expired by the time I went back to the states. Of course, I've never set foot in that library since then, but still, free membership!

I now speak Romanian fluently and I'm very used to the state functionary attitude. I layer on the sugar and accept any kind of abuse and, 9 times out of 10, I leave the office with what I came for and my self-esteem intact. But, with 3 months in the country, this was a true "Uelcam tu Roumeinia" moment.

Whatever you do , do not bring with you a car that is not available for sale in Europe, we purchased a Honda CRV 2.4 , this model of car is sold in the USA and not Europe, as we saw online ,all cars registered in Europe will not have to go through the import process of dynamic testing, not true , our car was registered and MOT tested in the UK , doesn't matter , we went through the normal process of homologation in Pitest and was told to report to Bucharest for dynamic testing which was expensive and took two days , as our car was 3 years old and very low mileage (18000) I believed this was just a way to get every penny from us !, What was established by this test was emission output which is clearly stated in the hand book , also by Honda .I believe this was a complete waste of time and money. Should you think I do not understand the rules through lack of understanding Romanian , my wife is Romanian and my entire working life is in the garage trade, good luck to one and all.

We had a similar experience. Had to take our Chevrolet Astro Day Van to Pitesti for 2 appointments & were then told to take it to the Bucharest Testing Station. After booking a B&B & a trip there we were told at the testing centre that Pitesti should have tested the car & we didn't need to be there! Got the ITP certificate eventually in Pitesti aiming to get it Romanian plated & despite the van being 1995 registered ANAF want a 2500 euro pollution tax & then our Primeria want 1000 euro a year for the privilege of keeping it here. just renewed it's UK insurance. It can stay foreign plated. Still with the ITP at least I know it's roadworthy!

wow thats an eye opener  i was gonna ship my mazda 3 gt 2006 here  but i thought the shipping itsself was to much
but not as much you would have to go through if you bring it here. good story phil

You know for me it was not such a shock, the warmth kindness and helpfulness cannot be described.  Of all places there is nowhere else that i have been in the world that i have felt more at home, period.  Romanians are proud, as they should be' of their country and the willingness to share is beyond description.....from an ex pat here  to others...YOU PICKED THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD!!!!! ENJOY, and learn.

wolf49 :

You know for me it was not such a shock, the warmth kindness and helpfulness cannot be described.  Of all places there is nowhere else that i have been in the world that i have felt more at home, period.  Romanians are proud, as they should be' of their country and the willingness to share is beyond description.....from an ex pat here  to others...YOU PICKED THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD!!!!! ENJOY, and learn.

You know, I've said this to Romanians and they understood immediately: "Prietenia românească e fără egal în lumea asta. Mă rog, și afaceri românești sunt fără egal..."
All the things you're saying describe Romanian friends very well; Romanian business partners, on the other hand, are to be watched. I'm genuinely sorry to say it, but non-payment, violation of contract, shoddy workmanship, nepotism, lateness (as in months), etc. are not exceptions in Romanian business transactions, whether you're selling, buying or collaborating. They know how to party and make you feel welcome, but if you need a bridge or a highway or even a fair boss - forgive me - you've come to the wrong place.

To be honest, I've never found Romanians to be especially friendly, particularly in Bucharest. Don't get me wrong, I've made some good friends, met quite a few welcoming and friendly people, but not in a proportion that would lead me to consider it a particular trait of the populous. It's not bad (if it were, why would I stay?) but I wouldn't class it as a place where the people who don't know you are naturally inclined towards openness, friendliness and hospitality.

I would say at least half the strangers I encounter (in shops, neighbours in the block, etc) won't return a 'buna ziua', people rarely thank you for holding a door open for them or stepping aside to let them pass, will just stare at you blankly like you're a rapist/mugger/gangster if you smile at them or try to strike up a conversation, stuff like that.

When I first came here 11 years ago and was exploring the city (pre-smart phone days) and depending on asking strangers for directions, it would usually take several attempts to even get someone to stop to hear my question (poorly worded as it was in Romanian back then). People were 'friendly' when they had to be (work colleagues etc), when they supposed it might be useful (suck ups or the expat groupie types) but rarely just for the hell of it. In the first year I quickly realised that it didn't pay to be too friendly here as it's seen as a sign of weakness or susceptibility to exploitation.

I'd moved here after spending five years in Turkey, which is a place where you see a lot of genuine hospitality to strangers and after living there I had myself become a lot more uninhibited and open. When I moved to Romania I brought with me that same sense of openness and friendliness so suddenly finding myself in a culture where this is considered weird or even undesirable was certainly a bit of a culture shock. It took me a couple of years to put up the barriers again and not take it personally.

Hi all,

Some good comments here  :top:

Personally, I can agree with Maykal's testament about Romanian hospitality/friendliness.  I too have come across some really nice people, but it's definitely not the norm.  Also it does seem true, that to return a hello and smile (what many consider common courtesy) would mean certain death :)  Kindness does seem to be perceived as weakness, or they have a paranoia about them and think that kindness is just a means of deception, particularly amongst strangers.  Like Maykal says, people have the walls up, and for good reason; there are a lot of people out to screw each other over, which is an unfortunate and unnecessary part of the culture.

Also I can really relate to chuckkh's comments about business.  Compared to many other places I've been, the work ethic here is really poor.  I find it funny (and sad) that Romanians complain that they don't get paid well (or what they think they deserve), and attribute this to their poor work ethic; but how can higher wages be justified if people can't do good business.  It's a bit of a paradox, and it will take time for people to understand the relationships at hand :)  It's funny that a person here will spend 10 minutes arguing about why something can't be done, or why their shoddy work or is acceptable...when they could just spend that 10 minutes doing what was specified and what they were paid to do and be done with it!  However, I have come across a very small subset of people here that really do work hard, show up on time and deliver on their word without a argument, and those people certainly do deserve more, and I appreciate them!


Reverse culture shock it`s even more painful but it only lasts for a maximum of two years . Now the normal cultural shock I think it`s a mater of a life time period , we can`t erase the past . I don`t really know if a foreigner can eventually start to feel 100% local  , I never accomplished this myself . I only accepted the fact that I have to change not the place where I live because the contrary won`t ever happen . The interesting thing is that a foreigner sees beauty where a native local can`t , or create and make things flourish in a place where everybody else already give up and that`s a great thing to admire .

Nicely put

I pretty much agree with you after visiting for 3 years and living permanent now since January 2015. I can find parallel situations in USA but they seem more intense here. My big 'shock' is garbage everywhere...cleverly and necessarily absent in tourist areas but endemic everywhere else. And a "live today-borrow tomorrow" mentality: you have 100 ron today and want something you just buy it and borrow from a friend/relative to make it thru next few days...hahaha...maybe traditional but not my cup of tea.

HEY!!!! you are in Campulung??? I am in Pitesti! American an living here with Romanian wife. I would LOVE to meet you!  **************:)
Richard Krieger

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Hi ,

I find the comments too helpfull...

Thanks all


I posted this, originally, on the forum about raising kids in Romania but I am really at the end of my rope. I feel like I will push someone away from me next time this happens and it is causing me to not leave my apartment. Please help. I am posting again below. Any and all suggestions welcome.
Raising my child in Romania has been fine in terms of good hospitals, good daycare programs, fun activities, etc.

BUT I HATE the way strangers on the street TOUCH your child or CRITICIZE your parenting constantly. I am sick of old ladies coming up to me EVERY FIVE SECONDS and saying "why doesn't your child have a hat on?!! Pick up your child!!" or coming up and grabbing my child and me and zipping up her coat, or berating me for not putting on a million layers on her. We are from Boston. This is not cold for us! My daughter is a toddler and she gets hot! Stop touching me!!

What do you do to get people to leave you the hell alone and stop TOUCHING you in public?! I have tried to speak back in Romanian saying "go away" "I did not ask you!" "it is not your business!" "leave me alone!" but that just draws MORE little old ladies to me to harass me further. Often, I have had to run off and go home because I cannot even leave my house without being pestered by old ladies telling me to put more clothes on my daughter. I am not a bad mother and my daughter is FINE. I am not wearing a hat either. IT IS NOT COLD OUT!!! It is normal mild winter weather and not some kind of snow storm!

Please tell me how to make people get the hell away from me and leave me in peace.

Thank you. This is happening in Bucharest! It happened to me in Mangalia, too. It is by far the worst part of raising children here. The nosey strangers on the street harassing you if you are a mom.

Also, the extreme sexism. Strangers telling your little girl that she should not "Growl" while playing lion at the playground because little girls should always have pretty faces. Strangers telling you that you're buying your daughter a "boy" toy if you are buying her tools at the toystore. How do you convince people to leave you the hell alone and shut the hell up?  Thank you. :)

girl its not only you who is culture shock here in Romania. As you said the old ladies here are so annoying... like they talk a lot and doesnt mind there own biz. Well I think this oldies are the remain of the comunist era. Me myself I have a very worst experience with my Mother in Law. God forgive me... She is the worst old woman I have ever encounter in my life. So girl you I mean YOU are not alone.

Thank you for the sweet message! I guess I just needed to gripe. Actually, your message really helped. At least I can run home and escape; none of them are my mother-in-law! Bless you for your strength! Xoxo

We all have to vent sometimes. My problem is not having anyone to have a gripe session with. Just about personality clashes, not because they're Romanian , just because some people are a pain in the butt and I have no one to whine to. My circle is small. The personal politics are hazy. The real politics are annoying and many of my acquaintances are involved in politics and I don't want to alienate anyone.   
But at the end of the day it's their country, their culture, their politics, their traditions. And I chose to be here. It is my responsibility to adjust, adapt, and accommodate.

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