Customs & Etiquette
- Romanians are friendly and open and foreigners are usually made very welcome. Chatting with visitors is very common for Romanians and they will find a way to communicate with you even if they cannot speak your language.
- Older people particularly appreciate old-fashioned politeness. It is respectful to use Mrs. or Mr. when using the name of a person that you just meet.
- Handshaking is the most common form of greeting. When a Romanian man is introduced to a woman, he will probably kiss her hand, strictly avoiding her eyes.
- If one refuses what a host offers to eat or drink, this will often be taken as a polite refusal by guest who really means to say “yes”. If you want to refuse the offer find a polite excuse and say it firmly or ask for a replacement.
- It is common to linger once the meal (luch or dinner) is over.
- When visiting someone at home bring a small gift. Most common gifts include flowers or chocolate (for women only), a bottle of wine or liquor.
- The number of flowers that one offers must always be odd.
- All gifts should be wrapped, but many Romanians might not unwrap their gifts in your presence.
- In Romania as in many Latin countries life is lived at a more relaxed pace. Normal European courtesies should be followed on social occasions. Although casual dress is fine in most occasions, wearing a suit and tie, or the women’s equivalent, is important at business meetings.
- Appointments are necessary and punctuality is expected.
- It is not considered impolite to ask a person’s age, politics, income or religion, so don’t take such questions amiss.
Crime and Safety
- Bucharest’s crime rate is low in comparison to other European capital cities.
- Petty crime is more common, particularly pickpocketing on the city’s public transport network.
- A few things you need to be careful about:
- Petty thieves and pickpockets. They operate especially in crowded areas and in buses. Subways are safer because they have guards on the train. Keep eyes and hands on your wallets and purses when in a crowd.
- Taxi drivers. Call a cab using one of the mobile apps or take one of the taxi companies recommended. Make sure the price is right and the driver starts the counter before moving. Have small bills available.
- Scams. Don’t buy things or exchange money from people offering it on the street. If you see people who seem to be in trouble, call 112 and report the emergency because it could be a scam.
- Beggars. They are almost always part of an organized network. Don’t give them money.
- Traffic. Because of poor infrastructure of public transportation, traffic, specifically, can be an absolute nightmare and many tourists may be surprised to learn that Romania has the worst safety statistics in Europe.
- Speedy drivers. Look around before crossing the streets; some drivers are very impatient and might even go through the red light. You need to be careful.
- Romania was a member of the communist block before 1990.
- Expats and foreigners can expect to find much in Romania that may initially seem strange and may inspire a fair degree of culture shock.
- That said, there are more and more expats substantiating that the challenges faced when adjusting to the way of life in this Eastern European nation are diminishing, as compared to the past.
- Foreigners should keep in mind that culturally, many locals are guarded, and sometimes seem abrupt or rude. This should always be taken with a pinch of salt, as most Romanians are warm, friendly and welcoming once you’ve gotten past their hard exteriors.
- The largest degree of culture shock in Romania mostly comes from the country’s absurd bureaucracy, corruption and poor infrastructure.
- Language barrier in Romania
- The official language of the country is Romanian, a Latin language linked to French, Italian and Spanish and seasoned with some Slavic influences. The second most widely spoken language is Hungarian, a language more common to Transylvania than to any other region of Romania.
- Foreigners will find that in major cities good English speakers are easy to come by, and are often eager to help, guide you on your way or even to walk with you for a while. Furthermore, expat English speakers will be able to complete basic transactions, like grocery shopping or opening a bank account, with as little knowledge of Romanian.
- This is not the case in small towns or tiny villages though, where the level of English proficiency notably declines.
Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs and Prostitution
- Best known internationally for its cheap yet good wine, Romania also offers some decent beer and very strong spirits:tuica, palinca, visinata.
- Although smoking is forbidden by law in public places, many adults in Romania are smokers and unfortunately, some of those who do smoke have little regard of non-smokers’ comfort.
- This is a ‘zero tolerance’ country. Just do not do it! Penalties are draconian.
- Prostitution is not legal in Romania, so act accordingly.
Tipping is the norm
- The standard tip is 10%, though you can choose to tip more or less depending on your experience.
- Tipping in restaurants/bars/clubs is appropriate in Bucharest. Romanian waiters receive a very small hourly wage because their employers expect that customers will tip them. There are many waiters who expect to be tipped just because this is the norm and don’t understand that tip should be given only in exchange for very good service. Tip only when the people seem to deserve.
- A tip is normally not added onto a restaurant bill.
- Try to tip the taxi drivers, the hairdresser, the valets at the hotel. Not much but any tip will make your stay far more pleasant… 10%-20% will do.
- As ever, taxis should not be hailed from the rank, but called from a reputable company. Prices are obliged to be posted on the door and shouldn’t be more than 1.39 – 3.00 lei/km.Make sure the meter is on before setting off and generally be wary of any other funny business.