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Romania Customs & Etiquettes


Romania is a hierarchical society where age and position are respected. Older people are viewed as wise since they have earned life experience. Romanians expect the most senior person, by age or position, to make decisions that are in the best interest of the group. Titles are very important and denote respect. It is expected that you will use a person's title and their surname until invited to use their first name.

Romanians are formal and reserved with a strong need for privacy. Most do not trust strangers readily. They are generally shy and quiet when you first meet and admire modesty and humility in themselves and others. Once you develop a personal relationship Romanians will open up slightly. Although always polite, they seldom move to a first-name basis with people outside their extended family or very close friends.

The family is the foundation of the social structure and forms the basis of stability for most people. The individual derives a social network and assistance in times of need from their family. Families are patriarchal. The father is the head of the family.

If visiting churches or monasteries, try at the very least to wear clothing that covers your full torso and extends to cover your shoulders and knees (sometimes if you do not you will be forced to put on a cloak or wrap skirt). Ideally you wear full length skirts or trousers. Orthodox women will have scarves to cover their hair inside churches but this is generally not expected of tourist women. Obviously you should behave in a quiet respectful manner inside religious buildings.

Refrain from observations, whether by ignorance or indifference, that Romanian is a Slavic language or even related to Hungarian, Turkish or Albanian.

Romanians also don't appreciate when foreigners assume incorrectly that Romania was part of either the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, although it was a member of the Eastern Bloc. Also, while the principalities of Wallachia and Moldova did indeed pay tributary sums to the Turks for several centuries, they were never part of the Ottoman Empire, unlike all of their neighbours. Knowing even these basic facts about Romanian history (and knowing to avoid the popular misconceptions) will go a long way should any conversation on the subject arise. And although Transylvania has been a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the population is now overwhelmingly Romanian. Avoid this discussion as much as possible as there are still historic ethnic animosities between the Romanians and Hungarians, most recently amplified because of the false perception that ethnic Hungarians are in a conspiracy to secede from the rest of the country.

Another very offensive misconception, is making no difference between the Romanian population and the Roma people/gypsies. Romanians are a different ethnic group from them. Confusing these two can offend a lot of people because there is still a lot of prejudice towards the Roma people.

Meeting & Greeting

Initial greetings are formal and reserved: a handshake, direct eye contact, and the appropriate greeting for the time of day. Some older Romanians kiss a woman's hand when meeting them. Foreign men are not expected to kiss a Romanian woman's hand. Close friends may kiss and hug each other when they meet. When kissing, expect to kiss twice, once on each cheek starting with the left cheek. Allow your Romanian friends to determine when your relationship has reached this level of intimacy.

People are addressed by their honorific title ("Domnul" for Mr. and "Doamna" for Mrs.) and their surname. Friends may address each other using the honorific title and the first name. Only close friends and family members use the first name without appending the honorific title.

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