And people say we Gypsy around! LOL
Who are the gypsies? Well you can read the wikipedia article but it isn’t all that informative. If you’re going to visit Romania, you need to know who the gypsies are.
The legal, politically correct name is “romany” people (rromi in Romanian) which sounds almost exactly like “Romanian” (romani in Romanian) and confuses the hell out of everybody so everyone just calls them “gypsies”. Apparently the peasants in Europe a long time ago thought they were from Egypt (LOL!) so in almost all languages (including English and Romanian) the name “gypsy” comes from a contraction of the word “Egyptian”.
Gypsies are apparently all over the place in Europe (and the USA somewhat) but many thousands of years ago they decided Romania was the bestest and most funnest place to live so about 90% of them live here in Romania. Why? Nobody knows! Quit asking questions like that!
All throughout “Eastern” Europe and the Balkans there are many nationalities, ethnicities and sub-groups of ethnicities, many of whom you’ve never probably never even heard of. If you walk around with your ignorant, tourist eyes you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between them.
EXCEPT for the gypsies. The gypsies always stand out because the gypsies are both a separate “ethnicity” and a separate culture. Gypsies have their own way of doing absolutely everything and I do mean everything. They live in their own special places and do things their own special way and dress in their own special way and that’s just how it is.
Note: During World War 2 both Hitler AND Stalin tried to completely kill every last gypsy. Didn’t work. All the other dictators in Europe tried it too. They’re unstoppable. Just accept it.
Even though I know almost nothing about gypsies, I’m going to give you a crash course in identifying gypsies. All terms are completely my own invention, btw, so don’t quote this in the footnotes of your scholarly paper or the teacher will bust you for being an idiot LOL
Westerners, particularly USAmericans, have a very bizarre notion of what gypsies are. For instance, if you’re vaguely into “hippy” or “New Age” things and are female, calling yourself (or being called) a gypsy is some kind of compliment. It means you’re free! You’re a noble spirit, floating on the wind, unchained by crass modern limitations! You look like this!
REAL gypsies are totally different LOL so pay attention.
Gypsies are organized into tribes and are usually identifiable at a distance by their dress:
Cowboy gypsies – Especially popular in Transylvania. They wear a lot of black leather vests and large, black leather gypsy hats. They don’t actually work with cows though so don’t get confused!
Note: For some reason, most male cowboy gypsies refuse to drive a car or a wagon or anything else. So the oldest and most powerful (male) cowboy gypsy rides up front in the passenger side.
Rainbow gypsies – If you’re a woman you must wear a super mega colorful skirt (never pants). You must wear an equally super mega colorful shirt. Third, you must wear a super mega colorful head scarf OR braid your incredibly long hair with mega colorful braids. ALL ITEMS MUST BE OF DIFFERENT COLORS. This is the law for rainbow gypsies!
Manelisti gypsies – These ones can confuse you if you’re not prepared. They are fans of manele music (see my post here) and therefore, by gypsy law, listen to it 24 hours a day. If they’re out and about in the streets, usually they have their telephone playing manele music through its one tinny speaker.
Male version – Dresses in track suits (if wealthier) or knock-off jeans. Usually has gel in the hair. A large thick gold chain around the neck is preferred.
Female version – Knock-off jeans and cheap Chinese shoes as well as a t-shirt or other shirt with incomprehensible English language words on it. Abundant (usually cheap) jewelry is preferred. Rarely wears skirts or dresses. If they’re indoors (aka at a club) listening to manele, their clothes must be as skin tight as possible.
Italian Mafia gypsies – They’re not actually Italian or in some kind of genuine “mafia” but they dress like they are. Cheap suits and overly tight shirts that barely restrain their beer bellies.
Note: All “Italian mafia” gypsy boys over the age of 8 wear the full regalia, the suit, the business shoes, etc.
Filthy Vagrant gypsies – Literally as filthy as possible, wearing any kind of ragged clothes, be it more traditional Romanian woolen clothes or else 1986 Superbowl Shuffle Chicago Bears t-shirts that even God himself doesn’t know how they got a hold of. Stains of all kinds are fine, both on clothes as well as on their face and/or body. Showers and washing are to be abstained from at ALL TIMES.
Ok now that you can identify the gypsies, time to know when and where you will encounter them.
First Iron Rule of Gypsies – they never work indoors. NEVER. As in never, ever, never. Therefore they will all be making their money in some kind of way where they don’t have to sit indoors inside a maze of cubicles and listen to soft jazz and type under fluorescent lights.
So how do gypsies survive? If you’re considering becoming a gypsy, what career options are option to you?
Flower seller – Gypsies pretty much have cornered the market on selling flowers. Sometimes they do this at an established spot (like in the market) or sometimes just on a random street corner. Sometimes the flowers are roses or other flowers you’d be happy to buy for your wife/girlfriend and other times the “flowers” are some kind of plant that looks like they just ripped it out of the dirt from alongside the train tracks two minutes ago.
Note: this job is mainly performed by female Rainbow or Filthy Vagrant gypsies.
Manual Labor – Anything from literally digging ditches to re-tiling your roof to cleaning gutters to paving streets to construction work. Sometimes it’s fairly skilled work but usually it’s not.
Note: this job is for male Filthy Vagrant gypsies only.
True fact: Nicolae Guta, before becoming the (ex) King of all Romanians, spent eight years digging ditches in Petrosani.
Spoon Carver – All traditional Romanian recipes can only be made with the use of a wooden spoon. True fact. And therefore there are people whose sole job is to sit at home and whittle spoons and then stuff them into a plastic bag and hawk them on the street. If you are a tourist in Romania, you really should buy one ;)
Note: selling wooden spoons is for male Filthy Vagrant or Manelisti gypsies only. I don’t know who carves them though.
Musician/Singer – This is the best-paying line of work for a gypsy (see my post on Nicolae Guta). You can form your own band and play either manele or muzica lautareasca and make tons of money singing at weddings, festivals or making videos for TV.
Note: you must be an Italian Mafia gypsy in good standing to be a manele musician/singer.
Note: while female Italian Mafia gypsies can become manele singers, only male gypsies can become manele musicians. Why? Quit asking questions, that’s why!
Fruit/Vegetable seller – You get to stand behind an enormous pile of vegetables and/or fruits at the market. The food you’re selling may or may not come from your own actual farm and be food you’ve grown.
Note: for female Filthy Vagrant gypsies only.
Note: Once a year when the watermelon harvest is in, sometimes you get to move to another town for a few weeks and sleep and live next to your enormous pile of watermelons as you desperately try to peddle them in the baking summer sun.
Gold dealer – Gypsies have been around forever so they don’t trust any modern currencies – only gold (just like these guys LOL). Therefore they’re always wheeling and dealing in gold, whether chains, necklaces, medallions or other sundry bits of jewelry. In any large town in Romania there’s usually a 24-hour non-stop gold dealer just for this very purpose.
Note: one of the few gypsy jobs where both male and females of every variety are involved with in some form or fashion.
Scrap metal recycler – Go around town from place to place, collecting old scrap metal of all kinds and then hauling it to the recycler for cash. Sometimes the metal isn’t quite “scrap” as you are allowed to pry metal off of just about everywhere, including manhole covers LOL
If you’re super poor, you have to do this by hauling a flimsy cart (or possibly a bicycle) around town, overburdened with too much scrap. If you’re a little richer, you can use your horse and wagon to do it.
Note: for male Filthy Vagrant gypsies only.
Leather coat peddler – Much like the flower seller above, you walk up and down the street, peddling leather coats (for men).
Note: this job is for female Rainbow gypsies only.
Rambo knife and/or fishing gear peddler – Same as above. Why only women sell these products is a mystery to one and all.
Perfume peddler – Same as above.
Note: sometimes the perfume is heavily watered down. Sometimes it’s a cheap Chinese knockoff. Good business though as Romanians LOVE perfume. Love, love, love it!
Pickpocket – A very, very skilled profession and you’re likely to never know it happened to you until after they’re long gone. I was pickpocketed once and it’s a funny story I wrote about here.
Note: this job is restricted to male Manelisti gypsies.
Note: Gypsies are champion thieves but never, ever robbers. What’s the difference? It means they’ll steal anything not tied down but never use force to rob you.
Beggar – Roam around the streets, begging and pleading for money. It requires extreme persistence and learning to “never say never”. If you can learn to never give up in the face of adversity, curses and occasional spitting, this might be the job for you!
Note: Mostly children have cornered this market but there are opportunities for adults as well, especially if you can feign or show some kind of hideous deformity. Available for Filthy Vagrant gypsies only, naturally.
Fortune Teller – Probably one of the few things “in the movies” they got right about actual, real gypsies. Only there’s not some nice, friendly lady with a neon sign of a palm hanging outside her window in her home. No way.
Real gypsy fortune tellers (Romanian: ghicitoara literally meaning “the guesser”) are creepy, eerily accurate women who stare into your soul and tell you things you don’t want to know. Really don’t want to know.
Note: this job is for female gypsies only.
Stolen electronics peddler – One of the few sales jobs open to male gypsies, particularly Cowboy gypsies. If someone tries to sell you a video camera for only 20 euros, you know where it came from! LOL
11 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT ROMANIANS AND GYPSIES
1- All Romanians hate gypsies, spit on them, never have anything nice to say about them at all and constantly pray they all die. Even the most tolerant Romanians are just that, barely tolerant of gypsies.
2- Even if you see a very beautiful Rainbow gypsy with lovely braided hair and a colorful skirt you must never, ever, ever compliment them to your Romanian friends. They (the Romanian friends) will hate you forever and ever.
3- Romanians who don’t know you will NEVER EVER talk to you or pass the time of day with you or otherwise act like you’re alive. Gypsies on the other hand are chatty, cheerful people and will be glad to talk to you. If you’re lost and need directions, ask a gypsy!
4- Romanians constantly bitch about how wealthy gypsy singers and musicians are but they simultaneously acknowledge their musical genius and hire them for weddings and festivals and pay them large sums of cash to do so LOL.
5- Gypsies (almost) never mind having their picture taken and will grin and mug for the camera with no problem. Romanians are surly and suspicious of such activity.
6- Rich Romanians live in beautiful houses. Rich gypsies live in bizarrely beautiful houses with ornate roofs and window holes but no glass in the windows. It’s like “semi-indoors” living LOL
7- Romanians constantly curse and bewail the fact that gypsies are thieves but then they (Romanians) will gladly buy stolen electronic goods from the self-same gypsies.
8- Romanians and gypsies share the same religion but nobody will ever tell you that or admit it could possibly be true.
9- Romanians are sometimes monolingual (speaking just one language). Gypsies on the other hand are masters of multiple languages (including their own gypsy language) and could probably kick Noam Chomsky’s ass in a linguistic showdown.
10- If you ever see a “Romanian” outside of Romania, ie in Italy or Spain or somewhere, chances are about 99% certain that they’re actually a gypsy (from Romania) rather than a Romanian (as in an ethnic non-gypsy Romanian).
11- Romanians can be loud at times but gypsies are ALWAYS louder. If it’s possible to shout out an entire conversation, they’ll do it. If the volume on the stereo goes to 11, it will be cranked to 11. Louder = better for gypsies.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!