Based on my last post and several other blog entries I’ve found as well as actually running into a heck of a lot of tourists over the years, I can tell you I often see one thing in common.
This is the encounter known as the “rude Romanian” or as I call it, One More WTF Experience (OMWTFE) in this sometimes bizarre country.
I want you to imagine a light switch. Can you see it in your mind? Well either it’s flipped on or else it’s flipped off. In Romania, that’s how it is in terms of friendliness. Every single Romanian person will treat you in one of those two ways.
All Romanians want to be friendly but being friendly is something they keep in short supply. If for some reason you get in on the “good list” then you’re in but until then you’re on the outside.
In the Romanian language this is how you greet a total stranger:
Sa nu va suparati
This is the “equivalent” to the English expression, “excuse me” but the literal words are please do not be angry.
Another common Romanian greeting:
sa fiti amabil – literally please be friendly
And last but not least:
sa nu va deranjati – literally may you not be bothered
Although this may seem “harsh” what it is actually is a cultural cue telling you that when approaching strangers, be polite. I swear to freaking goodness that this really goes a long way with people here and it’ll make you feel good to boot ;)
Beyond that, the second most important thing is to learn the power of the Scolding of Righteousness. I see too many damn tourists who look like slow moving prey and then get caught up in some kind of bind, given extremely poor service or else ripped off outright.
I am here to tell you there is absolutely no use for timidity in these situations! A good Scolding of Righteousness will get you out of nearly any kind of jam. It’s important to do it the right way (see my other posts) but once you’ve mastered the technique you’ll never get effed over in Romania (again).
Christ, the saddest rip-off or I guess most disturbing tourist story I ever heard was from the mouth of a man I once met on vacation here. He was quite noticeably a tourist for the simple fact that a) he was speaking American English and b) he was completely legless. As in he’s the torso and up, scooting down the street on a skateboard.
Nice guy and so was the girl he was traveling with. Actually he told me the most hilarious story of how he had been skateboarding all over Europe from France straight on through Bosnia. Everywhere he goes, people constantly give him money or free rides or other acts of generosity. I was heartily laughing because I had just paid for his drinks, presumably from the same instinct.
Then he gets to Romania and he’s tootling along riding down the tracks on some fine CFR Railways when the conductor pulls a fit on him and badgers the crap out of him. Finally the dude had to pay 30 lei to bribe the conductor to leave him alone.
Oh lord, so I’m sitting there talking to him, listening to this story wondering wtf was that. Then I ask him to show me his ticket and I realize he has a effing child’s ticket. Oh mercy!
The lady who sold him the ticket must’ve felt sorry for him so sold him the child’s ticket (which is much cheaper) because he was the size of a child. The male conductor on the other hand took one look at his beard and said midgets pay full price.
Basically I told you that story to tell you that in Romania you got to pipe up and not expect a mint on your fluffy pillow. Romanians can be extremely surly, fussy, fuss budgety, nagging, churlish, mendacious and downright cunning at times. But they’re all craving a good tongue lashing.
In fact, if one were to go out on an anthropological limb for a moment :P one could say that the entire power structure of Romanian society is who can give whom a good tongue lashing.
People’s Exhibit A, Your Honor
Middle of summer, down at the city water park in town. There are about three immense swimming pools all within a few feet of each other with hundreds of people clambering around and splashing and swimming and jumping in.
At the central pool right in front of us, two little girls came across a third little girl who was smaller and younger. They began to try to convince the smallest one to jump in the pool but she heavily resisted. Then she began to scream and scream until it was quite a serious scream indeed. But the two bigger girls still were trying to throw her in the pool.
Then the lifeguard turns and angrily yells:
Esti nesanatos la cap!
Which meant “you’re sick in the head” (literally: you are unhealthy in head).
Anyway the third thing to remember is that Romanians have major inferiority complexes and get all weird and repressed inside in crazy or odd circumstances so the more different you are than they are, the more freaked out they get.
Speaking only English can seriously flip out some Romanians, especially if they feel compelled to have to talk to you back in English as well. A whole lot of fast talking English can stress out Romanians so freaking slow down when you speak it.
A little bit of vocabulary goes a long way here, comprende? This will go an extremely long way. And also it increases YOUR experience because you can begin to understand what the frig is going on all around you.
PS speaking Spanish isn’t gonna do you one whit of good. Reading might but only a little.
So let’s review the plan!
- You be polite!
- Stand up for yourself using my patented technique :P
- Speakee the Englee more slowlee
- Ease up on the chatter
- Learn some romaneste
- Quit smiling like a loon
Oh yeah really, smiling is too much. Wait until you’re on someone’s good side before smiling your ass off. Otherwise it looks like you’re saying, “I’m an escaped mental patient with money” and that’s not a good foot to put forward first.
Oh and on a final note, which I’ll go into more in depth later, ease up on the fear of violence. Romanians might pinch your titty in a club but they’re not going to shoot you, stab you or flop you in a bathtub full of ice and cut out your liver.
I promise! :P