Meeting and Greeting in Romania


As I mentioned in my post on dealing with rudeness and getting good service, it’s very important to be polite in this country.

One of the most important things to know is how to greet people.

The first thing is to know the three “time of the day” openers. Although I am going to give you the translations below, in effect, all of these combined are just the way Romanians say “hello” and are a generic greeting:

  • Buna dimineata – boo-nah dee-me-KNOT-za – Good morning
  • Buna ziua – boo-nah zee-wah – Good day
  • Buna seara – boo-nah seAH-rah – Good evening

When these times actually exist:

Time Period Romanian
Anywhere from after midnight to roughly 10-11 am Buna dimineata
All day until it starts to get dark Buna ziua
From dark until about midnight Buna seara

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There is a fourth greeting – “noapte buna” (nwop-tay boo-nah) which means “goodnight” and is only said when the person in question is going to sleep.

Let’s take these “hello” greetings for a test run:

Scene Time of Day Greeting
To a store clerk at 8:00 am Buna dimineata
Get in a taxi at noon Buna ziua
Pass an old neighbor you know at 9:00 pm Buna seara
Buy a bottle of water at 3:00 pm Buna ziua
Enter a restaurant at 11:30 am Buna ziua
At a hotel reception desk at 6:00 pm Buna ziua (if light out)/buna seara (if dark)

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Note: Any time you can use the correct time of day greeting in any formal situation, do so.

Like many languages, Romanian has both a formal and informal set of ways to indicate what your social relationship is to the person you are addressing. In Spanish this is tu and usted, Italian tu and lei, etcetera.

Therefore it’s important to know when to use the formal and when to use the informal. The good news is that Romanians are not ultra huffy sticklers for when to use which form of address but you’ll ruffle a lot fewer feathers if you get the hang of doing it the right way.

As you might expect, whenever you’re in doubt just use the formal.

Formal Relationships:

  • Anyone 20 years older than you or more
  • Your romantic partner’s parents
  • Anyone working for the government
  • Anyone you have a professional relationship with
  • Any clerk, waitress, bartender or other employee
  • Neighbors
  • Any stranger who is not a young child or a gypsy

It’s very important to understand that (in order to be polite) you must greet anyone with a “hello” in the proper way when you speak to them. This includes people in stores (shops) or taxi drivers or anyone you have a “commercial” relationship with.

If you do not have a commercial or other kind of relationship with them and they are total strangers, like someone you’re stopping on the street to ask for directions, it is not necessary to say “hello”, but only to use the phrase “excuse me” (see my last post on how to do that).

Informal Relationships:

  • Young children
  • Punk ass teenagers
  • Someone who is the age of your own (adult) children, or younger
  • Gypsies
  • Your romantic partner
  • Your friends
  • The friends of your friends
  • Work colleagues who are at the same pay level as you
  • Anyone you’re flirting with

Now that you know the difference, let’s look at some informal greetings or ways to say “hello”:

  • Servus (only in Transylvania by Romanians and by Hungarians everywhere)
  • Ciao – (mostly only in the Banat)
  • Buna – (any time of day)
  • ‘Neatza – (knot-za, short form of buna dimineata)

Now let’s mix and match the two together:

Scene Greeting
Walk into a museum at 3:00 pm Buna ziua
You see your friend Farkas in a Hungarian village Servus
Your good buddy Pete calls you on the phone Buna
You wake up your lazy boyfriend ‘Neatza
You run into your friend Cristi in a park in Timisoara Ciao
Turning a corner, you bump into your friend Vlad from Chisinau, whom you haven’t seen in a while Превед Медвед! :P

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If all that seems complicated, the good news is that saying goodbye is super easy.

The formal way is always the same: la revedere (lah-ray-vay-day-ray)

Again, as with all formal relationships, including commercial ones, if you want to be polite it is obligatory to say goodbye. It might seem weird to say “goodbye” to your taxi driver but that is how it is done here.

Please don’t freak out about this because these greetings are for people you actually speak to. If you enter a store and put a candy bar on the counter and she rings you up and you hand over money and you don’t speak then none of this buna ziua stuff comes into play.

Likewise you don’t need to say “la revedere” to the lady who just sold you a bus ticket either. But with taxi drivers and waitresses (amongst others), well you’ve been speaking to them during the course of your commercial transaction so the whole “hello/goodbye” thing does come into play.

Furthermore, since all telephone conversations count as speaking (duh), using “hello/goodbye” is similarly mandatory to be polite, especially in formal situations. This means if you call to order a pizza you say “la revedere” before you hang up.

Saying “goodbye” in Romanian for informal relationships is again variable:

  • Servus – (Transylvania Romanians and Hungarians again)
  • Ciao
  • Pa
  • Szia – (see-ah – Hungarians only)

One other thing to note is that when answering the telephone, Romanians have one additional informal greeting, which is alo?, sort of like saying AH-low.

Hungarians likewise answer their phone (informally) with szia (see-ah).

All telephone goodbyes are the same as listed above.

Again, all of the above about greetings is how to be polite in this country. It is not, however, in any way mandatory if politeness isn’t your goal. I see and hear Romanians every day speak to each other with very little politeness at all.

That being said, politeness goes a long way here and I truly mean that. If you comport yourself as a polite gentleman/lady that will be of enormous help in receiving better service and treatment here.

After I had been in Romania a while I noticed that I had become a lot politer when speaking to people, primarily because I had learned this kind of rote way to greet people and yet Romanians around me were shouting “auzi?” to get the attention of the waitress, which means “hey you hear me?” and sounds unbelievably disrespectful.

This worked to my advantage precisely because most Romanians feel there is a chronic shortage of politeness and good comportment in this country and so therefore most people are quite appreciative of a polite interaction.

Using these few phrases will open quite a lot of doors for you in Romania so they are worth memorizing. That, my friends, is my advice to you.

AND NOW YOU KNOW! PA!

10 Comments Add yours

  1. R says:

    la revedere = la rayvaydayray??? seriously doubt that

    Like

    1. Doubt it or not, that’s the crudely phonetic way of saying it.

      Like

  2. Daniel says:

    Very perceptive about the language. It’s incredibly important to get the right time of day.

    Sometimes when I used “good morning” at noon or “good day” at twilight I got scolded or frowned at. People expect you to know the time of day and can become very grumpy if you get it wrong.

    What actually baffled me is that even though we learn things like “good morning”, “good day”, “good afternoon”, “good evening” at school when we learn English, NOONE uses them (as far as native speakers go). Everyone seems to think that “hello” or “hi” is good for any setting or situation, including very formal ones. It takes a while getting used to.

    Oh, and by the way, I always thought that “Buna” is for female-to-female or male-to-female interactions, and “Salut” is for male-to-male interactions only. I wonder how much of that is true and how much of my own design.

    Like

  3. Anca says:

    What’s always struck me about the Romanian language and the interaction between Romanians, is that it’s at the same time both incredibly formal/polite and incredibly familiar/intimate/informal.

    Like

  4. Hahaha says:

    Hahaha….How often is it used? =) Also, wtf is medved??????? =?

    =)

    Like

  5. Hahaha says:

    Hm…”Alo?”…lol…This reminds me of “Alo, salut, sunt eu un haiduc” XD Do ppl ever use “salut”? =? =)

    Like

    1. Sam R. says:

      Yes they do :D

      Like

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