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:
|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|
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)|
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.
- 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
- 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).
- Young children
- Punk ass teenagers
- Someone who is the age of your own (adult) children, or younger
- 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:
|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|
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)
- 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!