Romanian Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • It is impolite to yawn without covering your mouth.
  • When a person sneezes, Romanians often respond with ‘Sanatate’ (Good health) or ‘Noroc’ (Good luck).
  • It is polite to offer one’s seat to an elderly person. Romanians may offer their hand to help an elderly person get out of their seat, offer an arm for them to walk, and hold or open doors for them.
  • Many Romanian men are taught to show chivalry to women (e.g. opening doors and allowing them to enter). Older men may also kiss their women’s hands during greetings, although this is becoming outdated.
  • Remove your hats before entering buildings.
  • It is impolite to chew gum or keep your hands in your pockets while speaking to someone of a higher status.
  • People are expected to dress neatly in a professional setting to show respect for the person they are meeting. Older Romanians may dress more conservatively, ensuring their legs and shoulders are covered.
  • It is common (and even polite) to fight over paying the bill.
  • There is a large tipping culture in Romania. People are expected to tip all service people and even professionals, such as doctors.

 

Visiting

  • Romanians generally enjoy paying one another visits at their homes. People may gather for events such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, as well as for casual socialisation.
  • Visits are usually arranged in advance.
  • Guests are not expected to bring food or drinks when visiting someone’s house. Romanians generally love to host and show off their cooking skills. They may even be annoyed if a guest provides their own food. Similarly, Romanians expect others to provide for them fully when they visit in return.
  • Remove your shoes before entering someone’s home.
  • Hosts usually offer refreshments of some kind, such as tea, coffee, brandy or wine. 
  • It is common to be offered alcohol on casual visits. While they may insist you try a Romanian drink, your counterpart is likely to understand if you can not drink.
  • Do not bring any additional people who are not invited with you. Your Romanian counterpart may feel obliged to cater to them, even if they do not have enough food.
  • Guests should ask the hosts permission if they wish to smoke.
  • Being uncourteous in someone’s house is considered incredibly rude.

 

Eating

  • Romanians are generally very proud of their food and cooking skills. It is important to make an effort to try all the dishes they provide you and show appreciation for the cuisine.
  • Many Romanian dishes have meat in them. Let your Romanian counterpart know if you have dietary requirements in advance.
  • Women usually cook, set the table and clean up after meals while men chat. It is polite to offer to help, although the hostess is likely to refuse.
  • Guests are invited to start eating when the host or head of the table says “Pofta buna” (Good appetite).
  • Toasting is usually a part of formal and informal lunches and dinners. People may toast and say cheers with the term ‘Noroc’ (Good luck).
  • Expect to be offered ‘tuică’ ­– a very popular traditional Romanian alcoholic beverage, usually made from plums. Traditionally, one takes a shot of tuică before starting a meal.
  • Keep your hands visible above the table at all times while eating, and do not rest your elbows on the table.
  • Soup is quite a popular dish in Romania (e.g. Ciorbă, Iskembe, Borsh). It is best to let hot soup cool by itself rather than blowing on it.
  • It is acceptable to soak up the remains of food on your plate with bread provided in casual settings.
  • Expect to be offered second and third servings. If you are full, remember to be courteous and compliment the food while declining the serving. You may have to decline more than once if the host insists out of generosity.
  • Similarly, it is polite to offer to share your food with anyone who is not eating.
  • Try to finish all the food on your plate if possible, especially if it is home-cooked. This shows that you enjoyed and appreciated the meal.
  • Traditionally, at the end of a meal, everyone thanks those who cooked and served it by saying “Sărut mâna pentru masa” (I kiss your hand for the meal) or “Mulţumesc pentru masa” (Thank you for the meal).

 

Gift Giving

  • Gifts are generally opened when received.
  • If giving flowers, the flowers should count to an odd number. An even number of flowers in a bouquet is associated with funerals.
  • A Romanian may offer to pay you in exchange for their gift, or refuse to accept it out of politeness. In this circumstance, refuse their offer and insist that it is a gesture of friendship.
  • It is a nice gesture to bring a gift when visiting someone’s home or attending a dinner party – e.g. flowers, chocolate, liquor or something for children.
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