When studying a language or travelling abroad, it’s indicated both to know some useful sentences that might help you throughout your explorations and to catch a glimpse of the culture you’re just discovering. Let’s imagine, for instance, that you have been relocated for work in Romania and you’ve been living here for the last couple of weeks. You have recently made some Romanian friends, and one of them has invited you to his place to have dinner with him and his family. Even though we live in the 21st century and the concept of globalization is something that we are all aware of, there are some Dos and Don’ts:

1. Be there on time, but don’t take the appointed hour as gospel

Some of us like to brag about the fact that punctuality is a value , that in most of the cases we arrive on time for an appointment whether we go to the doctor’s, hairdresser’s, work etc. However, this is only in theory. We have something called “sfertul academic”, i.e. if your meeting starts at 5.00PM, please expect people to arrive between 5.00 PM and 5.15 PM. Moreover, when you go to somebody’s place, you should see 5 PM more like a guideline, your host will be quite surprised if you get there at 5 sharp. A 5.15 hasn’t hurt anybody yet and it will give your hosts time to see if they overlooked anything.

2. We enjoy small gifts

Small gifts are optional, but we are very happy when we receive them. It signals us not only that you are generous and caring but it also shows your gratitude. Obviously, we don’t expect a Rolls Royce, but a bouquet of flowers – there must be an odd number of flowers, we associate bouquets with an even numbers with death, cemetery and funerals- or a box of chocolates are appreciated, particularly if there are women in the house. It is very thoughtful of the guest to offer some sweets to the children, if there are any.

3. We like compliments!

Romanians are well known for their hospitality, especially when they receive you in their home. Most of us do our best to make our host comfortable, even though this could include moving furniture or obsessively cleaning the house beforehand.  Hence, don’t forget to compliment them on their house, as soon as you arrive.

4. No shoes policy

As strange as it sounds, we take our shoes off immediately after our arrival. Even if you are a foreigner, the lady of the house may have spent at least a good couple of hours to do the cleaning, so it’s commonsense to take off your shoes. Don’t worry, you’ll receive the best available slippers. :)

5. The food

Generally speaking, we love food as much as we love talking. Please expect a main course, second course and a dessert. It’s very important for your host to receive compliments about the dishes, as they’re most probably home made. Additionally, it’s mandatory to finish at least most of the dish before you move to another, otherwise you might offend someone. Consequently, it’s best for you to come with an empty stomach and an open heart!

6. Conversation

We discussed about compliments, but what happens next? We all hate awkward silences, even more when we are among strangers and we try to make a good impression. As you should know by now, we resemble cats in terms of curiosity. Thus, we are eager to find out everything about you, or at least what you wish to share. We also tend to ask a lot of questions in order to encourage you to open up. For us, sharing is caring, so don’t be shy to talk all you want. In contrast with other nations, we discuss a lot of politics, largely at the table; even though we’re reluctant to admit, we’re complainers and even unintentionally we could turn a small talk into a conversation about socio-politics or economy. It’s advisable not to interfere or criticize, because there is a fat chance you’ll offend us involuntarily. Instead, we enjoy listening to funny stories about yourself or just tell us things about your culture, you’ll take us from our daily topics of conversation to a whole new world.

7. When to leave

You ate, talked, what’s next? Well, it obviously depends on the people you’re visiting, but mainly there are two ways to go: you could be invited to have a drink- you have to wash down all that food with something, don’t you?- or you could continue having a nice little chit chat and then off you go. In any case, it’s very rude for you to leave immediately after you’ve finished the dessert, you’ll give the wrong impression that you’ve only gone there to eat and that you didn’t enjoy the company. My best bet would be on staying for approximately 30-40 minutes after dinner, because if you stay too long, they will think that “God forgot you there”.  Yes, there is a Romanian expression – “ L-a uitat Dumnezeu” -about people who make the mistake of prolonging their visit for too long.

I really hope that this article helped you understand better our mentality regarding this common matter and also that you’ll be prepared to be spoiled with some new delicious dishes. Last but not least, thank again for the hospitality and  wish everybody a good night. Good luck!

Autor: Cristina Vasile

Cristina Vasile este absolventă a Facultăţii de Limbi şi Literaturi Străine, specializarea Limba şi Literatura EnglezăLimba şi Literatura Germană, din cadrul Universităţii Bucureşti.

În cadrul Centrului de Limbi Străine A_BEST, Cristina Vasile predă cursuri de limba engleză şi cursuri de limba germană, limbaj general/ business/ mixt, reuşind să adapteze cu succes cunoştinţele transmise la mediul de lucru al cursanţilor.