Today Lily told me, "get together all your 'lingerie,' I'm doing the wash" Me: "Sorry, what?" She: "lingerie, you know the things you cover your bed with," and she pointed to a pile of sheets next to the washing machine. No one ever told me the word for sheets in Romanian sounds just like lingerie. Such things are good to know...
I've decided to compile a list of strange things I've experienced (or seen) in Romania:
1. Bread in plastic bags. My gazda in ploiesti and my gazda here in Lugoj both use plastic bags to store bread. They put a bunch of loaves in the bag and hang it off a door knob or something. The problem is the bread tends to get stale.
2. No shower curtains. The majority of showers here lack shower curtains. I had to learn how to shower with out getting water all over the bathroom floor.
3. Cashiers don't enjoy giving change, probably because they often don't have sufficient change. If you can't pay the exact amount, they might look at you, annoyed and perhaps slightly angered. For this reason I'm always afraid to pay for something like a bottle of water with a big bill; I don't want to make the cashier mad at me. It's also common for the cashier to give you candy or gum if they don't have the appropriate coins. Someday I might try paying in candy and see what happens...
4. "Curent." Romanians, at least the older generation, tend to hate being exposed to wind. They believe it causes illness, toothe aches or ear aches. You'll often see people walking about town with cotton stuffed in their ears to prevent the 'curent' from entering (sometimes they use garlic). While riding on trains or in cars, it's often seen as a bad thing to have the windows open. For many people, it's preferable to sweat in the uncomfortable heat than get an ear ache.
5. Ketchup on Pizza. This struck me as odd the first time I heard about it. Romanians enjoy their pizza with a wide variety of ketchups, from spicy to sweet (I'd never seen so many varieties of ketchup till I came here).
6. People ask for the time all the time. On any given day, I can't seem to avoid being stopped on the street by someone wondering what time it is. I've also that noticed public clocks tend to run fast in this town (if they work at all), but people treat them as if they're accurate. I've been "late" to a couple meetings because of this (a popular place for meeting is under the electric clock in the town center, which runs about 10 minutes fast).
7. Many people count on their fingers starting with their thumb. So, for example, one is represented by an extended thumb; two is a thumb and the pointer finger; three is a thumb, pointer and middle finger; and so on...
8. I've witnessed (3 times now) people painting their homes long after sunset. This one really has me stumped. There was one occasion when I was walking home at about 11pm and happened to see a fellow on a ladder painting under the eaves (without a lamp, mind you). I was puzzled, till I saw this again at another house in a different part of town (on two separate occasions). Then I couldn't help but be perplexed. There's no other explanation for what these men were doing. I mean, they each had a can of paint and a brush. Could this be some sort of benign vandalism? The infamous, but little-feared "Eaves Painting Gang?"
9. While waiting in line to pay bills, buy a train ticket etc., I've noticed that people queue up at an oblique angle to the counter, rather than making a perpendicular line. Being accustomed to queues coming straight out from the counter/window, it took me a while to get used to "slanted" lines. It seemed at first that people were trying to cut in front of me because I'd stand more or less straight in line with the server window, and other clients would approach from the side. I've come to realize, however, that they weren't cutting; it's just that our queuing styles were clashing. Also, with regards to waiting in lines, I've noticed that people tend to stand really close to each other-- so close that an American might think his personal space was being invaded. Perhaps this is a tactic to prevent people from cutting in line?