Monday, August 27, 2007

You Know You're in Romania When...

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?

6 comments:

Mackenzie said...

The Eaves Painting Gang featuring Ketchup Pizza Incident would be good concert. Garlic Curent could be the opening band.

Alessia said...

Wow, so interesting to find out what u foreigners find odd about Romania, as some of those seem so normal for us :)
1.not much to say here, i do the same thing, except i don't hang the bag, i put it in the top kitchen cabinet [ hope it's correct, i mean "dulap de bucatarie"] How do you store bread?
2.Shower curtains- well i don't use them either, i guess that's just the way i was used to
3.The thing with cashiers bothers us as much as it bothers u.They never give change like 10 bani. In Englang for eg they even give change as 1pence.Btw: have u tried paying in gum :D ?
4.Have you really seen people with garlic in their ears?=)))
5.I guess the reason for this is that,here, pizza only became popular somewhere in the late 80`s. and usually not containing so many ingredients and not so much tomato sauce,maybe they feel to feel the gap with lots of ketchup,lol. i don't add extra ketchup, but many people i know, do.
6.This country probably has some stressed people,as I myself look at the watch many many times a day.
7.I haven't seen The Eaves Painting Gang as mackenzie calls them :)) would be odd for me too

[wow, that was a long comment, but i just couldn't hold myself]

Karla said...

just in case you were wondering...

they really did want to cut the line. you're just being too tolerant in your evaluation :P from my own experience, Romanians will cut in front of you if you don't guard your position with knees, elbows and the accompanying commentary...

Emma said...

Love your list !I used to eat pizza with ketchup too until I came here.Don't know why I stopped though lol

Andruska said...

Yesterday I was in a drugstore. They didn't have enough change of course, so they gave me some more pills to fit the big bill. Imagine that somewhere else!
But the thing with the painting is normal. For Romanians this is not something fun like in US but a dirty job. Usually some people are painting late in the night because this is a sort of a second job for them. And they don't use light in order to save energy hence the planet :))))

Andreea said...

I love your list lol...this is so true! Nr 2, 3, and 5 are the best! I miss Romania tho