Does Everybody Steal in Romania?

Many Romanians will tell you this: all Romanians steal. This is not the best opinion that a nation can have about itself, but it is, up to a point, the unfortunate reality.

No, not all Romanians steal, Romanians are not thieves, but unfortunately, honesty is still something we have to learn a lot about.

Why do Romanians steal?

The whole “theft mentality” in Romania has its roots in the communist era when salaries were low (salaries are low now too, although much better), the quality of living was extremely low and no products were in adequate supply.

Because of this, people started to steal: a few boxes of canned meat from the factory they were working in (which only produced food to be exported, by the way), some chicken eggs from the farm they were working in, some screws and light bulbs here, some clothing materials there and everybody was happy.

The managers shut their eyes because they knew these people had nothing at home (plus, they were stealing too), and the employees started to consider this the norm. Normality.

A mentality that fortunately changed a lot since 1989 when Nicolae Ceausescu was removed from power, but hasn’t vanquished completely…

Yes, people do steal in Romania – and sometimes they don’t even think they’re doing anything wrong.

You will hear many say that they are “taking,” not stealing. They need something, somebody has it – so they take it. It’s mind boggling.

And even more, if they’re “taking” from the state, that doesn’t count. They take taxes from us too, so it’s only fair to “take” back (this is indeed how some people still think!)

My experience on this matter

sign in store that stealing is not allowed

It’s not just “taking” from the state, as you will see in the examples I will share with you below.

1. At the end of April, we had a fair in the city. While waiting in line to buy some sweets from a street vendor, a guy in front of me, who had a wooden spoon on him, reached out and filled it with some peanuts the vendor was selling, when he wasn’t paying attention.

The guy didn’t run away – he was actually there to buy something and everything seemed so natural that I didn’t instantly realize that the guy just stole some peanuts.

AND he was obviously prepared for that, as he brought the spoon with him from home. Probably the peanuts were just one of the things he was going to “taste”.

2. Our first experience with a house in a village here in Romania was not great. It’s mostly abandoned now, but we still have some fruit trees in the garden.

Last year, at the end of July, we went there to gather some of the fruits from OUR house.

They were all gone, as if they had never existed. “Of course they’re gone,” one neighbor said. “There was nobody here to guard them, that’s why they were stolen”.

Of course, pardon me for not knowing the obvious – that I have to guard MY trees or else their fruits will be stolen!

3. And finally, the personal story that had enraged me and got me writing this article, actually.

The sad truth proving that, despite its awesome things, Romania is not always amazing.

It doesn’t always happen, everywhere – it’s not really that all Romanians are thieves, looting day and night, but these things happen. And sometimes, even us, the Romanians, have no idea they are happening:

If you remember, earlier this year, I shared our monthly living expenses in Romania.

The heating bill was inflated, I thought, because of a heater that was not working properly – we got that fixed, of course, and we were sure that our problems were solved.

It wasn’t quite the case, as we kept getting huge heating bills: we had the biggest bills in the building, with just a couple somewhat close to what we had to pay, while the others had half our bills or even lower..

I was naive and I actually started to pity the poor folks that didn’t have money to keep the heat running – we had a constant 21-22 degrees Celsius in the rooms, so definitely not blazing hot, so I could only feel sorry for everybody else, being obvious that they were freezing inside their homes.

I just found out that they might have been stealing, actually. Better said, they were most likely stealing.

In Romania, heating costs are calculated based on some devices that are installed on each heater.

The heating company has one at the entrance of the building too, and based on that, they divide consumption by each heater’s readings and end up with the amount each apartment has to pay. Pretty easy and smart.

But some Romanians are “smarter,” at the cost of their fellow neighbors.

Because I learned that these people actually remove the devices installed on the heaters and they record nothing – or just a very small amount of what they use. They put them back when the company runs regular checks and everything seems fine.

As a result, somebody like me who never takes them down (I didn’t even think it was possible before I found out about this practice) will end up with inflated overall costs.

That’s why I was paying more than double – no broken heaters, no freezing neighbors. Because people are stealing. And they consider it something natural.

Apparently, this technique is not limited to the building I live in and many people do this.

And what makes it even sadder is the fact that most of them don’t even feel bad for doing this.

It’s not stealing, it’s taking. They’re smarter, because they found a way to “game” the system.

They don’t even realize (or care) that they actually are stealing from me. It’s sad. The sad truth.

So – does everybody steal in Romania?

No, there are many exceptions and many of the younger people are growing up to be much better persons than their parents or grandparents were.

But there are still many who see nothing wrong with taking a little bit of something: some consider that stealing from somebody who has a lot doesn’t really count.

Some consider that stealing from the state is not a crime.

While some consider that stealing is just something normal because they lack a certain something.

It was another neighbor in my village, whose chicken were stolen: he had 16 or something like that and the thieves left two females and a rooster.

My neighbor told me, and he was very calm about it: “I know who did it,” although he had no proof. “They stole my chicken because they are poor. What else could they do?”

This is what the man, the victim told me. Completely natural behavior.

I was left speechless and even though I insisted that he should still call the police, he refused.

Those people were poor – at least they left him with 2 chickens and a rooster and he’ll replenish the “stocks” over the coming months. They were thoughtful about that.

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Final words

This is not an article that wants to bash the honest Romanians who work hard, would never steal and never break the law.

There are many of us in this group.

But there are, unfortunately, many Romanians who steal – sometimes without even realizing that what they’re doing is stealing.

No, 99.9% of the Romanians won’t steal your wallet or try to rob you – but many will still find a way to break or bend the rules and get a hold of something that is not supposed to be theirs.

Things are changing and the improvements are visible – especially when it comes to the younger generation, but my opinion as a Romanian is that we still have a long way to go.

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17 thoughts on “Does Everybody Steal in Romania?”

  1. Dear Calin, here come the anecdotes:

    My very first trip to Romania, my boss’s calculator was taken from a table in the backyard of the house we were staying in. “Stuart, you speak Romanian. Go ask around the town whether anyone knows who took it.” Fat chance, I thought. I ran into a group of boys that I knew had been playing in the backyard and were the likely culprits. “Any of you seen a calculator?” I asked. “Yeah, so-and-so took it!” came the cry from all of them. They took me to the house where the boy lived. I talked to the boy’s father who was outside, and without a word, he went into the house and came out with the calculator. He didn’t say he was sorry, but made a gesture like he was going to hit one of the boys for “snitching” on his son. No honor amongst thieves, I guess.

    Because we had the house but were often away, we decided to ask one of the neighbors to watch things. We had brought him a lot of things from Germany and often did him favors too like driving him to town or exchanging his propane tanks . Next to the house was a church we were renovating. The neighbor offered to wind up the church bell ringing mechanism while we were gone so that the hours would keep chiming. My boss thought the villagers would appreciate hearing the hours struck since almost no one had a watch. Well, our friendly neighbor communicated to us that he wanted to be paid to take care of the bell chiming and watch our house. We finally agreed to let him use the vegetable gardens on the property. The villagers later complained that he never wound up the bells. The next problem was caused when we agreed to buy firewood from him at a set price. Although we paid for the license to get the wood from the forest, he kept telling church groups who came to use the house in our absence that “his costs” had gone up and he needed to charge more. When we found out about it and complained, he claimed the church groups had used up all the firewood and there wasn’t any more. I’m sure he heated his house with our firewood that winter.

    The last story I will depress you with is about another house we bought in the same village. It had a well in the basement from which we ran the water pipes to the kitchen and bathroom. It needed an electric pump to move the water. Well, two electric pumps were stolen in the span of 3 months while we were renovating the house.

    I now see that the neighborhood boys, our neighbor, and whoever stole the water pumps probably didn’t consider themselves thieves. They were probably pleased as punch at their “good fortune” and even considered themselves skilled “opportunists.”

  2. And here comes a counter point to that.. Out rental property in Houston a few years ago that we were renovating. It took 3 weeks to complete, and in that time..the fridge, and stove were stolen, along with the towels in the bathroom. I reported it to the police, and as payback..they broke every last piece of glass and knocked a hole in each and every wall. That was the last straw. I had to have it “watched” till it rented. Another refurbishment house had the copper stolen from the A/C twice. We had to build something around it in iron and lock it down. It happens everywhere, and l am sorry it happened to you. I would approach the neighbor and tell him someone (don’t accuse him) is moving the meter. Let him know that you know, and ask him what he did when someone did that to him. I bet he stops, have to build a fort around the meter 🙂 and keep the key, and l would check it every single freaking day with him and record the numbers. Good luck! People suck..

    • Maybe the people who did this were Romanians, lol 🙂 The problem with the meter is that we don’t really know who does it – they could all do it, in the end, but the truth is that sh*t happens everywhere.

      • Dear C I would like to move to Romania but would like to find a small farm 15 or so acres away from the towns. Not to far from Bucharest. Maybe 30 to 50 kilometers from there. Do you know what I might have to pay for something like that?

  3. Hello Nancy! The “small” farm is actually pretty large by Romanian standards and I believe it won’t be too easy to find something that large so close to Bucharest. I didn’t check it out, but there will be fewer and fewer opportunities as more houses are built in a suburb-style. Either way, for 15 acres, you can expect paying anything from 200,000 to 600,000 Euros, based on what you’re getting there: just the land, the land and some constructions that you have to rebuild almost completely or something ready to move into (I doubt that would be 100% true).

  4. On my Recent trip to Romania I stayed one night at the Rin Airport hotel In Bucharest. When my friend arrived the next morning to drive me to my apartment I jumped up from my hotel lobby chair leaving my smart phone there. We called an hour later and it was being safely held for me at the front desk.

    • Glad to hear that you had a positive experience! Something similar happened to us – when we left our hotel in Venus last year following our summer vacation, my wife forgot her iPhone in the room and realized when we were already in the train heading home. We called the hotel and they mailed the phone to our home.

  5. We share with Romanian carers, and they stole a big, heavy mirror from the living room… plus plates, bowls and cutlery from the kitchen, even a hand gel was gone….

  6. In my experience 1 in 6 Romanians won’t steal ever and are actually the best employee/friend you’ll ever have, but 5/6 will steal from anyone outside of their circle.

  7. Romanian man living in the UK has been openly stealing my articles (texts, that I wrote over 20+ years) and creating himself a new website. When approached he wrote that he was naïve thinking it was okay to take the texts from the internet. Yet somehow he provided credit for some of the texts he took from other websites, but not for mine.

    Because intellectual property laws are not well protected and especially not very well enforced and punished, authors like me do not feel like we want to create and especially provide our intellectual property to the public anymore.

    Therefore a content poor internet is coming!

  8. Well, I must say, I am very impressed with the comment I wrote back in 2015! I think my brain functioned better back then…

    Another story pops into my mind which I hope I haven’t already mentioned elsewhere on this website. I once tried to find a Romanian person online through a language exchange site in the hopes of getting to practice some Romanian conversation. I met a fellow who seemed very intelligent but constantly complained about how poor he was. He told me the story of how some land he had owned had simply been stolen from him by someone who changed the ownership of the land with the town recorder of land deeds. I had read about such fraud occurring in Romanian rural areas and there was often little recourse for the victims.

    But I wasn’t certain whether this had actually happened to my conversation partner or whether he had read about it too and saw a way to “tug at the heart strings” by claiming he was a victim. Well, I thought I should offer to pay him for his time conversing with me but he insisted that he didn’t want to be paid. We had far-ranging conversations about Romanian politics and philosophy. I once offered to buy him an ebook by an author we discussed and to my surprise, he said, “I already have that.” I was surprised because I knew the ebook was expensive.

    Then he bragged that he had a vast collection of ebooks that he had “downloaded for free” from various sites that specialized in violating book copyrights. He justified doing this because of his poverty and offered to send me any ebook I wanted for free. That launched another discussion about intellectual property theft that got so heated, we agreed to end our conversation sessions!

  9. Just like with your previous comment, I have to say that it does sound like Romania, and these things still happen.

    I was actually one of the pirates in my youth. It was also ignorance on my side (I was downloading games and movies that weren’t available in Romania… but even if they were, I wouldn’t have had the money to get them). It took me a while to realize that if you don’t have money for something, it means that you can’t afford it. But it was so easy and everybody was doing it… I didn’t even consider it was wrong.

  10. This is a crass generalization through and through, and unfit to be anything more than a show in a cabaret, if people had still attended those.

    “Stealing”, my narrow minded conational, can be driven by only two things:

    1) bonafied desperation and austerity
    2) greed, for *significant material gain

    Either of those are part of a high risk, high reward dynamic. Whereas stealing just for the sake of it is ridiculous, and an act of the ABSOLUTE minority, out of a population of a now severely diminished 22 million.

    This act of cleptomaniac stealing that you drone on and on about in several paragraphs foregoes the reward aspect altogether, to volunteer strictly for the high risk and the moral sting of the act.

    Romanians don’t do that… in fact, in all my years of living as an expat, I found that 22 million Romanians, of which >5 are expatriated engage in LESS stealing than any other nationality that I came in contact with, which absolutely justified the act of stealing assets of *significant value as a right, not a stigma.

    So, there you have it. Out of 5-7 million Romanians abroad, divided by the several different countries they are in, the outlying elements that “steal” casually number in the tens/country. Tens… or less.

    Whereas organized crime, as in stealing significant monetary and material value out of greed is the driving force that expatriated those people and subjugates the remaining cca. 17 million. The number of participants in high profile organized crime number in the hundreds, about as many as the positions in office that permit the opportunity.

    … less than a city’s population in western countries with up to 50 million people.

    Your rhetoric is a self-deprecating one (you ARE Romanian), a product of some type of unresolved frustration that uses a superiority complex as a psychological coping mechanism, with an underlying inferiority complex concealed underneath as it relates to other nationalities.

    I assume this is a habit born of a desperation for acceptance, to validate your vapid superiority complex given that you produce zero value in the society that you live in and berate so absolutely, to the detriment of actual facts.

    Let me be clear. In my expat experience, I HAVE INDEED been asked by Romanians like you whether I stole food from a store before abroad. When I said NO, they called me a liar and every name under the sun, because apparently expatriation is difficult so Romanians like you are convinced that every one steals out of hunger in the beginning (desperation and austerity), before aligning to common sense and respectability much, much later.

    This is NOT true, your article is also BS, and everything that you pointed out here strikes as some sort of projection onto others. Life is hard, and it’s harder when you’re unable to respect yourself – that’s the human condition.

    Romanians don’t steal anymore than any other nationality, but the stigma amidst Romanians is at the very least more honed than among Englanders and other nationalities that are applauding your hatemongering fallacies over here.

    Maybe do something useful, like the millions of Romanians that make a difference, work hard, that NOBODY will ever write about. Certainly not those like you.


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