Since many of the people visiting this blog are interested in moving to Romania and living here as opposed to traveling for a while, I’ve decided to share some thoughts on what it’s like to live in Romania as a foreigner.

This is probably the most important thing that everybody has to take into account before moving to a country: will the locals accept me and help me feel welcomed, or will they be cold and consider me an invader and treat me badly?

In order to answer these questions and help you better understand how it will be to live as a foreigner in Romania, I will put to good use the chats I had with various people that made the move here (from various countries, from the US to third-world countries), as well as extensive research and my personal experience after living in Romania for so long.

In the end, before getting straight into the heart of the problem, I must say an extremely important thing: it matters a lot what type of person you are. It doesn’t matter how open to make foreigners feel like home a country is – if you come there and act as if the world belongs to you and you disrespect others or treat them badly, you will surely not feel welcome. Although many countries are extremely happy to welcome foreigners, very few are actually asking them to come over and have no obligation to go the extra mile to make you feel good (although most still do it).

I am saying this remembering an episode I witnessed in Budapest, in a McDonald’s: there was this huge lady, a native English speaker, blocking the entrance into the restaurant. She had simply stopped there, placed a huge suitcase next to her, taking 90% of the space in order to casually slurp on her soda.

A Hungarian lady tried to enter and managed to squeeze in – and while doing so, she said something in Hungarian. Now I don’t understand the language, but judging from her tone and body language, she politely told the other lady that she’s blocking the entrance. And that’s when all hell broke loose: the one blocking the way started screaming that she shouldn’t be treated like that, yelling at the first lady to talk to her in English and show her some respect.

Now this is wrong on all terms! If you do that, if you’re that kind of person, you shouldn’t expect others to treat you nicely because you simply don’t deserve it. If you are that kind of person, you should stop reading right now and know that living in Romania as a foreigner will be a bad experience for you. But the same will happen in any other country, unfortunately.

Now that I got that out of the system, let’s get straight to business and see how is it like to live as a foreigner in Romania – based on my own experience and research, but also based on the talks I’ve had with various people who have made the move and spent here at least a few months (and some of them years).

Romanians love to be great hosts
If you’ve been in Romania for a while, you probably know already that Romanians love to impress – even the people they don’t like. When it comes to foreigners, things become – in most occasions – even more important. Romanians want foreigners to feel good in their country and leave with a solid impression (no matter if the people are actually moving there forever or not).

Romanians are considered, like most people living in the Balkans, great hosts. They will usually go the extra distance to feel you welcome and improve your experience in Romania.

Do have in mind that this can turn into a slightly negative thing, depending on the areas you are visiting. Many of the people living in the country are still uneducated and customer service is one of the worst in Europe – no matter if you’re talking about the public or the private sector. And since people are simply not trained to be hospitable, their desire to make you feel good and welcome might actually turn into a frustrating experience.

If you’re visiting a village, for example, the people there will force you to drink Palinca or Tuica (a local moonshine), try some local cuisine that you might not want to and maybe drag you from the table to dance a Hora, the traditional dance. So if you’re more of an introvert and like your privacy, you might not enjoy this. But it’s all made from the heart, with the desire to make you feel better and usually people don’t know where to stop. So just try to take it in and let yourself go by the flow.

This becomes less obvious in the larger cities, where people will still generally wish to make and impression and help you feel as good as possible, without force feeding you or going over the line.

Romanians love foreigners
Since Romania is still a very poor country – one of the poorest in the European Union – and may of the people living here have lived a large chunk of their lives during the communist regime, there are still some leftovers from those times which come with both good and bad effects.

One of the good ones is the fact that Romanians instantly consider all foreigners rich and on numerous occasions feel inferior to them – and this comes with an even greater pressure to please. It doesn’t really matter if you’re rich or not, you’ll always be looked at as “that rich foreigner”.

Fortunately, the younger generation is more open minded and slightly better traveled, so things are changing but since Romania doesn’t have a huge expat community, most foreigners are still considered pretty exotic. These are some of the reasons why Romanians actually love foreigners!

People are always in race to make more money (and impress)
Although things have changed a bit recently and more people are earning a lot more than they did before, Romania is still, overall, a very poor country with many people living on less than the minimum wage in the country. Even those with better paid jobs still don’t manage to make ends meet as salaries are left behind the increasing cost of living.

Since Romanians are people who usually want to impress, they’re always in a hurry to make more money and live a better life. This could be a positive thing, but also comes with negatives, meaning that Romanians are usually upset and grumpy and stressed out and smile less often than other people. Instead of embracing life and keeping a positive mindset, many are pessimistic and always see the empty half of the glass.

They usually prefer to spend all their money on expensive cars and phones and consumerist stuff just to impress others, resulting in even more stress for them. Some people went as far as buying expensive cars (like BMWs or Mercedes) just to keep them parked on the street because they couldn’t afford to fill up the tank.

As a result, Romanians are not always shiny and a great company. But this again is changing in the younger generation so things will only get better. But if you’re expecting to find a relaxed country with people casually strolling around and taking their time to enjoy nature… you’ll be a bit disappointed!

The cost of living
Although it has gone slightly up in the past several years and there are no signs it will stop here, the cost of living in Romania remains one of the lowest in Europe. This is extremely good news for foreigners that come here without depending on local jobs – where salaries are low, just like the cost of living.

However, even if you come to work in Romania, you could still find a well paid job, earning a lot more than the average Romanian. Normally, for a single person, if you have 1,000 Euros per month (or more), you can still live a very decent life with rent and all expenses included. 1,500 Euros per person and 2,000 Euros per family would probably be in the “very safe” zone too.

Being gay in Romania
I recently wrote an article about this and the conclusion is that although things are changing relatively fast, being part of the LGVTQ community is not an advantage when you live in Romania. Being openly gay might come with some disadvantages and stares from some people, but overall you’ll be safe and still be able to surround yourself with a lot of great people, heterosexual or not.

What about other races?
The sad truth is that not all races are looked at with the same eyes in Romania. The smaller the city and the less touristy, the more stares you should expect to get as a non-caucasian.

However, I wouldn’t say that it’s racism in question here, but simply the fact that people living in Romania (especially the cities or villages) are not used with this ethnic diversity and there might still be people living in this country who only saw caucasians in their entire life. So the stares you might get (be prepared to get them since Romanians are not shy to stare!) will mostly come from curiosity and not racism.

All in all, even though Romanians are generally very open to meeting new people from all parts of the world, you will still have to make some adjustments to enjoy life in the country. Although I wouldn’t really call it a “culture shock,” there will definitely be some differences in terms of Romanians’ mentality and way of doing things. It’s not better or worse than it is in other places, but it definitely is different and the further away from Romania you’re used to live, the more differences you might spot. So people coming from nearby countries like Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary and so on might feel at home instantly, while those coming from Asia, the US and other countries will see more noticeable differences in day to day life.

If you have other more specific questions about living in Romania as a foreigner, let me know and I will give it my best to offer an honest answer.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Nice one C. I got the sense that a lot of Romanians are open to tourists. When we landed st the airport and my husband went through with his E. U passport, then it came to me and l thought he looked pretty mean. He asked why l was visiting Romania incredulously. I replied that l was eager to visit because of friends online. I felt a shift in attitude, like oh…okay and he said welcome to Romania with a little smile. I’m used to stares wherever l go, they are mostly curious as you say and l can tell the difference. We will get back there at some point.☺️

  2. I look at many YouTubes made by American expats living overseas, mainly the Philippines. Many bemoan the “ugly Americans” who come to the Philippines because they can’t seem to abide by the laws in the USA or can’t otherwise behave in a civilized manner. They then go to the Philippines where they think they can lord it over the “poor backward” people, especially desperate women. Needless to say, they soon get in trouble there too. I think Romania is so far off the expat radar that you won’t have to worry about too many of those. On a different topic, did you catch the news about that ridiculous letter sent on Giuliani Partners letterhead, signed by Giuliani, to President Iohannis telling him to let up on the anti-corruption efforts in Romania? Apparently “so many innocent” people had gone to prison and the anti-corruption efforts were just creating too much “instability” for foreign investment. I guess that means not being able to bribe people was cramping the style of American businessmen there in Romania. Liviu Dragnea was trumpeting the letter to anyone who would listen, saying Giuliani had “high moral standing throughout the world.” The US State Department was shocked at this letter which directly contradicted official US policy in Romania which had always been supportive of the anti-corruption efforts. When they asked Giuliani if he had really sent that letter, he said he had only signed it “as a private citizen” at the “request” of a Romanian “friend” and that no one should have assumed he was representing the US government. Giuliani only appears every night on the US TV news shows, defending (usually poorly) the President of the USA! Well, the “friend” turned out to be a wealthy crony of Liviu Dragnea. Giuliani is just another gold digger in the President’s entourage who hopes to monetize his proximity to him. That Giuliani would so readily feed at the same “authoritarian trough” just shortly after another former official Paul Manafort was convicted for doing the same speaks volumes about Giuliani’s “high moral standing.” Well, sorry for getting so far off the topic. I know that Romanians have had to put up with a lot of corruption from all levels of government officials and even have to give monetary “gifts” to medical personnel to get their attention. As a tourist, I never encountered this, but I wonder if expats living there might begin to draw the attention of corrupt officials.

    • The problem with Giuliani’s letter is that those who are already on PSD’s side refuse to accept the fact that he was paid for it, even when he personally admitted that was the case and shown evidence. The only people who might have a change in opinion here are the ones who neither support or are against the ruling party, although I don’t think there’s many left.

      In other words, the letter had the desired impact, making those who are already supporters to be reassured that they’re supporting the right people. I had friends on Facebook who simply refused to accept the fact that Giuliani was paid for these, even though big name news media agencies were covering the story. It was “fake news” to them. It’s a strange era we live in, where free access to information actually makes us dumber and keeps us less informed…

      Regarding the monetary gifts, this is indeed still a practice here in Romania and most people would still accept a “tip” from Romanians or expats. Some might expect the foreigners to “contribute” more (since they’re wealthy) but I think that at the same time they’re ready to expect nothing as well since this is how things are done in other places. But this again, will vary from person to person so nothing’s set in stone.

  3. Hello Calin,
    A very nice read.
    The rude lady in Budapest may have been British or American.
    (My first thought was British;-)) Of course the phrase “Ugly American” is
    certainly an apt one–being one myself–an American that is–ha, ha!
    Now that we’re stuck with Trump, the phrase will certainly be more applicable the world over, sadly.
    Why anyone would want to buy a fancy car they can’t afford is ridiculous!
    It’s the same with trying to keep up with latest Apple iPhones. Or how much bling they can flaunt. Or how big a house they can buy…
    People can be really silly, and not prioritize the real things in life which are really important. Don’t worry–such silliness is NOT confined to Romania!
    As for Romania being poor, why aren’t the oil reserves being tapped into?
    https://www.romaniajournal.ro/us-romanian-black-sea-reserves-promising-source-of-energy-we-are-closely-following-how-the-necessary-legislation-is-elaborated/
    Norway was once a very poor country, but once the North Sea oil reserves were opened up… well, look at Norway now!!!
    http://sciencenordic.com/what-would-norway-be-without-oil-money
    So Calin, are you going to consider doing article on the main cities, again? I understand Oradea just had a big fire which was very sad.
    https://www.romania-insider.com/landmark-building-oradea-fire/
    Terrible about fire in Rio, Brazil too destroying the National Museum.
    All such buildings should have sprinkler systems installed, but I digress.
    Customer service in USA is pretty good. It seems it’s mostly a requirement for any job. I don’t understand why anyone in any country can’t be civil and polite in any business transaction. I mean, for no other reason, why would anyone NOT treat someone with dignity and respect the way they themselves would want to be treated. https://www.romania-insider.com/comment-the-almost-non-existent-customer-service-in-romania/
    It makes no sense to me. Maybe Romanian businesses should really look into improving customer service.
    Stuart: Giuliani is a rat (and looks like one;-) and is as nutsy-cuckoo as Trump is! Trump is no Ceausescu, yet, but he needs to go bye-byes.
    I’m hoping in November, the USA will become more sane–fingers crossed!
    Thanks again for a well-written article, Calin.
    ~Teil (USA)

    • I am happy you enjoy the read, Teil. I don’t really have a plan (sadly) for the articles but there are indeed many other cities that I hope to cover sooner rather than later. I actually wanted to visit Oradea this year in order to be able to share a more personal opinion on a city that I started to put high on the list of cities to move to in Romania, but again these plans didn’t become reality. Different other (minor) problems and distractions managed to keep me away πŸ™‚

      Regarding the petrol and all other resources… these are not taken advantage of because the people in charge are not competent enough to make the right moves. They live the good life no matter what happens in the rest of Romania and probably that is all that matters.

      There have been stories of young and dedicated (and smart) mayors in smaller or larger cities or even villages who manged to make amazing changes using European funds. So things can be done, but at the moment people are not interested – and those who are, face many obstacles. This is why most of those who managed to do something did it using EU funds: as they are not handled by the local authorities who might have other agendas and obligations.

      Now, since I try to always be objective and never pick sides, I must say that since PSD has taken over, some things have improved a bit or at least they seem to improve. The biggest worry of mine is that these improvements cannot be sustained and the populist measures will eventually turn to bite us really hard. Many experts say that’s the case, but the ones with the power insist that they have everything figured out.

      All in all, things are getting better in Romania and they will still do at least for a while and the most important thing is that those who don’t rely on an income generated in the country should have no problem, no matter what happens in the long run and no matter which side will be proven to be right.

    • Yes, the same happened to me, that is why I had to share the story πŸ™‚ I am sure that she could’ve been of any nationality, though, as there are bad seeds everywhere. It’s important for us not to be like them.

  4. Speaking as an American foreigner that has visited Romania several times it is a wonderful country with great people in general. It is has its bad apples like anywhere but it is what you make of it. Very few reasons not to live in Romania in my opinion. Lack of good paying jobs and poor medical are the biggest concerns. I am immune to the first one and the second one.. well i am still looking at our options. I wish the Romanian people the best of luck in getting rid of their bad apples as it is a struggle the world over. What truly shocks me is the number of ignorant people (in my opinion) supporting them. In this country over 40% of our population believe donald is doing a bang up job and I am struggling to wrap my brain around it. I struggle similarly with what I see in Romania as well and perhaps we should discuss and figure out what makes people believe and support them so we can counter it because it is crazy dangerous to have these types of people “in power”. Me.. i am looking for a little place in a small town in Romania to eat pop corn and watch the show hoping that nobody pulls a lever that effects me directly. Will be hard to avoid as i think donald could bankrupt this country. Keep writing about the truth and these good stories C. and know you are living in a wonderful country if you can make the most of it.

    • Thank you, Otto, I really enjoyed reading your comment. And I am even happier to hear that things are still going well for you here – I see no reason why any foreigner would not have a good time in Romania, especially if they don’t depend on earning their living in the country.

      As for the second part, in Romania’s case it’s mostly the uneducated and very poor who support them, and they have two main reasons: first, because the leading party is, by tradition, leading Romania. Since the revolution in 1989, there have been very few moments without them at the helm. And second – probably even more important, is the fact that they do go for some populist measures: they are increasing pensions, they are cutting taxes and raising salaries and even though many studies shown that due to inflation everybody is earning less than they did before, the people who don’t have basic knowledge about finances simply don’t see that and instead they are happy that they’re getting a bigger pile of money instead. There could be other reasons as well – and I am sure that out of their supporters, some are honestly feeling that they’re doing a good job – but the two I listed are, in my opinion, the most important ones πŸ™‚

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