Since many of the people visiting this blog are interested in moving to Romania and living here as opposed to just 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 welcome, 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 an expat in Romania, I will put to good use the talks I had with various people that made the move here, as well as extensive research and my personal experience after living in Romania for so long.
Is Romania a good place to live as a foreigner / expat?
Yes, Romania is a great place to live in as a foreigner or expat as it offers a rich culture, a lower cost of living than the rest of Europe and it has some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.
Add to that beautiful nature, improving infrastructure and great traditional food and you have solid reasons to consider Romania a good place to live in.
What is it like to live in Romania as an expat?
In the end, before getting more in depth with this, I must say an extremely important thing: what type of person you are matters a lot, just like anywhere else in the world.
Even in the friendliest countries out there or with the friendliest people in the world, if you consider yourself superior 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 entrance’s space and was casually slurping her soda like that was the only place she could do it.
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 appeared to tell the other lady that she was blocking the entrance, but on a calm tone.
That’s when all hell broke loose: the lady blocking the way started screaming that she shouldn’t be treated like that, yelling at the first lady to address her in English if she had anything to say and show her some respect.
Now, this is wrong on all terms, obviously! Don’t be that person – ever! In no country is that acceptable
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 life like in Romania for foreigners – 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).
As you can imagine, running a blog about Romania, I had contact with many foreigners who have made the move, such as the family who moved to Brasov from the US or the Brazilian family that moved to Timisoara – to mention just the ones that actually decided to be featured on the blog.
Just like everywhere in the world, there are good things and bad things about living in Romania.
You probably know already about the most important of them (like the fact that this is a really cheap country to be in), but I will still go through everything I can think of – good and bad – and let you decide how life in Romania is.
Romanians love to be (and ARE) 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.
But it’s all with good intentions and fortunately things have improved a lot over the past few years and people now understand that their efforts to make you feel welcome could be overwhelming for some.
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. This is all good fun for most, but not all!
So if you’re more of an introvert and like your privacy, you might not enjoy this. But it all comes from the heart, from people with the desire to make you feel better, from people who simply can’t imagine that others might not want to do this or that. 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 many of the locals 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!
This also means that in certain situations, because they automatically consider you rich, they will try to get more money from you (if selling something, for example) and you always have the chance of running into that Romanian who has a great idea for a business, but not enough money to launch it…
Romanians 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 by the increasing cost of living. However, overall, things are much better now than they were several years ago.
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.
The race for making money – no matter what – also makes some lose a bit of their humanity and be bitter at all times, never accepting or understanding a gesture of good will, for example.
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 is still low
Although prices have been going up quite a bit 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 the country, 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 LGBTQ 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.
But unfortunately, many people (especially in the smaller cities and the rural areas) are still not very open minded.
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.
But all in all, living in Romania as a foreigner shouldn’t be too difficult. The cultural differences are not huge and now with all the globalization and internet available everywhere, people are becoming more and more educated and ready to embrace or at least accept cultural differences.
Also in terms of things you can do to keep yourself entertained, the food you can eat and the stores you have available, you shouldn’t worry about missing anything that you have in your home country.
Maybe some very specific, traditional items will be a bit more difficult to find, but with massive supermarkets like Carrefour, Cora, Auchan, Real and so on, you will definitely be able to find at least most – if not all – things you are used with at home.
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.
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24 thoughts on “Living in Romania as a Foreigner / Expat: What Is It Like? [FULL Answer]”
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.☺️
So you actually got a smile! That’s a big thing here :))) I am really happy to know that you have enjoyed your first visit here and you’re considering some more.
I like the picture of the house with the well and the one with the food…the story of the lady in Hungary made me cringe.
Yes, the same happened to me, that is why I had to share the story 🙂 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.
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.
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.
I am from Lebanon and i moved to romania one year and half ago, and i am married to a romanian woman, and i work in a factory were i am the only arab among almost 500 other workers, and to make a story short, i just feel like home and even better, never faced any problems not at all not at work not at the street, as you said i have this privilege being treated as an exotic, i have romanian friends and colleagues and i feel that we have a lot in common way more than our differences, i come from a small closed minority in Lebanon called druz, and i was welcomed here and embraced, i even got baptized in a church and i have a godmother and a godfather 🙂 which is so cool and everything is just normal, i managed to integrate so easily in Romanian society ppl are simple and normal and very friendly and modest i love România my new home, our whole planet is insignificant in that vast universe we really don’t have the time or the reasons to be different or to have any conflicts.
Very well said, Makram! I am really happy to hear that you’re feeling so good in Romania. Thanks for commenting!
So, i have a romanian boyfriend and he want take me to Constança, im a black brazilian girl and im realy scary to move in to this country as our culture is so diferent, special if i will be welcomed or not. But your text is very good. I realy like.
You shouldn’t be that scared 🙂 I am sure you will be welcomed here, as Constanta has a very nice mix of individuals from all over the world and diversity is increasing each day.
We also have an article on the blog (and an interview) with a Brazilian that moved to Romania (Timisoara in this case) and although there was a bit of adjustment needed, it wasn’t difficult for her to adjust. I am sure it will be the same in your case as well.
Hi, im engaged to a very beautiful Romanian lady. We would both very much like to live in Romania close to her family who i adore and get on with very well. My question is, what do i need to do to be able to live there. Im trying to learn thier language, but im struggling a bit.
Good write up. I want you to tell me if i am coming as a foreign student to Romania,do I have a right to work at the same time I go to school. Thanks
I think that this depends on the university you’re going to enroll at. But generally, you would be allowed to get a part time job (that’s 4 hours per day), but not get a full time job.
Hello I am an American that is thinking of moving to Romania I have some college but that was 15years ago. But my question is what kind of career opportunities are available for a 40year old American male? I am very friendly and people feel comfortable around me. I don’t need to be rich I just need to make a decent wage for me wife and 10year old child. Can you tell me some jobs that would afford us to live a simple but comfortable life. Again don’t need to be rich but it would be nice to go on a 2week vacation once a year and have a decent birthdays and Christmas. Thank you for any suggestions
It is really difficult to assess your situation based on the little information you gave me. I don’t really know the job market that well to make recommendations, but it really depends on what studies you have and what skills you have. Remember though that salaries are pretty low here and it would be very difficult for you to find a job that would allow you to support your family if you’d be the only one working. But it all depends on what you can do – salaries in the IT sector are higher than the average and jobs easier to be found, for example.
I have seriously been considering leaving America for some time. Everyday that passes the urge grows stronger. Romania is beyond beautiful and I love the history and lore ( yea I’m talking about Dracula lol). I really just would like to find a place where I can enjoy the beauty of the country and get away from the constant materialism and falsity that is ingrained in all aspect of life here. Simply put, I want to get away and start over. What does an average house cost there? Price of a decent car ( I definitely don’t need fancy)? I’ve worked in the trades or the business world most of my life, I’d really have to look into the job market. What about the values in general? Is religion still strong? I’m definitely not against anyone living their life, but I’ve seen first hand how quickly a country can spiral when they are willing to compromise morality and cater to depravity. Thank you for the informative article. Every little bit helps
Prices of houses vary based on city of choice. You can get a nice one for as low as 30,000 Euros in a village (fixer-uppers start at 5,000 Euros), expect to pay some 50k in a smaller town and over 100k in larger cities. So prices vary a lot here – it all depends where you want to live.
As for cars, you can choose a second-hand Dacia (Romanian brand, decent quality) for around 2,000 Euros or get a new one for around 10k.
Romania is still a fairly religious country and I don’t think that will change a lot into the future. Your biggest challenge would be finding a job – no matter how skilled or experienced you are, expect salaries to be generally low – but it really depends on what kind of job you can find.
I know buying isn’t that easy if you aren’t a citizen there. I would like to just pay cash for the house so at least I don’t have to worry about rent or a mortgage. I would like to live somewhere out in the country or mountains. I love the castles and the “gothic” historical style. I’d definitely have to do some looking around. As far as the car goes, reliable and useful is about all I care about at this point.
I was in a town called Arad, about 60KM north of Timisoara. I really enjoyed the slower pace of life. I liked being able to go to an actual butcher where they slaughter the animals on-site.
I will be going back in the summer of 2022.
You’re absolutely right about Romanians and their need to impress you. I got that feeling instantly.
We parents, that spent half or more of our lives in communism, must learn to raise our kids differently the way our parents raised us. We must encourage our kids that the only thing that makes someone successful in life is work. Work in school (learning) , work after college graduation, competence, knowledge, skills, abilities and not corruption, nepotism, relationships. What we need is to get rid of our old mentality and raise the new generation the way it is raised outside (in the developed world) and then in 10-15 years ,you guys can erase the economical gap between Romania and Germany, or Italy, or Sweden. Other than that, Romania is a beautiful country with warm and passionate people.
Very well said! It would be amazing if all the people that lived most their lives in communism would feel and think the same.
Hello! I just got back from visiting Romania, as I have family that lives there. I was born there, but raised in the United States since I was 4 years old. I came across your article after googling “why does romania have bad customer service?” Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Romanians grasp this concept at all. Every SINGLE place I visited lacked customer service and unlike a lot of other latin countries most people didn’t seem friendly. I spoke Romanian when I was there and expected at least a friendly smile when ordering some food or asking to see something to buy, but that is NOT the case in Romania. I personally believe it has to do with the culture and that the customer service concept is not being taught there. This is unfortunate to say, but I agree that the younger generation seems more open minded and possibly more eager to adopt different concepts, so things will only change once the older generation leaves. It is a beautiful country, but it will be a complete dissapointment for anyone expecting to receive any decent customer service in Romania. I just got back from there yesterday so this is based on my very recent experience 🙂
I can imagine how bad this can be from somebody visiting from abroad. But as somebody who’s been living here, I can tell you that things have actually improved (a bit) over the years.
So at least now you just don’t get smiles and they treat you like they want you to leave, but at least you no longer have to wait 5 minutes before they finish more important stuff like talking to a friend on the phone, reading an article or just watching out of the window… :))
Mona, it’s down to cultural differences. When I went to the US, I found customer service there appalling. It felt like on the one hand all about fake smiles and “how is your day?” sort of questions that the person posing that question couldn’t care any less about, and on the other hand a constant rush to get you paying and out of their establishment. The waiter or waitress coming every 2 minutes to ask if everything is alright was something I definitely didn’t enjoy at all… for a while I contemplated telling them either sit down and join in the conversation or just leave us alone, we’ll call you when we need anything else. I did my research beforehand, of course, so I get it: in the US, people working those jobs don’t actually have a good enough wage to live without tips, so they have to be quote-unquote “nice” to… well, live.
Now, I can also see the flipside: someone coming from that type of customer service culture like the US would find the customer service here lacking or not to their liking.