People living in Europe – especially the Western Europe – usually have a very poor opinion about fellow Romanians, so I decided to try and tackle this delicate subject: in the end, if there are so many countries who frown upon Romanians, they can’t be all crazy, right?

The truth is that they are not completely wrong either, unfortunately – but the reality they know, the reality they are faced with on a daily basis is just part of the big picture.

Such is the case of the “documentary” The Romanians Are Coming which enraged a lot of Romanians because they only showed part of the picture – the ugly part that most of Europe already knows and which is not, by any means, untrue. It’s just not how things actually are as a whole.

Romania is an extremely poor country and we’re probably one of the least educated countries in Europe. This results in some strange individuals who consider petty crimes a way of living, who have no hopes for a better future and who are unfortunately living on a day by day basis, not even trying to figure out the bigger picture, not even trying to climb up the ladder and turn the odds into their favor.

Many of these people have already left our country and became parasites in Western countries. And even though it is believed that most of them are gypsies, they are still Romanian citizens and are, in the end, Romanians. Because a country is the sum of its best and worst people.

It’s these people (the worst, not the gypsies) who manage to paint a dark picture of the Romanians. I am talking about beggars, people who consider petty thefts a way of living – the only possible way of living, liars and generally scum.

We still have them here in Romania too and I am sure that every country has more or less of these individuals.

It just happens that ours go abroad. Most of them. They do stupid stuff. They don’t learn. They do it all over again. They’re the Romanians.

And because of this, the Romanians are frowned upon all over Europe. There are way more highly trained and skilled individuals working and living all over Europe – I’m talking doctors, nurses, engineers and skilled workers – but it’s not the good people that shine, it’s the bad ones.

And unfortunately the bad Romanians are all over the place for the same reasons why our most skilled people leave the country: because Romania itself is so poor that any other country in Europe would do. For crime or for honest work.

But no, it’s not that all Romanians – not even most of them, not even a big part of them – are the petty thieves that Europe believes they are. Yes, it is true: we are extremely poor. We are uneducated.

We generally lack the means to get the lives we feel we deserve and the more you look on the streets, the less smiles you can see on the people’s faces. But most Romanians are doing their best to improve their chances, to change something and make their lives better.

Not by moving abroad and stealing other people’s possessions. Not by setting camp in parks and occupying derelict buildings – no, those are not Romanians, those are just a minority. The scum.

Living in this country, I have interacted with a ton of extremely simple people who lived in shocking conditions, who had no running water and no means to own a TV or a fridge or to have EVER eaten anything in a restaurant.

I have a met a ton of different Romanians and even though some of them were the mischievous creatures Europeans think all Romanians are, most of them weren’t. They were people whose hands were bleeding at the end of the day because they worked so hard – not to get rich, not to feel good, not because they were forced to, but because they wanted to survive.

Because they wanted a better life and that was the most they could do. But they wanted more.

I’ve met an old lady who barely knew how to read because she hasn’t been sent to school – but she still took a newspaper or a silly book for children and spent hours trying to decipher the words there. She wanted more.

I’ve met families of six living in a studio looking at a grim future, and I was extremely impressed when I heard that one of them got a scholarship and went to college. Some really want more.

Some accept less and give up the fight. But this is not how all Romanians are. We are frowned upon by fellow Europeans not because of what we are, but because of what some of us are.

And you know what? Despite all these, despite the fact that we all know that if we go in a Western European country and we admit that we’re Romanians (many have stopped doing so), we’ll be, most likely, frowned upon, we still go there. We still get better jobs than we would get in Romania and we still manage to live a better life.

Because we want more.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Calin:
    Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel;-) (You are beginning to sound like me about the Americans;-)
    Well, it’s pretty sad all over. I think some of the problems arise from too much alcohol (guys get together in a pub, argue over football, drink too much, then go out a cause mayhem). Of course as the economy is suffering, the young without jobs sometimes act like delinquents.
    Is your new president able to bring any solutions to the table? Why not public works projects to give people work and pride. We had public works projects during the Great Depression in the 1930s which did a lot of good in the USA. At least your country isn’t like Greece owing everyone.
    But yes, I agree it’s sad when a minority of anyone’s country brings down the entire country’s reputation. I don’t know what to do. Maybe the family needs to instill a better sense of ethics and morality. I know your country is very religious. Why doesn’t the church step up and make it known such misbehavior should NOT be taught or tolerated.
    Sure, it is sad. At least there are good folk like you who make up for the bad guys.
    Kind of a depressing article, but certainly a heartfelt one, I can tell. Let’s hope for better days everywhere;-)
    ~Teil

    • Hello Teil,

      The church is still very influential in Romania, but their influence is on the decline and they just suffered a massive hit – religion is now optional (instead of obligatory) in school. Also, they have financial interests too and are pretty satisfied with how things are right now.

      The new President seems to have things going pretty nicely right now, but so far the focus seems on catching and sending to prison our corrupt politicians, which is still extremely good. Big names in Romania are either in jail now or prosecuted and hopefully things won’t stop here, which is a really good thing because most used the EU funds and the tax funds to their own advantage mostly. So things are starting to move, but like anything major – it takes time.

  2. I’ve lived & worked in Romania for since 2008 full time & been coming here since 2003. My wonderful partner is Romanian, the nanny for my mentally disabled brother in the UK who provides exceptional love & care is Romanian by strange coincidence & my 2 offices with 10 great people are Romanian.

    I have as many loves & hates for Romania as any Romanian. The fact is, it remains a great place, despite the people who bring it down. I wholeheartedly agree with ‘C The Romanian’. But there is much more than that. The good Romanians also need to hang their head in shame too. Whenever I go to any Irish music event, even disco’s strangely, the last song that is sometimes played is the national anthem & almost all Irish blooded people stand tall, straight & proud throughout. A strange sight at 3am in Temple Bar to find a club full of still witnesses. Romanians do not carry that pride I feel. You can see it in the lack of tourist care, in the litter in the countryside, in the scruffy gardens & privately owned green spaces, in the graffiti & dirt. Bucharest is the only capital in Europe without a Tourist Information office. That tells you a lot. Also, the average Romanian is not charitable outside his own family. I don’t refer to the gypsy kids at traffic lights, because i am not charitable to them at all. I refer to the disabled people you never ever see on the street. The lack of wheel chair access is not only due to lack of money or ingenuity. Its about a lack of care. In my humble opinion, for Romania to be respected, as Poland is for example, Romanian’s need to start respecting themselves as a race, their surroundings & their own society. Through that, others will view them with different eyes. Of course I am over generalizing here to make a point. But as I sit here now in London, I see all around me all kind of care initiatives, from helping homeless to helping drug addicts. When I return to Bucharest next week, is it likely I will find anything like that? Of course not. I like to convince myself it is not about greed & money & that it can be reversed. Am I too idealistic?

    • Good points, Damian. Fortunately, things started to move in the right direction in this area too, more people have initiatives like the ones described by you and we’re slowly (unforunately not faster) moving in the right direction.

  3. Love this, C. This reminds me of how some people here view Mexicans. They’re “ALL” criminals in some peoples’ eyes. Yet, I know several immigrant families from Mexico who, like you said, work very, very hard to provide their families with better lives. One simply can’t judge an entire ethnic group by a few rotten apples within that group.

    • Yes, true! I was wondering if there are other people in the same situations – I knew for sure about the Bulgarians, but they’re our neighbors so they’re mostly the same thing 🙂

      • Society is full of stereotyping. Better or worse we live with it. Probably best to focus more ourselves and make sure we are trying to do good. It is all we can do to help fix it. I am american but i am not rich or arrogant as society has labeled me. I go through my day trying to do the “right” thing. The right thing for me is not to buy into the idea that Romanians are thieves. They are not.. some are.. as some are in all countries. Seeing how the media latched onto this like in England was so wrong. We should speak out and do what we can to set it right. The idea that poor Romanians would flood the country.. only the uneducated would believe that you would think. The fact that the politicians and the media used it the way they did is what keeps that stereotyping alive and well and they are the ones that need to be addressed.

        Nothing wrong with Romania. What is wrong is what the uneducated believe. What is criminal is how the educated use it to their advantage as they did in England for example.

  4. This is so well written C. Well done!!! I feel you. Being Nigerian, l view how people treat us too in the rest if the world. When you pull out the passport, you get pulled aside. Everyone knows that all Nigerians are scammers right?? People are so quick to paint a whole nation with the same brush. My father, my mom, and the first 5 kids lived in a single room, with a shared outside toilet with the whole building. My dad put up a sheet across 1/3 of the room and used that as his office/storage space for the car spare parts he was selling. He saw the big picture, and did things the right way through hard work and perseverance. He never forgot and when things got better, he used his money to improve so many people’s lives. There are so many more stories like his, but people prefer to think of the few bad apples. The press love to scare people, sells more l guess. I judge people by how they behave, not by their nationality. It’s another reason why l think people should travel more if they can, it really opens your eyes and make you realize how lucky and blessed one truly is when they see the sufferings of others. When your biggest worry is that you have to go all the way to the next mall because this store does not have your shoe size and you complain to the manager etc..you know you have it good! 🙂

    • Thanks, Kemkem. If I could write in English as well as I can in Romanian, we’d have more well written articles here 🙂

      I am always impressed by the stories of people who manage to make it on their own and I believe that people who were not born rich, but made it there (or at least improved their lives a lot) are extremely open minded and should be appreciated for managing to make it on their own. I personally had no idea that Nigerians are also on the “blacklist” as many other nationalities are but I can only hope that slowly we’ll start to understand exactly what you said – we shouldn’t judge people based on the few bad apples, but their behavior.

  5. Thanks for tackling this difficult topic. I know one should never generalize or base one’s opinions on anecdotes… but here goes anyway!

    There are veritable palaces, obviously recently built, right in the middle of very small Romanian towns. These were built with the “winnings” of those “Romas” who have gone to Western Europe and engaged in every possible criminal activity to make money. It is a way of life. The most benign of these activities is begging. Small babies are used by their mothers to beg money from Western Europeans. When these babies get older, they are turned into mothers who go begging with their babies. When they get enough children this way, they “retire” back to Romania, living off the “winnings” of their children and they build a palace.

    Next anecdote: I often went to a small town where we were renovating a church. We needed some new gutters for the roof and a German local (saş) recommended some Gypsies who had done the gutters of a church in another town. When the Gypsies came to give an estimate for our roof, I wasn’t there and we had failed to warn the other Germans that some Gypsies were coming to give us an estimate. Needless to say, when the Gypsies showed up, the Germans told them to get lost. It was my job to call them up, apologize, and ask them to come back again. They did, gave us an excellent price and they then did an excellent job.

    Another anecdote: We visited a Romanian school. The kids were thrilled to have a real, live American in their class. They were so proud of their English, they asked so many good questions. I noticed the dark-skinned children at the back of the class weren’t participating, so I went to the back, shook some hands, and started asking them questions in Romanian. The teacher ran to me and dragged me away, saying, “They’re too stupid, don’t ask them anything.”

    Another anecdote: I was in the main plaza in Sibiu when I was approached by a Roma beggar. She asked me in Romanian for some money. I tried to blow her off by saying, “I don’t speak Romanian.” She answered me in flawless English. I then tried German, “Ich verstehe kein Rumänisch.” She answered me in flawless German. Then I tried Spanish, “No hablo la lengua romana.” She answered me in flawless Spanish. Then I tried Italian, “No parlo la lingua rumena.” She answered me in flawless Italian. Finally, I said, “Va rog sa ma lasati in pace.” And she left me.

    These are a few of the many anecdotes and stories I collected in Romania. They suggest to me that the Roma are no less intelligent or hard-working than other people. They are just responding to the incentives as they perceive them. As long as Western Europeans give the Roma beggars money, they will be beggars. As long as they are discriminated against in the Romanian school system, they will not rise above their place in Romanian society. I have also met a college-educated Roma who I am proud to call my friend. He is an activist trying to bring life back into a small forgotten Romanian village. Okay, thanks for reading this.

    • This is indeed a difficult topic and I believe that the Roma situation (one that I am not ready to tackle on its own right now) is different of what I wrote about here. In the end, as I always said, no matter what their situation is, the Roma population in Romania has Romanian nationality and therefore they are all Romanians. “They” are “us” and there shouldn’t be any “them” or “us” 🙂

      Thank you for your anecdotes, they certainly show that indeed there are bad apples and great people. It’s easier to generalize, but we shouldn’t.

  6. Regardless of the negatives presented in this blog am thinking of retiring to Romania. Why?
    Because i met a lovely woman there and eventually wooed her to form a relationship. I can testify that most Romanians, notably the women, are very polite, charming and caring. As for the men, well all i can say is that they are not Romania’s greatest asset. Enough said.

    What i do find annoying is the general Romanian’s habit of camouflaging the truth and reality. This verges on blatant lying and leads to cheating and deliberately misleading . They don’t make friends easily and indulge in the pagan belief that only family and the church can be trusted.
    What i find most disgusting about Romanian men is their willingness, or rather eagerness, to put their women and girls to work. This extends into pimping their own sisters, daughters and wives by installing webcams at home for “privacy and decency”.
    In fact so many young girls, single and married, do this that it is one of Romania’s most profitable industries. I suspect these sites have some form of government support , i.e. corruption, to “protect” the special interest groups who exploit and operate them.

    Romania is fast becoming the Thailand of the Eurozone. Is this good or bad?

    I am not a moralist so you can work it out yourself.

    • You would be surprised to find out that many of these girls do this without being forced by others. There might be some bad apples here and there, but usually men can’t force their wives of sisters or other girls to do things that they don’t want to do. However, it is true that this is a thriving industry and there are a ton of girls who are attracted by the huge earnings (by Romanian standards). It’s just the way some girls manage to make ends meet – it’s easy for them and it pays well. That’s the harsh reality. However, as I said, it’s their choice and not somebody else’s (unless you consider poverty “somebody else”).

  7. Not buying his. Deeper sting the scum and the skilled workers is a fallacy. I’m English and started seeing a Romanian in the uk. He has a very well paying job and skills. However, he is a serial cheater. He left me pregnant and alone. Then I see he has four Romanian women on the go. Nurses, doctors etc. They all know about each other but stay engaged to him anyway. I think Romanian women need to wake up, this behaviour is not acceptable. Sad really…

    • This is not something that usually happens in Romania. This is not something that only Romanian men could do, nor something that only Romanian women accept. These things have happened and will happen everywhere in the world. It happens.

  8. You know that old saying about show trust and get respect, well it does not work with Romanians. Even those working their way up the Western European system and shown trust by the natives of their adopted country are bare faces liars when it comes to paying their dues. I gave a Romanian trust because I believed someone who admitted responsibility and was capable of paying for damage caused was a responsible person. As it turned out everything done by this Romanian, all the twists and turns and change of intent over a month were a choreographed lie to hide the true intention of welching on a debt. Janus may have been an ancient Roman two faced god, but he is still much present in Romania. Be careful if you meet I. Rado and the boat Compass Rose K504. He is NOT to be trusted.

  9. I am Romanian. I have the citizenship of Romania. And I am also ethnically Romanian. When you say Gypsies are “us” you mean we all share the same citizenship. You may also say ethnic Hungarians are “us”, ethnic Turks are “us”. Just as true, because we have Hungarian-speaking and Turkish-speaking minorities in Romania. But that won’t change the fact that ethnic Romanians are not ethnic Gypsy. I cannot say I am Gypsy anymore than I can say I am Chinese.

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