Living in Romania

Why Are Romanians Frowned Upon in Europe?

People living in Europe – especially 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 ALL be 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.

Because “Romanian thieves” and “Romanian scum” are not words that should be used to describe all of us. There are good people and bad people everywhere.

Update notice: I originally published this article back in 2015 and I decided to update it and improve it a little bit with a very personal story, especially since it made so many people join the discussion (and I had to delete a ton of really bad comments).

It all started with 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 in this country.

It showed the Romanian Gypsies, the beggars, the bad seeds, the black sheep… you get the picture. They took the worst that Romania has to offer in terms of people and made it a rule of thumb.

No, not all Romanians are beggars, not all of them are thieves or just ba people!

Romania is an extremely poor country and also one of the least educated countries in Europe. It has some of the lowest salaries in Europe and many people don’t have electricity or running water (and even more don’t have a toilet in their house – 1 in 4 actually.)

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 – where there is more to earn, even from their petty crimes or begging.

And even though it is believed that most of them are actually gypsies (the darker skinned Romanians), they are still Romanian citizens and are a product of this country. Because a country is the sum of its best and worst people.

It’s these people (the worst, the scum, not gypsies as a whole) who manage to paint a dark picture of the Romanians.

I am talking about beggars, thieves, people who consider petty thefts a way of living – the only possible way of living, liars and generally bad people.

We still have these bad people here in Romania too and I am sure that every country has more or fewer of these individuals… they just exist in our society, no matter if we like it or not.

It just happens that ours go abroad. Many of them. They do stupid stuff. They don’t learn. They do it all over again. They’re the Romanians. And as a result, most people living in those foreign countries believe that ALL Romanians are bad people.

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

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 – it’s just more money to be made.

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: there are some poor people here. 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 fewer smiles you can see on the peoples’ faces…

But most Romanians are doing their best to improve their chances, to change something and make their lives better.

Most Romanians are still honest people, good people, hard working people that keep pushing and hoping for a better life. They would not break the law, they would not do the stupid things that the “others” do, they would just live their life, like any other normal person on this planet.

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

I have nothing against people choosing to flee the country. I love to travel and I have considered it for various reasons (and I still do). Good people leave the country just as much as the bad ones do.

Living in Romania, 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 at 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.

Romanian Peasant

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

I’ve met an old lady who barely knew how to read because she hadn’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 to become a doctor or something high brow like this.

I know Romanians who skip a meal or two just to be able to buy their son or daughter books and notebooks for the school. To feed them and send them to learn something, to live a better life than they did.

Some really want more. Some people really do all they can – without breaking the law – to live a decent life. And most, despite their efforts, still get nothing in return.

Others give up the fight. They try something stupid. The easier way out. Sometimes it works, most of the times it doesn’t. You don’t have to live in Ferentari to realize that life gave you one lemon (not even more!)

I lived a very modest life. I grew up in a family where my Grandmother started a business at around 70: she borrowed the equivalent of $50 to buy coffee and pots and sold coffee to people.

The reason why she started doing this? She wanted to make enough to guarantee that we have enough money to buy bread daily. Can you imagine this? A 70-year-old grandma waking up each day at 5AM to prepare coffee, just to make sure that she has enough to buy BREAD?

I was lucky to grow up with such a family. To learn this work ethic. To know how it feels to go to sleep on an empty stomach. To see that you never give up and the only thing that stands in your way and success – however you want to measure it is yourself.

Not where you were born, not the deck of cards you were dealt with, nothing else. Bad people will do bad things no matter what.

I grew up surrounded by gypsies. Most of our neighbors were gypsies. Even the small kids were stealing, were swearing and didn’t go to school. I didn’t follow the same route. Because not all human beings – and specifically not all Romanians are bad.

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. Or at least some of us do – just like some of us don’t.

Because we want more. Because we’re not all bad.

Don’t rush to judge a person before you actually get to know them. I guarantee you’ll be surprised.

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31 Comments

  1. 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?

    1. 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.

  2. 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! 🙂

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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”).

  5. I found this article because I have a question about Romanians.. My brother married a Romanian girl and she came to Canada less than a month ago. She was from a working class, not rich, family. She is educated however never had a well paying job. I was very excited to meet her, and now that she’s here nothing seems good enough. We are a middle class family and my brother provided a nice house. But she only wants to ride in new cars, nothing remotely old in the house, ect. She is rude to the service industry people and I just generally feel like she expects buckingham palace or something. But I didn’t write this to vent I want to ask, is this a Romanian mentality or is it her personality or a orthadox thing? I took her to church and she slept. I thought that Romania being many poor that she would be easy to please. Could it be an inferority complex? Has anyone had this experience?

    1. As a Romanian girl, I assure you this is not Romanian mentality, you can get weeds like this in any country. I am NOT easily pleased because I am a Romanian, or because I was poor. I am easily pleased because I was raised to respect people and work. My advice to you is ignore her. You are not the one who has to put up with her behavior, your brother is, and my guess is he already knows her well enough that HE decided to marry her. I don’t like the type you described either, I got rid of friends like that because the materialistic type usually is selfish too, and only thinking about themselves. I’m sorry you got disappointed, you probably expected a new friend, a new sister, and you got someone that thinks about her needs and luxurious comfort before real needs. OR maybe she feels like everything there is yours, because she didn’t choose any of it, and for her to feel like home she wants to put her touch in her new home.

    2. People react differently from making the switch from being poor to affording more. Remember that middle class in Canada equals “very rich” in Romania. She’s either unable to adapt to the switch or she was like that, sort of a trophy wife from the beginning.

      It is true that Romanians are generally not the most polite people in the world although there are improvements with the newer generations, thankfully – but also her behavior is not what you could expect from all the ladies (or gents) in Romania.

    3. Hi,
      I met 2 Romanian women in my life and they were exactly the same as the one you described: very rude and arrogant, so hard to please, didn’t respect others and in both cases, even though they lived in a dog hole, they had to ride expensive cars. I really want to believe not all Romanian are like that but after what I experienced, I feel like avoiding them.

      1. Ah, yes! The expensive car situation. There are jokes in Romania about people buying $30,000 cars and not having enough money to fill up the tank with gas. Or sleeping in their cars, because they’re more comfortable than their homes.

        Again, it is something that only happens with a small amount of the population. Gold diggers and extreme consumerists are everywhere.

  6. Salut !

    Interesting post. However, something in it makes me sad.

    In this article you should try to show the best things of România. But, why do you keep repeating over and over that Romania is a “extremely poor country”? Where did you get this? It is simply a lie. Eritrea is an extremely poor country. Kenya is an extremely poor country. But Romania?

    I’ve met some people from East Europe, and it seems to me that, sometimes, the only thing they can tell about their countries is “we are a poor country”.

    See, I’m from Brazil. My fiancée is Romanian. When she came here, no one said to her “we are an extremely poor country”. No. Everyone were very excited to show her everything good from here, and to show her how we are the best country in the world! Maybe this is an attitude that lacks in Romanian people, and East Europe people in general: while Brazilians try to convince you we have the best country in the world, some Romanians try to convince us that you have a bad country.

    We always have what to learn with Brazilians =)

    La revedere!

    1. Hello Pedro,

      Fortunately, there are many positive articles on this website and not all are on a sadder tone like this one. I am sure that when you visited Romania, everybody here was also happy to show you the beautiful things around, as I would do and just like everybody in any country does.

      But the truth is that many Romanians are and feel poor. It’s not as bad as in other places in this world, but it’s not good either. I do agree that the way you look at things and how you tackle the hardships makes a big difference and us Eastern Europeans are on the grimmer side unfortunately but I am doing my best to show the big picture here, with goods and bads.

      1. Have you been to Primaverii in Bucuresti? Strada Sofia/ Dorobantii? Stejar? Baneasa? Pipera? There are many many rich Romanians (including black money, etc. ) who live in these places. There are few equivalents of this level of richness in surrounding countries like Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, etc. These people can vacation to Norway and not feel a sting in their wallet.

        Romanians whine about povety and 1989 and blah blah. Look at how the surrounding countries handle Covid-19 – better than Romania (with the possible exception of Ukraine). Animal welfare – a f$%^ing joke in RO. Driver respect and safety – same. No respect, lots of whining. Ridiculous entitled pricks everywhere. This is not about lack of education , its about quality of people.

        1. Hi Mark! I’m in Ireland for the last 5 years and I have seen Romanians being arrogant as much as the irish. In Ireland there are more money and they finished their oppression earlier than Romanians. The only difference? No. Study communism and what really happened there. Dark stuff. So dark, people don t talk about it. Coming back to people. Lets take the money out of Ireland for example and set it at the same level of Romania. How will people do then? How will they behave? ”No blacks! No dogs! No Irish!” Ireland not so many years ago was a joke and they were not killed in their homes, streets, in prisons, tortured, manipulated by the system. They were like that because that was their way of life. We were given to the soviet by the English and Americans on a silver plater and oppressed. These things don’t change over the night so chill out! Besides… nearly 50 % of Romania is sold now thanks to Europe so expect more of people who are looking for what you have. And when I say looking, |i mean fight working, Hardworking. In my workplace there are 5 irish probably and the rest 80 people, foreigners. On managing jobs and cleaning jobs, irish. That should show you how we would behave in Romania if the same conditions were given to us. Peace out!

  7. I traveled across Romania and met so many people. In general, they are nice people, but you can see that they are tricky and not straightforward. I also felt very bad when they start talking about their fellow Romanian Gypsy fellows in degrading way, even though they themselves are not better. It was sickening to me because I was taken advantage of by Romanians who are blond with blue eyes. It is the culture!! especially in big cities.

  8. I understand that you are hurt by this and I agree it’s a horrible situation but please see it differently. Not all of us are the same. We are humans like any other nationality. We are smart and hard working people . Sadly I had to work harder than others so people could recognize my work. That’s why it hurts to see such stereotypes Have a nice day.

  9. I am a Romanian born citizen that was adopted into the US. I am greatful for the life I have been given and am appreciative to the fact I did not have to live with the disparities that are cast amongst my people. I was born in Nusfalua in 1989, and left at the age of 3. I cringe at the topic of discussion, but as many have said it doesnt matter where you go there is always the “scum” in the pond. I grew up around these type of Americans, and still see it today. If there is one thing I wish I could do, is to bring what I have learned, respect, hard work and compassion for human life. I visited Bucharest back in 2008 and was very suprised with how much infrastructure was there. I then visited outside of the city and saw what I would have been subjeted to. It also showed me that I am greatul for having the oppurtunity to see where I came from. I understand that Romania is frowned upon, but the media and others dont subjecate the fact that Romania was relieved of German dictation only 30 years ago. WIthout the ability to teach the newer generations of the harsh reality that their parents and families went through, I honestly dont believe that they will understand why parts of Romania are the way they are. The schooling system, which I am very unaware of sounds like it needs to be updated and processed in a way that shows the younger generations that they have a position to fill. I have been fully educated and am earning a AAS in Science and wish to further extend what I have learned to Romania. I hope that the economic growth and human growth evolves, but it does take the right people to enhance the thought process on how to enact on these abilities. Also resonsibility is needed to be taken. So what if things have been wrong, so what if people have acted impulsively. It only takes the mindset and the ability of forgiveness to move forward. Look at what Germany did, and they perservered, becoming a powerful country. Romania can do the same, it just takes true leadership an non corrupt minds to do so. Take the blame and move forward. I know I have, and i havent trully endured the Romanian life, but i have endured the life of the poor and dissparity. You can only move forward by learning from the past.

  10. It’s understandable, your wanting to paint a positive picture of your kinsmen and homeland. Only die-hard multi-culturalists wouldn’t want to do this.

    Romanians’ poor reputation existed here (UK) before EU expansion and the TV program you mention. Undoubtedly, that picture was largely based on a stereotype rather than personal experience. However, with around half a million Romanians now in the UK, the impression is borne of peoples’ actual experience and, guess what, the sterotype has proven entirely accurate.

    Every nationality and ethnicity has a stereotype. Almost always negative. In London, we have vast experience of different ethnicities and nationalities. Some have managed to shrug off a sterotype whilst others have not. Either way, usually for good reason.

    I haven’t been to Romania. I probably would have developed a more positive impression had I done so. My experience has been that economic migrants, Romanians included, are invariably poor ambassadors for their homeland and people. Too often, economic migrants are the least genuine and most greedy people their respective countries have to offer.

  11. I live in Germany. I had terrible experience dealing with Romanians. Almost 90 percent of Romanians I met were cheaters. Most of them took my money and never returned back. I am a wholesale supplier.I do not care about nationality. But when a fraud happens, I try to find out reason behind it. Almost all of them speak in a similar manner. They talk about why I can trust them and they swear on their children. I was scammed by mostly men young, old, middle aged, almost everyone. Once even a younger single mom who had two children scammed me and then blocked my number. My business suffered losses mostly from Romanians. Turks were good. Russians were good. No problem dealing with anyone from middle east as well. No problem dealing with Germans. Very honest and straightforward people. Now when I come to know that I am dealing with a Romanian I just politely refuse to do business with them. I wish I knew this before I started my business.

      1. I also feel sorry for that. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone personally. But it just gets little bit difficult to survive and run your business especially if you are living in a foreign country which is very nice and peaceful but you have to deal with certain unpleasant section of people. Having said that I believe there are many nice Romanians as well and as pointed out by someone in the comment section, economic migrants are not the right representative for the kind people belonging to any country. I hope things get better in Romania. My apologies if I offended any Romanians.

  12. I’m so sad to see this. I have Romanian boyfriend, he lives in Romania and I live in Paris. And it hurts me when people are talking bad about Romanian.. There are lots of thieves here and people say they are Romanians right away as if only Romanians do these kind of things.. like I hope people will stop judging and those thieves have to stop too😞

  13. Well, I can say the thing for Americans. They are frowned upon in Europe too because of their rude behavior. There are times when I see American tourists do stupid things and I’m embarrassed about it. Granted, this is different. I understand this dislike towards Romanians does stem from the old stereotype from the gypsy community. Which sadly is still going on there. Everyone wants to make a better life from themselves. I have never looked down on the Romanian people. Just the opposite. I find Romanians to be warm hearted, educated (for the most part), kind and polite. They are willing to share everything they have with you regardless where you are from. In fact, most Americans have a very positive view of Romania and this positive view is spreading elsewhere. My friend from Sweden, was hesitant to come with me to Romania. Once he did, he loved it. He’s gone back numerous times. He even invited more Swedes to come and they liked it too! Like everything else in life, you need to experience it for yourself before you can form an opinion. I’ll always be a strong supporter of Romania. I country I truly love.

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