You have probably heard about or seen the idyllic Romanian villages in photos over the internet and fell in love with them. It is true, in most of these villages traditions remain untouched, the air is cleaner and the grass is greener. Indeed, most Romanian villages are a joy to live in for those who love nature and would like a home away from the crowded, noisy and polluted urban areas.
But despite all these advantages, living in a Romanian village might not be the right thing for you! And I am here to tell you why you might not be able to live in one, especially if you’re not particularly into giving up at least some comforts of the modern world.
We did publish recently a complete and extremely comprehensive guide about living in a village in Transylvania (written by Angela who moved from the UK and spent a few months there) – and her guide and experience shows that despite all the negatives you’ll read below, you can still make it work and have a great time there.
So make sure to also read that article to see the other side of the situation and then decide if living in a village in Romania is indeed what you want or need to do.
But before that, let’s look at some of the reasons why foreigners (and maybe not even Romanians) could make living in a village work for them!
1. A different mentality
Even though, just like all Romanians, the people living in Romanian villages are extremely friendly and nice, especially when it comes to foreign visitors, they all have an old, outdated mentality that might shock a lot of people. I was surely shocked after talking to an old man living in a village here in Romania.
He is my new neighbor since we bought a house in a village near our city. When we got there one day, he invited me inside his house to offer some fresh eggs and vegetables (they love to give you gifts, that is true!) and I said that hopefully he doesn’t have a dog around, because I am afraid of them.
His answer shocked me: “Oh, no, I had one, but he started to attack the chicken so I drowned it.”
He said that as if it was nothing – just your regular early Monday routine. Unfortunately for him and many other people living in villages all around the country, it is nothing.
In order to keep the dog population under control, they drown the newly born puppies and there are a ton of other barbaric things they normally do without even considering them wrong… and I don’t even want to think about them.
Yes, the Romanian mentality in villages is definitely one of those things that could shock you!
And everything revolving around their mentality is outdated and could really surprise a modern person, from the idea that women are inferior to men (this is something that women are taught as well), to them being very superstitious and religious and all the way to all sort of minor things that are, in the end, different from what you know, what you consider (and is) normal to live by.
And being surrounded by such people is difficult, while changing the mentality is a process that takes not years, but generations.
2. Lack of education
Probably most of the problems with the people in Romanian villages come from their lack of education. Unfortunately, Romania has the highest number of illiterate people in the European Union, and almost all of them live in villages.
Just a few days ago I saw a shocking thing on TV: a reporter was asking people in a Romanian village what is the name of the country they were living in and, as shocking and unbelievable as it might sound, they did not know the answer.
Of course, a special kind of people were chosen, but they were all adults with a right to vote, and I believe that every person should know at least the name of the country they live in… Others didn’t know what year is it or more “advanced” stuff like whether the sun revolves around the earth or vice-versa.
The lack of education leads to the old ways of thinking and the mentality problems we’ve talked about earlier, also making them extremely unreceptive to anything new. Plus, you will probably not learn too much from them, unless it’s growing crops or animals that you’re interested in – which in many cases is still extremely useful.
But the biggest problem coming from a lack of education and interest for culture is the fact that it’s very difficult to communicate with these people, even in Romanian language. They usually find it very difficult to understand what you’re saying, to make logical connections and to explain things properly. It is very frustrating!
3. Nobody speaks a foreign language
You’ve probably heard it that most Romanians speak English – this is indeed mostly true, but it actually refers to people living in cities – larger or smaller. Since most of the people living in villages here in Romania don’t even know how to read, it’s pretty much common sense that learning another language was not high on their priorities list!
Lately, this thing has changed a little bit, as Angela mentioned in the article about her experience living in a Romanian village. Many people from these villages went to other countries to find jobs and spent there at least a few months, being introduced to a foreign language.
But if you’re going to a place where you have an older population – retirees that no longer look for work – don’t expect any to speak English or any other foreign language. And even those who do speak it, will have minimal knowledge.
On the other hand, people will usually be extremely interested to communicate one way or another with foreigners, so they will do their best to use signs and sounds to get at least some basic information out. But it won’t be easy especially when it comes to long term living in such a place and if you don’t want to learn Romanian.
4. Lack of running water (and maybe even electricity)
Most of the villages in Romania don’t have running water, and people get theirs from either a well in their yard or from the village’s fountain, sometimes having to walk even 30 minutes with buckets of water from the fountain to their home.
No running water also means that the toilet is a bit different from what you might be used with – and it’s right there at the back of the yard, an outhouse that smells like everything you ate in the past few months and more… Going to the toilet during the cold winter days can be a real adventure too – not one that you’ll enjoy repeating, though!
Another problem with the lack of running water and people using the water from sometimes hand-dug fountains is that the water itself is not safe for drinking. Now, these people who have been drinking it ever since they were born, might not be as sensitive to all the living things inside it, but you will definitely get at least an upset stomach!
Again, things have slowly started to change here and there is at least the option to pay for some professional workers to dig a proper well, with an electric pump and get clean water.
Together with the lack of running water, there are still places in Romania that don’t even have electricity. Fortunately, the number of villages without electricity is getting lower each day – but many of those who do have electrical power run on very old cables that can’t handle multiple units running at the same time.
5. Prepare to do some heavy woodcutting!
If you like to keep the temperatures above freezing in your house over the winter, then you should prepare to do just what I said above: get that axe ready and prepare to do some woodcutting, because most of the houses in the Romanian villages get their heat from wood burning stoves.
Even if you have somebody to cut the wood for you (there will be many who will do it if you pay them), you will still have to start the fire each day – and usually in multiple stoves, as each room will have one. And trust me, this gets old really, really fast!
I actually grew up in a house heated with terracotta stoves and I can tell you that it was horrible. Not only the fact that you always have to go outside and bring the wood in, start the fire, inhale smoke, clean the huge mess that this entire process makes, but also because you have no control over the temperature these stoves give you.
Thanks to the poorly insulated house that I lived in (which is even more common in a village), we usually went to sleep when the temperature was over 30 degrees Celsius, only to wake up in the morning at 15-16 degrees. It was really horrible – don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise!
6. Poor infrastructure and services
Most of the roads in our villages are dirt roads and you won’t be too happy about them after some heavy rains fall or when the snow begins to melt. Also, public transportation might mean just one bus per day going to the nearest city… slowly and dirty and without any air conditioning.
In terms of services, don’t expect to have too many shops around, or a pharmacy or hospitals or anything else you might normally find in a city. It’s usually one or two small shops with very few products and that’s all you get and, paradoxically, more expensive than in the city.
Also, the famed insanely high speed internet didn’t make its way (yet) to most of these villages and even mobile reception can be poor in some areas. In most of these places, the quality of the internet is so poor that streaming movies from Netflix, for example, can sometimes be very annoying.
7. Lack of entertainment options
If you’re a person who enjoys eating out every now and then, maybe go to the theater or cinema, hang out in a pub and take part in various events, then I have some really bad news for you: most of these things (usually all of them) are not available in Romanian villages.
Sure, you can hop into your car and drive to the nearest larger city in order to do any of these activities, but just know for sure that you won’t be able to do them in your village.
8. Lack of privacy
There are usually just a few hundred people living around you – sometimes less, sometimes up to a couple of thousands. This means that everybody knows everybody and most people there will have absolutely no respect for your potential need for privacy.
Don’t be surprised if people simply open your gate and welcome themselves inside to have a chat and see what they’re doing. In 99% of the cases – unannounced, of course.
This is how they lived their entire lives and the most you can expect is them knocking at the door (or usually just yelling your name) before entering. But it’s common practice to just come and go as they please, whenever they feel like it. And since you’ll be “that foreigner” that moved in, they will surely be curious!
9. Alcohol and petty crime
Since there’s not too much to do in a Romanian village, people there consider drinking extremely entertaining – maybe their main hobby. They make their own wine and moonshine, and they have a lot of it, which has to be consumed.
It’s not uncommon for most of the people in the villages (males and females equally) to start drinking heavily each day starting in the afternoon, when their work on the field is done. Some don’t even wait that long before sipping a “little one”.
This means that, influenced by alcohol, the villagers might become a bit more violent and it’s indeed the villages where most of Romania’s crimes happens, even though Romania is not a dangerous country to live in, overall.
Although it’s usually just fights between the drunken people (so technically, if you don’t drink, you should be safe), there are also a lot of petty crimes happening there, stealing probably being the top crime. There are sometimes more violent crimes – in the end, you can’t expect a lot of compassion or kindness from a person who sees nothing wrong in drowning puppies for population control…
It was actually the same neighbor in my village that was once upset that thieves had stolen almost all his chicken – leaving him with just three and a rooster so he can repopulate (which I found kind of funny, honestly). When I showed my worries, he told me that it’s not a real problem – he knew who stole his chicken, everybody in the village knew.
And no, he had no intention in calling the police. “They’re very poor, they don’t have anything to eat. What else could they do but steal?” my neighbor told me, leaving me speechless.
Above, I showed you what I consider to be the massive Cons about living in a Romanian village. Fortunately, things are starting to slowly get better and some might not have all the Cons listed above, while some (many) will have them all.
Also, there are villages and villages… usually, the ones that are very close to the cities are slowly turning into suburbs, with people simply moving there from the crowded city for more space, cleaner air or whatnot. This also means that these villages lose most of their traditional appeal, but also most of the cons presented above.
In other words, this means that you should do some serious research about the area you’re about to move in to and make sure you know everything about the people living there and the type of living you’d have to do before moving out. I am sure that you can still find some amazing villages to live in with none of the problems above!
Hint: start with those closest to the cities, as they are usually a step ahead of the others (but also the least village-y)