Living in Romania

Why You Might Not Be Able to Live in a Romanian Village

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Romanian villages are extremely friendly and nice, especially when it comes to foreign visitors, they all have an old, outdated mentality that might shock a lot of people.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.

Some of the homes are very old, too

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!

But you do get breathtaking views!

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.

Conclusion

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)

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20 Comments

  1. Howdy Calin:
    Well, I am #1–yippee!
    The villages you describe sound like the rustic ones in Appalachia in the USA in the 20th Century. I wonder if the people remain in the villages because they are satisfied with their lot in life. Sometimes the modern world can be rather too much at times.
    I remember back in 1968 when I spent a summer in Denmark. My uncle tied up a newborn litter of kittens and threw them in the lake. I didn’t realize what he was doing at the time, though–I was too young. Still it sure should hit home to folks to spay or neuter their pets. (Sometimes here in the USA there are people who should be spayed and neutered, too!)
    I couldn’t live without running water and toilets and showers. That is too rough for me, for sure!
    I’ve seen a very lovely Romanian city on You Tube: Piata Neamt (sorry I don’t have your alphabet). Have you been there, or has Wife Romanian?
    Thanks for another view of your country!
    ~Teil (USA)

    1. Yay, Teil, you are first! 🙂

      I don’t know if the people choose living in these villages because they are completely satisfied with it, but they don’t really have the means to get out of there. Most of them are happy to see their kids make the move to the city, so they clearly know that it’s not an ideal life there.

      Regarding Piatra Neamt (often referred to as “The Pearl of Moldavia”) – I have only been there when I was little, so I don’t remember much. I know that the entire Moldavia is a great place to visit because of its monasteries, which are indeed worth seeing. I just checked the city on Wikipedia and it seems that it’s just as large as the one I am currently living in, so it could definitely be considered a good choice.

    2. I’m looking to move out the u.s. at least for 6 months a year or more. Rommania sounds nice…concerned about water for home…I’m in construction n thought maybe I could buy a home that needs work, or build my own. How much is property there…appreciate any information… Thank you…Michael Martuscelli…

      1. If you don’t want to live the country life, then you will have no problems with the water – tap water is drinkable too. Properties are very cheap here compared to the US and rent is even cheaper.

  2. Hi Calin: Thanks for your reply. Who knows, maybe in time, as the older folks pass on, village life will change for the better. The younger folks may come back to improve their lot. It would be nice if all the arable land was used for agriculture. So many people in the world go hungry.
    I spend a lot of time looking at the different Romanian cities on You Tube, Wikipedia, et al, just to see what is what. As much as Bucharest has to offer, I am afraid of the earthquake risk. So many people are living in “red circled” buildings in the city because of the lower rent, I guess. Also, I understand a lot of the building owners are just waiting for some of their older and damaged buildings to collapse so they can build or sell the land. For new construction, do you know if the Romanian law requires reinforced construction to minimize damage in an earthquake?
    It’s the same way here in the USA. I live in an earthquake tsunami risk zone right now (coastal Washington State–Ring of Fire). Seattle, up north of me, is the fastest growing city right now, and it’s also in a very high earthquake risk area. There are laws for new construction to be reinforced, but the many older brick and masonry buildings aren’t reinforced, and hence will suffer the most damage in an earthquake. For that matter, the whole West Coast Of the USA is at risk of a really BIG ONE. (This definitely s*cks!)
    My ideal Romanian city would be out of the seismic zone, scenic, free of a lot of “undesirables,” have a good mass transit system (no Dacia for me;-), a variety of shopping options, a theater or opera house, a train station, a nearby airport, a good infrastructure, a variety of apartments (not a fan of the “blocks” as in Bucharest), etc.–basically what anyone would want, eh?
    Sorry to blather on;-) I hope all is well with you and your little family.
    TTYL,
    ~Teil (USA)

    1. Teil, I don’t know if the law requires reinforced construction, but I believe there’s nothing about it. I might be wrong, though.

      The fact that you want a nearby airport and you want to be as far away from the potential seismic areas, actually narrows you down to Western Romania – the areas that I would recommend to anyone willing to make the move. Major airports are in Timisoara and Cluj so anything around them would fit this bill. But I am sure you already know that 🙂

  3. This sounds just like back home! 🙂 . I am not so sure about the kitten and dog killing though. Amazing how similar everything is though. Nice post C, people need to be aware. It’s easy to say ‘oh, l want to live somewhere rustic etc’ . Be careful what you,wish for ..lol..

      1. Yes..its normal in Romania that once in a while stray dogs get killed by police officers and/or para-militairy men (hunting is a sport in the country side..some i saw even with automatic kalasnikov guns!!). Back in 1996 in Sibiu (I lived there for several months) the police shot all street dogs. BUT I must admit…with a good reason..they attacked several people..injuring some of them badly. Please remind..that Romania does not have money to sterilize dogs. And after all…a street dog is just an animal..nothing less then fe a cow…a pig or indeed a chicken. my 2 cents. regards, Johan.

      2. Johan, things have fortunately changed a bit since 1996. I don’t personally remember the dog shooting you mention (but I’m not saying it didn’t happen – anything’s possible here), but things have changed since then. And even though funds are still tight, Romania has started to sterilize dogs a few (maybe several) years ago and the situation is much, much better now than it was in 1996. Many things change in 23 years 🙂

  4. Hi Calin,
    I’ve been enjoying reading your articles today, they are a great source of very useful information, well wriiten and fun to read 🙂 I was wondering if you could please tell me how tattoos are viewed in Romanian cities and villages? I plan to move to (ideally) Brasov for a few months (maybe longer if it works out well) and was curious if there was any discrimination, in particular being a girl with a couple of tattoos?
    Thank you for your time,
    Sera

    1. Hello Sera,

      I am glad that you enjoyed reading the blog! I’ve never heard anything about any kind of discrimination for people with tattoos, be them boys or girls. Actually, tattoos are pretty widespread in Romania and you can always see those full sleeves on somebody. So don’t worry about that – boy or girl, tattoos are welcome! 🙂

      1. Thank you for the swift reply Calin,
        that’s great! I only visited Romania for 4 days in 2008 (Brasov and Zarnesti, with a quick visit to Sinaia) and fell in love with both the place and the people, I look forward to returning 🙂

  5. I was a frequent visitor in a small town not far from Sighisoara. Houses could be bought for very cheap but they were in very bad shape. Actually as a foreigner one had to sign a “rent in perpetuity” contract because foreigners weren’t allowed to buy land just the buildings on it. The villagers were really nice but after a while got to be a little annoying with their constant “requests” which always got bigger and bigger (“Oh, if you can remember it, maybe a chainsaw would be nice… Oh, make sure it’s a Stihl!”). As one of the few foreigners in our party who could speak some Romanian, the villagers always made a beeline for me. The strangest request I got was from a Romanian mother who had a very nice daughter who was deaf and had recently divorced her violent husband. “Could you find a nice deaf man in Germany who will marry my daughter?” I told her, sorry, I wasn’t in the matchmaking business, and besides, I thought German sign language was different from Romanian sign language. Well, imagine the egg on my face when the next time I visited, the same mother told me her deaf daughter had met a nice deaf German through the Internet, and she had moved to him in Germany!

    1. Ah, I didn’t even consider the requests, but I am sure the same happens everywhere. When we visit our village life, they also try to get things from us as well, usually by offering insanely overpriced services. Probably for foreigners, things are even worse.

  6. I spent a month living in Miclosoara or Mikoslvar, back in 2005. Granted I was living in the rebuilt cottages for tourists, but you were smack in the middle of the village. It’s the Count Kalnoky Villages. I was surprised that he was actually born in America. But anyway, I spent my time there playing with the village kids. Even though I couldn’t speak Hungarian, I was still able to have a great time with the local kids and getting to know the local people. Sometimes I got lucky and a younger person would know some english who would help translate when I would speak to the local residents. The locals invited me into their homes and they had electricity and running water. But the heat is very true, they were cutting wood all the time. But despite them getting water from the well, using the horse and cart, some had cars, but lived in the local neaby town of Barolt. I became friends with one of the tour guides and we would drive to Brasov since it wasn’t all that far. I returned to the village in 2008 because I loved it there. During both visits, I became very close to two little girls in the village and ond day treated them, and one of their mom’s, out for a day of fun in the Brasov, since they were very poor and never get to go out to the city. I took them out to lunch, and treated them to whatever they wanted. It’s a memory I’ll always treasure.

    So despite all the drawbacks you’ve mentioned in this article, it’s still an option that I may consider once I retire. Since it’s about 45 minutes from Brasov getting other things I may need won’t be a problem.

    I love the Transylvanian region of Romania. I’ve since vacationed in Romania 6 times and have been almost everywhere in the country. I love Romania very much and is without question one of my favorite countries in Europe. So hopefully when things die down with the current situation, I can visit it again and see my friends.

    1. That is a nice thing you did with the girls, Brian! I always considered doing something like that when I meet somebody in need. These things could really mean a lot of the people involved: maybe the girls saw what life can be and this motivated them to learn better at school and get the most out of life. Really nice indeed!

      I’ve never been to Miclosoara myself (it’s actually the first time I hear of it), but I checked it on Google maps and it looks really good indeed, one of the more modern villages in the country. This proves that you can definitely find something that works and has a lot to offer, despite potential other negatives. Let’s hope that everything gets back to normal ASAP!

      1. Prince Charles ended up donating a lot of money for the restoration of the hunting lodge there in Miclosoara. Back when I used to stay there in 2005 and 2008, this building was completely run down, but structurally still okay. Me and the local kids used to sneak in there and we would play hide and seek there. Some areas were really dark of course becuase it run down so it made for an amzing experience. So I look back, and of course not knowing at the time, that this was a unique experience in terms of a vacation, that would never happen again. So because of the closeness of the relationship I built with the people in this village, it developed my love for your country.

        Now that the hunting lodge has been restored, many people have been using it for weddings and events and such. I’m glad it’s been restored since it is a historical building, but the experience that I had there can not happen to future visitors because it has become more touristy. I’m certian the money being earned is being put back into the village. Or at least I hope it is. But a part of me is sad that this unique experience with the village children is now gone with the restoration of the building.

        I went back one final time in 2010 with a suitcase of all kinds of clolthes, perfume, lotion and all kinds of things that they could normally not afford, and I gave them to the girls. By this time, they were 13 years old and I never saw them again. I cried when I left them because I knew that part of my life with them was over. I can only hope they are doing fine.

  7. Would you mind to share the video in which they were asking people the name of the country they were living in?

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