Culture Shock :: Romania

22 06 2008

For a while now I couldn’t figure out a meaningful way to contribute to this blog. Jen’s posts are hard to beat and we don’t need two people writing about the same silly adventures (since we’re always together). The cool thing is that the perfect subject was under our noses the entire time. In fact, our senses are constantly being overloaded with the stuff. Culture Shock. A common term for the obvious differences between the culture your ‘visiting’ and the one your ‘used to’, which can sometimes drive you to ripping all your hair out by the roots during an episode. Luckily, I haven’t been successful in scalping myself yet but, nevertheless, we still have come across some strange cultural differences that we’ll share with you in this new category of post.

:: Service With A Smile ::
Okay, so paying a 15-20% tip on top of your bill at a restaurant in the US isn’t always fun and only having to leave 10% max tip in Romania is a great change, that is true. However, when sitting in a restaurant here and wondering what word you mispronounced in Romanian to make the waiter look like he wants to eat you, a 20% tip doesn’t seem all that bad. Service with a smile is not their motto in Romania and that goes for just about everything. The cashier at grocery store may not actually look at you during the check out process. The wait staff at the restaurants almost always look like their pissed that you came to eat at their restaurant. The hostel staff can be quite nice, but don’t seem to understand that the customer is always right.

A good example of traditional Romanian customer service came to us when we visited a restaurant which happened to be closed at the time with no explanation. We noticed an alley to the side of the restaurant that looked like a back patio with some people on it. Luckily, we were with a group of travelers and with our combined efforts we could attempt to speak the main languages in the city, Romanian and German. So, we went behind the restaurant and proceeded to ask about the hours of operation. The conversation went something like this:

“Hello, is the restaurant closed?”
“Yes”
“When time does the restaurant open?”
(shrug of shoulders)
“Do you work here?”
“Yes”
“Will the restaurant be open today?”
“No”
“Oh, okay, so what day are you open?”
(shrug of shoulders)
“Hmm. You will open again, correct?”
“Yes”
“Okay, well, do you have an idea of when that would be?”
“Maybe Monday?” (with a shrug of shoulders)

You get the idea. This went on for about 10 minutes until we finally got out of the guy that there is a problem with the gas and that they may have it fixed on Monday (which by the way was almost a week ago and it’s still not open – welcome to Romania). Those of you from the super customer service land of consumerism (USA) can see how this environment could be a bit frustrating and discouraging. However, once you learn that most of these employees get paid next to nothing and have to work12 hour days, 5-7 days a week, with little hope for a better position, you start to understand why it is the way it is and stop feeling personally offended.

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2 responses

22 06 2008
colonna

i can’t believe you guys met someone from Charlotte while you are in Romania. see… your friends from Charlotte miss you guys so much that the Travel Gods have sent you a good omen in a new Charlotte/Romanian friend.

glad to hear your adventures are going well. i like the new Culture Shock addition to the blog!

25 06 2008
Wesley

Sounds like a typical experience in Memphis restaurant.

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