Romania

Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

For more than forty years, Romanians lived under a regime that discouraged contact with foreigners. At first meeting, Romanians approach foreigners typically with the expectation that people from other cultures will take on their own (stereotypical) national identity. For example, on a scale, Canadians are supposed to be less aggressive than Americans, but not as direct as the French.

The ideological and legal barriers that once stood in Romania no longer exist and people are open to making contact with foreigners. There are no taboo subjects, but foreigners will quickly note that people are more interested in talking about topics that touch their lives (such as personal, political, economic, or international situations) than talking about new subjects. Talking about work and asking where people come from are good ice-breakers, as is talking about the weather.

Voicing your opinion about other people is not well received until you know the other person well; however, once communication has been established, it is only natural to criticize, judge, and label others. Humour is always appreciated and helps break the ice and ease tensions. Romanian humour is earthy and sometimes bizarre or dark. People quite enjoy playing with words and misunderstandings.

Canadian Perspective:

I found that discussion topics Romanians I met were most interested in include where you are from, your family background (e.g. are you married, do you have children), what you are doing in Romania and what you think of Romania. On the latter point, I found the Romanians I spoke with were proud of their country, culture and history and would appreciate an honest but positive assessment of it. For example, a constructive reference to their architectural monuments, the landscape, places to visit, food, etc. As in many places that I have visited, Romanians are generous and hospitable people, who appreciate someone that enjoys the food and "tuica" (the local home made plum brandy) that they often offer.

When speaking with Romanians of European background, I found touchy subjects to include the Roma people (so-called Gypsies). My experience was that European Romanians and the Roma have a difficult relationship. I often found that European Romanian friends and colleagues were aggressive and defensive towards any Roma who might approach me or other expatriates in their company. In discussions about the Roma with European Romanians, I was sharply reminded not to be judgmental of the treatment of the Roma since the Romanian context was foreign to me.

I did not have much contact with the Roma themselves except to observe that they are obviously a disadvantaged group in Romanian society and can frequently be seen to be begging or in difficult circumstances and are often not well treated by the rest of the community. What little contact I did have demonstrated that they too are hospitable and curious but that there was an edge to my contact with them, which derived from their obvious poverty. This "edge" often manifested itself in uncomfortable requests for financial and other material assistance.

Another potentially touchy subject for Romanians I came across was the Communist era. My experience was that younger Romanians want to move with certainty into a capitalist system and admired things "modern and Western" - albeit sometimes ambivalently. The older generation I found tended to recall the security of jobs and life that Communism offered. While I never experienced any instances of overt sensitivity or discomfort with the subject of Romania’s Communist past, I did sense that this was a sensitive conversation topic to be dealt with in an apolitical non-judgmental way. In other words, I tended to let the Romanians guide the tone of the discussion and asked questions about this carefully. This is because, for example, in one instance I had observed a foreigner making strong statements and criticisms about Communism that caused offence. While I often heard Romanians themselves sharply criticize Communism, I felt that this was a case of insider criticism being more acceptable than that of outsiders.

My other experience around first contact and ongoing relationships is the awareness that Romanian friends and colleagues had of the differences in salary scales between themselves and expatriates. Salaries among Romanians seemed to be an open subject. People seemed to freely disclose how much they made and I was often asked about my own salary. I also sensed from a number of conversations that my Romanian colleagues and friends felt a combination of regret for the capitalist path not taken by their country following World Wars One and Two and resentment of the country’s status as a recipient of aid and Western technical assistance. Because of this, I felt that it was wiser to be discreet about my own salary. To put this into context, my salary was twelve times that of one of my slightly more junior Romanian colleagues and might have, rightly so, been a source of shock, disbelief and even resentment had I been open about it.

Having said this, I again remind the reader that I found Romanians to be very friendly, relaxed and not all that different in manner from other European or Western cultures.

Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

The acceptable amount of personal space required is much less than in North America; people shake hands up close and do not then move away. People tend to have a wandering gaze when speaking to one another. Compared to North Americans, Romanians focus less on the people to whom they are speaking; this often gives the impression that they are not paying attention. Yet, keeping constant eye contact may, in the worst-case scenario, be awkward, but it will never be perceived as being offensive.

Once the ice is broken, it is not poorly viewed to touch others when speaking to them. Nevertheless, it is expected that foreigners will be more reserved.

People use a lot of gestures and facial expressions; Romanians fall somewhere between English and Italians in their use of non-verbal communication and animated conversation.

The nature of expressions should, however, be interpreted in relation to the specific context and taking into account the allusions, innuendos and pertinent remarks that go along with them.

Canadian Perspective:

I found the Romanians I met well mannered. The older generation of men tended to have chivalrous manners, including bowing, kissing the hands of women in greeting, opening doors and letting women go first, etc. There are some Western women who might find that offensive but I do believe it was meant in the politest of ways and I personally enjoyed it. The younger generation of men also tended to be well-mannered and chivalrous but did not kiss the hands of women in greeting. More often they would hold a door open or offer you their seat, etc. I found women to be quite comfortable in terms of their physical proximity with one another and with me. This includes touching, handshakes and eye contact. Eye contact between men and women was also similar to that found in Canada. Aside from the above, I did not sense any difference in the body language and personal spaces of Romanians I met compared to Westerners.

One thing that often surprised me was the passionate way my Romanian friends and colleagues spoke amongst themselves. At first I often mistook normal conversations for conflict. I would get teased about my mistaken impressions and reminded that Romanians are "Latin people" and, therefore, like to speak with passion and wave their hands about. This is to say that the reader can probably feel free to be direct and express themselves with Romanians and that this manner will not likely cause offence or be misinterpreted.

Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

People speak loudly in a sing-song manner and generally display their emotions in public. The tone they use is so lively that foreigners often get the impression that speakers are arguing, which quite often is not the case. Tempers may flare easily and are not well hidden.

Canadian Perspective:

Public displays of affection, anger and other emotions were quite regular amongst my Romanian friends and colleagues to an extent that surprised me. Please see the last paragraph above.

Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

Appropriate attire depends on the particular situation and social position. At work, civil servants’ dress reflects their position; the higher up in the someone is, the more formal the clothing. "Casual Fridays" do not exist. More and more often, business people are wearing designer clothing in order to show that they have climbed the social ladder. It is expected that foreigners will dress somewhat more formally than Romanians; it is fashionable to follow the dress code.

The way to address people depends on their social status. Power distances are quite considerable and it is rare that people are very close to their subordinates (Only superiors use the familiar form of "you" when speaking to others). First names are rarely used unless people are good friends; generally, people call one another by "Mr. X" ("domnule X", in Romanian) or "Mrs. Y" ("doamna Y", in Romanian).

Compared to the North American outlook, time is seen as being more flexible. Being a half an hour late is seen as normal and is known as the "academic half hour" which is totally acceptable. In a poorly functioning system, people often have personal problems that need to be attended to and absenteeism is tolerated, particularly in the civil service and in state-owned companies.

Respect for laws and norms, leaves much to be desired, reducing quality, and resulting in frustrations for both foreigners and even for Romanians.

Canadian Perspective:

I found my Romanian friends and colleagues had a keen sense of fashion. Like Canada, dressing for work will depend on your working environment. In my workplace, it was expected that people would dress "smart casual" (e.g. a dark coloured pair of jeans and smart blouse or shirt, no sneakers) for an ordinary workday and dress up for high-level meetings (e.g. a suit or a dress). In some offices I noticed people wear jeans and sneakers but sensed that dressing sloppily was generally frowned upon.

The form of address between colleagues and supervisors in my office was quite casual – usually first names. I would start out by addressing someone formally (e.g. Mr., Ms.) and wait to be invited to use first names. That seemed to work well and usually this invitation to be informal was given immediately. For some older women, I found that the habit would be to address them as "tante", which is the Romanian equivalent of "auntie".

There was a difference in the expatriate and Romanian (my colleagues) approaches to time, punctuality, deadlines, absenteeism and productivity. My Romanian colleagues` approach, particularly to deadlines, punctuality and productivity, was more casual. I did not notice any lax behaviour around absenteeism. People seemed to show up for work with regularity, but lateness, long coffee or smoke breaks and missed deadlines, were quite common.

Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

Qualities that are most highly regarded in a local superior include leadership, dedication, and open mindedness. Micro-managing is not poorly viewed, provided that it is supported by on- going communication. The lack of experienced Romanians is seen as a weak point. In order to receive credible feedback, directors privately take their employees out for supper which results in comments or even confessions. The notion of confidentiality holds a very different meaning for Romanians.

Canadian Perspective:

In my office, a local superior manager was most highly regarded based on education, experience, strong leadership, hard work and fairness. Different styles of management were appreciated (e.g. well-qualified, no nonsense but fair), feared but respected (e.g. authoritarian) or disrespected (e.g. not hard working, not in control or strict). The same applied to expatriate managers, who were liked and respected, feared and respected or not respected at all based on the above-mentioned factors. I found that expatriate managers (and staff for that matter) were expected to be extremely good at their job or else they faced questions (usually indirect) from Romanian staff about what they were doing in Romania in the first place, i.e. Romanians need jobs and if you are not going to demonstrate value-added expertise, then why should a Romanian not have that job.

Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

Romanian organizations still follow a very totalitarian style of leadership and are very centralized. Directors and supervisors do a lot of the decision-making and get involved in micro- management. Informal relations play an important role in information sharing, the creation of ideas, and decision-making. Romanians chitchat a lot and it is difficult to keep a meeting on track. Decisions are made based on the context, the influences at play and personal interests. There are few established decision-making procedures.

Canadian Perspective:

I worked in an international office with Romanians and Western expatriates. It was the Western expatriate style of decision-making, idea generation, etc., that dominated and therefore was deemed acceptable. Romanians were open to bringing their ideas to the table and discussing them. In fact, they were eager to take the lead and demonstrate their own superior local knowledge. They also seemed quite happy to approach Western supervisors for feedback and answers. However, I am not so sure that this was the case with regards to Romanian colleagues interacting with Romanian supervisors. I witnessed some (though not all) Romanian management styles that seemed authoritarian. At the same time, this was a management style that my Romanian colleagues were ambivalent about, i.e. on the one hand it could stamp out creativity and on the other hand, if one was going to be a democratic manager, one had to be really careful about getting respect. It was really quite a challenge.

Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:

Gender : Women have an equal standing in the workplace; there are equal numbers of women and men with university degrees in the workforce. A number of women work in the areas of healthcare, teaching and specific industries (i.e., textiles) as well as in social security sectors. However, there are fewer in business, politics, and in higher-level positions. Men show courtesy toward women, and this kind of attitude is not taken as harassment. Sexual harassment is generally kept under cover and recently a law was passed in the hopes of eliminating it altogether.

Religion: The Orthodox religion is rather tolerant and allows priests to marry. Approximately 90% of Romanians are Orthodox, but, particularly in villages, a smaller number of them are actually practicing. Recently, a number of neo-Protestant sects have made a breakthrough. In the workplace, spirituality does not play an important role for most Romanians. Often it is the poor who rely on religion.

Class: Communist leaders have now been replaced by people with "new money" (i.e., business men, politicians, and high-ranking civil servants) who drive around in BMWs and Mercedes and go on vacation in the Caribbean. This elite group, which includes a number of people who became rich in the Communist era, is envied, loathed, and feared by the vast majority, who accuses them of acquiring their wealth through fraud and by taking advantage of networks established under the totalitarian regime. Daily, the press exposes the crimes that have gone unpunished by the corrupt justice system. There are very few who make up the middle class and the "entrepreneurs" who took over just after the change in regime still hold their privileged positions. There is a kind of general resignation on the part of the people that appears to prevent them from taking the initiative to change this situation.

Ethnicity: Ethnic origins hold a lot of weight in judging others. There is historical resentment toward the Hungarian, Jewish, and Gypsy minorities that is not felt toward Ukrainians, Germans, Turkish Muslims or Tartars who are less numerous. Russians are feared: Russian mafia actions are replacing memories of former Soviet Communists’ rule. Italians are given a warm welcome and intercultural relations are even better than those with the French, who have always enjoy a certain prestige. Since the Second World War, the support of Americans has been highly regarded although they are seen as being somewhat naïve and ill equipped for working in the Romanian context.

Canadian Perspective:

Gender: Like most of the world, there are gender differences. For example, the types of work that men and women do, especially at the household level, can be different. Professionally one of the benefits of Communism was to give men and women equal opportunities. In this respect, you do find quite a lot of strong accomplished women in the professions. However, I also saw quite a lot of wife/spousal abuse. I think gender relations though are relatively uncomplicated, e.g. I did not experience any major restrictions on the movement of women or the types of activities they can engage in or how men and women conduct themselves in relation to one another.

Religion: I believe Romania is predominantly Orthodox Christian. There is a church (I believe Greek Orthodox) that claims to have experienced discrimination during the Communist era. However, I did not observe this playing out in relations between people at work. It played out in at a more communal level where the Greek Orthodox Church in my community was seeking reparations from the authorities for properties confiscated during Ceaucescu’s time.

Class: I believe class is a fairly prominent issue in Romania. Wealth (i.e. nice car, clothes, etc.) was keenly noticed and commented upon. I think it is always best to be discreet about this. I found Romanians quite ambivalent about the relative poverty of the country and conspicuous consumerism amongst the new elite.

Ethnicity: I lived in one of Romania’s ethnic melting pots, namely Transylvania. This area has people of Romanian, Hungarian, German and Roma background. I did not sense any difficulties amongst people of Romanian, Hungarian and German background. All seemed to live harmoniously side-by-side. I did notice a certain consciousness of background – those of Hungarian origin would make wry and rueful jokes about their dual identities. The books on Romania make a big deal out of the history of the struggle between Hungary and Romania over Transylvania. There were festivals and a certain sensibility to this past but I never saw it reflected in people’s behaviour or attitudes towards one another. Where I did witness issues, as I have mentioned above, was between Romanians of European descent and the Roma. I frequently heard European Romanians refer to the Roma as though the latter were not even citizens of the country.

Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

Interpersonal relations are considered essential. Romanians get their enthusiasm up quickly and are ready to start up new business deals, but if the partnership is not followed up with frequent visits, the initial excitement dies out. Maintaining constant contact with Romanian business partners is challenging. Written communication is lacking and planning and respecting deadlines are not always taken seriously. Inviting people to your home, going out on the town, or participating in other activities together outside of work and giving gifts also helps to maintain a good long-term relationship. Romanians appreciate this a lot and often become quite close to expatriates.

Canadian Perspective:

I think it is very important to establish a rapport with people, to have introductions and a brief period of small talk before getting to business. I don’t think it is at all necessary to establish a personal relationship with a client or colleague before getting to business. Ways of establishing rapport might be to inquire about family or to look out for issues of importance that people may highlight in their conversation and to respond to that. Having coffee or taking the time to enjoy a drink after work with colleagues or clients is a great way to establish and maintain a good rapport.

Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

In both the public and private spheres, it is normal to resort to favouritism, nepotism and cutting corners, and respecting protocols is the exception, not the rule. Having an employee with connections really helps fix daily problems that would otherwise take a lot of effort to solve. Employees look upon personal favours as motivation. Without them, they would feel neglected and would look elsewhere for fulfillment. Bribes are necessary in order to move things along at a reasonable rate—even if everything is perfectly legal and justifiable.

Canadian Perspective:

I found that colleagues at least requested if not expected special privileges as a result of a personal relationship or friendship. Requests could include asking you to consider a family or friend for a job if such an opening existed. I did not experience this as any different from the Canadian way of doing things. Often hiring in Canada is done through networks – people would rather employ someone they know or know of than to take a chance on a complete stranger. I found that Romanians are simply a lot more honest about it. I rarely experienced requests that I found inappropriate and when I did, my refusal seemed to be accepted and understood without causing problems.

Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

Romanians easily express frustration, antipathy, and other emotions openly as well as indirectly. Signs of imminent conflict are expressed through off-hand remarks and hints conflict may also flare up without warning in reaction to an inappropriate comment. These outbursts are generally short and hard feelings do not last very long. From the outside, public or private arguments often seem as if no one is listening to the other. There is no traditional way to make up and nor are there any modern mediation techniques. Peoples’ interests and alliances often change, but the supervisor will remain a fixed reference point.

Canadian Perspective:

I found my colleagues very direct and the so-called "Latin flavour" ever present in their dealings with one another, even as far as a problem goes. In advising a Canadian about how to deal with a work-related problem with a colleague in Romania, I would say being polite but direct and doing so in private would be the most effective way. I didn’t find reading my Romanian colleagues as far as problems go at all difficult or any different from reading Canadians (i.e. body language and other subtle behaviours). Like Canadians, there are manners that are unique to an individual. And like Canadians, I found my Romanian colleagues less deferential to people they deemed their peers and more circumspect with their supervisors. I think an expatriate supervisor in Romania will have to work hard to command respect and at the same time allow Romanian employees to feel comfortable enough to bring their work-related problems to the table in a constructive way.

Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

"Hygienic" conditions at work (a functional "Western" environment, high salaries, professional development opportunities, and foreign travel) motivate employees to perform well in order to keep their jobs.

Canadian Perspective:

On this front, I found that it takes all kinds. Some people were motivated by job satisfaction and by being given responsibility. Others were concerned with money and yet others were worried about losing their jobs (there is high unemployment in Romania). I would say that this is a very individualistic issue. It is different from a general work ethic. I think that there was a subtle understanding by Romanians that there is a more lax work ethic in that country than there might be in some Western countries. Many of the Romanians that I worked with were aware of this and either bought into it for themselves by trying to adopt a stricter work ethic or distanced themselves from participating in this "other" work ethic while maintaining an awareness of it.

Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Libraries and resource centres in Canada have a lot of books, documents, and videos about Romania. Books published by Romanians in recent years are increasingly diverse and contain a wealth of pertinent information. A few suggested titles include a book entitled, Romanians and a collection of texts called Transylvania and Romanian Folk Art - A Guide to Living Traditions.

Good videos include "Inter-bellum Bucharest" and "Monasteries of Romania" and in 2002, the French television channel TV5 showed a documentary entitled "24 en direct avec les Roumains".

There is little in the way of Romanian cooking in Canada. It has Mediterranean, Slavic, Hungarian, and French influences. Romanians eat a lot of meat, fat, and dishes with sauces, drink wine, beer, and homemade prune liquor ("tzuica").

Canadian Perspective:

Lonely Planet on Romania is always a good book to rifle through. Also Balkan Ghosts by Peter Kaplan is quite haunting and dramatic.

Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

Cultural life is active in Romania. Opera and classical music concerts are of a very high quality and are very affordable. Although a number of points of view are represented in the written press, the content is often very sensational. There are a number of weekly cultural and editorial- type publications that appeal to a more intellectual taste. In addition, there are French ("Bucarest Matin") and English ("9 O’clock") newspapers for expatriates.

There are about ten TV channels in Bucharest that broadcast all day. The majority of these are privately-owned and generally run dramas or foreign news programs. TV 5, CNN, Discovery, AnimalPlanet and other HBO shows are shown on cable and by satellite.

Soccer is the most favoured sport; in contrast there are only two golf courses in all of Romania (a 9-hole course in Bucharest and another 100 km north of Bucharest).

A favourite meeting spot for expatriates in Bucharest is the "Village Français" which has a Canadian-style housing complex, a health club, and a restaurant.

There are about 100 restaurants that offer food from all around the world. Eating out is easy to do and there is no set time to eat lunch. Romanians mostly go out at night after work. There is a great deal of choice among the many cafes, patios, and bars where you can drink beer and eat "mititeï" (a kind of cylindrical hamburger made out of ground beef, pork or mutton). Certain places such as the Irish Pub, Le Bistro du Village Français, Hilton-Athénée Palace, and Piccolo Mondo are traditional expatriate meeting places. The nightlife is vibrant with dozens of dance clubs, adult-only clubs, and casinos. There are as many escort services and marriage brokers as there are currency exchange shops.

Romanians are always ready to offer advice on what plays you should see or what to do in your free time. The monthly review "What, Where, When", which is available in hotels and other public places, is a good source of information. The mall’s Cineplex with its 10 theatres, which are open until midnight, is an attraction for thousands of visitors.

Canadian Perspective:

The art gallery in Cluj-Napoca is a great way to get a sense of Romania’s cultural and arts achievements. Cluj-Napoca as a city also gives a sense of the country’s culture and architecture. The same can be said for Timisoara as far as architecture goes and there are also wonderful operas to be taken in. Unfortunately, my experience of Romania was most confined to a remote village in Transylvania and so I can’t say much about urban areas. However, visiting villages in remote areas is a great way to get to know the people and the culture. There is a lot to see, particularly in Transylvania – quaint villages, skiing areas, hiking and medieval towns with churches, castles and the famous painted monasteries. I found that connecting with university students and young Romanians was one of the easiest ways to get introduced, taken to meet families and to be invited into the homes of Romanians. Young Romanians are very curious about outsiders and I often found myself at their family homes meeting their parents, enjoying wonderful hospitality, etc. This is a great way to find out about things to do, places to go, meet people and get to know the culture.

Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

A lot of heroes have come out of a long history that spans more than 2,000 years. Romanians were never involved in any colonial wars and most of the country’s heroes arose from their fight for freedom and national independence. Dracula’s persona is based on a 16th century prince who took drastic measures in order to enforce the law and oppose Turkish invaders. A Dracula theme park is scheduled to open in the near future. Past invasions by other nationalities occurred in the following order: the Romans, then the Slavs, the Tartars, the Huns (along with other migratory peoples), and finally the Austro-Hungarians and Turks. National independence was celebrated in 1877 and the modern Romanian state came into existence in 1918 when Transylvania was added. Relations with Moldavia, a previous Romanian territory, are not entirely straightened out.

Heroes and cultural personalities are depicted on banknotes. Political figures who were in charge prior to the Communist regime are being recognized by the naming of streets and boulevards after them.

Canadian Perspective:

I cannot recall their names or the details of national heroes.

Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

There are no points of friction between Canada and Romania. The CANDU nuclear station, which was inaugurated in 1996 by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, is functioning well. Similarly, one of the two main cell phone providers, CONNEX, a great commercial success story, has a Canadian company as its majority shareholder.

The joint MBA program in Bucharest is run by the École des Hautes Etudes Commerciales of Montréal and the University of Ottawa; it is the only full-time MBA program in the country. More than 400 students have already graduated and have been hired by multinational companies, banks, and other international firms; a few have even moved to Canada.

Canadian Perspective:

None that I am aware of.

Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

Canadians are seen as friendly people (refer to answer #1 under the First Contact section), who sometimes do not follow up with business proposals. Canadian technical assistance projects funded by CIDA has helped form an image of professionalism for consultants and Romanians’ study tours to Canada have given them a respect for the Canadian system. The Canadian- Romanian community is made up of about 80,000–100,000 people who still keep in contact with their family and friends and provide them with a source of outside information. Canada is an increasingly popular emigration destination; however, the three-year waiting period is the source of a lot of frustration.

Canadian Perspective:

I think being sensitive to the history of Communism, the saga of Ceaucescu, Romania’s poverty and orphans are key issues with associated stereotypes that should be approached carefully and tastefully. Also jokes about garlic and Dracula might be another topic to broach carefully. Romania is known for Bram Stoker’s character of Dracula, which is based upon Vlad Tepes, a Romanian historical figure who was notorious for killing his enemies by driving a stake up their bodies and watching them die slowly. I had the feeling that this is not a stereotype that Romanians particularly covet. Some that I spoke with simply laughed it off and did not think it an issue worthy of their attention. Others openly told me they resented it. This is evidenced by the Romanian government retreating from plans to develop a Dracula theme park as part of a tourist attraction. While there are many reasons why this venture has been shelved for the moment, one of them was the cultural implications and stereotypes.

I am not saying that the above issues should not be discussed. I am simply saying that hinging all one’s beliefs about Romania on those particular issues can be offensive. When Romanians talk about, for example, Communism and Ceaucescu, it is honest. But they also like to talk about the country’s achievements in arts and science. They are proud of having well qualified doctors, for example. So I think it is good to be honest about the country`s problems and at the same time, giving enough room in conversation and respect for the country`s virtues!

Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter, an only child, was born in Romania in 1949. He grew up in the city of Bucharest where he studied mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic University and international trade at the Academy of Economic Studies. His work first took him abroad to the Soviet Union in 1978 when he went to Moscow to participate in the "Science '78" international conference. He subsequently moved to Canada and received a Masters in international project management at the Université du Québec à Hull. Yearly business travel takes him back to his homeland and he has also visited Europe, the United States, Egypt, and Thailand. Since 1999 he has lived in Gatineau and is a consultant and trainer.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Zambia, the daughter of a Zambian mother and Canadian father. The eldest of two children she was raised in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. She did primary and most of her secondary schooling in Zambia and moved to Canada for her last year of high school. She did her undergraduate degree in International Development Studies at the University of Toronto and her graduate studies in Social Policy and Planning in Developing Countries at the London School of Economics in the UK. After university and over the course of the last eight years, she worked overseas in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Vietnam, and most recently in Romania for 10 months. She returned to Canada in December of 2002.

Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

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