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A foreigner’s guide being a Gentleman in Romania

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In Romania, etiquette is the cornerstone of average society, more so than many western cultures except in upper classes.  The more you apply these, the more you will be appreciated for the gesture. They are not outdated, on the contrary, they are increasingly valued. Here are some of the rules that will help you “do well” in Romanian society.

1/ DINING OUT: 1 When you say “I invite you”, you pay the bill, example, if you invite friends to a restaurant for your birthday, then you should pick up the bill. If you say “should we go to a restaurant” then everyone should pay on their own behalf. This is easily misunderstood by foreigners new to Romania so chose your words well.
2/ VISITING PEOPLE AT HOME: You should never make an unannounced visit. Always call ahead. You do not know to what extent you are disturbing.  If this happens to you at home, one discrete solution would be put on your shoes/coat and say “I’m sorry, I was just about to leave”
3/ MOBILE PHONES: When you’re with another person at the table, don’t put your mobile phone on the table or at least not face up. This gesture shows that the phone itself is more important than the meeting and that at any time you can check your Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and so on.
4/ DATING:  Don’t invite a girl into town and use your phone to message someone else all night; A gentleman never carries a lady’s purse/ handbag unless invited.  If you take your date to the Cinema/ theatre and your seat is nestled between occupied seats, always enter before the lady.  A gentleman should not touch a woman without her permission, except on the arm to accompany her or assist with a step etc. In Romania, offence is easily caused by touching a lady’s face or hair uninvited.   A gentleman should always go to the left side of the woman. The rare exception is for Military men who may have cause to salute a higher rank on the street;
5/ MEETING YOUR FRIEND’S FRIENDS: If you go out with one person and that person greets another person in passing, even if you do not know him, you must also greet them;
6/ EATING ASIAN FOOD: It is not mandatory to eat Chinese, Sushi etc with chopsticks, especially if you use them with difficulty. Cutlery is fine.
7/ SHOES: must always be clean, and when visiting, offer to remove them. Do not assume it is ok to wear them inside someone home. Don’t do that in an office though, keep them on for meetings! 🙂
8/ DISCUSSIONS BY PHONE: Romanians avoid talking about important matters on the phone. If you really need to talk to someone, they will almost always prefer face to face.  Avoid loud conversations and where possible, take your call in another room.  If your phone rings while in the company, request permission to answer the call. The same is true with replying to messages. And lastly, put your phone notifications on silent. No one else should be disturbed by the constant dinging of your messenger or Whatsapp.
9/ RESPONDING: If someone yells in the street, “Hello there!”, you do not need to respond unless you wish.  If they want to approach you, they must know how to do it politely.
10/ AFTERSHAVE: The rule of thumb is to use aftershave in moderation. If you still smell the perfume in the evening, it means that everyone who has interacted with you throughout the day was probably overwhelmed.
11/ SMOKING: In the presence of a woman and polite company, the gentleman will smoke only with their permission.
12/ ENTERING AN OCCUPIED ROOM: Regardless of your status or purpose, when you enter an occupied room, you must be the one to greet, either verbally with “Buna ziua/seara” or shake the hands of other men and greet ladies verbally with “Sarut mana”, meaning, ‘I kiss your hand’ a polite form of respect. When you shake the hand of another man, you are expressing many aspects of your character, including integrity, dependability, interest and trustworthiness. Your firm grip should be one capable of helping someone or yourself up from a chair, but not squeeze a lemon dry. If you shake hands with a wet fish, keep your hands in your pockets at all times! 🙂 No one enjoys that experience.
13/ PRIVACY: Respect the privacy of others. Parents should never read children’s correspondence, partners should not read each other’s notes, messages, search history,  emails or SMS, chat history etc.
14/ DRESS ETIQUETTE: Don’t try too hard to be fashionable, dress simply and tastefully. A gentleman doesn’t need his clothes to scream of his arrival;
15/ APOLOGISING: If after apologising, someone forgives you, avoid labouring then point, and touching the person to emphasize your point as “I’m sorry”. Give him time and space.
16: OFFENDING: If someone offends you, you do not have to answer with the same tone or choice of words by sinking to their level. Simply smile and ignore.
17/ PERSONAL SECRETS: Never discuss your status, nor ask of others, the following 10 things: age, level of wealth, family quarrels, religion, medical problems, affairs of the heart, personal assets, matters of honour or, disgrace, or wartime/ active military experiences.
18/ RESPECT YOUR ELDERS: Always give up your seat, or right of way, to an elderly, or infirm person.

19/ SELF IMPORTANCE: It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice!

There is an endless list of other rules of etiquette,  but once you are comfortable abiding by these, the others should be a logical extension.

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