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10 Things Romania Does (A Bit) Differently - Part 2

Most lists don't begin at number 6, so if you want to start at the beginning, head over to Part 1.

6.  The Clothes Dryer
The mighty clothes dryer, a staple appliance in just about every North American home, is essentially non-existent in Romania. While it isn't suspiciously regarded as a harbinger of death, as is the A/C unit, it takes up a lot of space and consumes plenty of energy, both of which come in short supply relative to Romanian preferences. Besides, if everyone had a dryer, then balconies, clothes lines, and drying racks would take up space for no good reason, and doing the laundry would be an all too efficient endeavour (generally considered bad taste in our neck of the woods).  Of course dryers do exist, usually on a steam-drying system, sometimes in a 2-in-1 washer/dryer combination (which requires no external vent or filters), but it's nonetheless a long-forgotten luxury for many a nostalgic expat.

7. Sidewalk Parking
I could write several blog posts about parking alone, but then I'd be doing the work Cluj city hall should be doing. Anyway, I remember my first few months here and how amusing it was to see rows and rows of cars propped up, one set of wheels on the sidewalk, the other on the road. I now understand this strategy is meant to allow pedestrians to squeeze by, literally, while making sure that some BMW speeding past on the narrow road won't swipe the driver's side mirror. I only thought it was amusing until I started driving - and parking - here myself. But I managed to take it up a notch. One day while playing Grand Theft Auto, I noticed I was also taking these unseemly liberties in Los Santos, the game's virtual Los Angeles. I'd like to try it in Toronto some day and record the reactions before the tow truck shows up.

8. Personal Space & Line-ups
Let's move on from public space to personal space and discuss the local approach to this cherished Western concept. First of all, you must understand that it doesn't exist in Romania. I don't mean that it doesn't exist in a, "we don't really talk about it" manner, I mean it doesn't exist in a, "why are you rubbing against me while I wait in line" manner.  For example, people will gladly talk to you, about anything, in great detail, a mere two inches from your face, but at least that's part of a - usually - voluntary interaction.

The lineups are the worst though.

People line up behind you close enough for their breath to warm the nape of your neck and to whisper sweet nothings in your ear - which they don't even have the courtesy to do. The most infuriating part is how they cut ahead in the queue when you have been courteous enough to leave a gap between yourself and the person in front of you. Which, in my case, is every time. This is a move that should be called, "The Bucharest Guarantee" because it's exactly that...of course, it happens in Cluj and the rest of the country as well.
Finally, like it wasn't enough, this always takes place without a glimmer of acknowledgement. It's as if you're nothing but an inanimate obstruction, inconveniently positioned in the middle of a line-up by those no-good Romanian politicians, who else.

By the way, line-ups are only a problem when they actually exist. You will just as often find your personal space invaded on all sides as you experience another Romanian cultural specialty, the bunch-up.

In an upcoming post, I'm going to translate this handy study guide into Romanian:

9. Closet Space
Ironically, for a people who enjoy such close proximity to others, the walk-in closet/built-in wardrobe culture hasn't quite reached Romania (imagine the conversations you could have in there). The funny part is that any new housing unit basically has a walk-in closet already carved into it, in the form of a niche, which you're meant to fill with an Ikea bought closet of your choosing. This wouldn't be so bad if you didn't take into consideration that this type of closet is always going to be the largest piece of furniture you'll ever build, and that drawing a bar from wall to wall and installing two sliding doors is going to be a lot more efficient. But it's Romania and we don't have time for efficiency here.

10. Thank you and goodbye
I've always found a certain charm in the manner Romanian drivers salute and thank each other with their blinkers (hazards). Somebody let's you get in ahead? Blinkers. A slightly inelegant merge requiring an apology? Blinkers. Switching lanes in heavy traffic? Blinkers. On a slightly sexist note, you won't have the opportunity to do this with women drivers because women drivers never give you the nod in traffic. (I started keeping track once somebody mentioned it to me and it's true. A unicorn let me in once, though). Maybe they don't like flashing hazards? Anyway, I find it funny that we're so good at acknowledging people inside two-ton metal objects, but can hardly do the same when standing next to each other.


  1. i see now that you live in cluj so this may explain some of the differences in our views and experiences. also on this post i agree with you a lot more.
    queues. i hate them because there's always that person that squeezes somehow in front of you. hello!! do you think i'm sightseeing around here?
    cars. traffic is a nightmare, especially in the capital. there's too many cars, few parking spots and a strong ambition to drive to work for many. it's worth mentioning that in bucharest blinkers more often than not also mean "leave this line" or "drive faster".
    the walk-in-closet. i remember how i used to 'droll' of these while watching home decor vids of people from us. this type of closets are not typical to europe in general. here the closet it's generally a furniture piece. newer apartments don't even have a small storage space/pantry as older one had or at least my new place doesnt and neither any of the apartments in the complex. however i managed to fulfill my dream. i had a lower ceiling in a portion of my bedroom long as the wall. it was perfect for the ikea algot system so now even tho it's not a true to words walk-in-closet it's close enough. but finding someone to make me some barn type sliding doors for it seems like it's mission impossible at the moment.

    1. What you said at the end there hits the nail on the head. It might seem like Mission Impossible, but none of it is. We can change whatever we want to change. Looks like you already started.

    2. Funny and insightful read!��


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