If you have polite table manners in your home country, you likely will be just fine when you visit Romania – if you pay attention, you will notice some differences, but you likely will not make a fool out of yourself. However, if you plan on really immersing yourself in Romanian culture while you are here, if you really want to show that you care to learn Romanian customs, then continue reading this guide. Here we have all the Dos and Don’ts that you will need to be a polite and respectable dining guest to your Romanian friends!
Dining with Romanians
If Romanian friends are inviting you over for dinner, there are certain rules you should follow so that you are not perceived as rude. First, when you arrive to their house, you should bring them a gift. It does not need to be anything big, a bottle of wine to share over dinner is perfectly fine! It is not a requirement to bring a gift, but it is the polite thing to do. When you give them the gift, they might be polite and refuse it at first, but you can feel free to insist that you are happy to gift it to them.
When you arrive to the house, it is normally custom to take off your shoes, but you can see if the host is wearing shoes for a clue. For the most part, eating at the table will be the same as in the US or other Western countries. However, Romanians eat with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. If you finish eating your entire plate, you can expect the Romanian to offer you seconds. Unless you insist on being too full for seconds, you will be expected to eat more. It is impolite to leave food on your plate (that’s a sign you did not enjoy the food). You can be forceful when denying seconds, but make sure that you complement the food and be gracious with the dinner they have provided.
When have dinner at a Romanian’s house, you should follow their lead. Do not start eating or drinking until they do. Let them tell you where to sit and so on. In Romania, as in many other countries, the home is considered a sacred place so you want to be extra careful to be respectful of your host’s space.
Dining at a Restaurant
Probably the main thing foreigners want to know when dining out at a restaurant is how the service is and whether or not you have to tip. In Romania it is customary to tip waiters and other service providers. Waiters do not get paid very well in Romania. However, while in the US and certain other countries it is customary to tip anywhere from 10-20%, you are not expected to leave nearly that much in Romania. 5-10% is plenty when tipping in Romania. Service will be similar to other Western countries and you can choose the amount to tip accordingly.
When visiting a foreign country, people are often curious about what the alcohol laws and also what the customs are around drinking alcohol. When it comes to customs around alcohol, Romania is very different from the US. For instance, in Romania it is legal to make moonshine (a high-proof distilled spirit) at home, and it is common for people to make that and wine at home.
Many Romanians are very proud of making their own alcohol and are happy to share so that you too can enjoy their creations!
Another difference in Romania when it comes to drinking is that women do not drink too much in public. In the US, women might go out together and get very drunk, or at least a bit tipsy, but that does not happen so much in Romania. Times are changing, but still it is mostly men who go out just for a drink. And at house parties or at dinner with family, women drink significantly less than do the men. It is considered disrespectful for women to get drunk in public.
So, if you are a woman traveling to the country, know that you are still welcome to drink, but just know your limits if you want to fit in with the Romanian women. And if you are a woman, you are never obligated to drink – it is perfectly common and acceptable (and sometimes even expected) for a woman to pass up a drink. Conversely, note that if you are a man, it is not at all common to pass up a drink or to opt out of drinking when everyone else is drinking. That does not mean you have to get drunk whenever you go out, but if you want to do as the locals do, just learn how to pace yourself.
The next question you might be wondering is, when does the drinking happen? People are free to drink when they want, a glass of wine at dinner and so forth. However, if you go to a Romanian wedding you can definitely expect there to be plenty of alcohol or even rounds of shots at the reception. Also, when a Romanian family is welcoming a guest or someone they have not seen in a long time, they might bring out their Țuică, which is a typical Romanian plum brandy spirit.
Romanians also love to toast! They will often say no roc (good luck) or salut (good health). When you toast and you are close enough to those around you, you are expected to clink glasses and to look the other person in the eye. From the moment you pick up your glass, until you take a sip, you have to maintain eye contact. For this one, it is not a big deal if you mess up, but some believe that if you do not follow proper protocol during a toast, you will have bad luck.