Impressions of a new country

Tag Archives: Culture

Observing vehicles and the driving behaviour of car owners in Romania is quite fascinating. Many European countries tend to have chaotic drivers, and here is no different. With the addition of trams, the roads here in Oradea can sometimes be quite intimidating. Trams don’t necessarily have a separate ‘lane’ – more often than not, cars can be seen driving in front of, behind and generally meandering between trams.

Road rage seems a little more prevalent here than in England – but it tends to come about for trivial reasons. On more than one occasion I have witnessed police being called to ‘incidents’ involving angry drivers in a dispute over a parking space outside of small roadside supermarkets. It is somewhat amusing to witness – if only to learn some Romanian profanity (which is also very different and sometimes almost nonsensical!)

Some general facts:

  • As in England…the use of mobile phones in cars is prohibited – but contrary to England, many people here do not adhere to this rule. 
  • In Romania it is compulsory to use your headlights during the day on major roads and outside of built up areas. 
  • Driving tests are conducted by the police! You also have to perform all manoeuvres during the test.
  • For the first year after passing, you must display a sign in the back window of your car that shows a black exclamation mark against a yellow background.

Car registration numbers are created using a slightly different system – the first two letters are the initials of the county where the car originated from. For example all cars originating from Bihor county, start with BH. I found it so strange when I suddenly noticed almost every car in Oradea beginning with BH. 

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On a recent visit to the same large supermarket that brought us the intriguing practice of “bag wrapping” – yet another rather over the top security feature has been added to the store.

A security system has been installed on the small cosmetics aisle of the shop – and only on this aisle. It seems rather odd and I have personally not come across this type of ‘aisle specific’ security measure before. The main entrance to the shop is fitted with a security system just as most shops are around the world – so you would think that this main system alone would be enough to catch thieves. Obviously this aisle is a hot spot for theft and extra measures have had to be taken!

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Quiet, sombre and full of grey and weathered headstones – this, a typical English cemetery, is what you will find up and down the country in the UK. It’s not uncommon to find similar cemeteries here in Romania too; there are plenty of them – however, one cemetery in particular, located in the small village of Săpânța, does things a little differently.”Cimitirul Vesel” or “Merry Cemetery” is a place like no other. Headstones are brightly painted, lavishly decorated and depict life stories, poems, drawings and carvings of the person buried beneath. Often, the pictures are humorous and the verses written below are full of jokes and satire. These monuments are seen as great celebrations of loved characters whose families want them to be remembered in a unique way.

An example of a humorous epitaph from the Merry Cemetery:

“Underneath this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother-in-law 
Had she lived three days more
I would be here and she would read this
You that are passing by
Try not to wake her up
For if she comes back home
She’ll bite my head off
But I will act in the way
That she will not return
Stay here my dear
Mother-in-law”

 


Romania – home to one of the most famous legends of all time…Dracula. With such spooky tales and macabre folk stories surrounding its landscape and embellishing its history, it was quite a shock to discover that “Halloween” does not exist in Romania. You would think it was the perfect place to go mad with halloween celebrations and really embrace all that is scary – but it simply isn’t part of the tradition here.

Walking through the high streets of England during the Halloween period is very interesting. Everything you can possibly imagine has been adapted to have a spooky theme in order to cash in on this popular, and seemingly very western, celebration. From fake cobwebs in windows, to cakes with black bat icing – it is hard to miss references to Halloween everywhere you look.

In Romania, it is very different. October 31st is just an ordinary day – no decorations, no trick or treaters, no carved pumpkins or costume parties. This seemed so odd to me having grown up in the UK; where Halloween is slowly becoming just as big of a deal as it is in America.

Although there is not a Halloween celebration, on 1st-2nd November in Romania, ‘The day of the dead’ is celebrated. People gather in cemeteries, with flowers, candles and gifts, to appreciate the lost people in their lives and to share memories with family and friends. This is quite a big occasion for Romanian people, and in the days leading up to the day of the dead, family members will attend to the graves of their relatives – making the areas look really beautiful in preparation for the day itself. It is a much more meaningful celebration in a lot of ways than our typical Halloween and it is refreshing to experience a place that is still mostly untouched by a lot of ‘western’ and commercial ideas.

“We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.” – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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The only orange-ish pumpkin I could find in the entire city of Oradea


Here it’s a necessity for all taxi drivers to display their credentials, photo and name on the passenger side of the car. You sometimes see this in the UK – but more often than not, you can’t usually see this information so easily. I think it’s a good idea and can give the passenger some peace of mind to know that they know the driver’s details incase anything bad should happen. 

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Melons are everywhere during the summer; you can’t walk down a street without seeing a heap of melons. The most popular seems to be watermelon. It’s not a surprising thing that refreshing watermelon is so popular here when summer temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius; but what is surprising, is how and where they are sold. 

In the UK, it is not usual to see anyone selling things in the street, except at organised markets or events. I am unsure as to whether people here in Romania have to obtain permission in order to sell melons in the street – but from what I have seen and experienced, these ‘pop up’ melon stalls seem as though they don’t have any rules or regulations surrounding them. 

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Quite a few houses here are decorated with mosaics. The most frequent type of images that you see are trees and other natural things. It is very unusual to see any mosaics on houses in the UK – so it is strange to see so many here. Many houses here are also painted in very bright and diverse colours.

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