Culture Shock in Bucharest

Romania was a member of the communist block before 1990.

Visiting Bucharest as a tourist can definitely induce a certain level of culture shock, especially for those who are not accustomed to Eastern European countries. Here are some aspects of Bucharest that may contribute to culture shock:

📌Architecture: Bucharest’s architecture is a mix of different styles, from neoclassical and Art Nouveau to brutalist and communist-era buildings. The stark contrast between old grand buildings and concrete communist blocks can be overwhelming for some visitors.

📌Traffic and Public Transportation: Bucharest is known for its heavy traffic and chaotic driving, which can be a shock for those used to more organized systems. The city’s public transportation, though extensive with a metro system, can also be crowded and confusing for tourists.

📌Language Barriers: The official language of the country is Romanian, a Latin language linked to French, Italian and Spanish and seasoned with some Slavic influences. The second most widely spoken language is Hungarian, a language more common to Transylvania than to any other region of Romania.

While many locals in urban areas speak English, there can still be instances where language barriers make communication difficult, especially in less touristy areas. Learning a few basic Romanian phrases can be helpful. Foreigners will find that in major cities good English speakers are easy to come by, and are often eager to help, guide you on your way or even to walk with you for a while.

📌Cuisine: Romanian cuisine may be unfamiliar to some visitors. Traditional dishes, such as sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls) and mici (grilled sausages), might be different from what tourists are used to. However, Bucharest also offers a range of international and fusion cuisine options.

📌Customer Service: Customer service in Bucharest may not always meet the same standards as in Western countries. Visitors may find that service at restaurants, shops, or tourist attractions can be slow or lacking in friendliness.

📌Beggars and Poverty: Bucharest, like many other large cities, has its share of poverty and visible homelessness. This can be distressing for some tourists who may not be accustomed to such scenes.

📌Nightlife: Bucharest boasts a vibrant nightlife scene, with numerous clubs, bars, and music festivals. However, the intensity and party atmosphere can be overwhelming for those who prefer a quieter experience.

📌Tipping is the norm: Tipping in restaurants/bars/clubs is appropriate in Bucharest. Romanian waiters receive a very small hourly wage because their employers expect that customers will tip them. There are many waiters who expect to be tipped just because this is the norm and don’t understand that tip should be given only in exchange for very good service.

📌Crime and Safety:

Bucharest’s crime rate is low in comparison to other European capital cities.

A few things you need to be careful about:

⚡️Petty thieves and pickpockets. They operate especially in crowded areas and in buses. Subways are safer because they have guards on the train. Keep eyes and hands on your wallets and purses when in a crowd.

⚡️Taxi drivers. Call a cab using one of the mobile apps or take one of the taxi companies recommended. Make sure the price is right and the driver starts the counter before moving. Have small bills available.

⚡️Scams. Don’t buy things or exchange money from people offering it on the street. If you see people who seem to be in trouble, call 112 and report the emergency because it could be a scam. Research local scams: Familiarize yourself with common scams in the area, such as overcharging or distraction techniques, to help avoid falling victim to them.

Despite these potential culture shocks, many tourists also find Bucharest to be a fascinating and dynamic city with rich history, beautiful parks, and a growing cultural scene. With an open mind and a willingness to embrace differences, visitors can have a rewarding and memorable experience in Bucharest.