Before reading, know that I haven’t lived here in Romania long enough to give anything like a credible list of what really makes Romania awesome. And know that I love Romania and the people who live here. It’s a wonderful country full of truly loving people, beautiful scenery, delicious food, amazing music… The list goes on!
But, with all that said, I have been here long enough to notice some of the more unique (from an American perspective) aspects of life in Romania. So here is my tongue-in-cheek “Romania’s National List.” Enjoy!
Romania’s National Food: Covrigi
Now, do I really think the common, street-side pretzel is worthy to receive the illustrious title of “Romania’s National Food”? A pretzel? Really? Yes, I do indeed believe so. Now, there are certainly more tasty foods in Romania (from sarmale, delicious cabbage roles filled with meat and rice, to soarma, a favorite “fast food” composed of slices of beef or chicken put onto flatbread along with fries, peppers, cabbage, pickles, etc.). And there are certainly more “Romanian” foods (take ciorba de burta, for instance, a delicious, slighlty sour soup that contains cow stomach, or piftie, a “jello” made with all the leftover parts of pork after the hotdogs are made, and they’re all clearly visible encased in the clear jello). And, yes, there are healthier foods (I don’t have space enough to describe the wonders of raw fruits and vegetables in Romania). But when you can go to the capital city and never fear going hungry because there’s always a pretzel stand within 100 feet… well, that says something. So, not for its taste, nor for its cultural value, nor for its healthiness but simply for its shear inescapable presence… the covrig walks away with this most coveted title. So go buy a pretzel and remember Romania today!
Romania’s National Bird: The Mosquito
Although you might think that this flying creature’s likeness to Dracula and his blood-sucking tendencies would give it the title of “Romania’s National Bird,” it’s actually its simple tenacity that gives it the name. Here in the capital city of Bucharest, mosquitoes fly into our windows from April all the way to mid-November. And these mosquitoes aren’t like what we have back home in Wisconsin. No, these are tiny, fast, swarming demons, and their sole purpose is to torture you. They’re not hungry; they just hate you. Seriously, though, one mosquito in my room left me with about a dozen bites by the morning. And that’s why it carries away the most sought-after title in all the kingdom of flying creatures: Romania’s National Bird.
Romania’s National Haircut: The Fohawk
Although this hairstyle is warn almost exclusively by by young men, its nearly universal acceptance by that group earns it the title of Romania’s National Haircut. If you’re male and happen to be between the ages of 8 and 36, you’re either wearing a fohawk or you have absolutely no sense of fashion. Those are your two options here in Romania. (And, for you curious readers, I unfortunately fall into the second category.) Good news for the female readers out there! Although primarily a male-dominated haircut, if you’re interested in sporting such a trendy look, don’t worry. There are a few groundbreaking women choosing to wear the fohawk with pride. Whether male or female, you can all enjoy the stunning luxuriousness of Romania’s National Haircut: the fohawk. Wear it with pride, and let your hair shout to everyone: “I’m proud to be Romanian!”
Romania’s National Ringtone: Marimba
Yes, you really can change your iPhone ringtone. But why on earth would you want to??? Especially when it comes straight from the factory with Romania’s National Ringtone already selected as the default! So let that marimba rock your eardrums and shout your Romanian pride to all around without lifting a finger. In all seriousness, I hear this ringtone all over the place here in Romania, from the ghettos of Ferentari to the luxury apartments of Centru Vechi. I’m starting to think I’m the only one in Romania who doesn’t have an iPhone. I guess I’m just not very patriotic…
Romania’s National Legwear: Leggings
The winner of the title “Romania’s National Legwear” was definitely the most difficult which I had to decide. If you visit Romania, you might at first think skinny jeans would win the coveted title because of their nearly universal, tenacious, year-round use by both men and women, young and old. Skinny jeans, with such widespread acceptance, would be the natural assumption for this title. However, after after having lived through a winter, my mind is made up; Romania’s National Legwear is none other than leggings. (Round of applause, please.) Though they are not so universal as skinny jeans, the simple hilarity of seeing women wearing leggings along with their thick winter coats in the middle of February earned them the all-respected title “Romania’s National Legwear.” Here’s to you, leggings of Romania. (Please note that as of yet, men are not allowed to express their patriotism by sporting Romania’s National Legwear. Perhaps in the future the playing field will not be so sexist. But we wholeheartedly hope not.)
Romania’s National Sport: Complaining
Contrary to popular belief, soccer (or football, if you’re from the 93.4% of the earth’s surface that is not known as the United States) is not the national sport of Romania. This coveted title goes to an activity much more pervasive and one requiring far more skill. The title “Romania’s National Sport” goes to…. (drum roll, please) complaining. And boy do Romanians excel at it! Of course, I’m halfway joking here. Romanians are human, and humans like to complain, whether Romanian, Chinese, American, or whatever-you-are-ian. But Romanians seriously do put the rest of us to shame in this area. If it’s not the too-hot weather in the summer, it’s the too-cold winters. If it’s not your job, it’s the pay. If it’s not the car you wish you had, it’s the car you do have. Romanians always seem to have something to complain about. So go ahead and belt out a round of “Deșteaptă-te, române” (the undisputed national anthem) while you enjoy Romania’s National Sport today. (On second thought, don’t. Life’s better when you’re grateful.)
Romania’s National Hobby: Smoking
You might have thought Romania’s National Hobby would have been impaling or gymnastics or money-laundering or maybe even computer hacking, but those are all stereotypes. (C’mon, we’re trying to be impartial here. Right?) The highly exclusive title of Romania’s National Hobby goes to none other than that which comes most natural to Romanians, that which is almost as simple as breathing. Yes, ladies and gentelemen, it’s smoking. Whether it’s teacher’s smoking at recess while watching the second-grader class (true story) or co-workers getting together to celebrate the end of a rough day with a tower of cigarette packs on the table (another true story) or three-year-olds enjoying a pack of Kent with mom (completely made up), Romanians love to smoke like they love to breathe. But who wouldn’t like this hobby? It’s cheaper than video games, requires no electricity, and gives all your clothes that comforting “smoked-in” scent. Kind of makes you wanna invite a friend over to enjoy Romania’s National Hobby, doesn’t it?
Romania’s National T-Shirt Style: Rolled
“T-shirt style?” you ask. Yes, t-shirt style. And, oh, how stylish it is. And practical, too! Imagine yourself waiting for the tramvai on a hot day in town. You’re pouring sweat. There’s no shade in sight. And, darn it all, you’re stuck here with your t-shirt on. But wait! You’re in Romania! Roll that t-shirt up and let that gut hang out. Ah, comfort at last! It’s winter now, so I’m sure you’re laughing, but come a hot sticky summer, and you, too, will be quick to seek out the solace of Romania’s National T-Shirt Style. So join the ranks of proud Romanian men, and roll that t-shirt up. Let those cool breezes flow and bring some hard-earned relief to your bulging mid-section. (Please note that a substantial gut is required in Romanian men who wish to begin practicing the t-shirt roll. Also, at this point, women are not allowed to participate. Instead, they will need to find something a bit more traditional, like the runner-up: the belly shirt.)