Peace Corps Writers
For two years, Andy Trincia will be writing about his days as a Peace Corps Volunteer for
Peace Corps Writers.

Andy Trincia

Read other short pieces about PCV experiences

Andy's previous articles:

Teaching high schoolers free-market economics

Looking for Ben Franklin in Timisoara

Partying with Peasants and A Letter to America

Customer Service?

Romania Themepark Mania

Some of Andy's photos are at Yahoo
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by Andy Trincia (Romania 2002–  )

The Neighbors Goat

Sa moara si capra vecinului!”

That’s a Romanian idiom, the meaning of which translates to: “If my goat dies, I hope myPrinter friendly version neighbor’s goat dies, too.”
     I have heard this many times and occasionally ask Romanians about it. When I brought it up recently with a small group of my university students, they laughed and noted with pleasure that I’d picked up on this cultural nugget. Then one added, “Well, they really need to update that. These days, it should be, “If my goat dies, then I am going to steal my neighbor’s goat!” Then more laughter.
     These five words strung together speak volumes about the Romanian mentality. This obviously stems from rural areas, where many people actually do own goats — as well as chickens, sheep and pigs — though millions of other, more urban Romanians now live side-by-side in communist-era bloc apartment buildings with no yard in which to keep any animals. Yet the phrase sticks around.
     As does this one, which I hear Romanians mumble even more frequently:

“Romania este o tara frumoasa, pacat ca este locuit.”

This, sadly enough, translates to: “Romania is a beautiful country, what a pity it’s inhabited.” Many Romanians have told me that the majority — or at least half — of her citizens are not “good” people, but are souls willing to cheat their own neighbor, to bribe, or to do just about anything to get ahead. Because of low salaries and poverty, many Romanians, understandably, have short-term horizons (as in “tomorrow” or “next week”) when it comes to money. But dig deeper and you realize that this mentality is also about the preference to make a quick, easy buck, often through corruption, rather than by establishing a long-term business relationship.
     “Loyalty” and “trust” are simply not in the vocabulary. The reputation of Romanians abroad, especially in Western Europe, is poor, often based on stories of stolen cars, petty thieves and sneaky immigrant workers. One foreign national in Bucharest who works for an international tourism firm, told me about scores of Romanians working on cruise ships around the world. On ships where this person has worked, if there was a theft on board, the captain would have the Romanian crew members’ cabins searched first and 90 percent of the time they were guilty.
     After more than a year in Romania, I know many things about this country, but I continue to learn every day and, at times, struggle to understand it. The mentality of the people, their attitudes and rampant negativism, particularly when compared to their more upbeat and faster-advancing — but also formerly communist — neighbors such as Hungary and Bulgaria, is something hard to grasp. Some Romanians jokingly blame it on their ancient roots from the sly and barbaric Dacian tribes who were conquered by the Romans.

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