food, Romania

how poor language skills bestowed us a monthly metro pass

You all know how everybody tells you that you should at least be able to say Hello, Goodbye, Yes, No, Please and Thank you in the language of the country you’re traveling in?

Remembering my unease in the Netherlands where I never found out whether I pronounced Hello correctly or not (don’t ask), I prepared myself by writing down the Romanian words and phrases I felt were important. I planned to learn them on the plane. The plane took off at 06.55 and an hour later I woke up in Bucaresti without a word of Romanian.

When we landed in Romania I just somehow believed that Thank you is the same as in French, Merci. And as Romanian is a romance language I was hopeful (or one could say: arrogant enough to believe) I would get by somehow. Boy, was I ever wrong. The first day I threw random words in Spanish, Italian and French at people, with mixed results.

Scusi (Excuse me) and por favor (please) seemed to work, tres (three) was used by a Romanian woman who kindly showed us the way (or so I thought) but when I used it to buy metro tickets I hit the language barrier full force. Three is trei in Romanian. Obviously when the nice lady showed me the way I didn’t hear the i, having been concentrating on understanding the description. When I tried to buy tickets, there was a lot of pointing, confused looks and pushing around of money on both sides of the counter and everybody involved was glad when we finally had our tickets and were on our way.

Before that, while we were trying to decide on which ticket to buy, we realized neither of us knew what the word for week was (it’s săptămână btw) and that the only ticket description we were sure we could “translate” from the brochure was the monthly pass, which we bought to be on the safe side.

And the confusion went on since Si might be Yes in Spanish, but in Romanian Și means and while Da is Yes. Sortir is French for to leave/to go out, sosire stands for arrival, not departure in Romanian…

Body language was what already saved us a lot those first days,  even though I stopped to say and, and while nodding enthusiastically. But despite our very limited Romanian language skills and the fact that English is not widely spoken here we haven’t had serious problems so far (touch wood).

The people here are  nice and helpful and, after one look in our blank faces, they usually change tactics: they stop talking in rapid fire Romanian and start with expressive body language and small words or just point at stuff with questioning looks.

Nice Patisserie Lady Look: Do you want a bag? Me: And, and! Ahem.. Yes. I mean da.

It worked! We got cake, which is the only thing that matters as it is. And of course, with our one-month-passes, we can cruise around Bukarest for a full month.

About enjirux

I'm a twenty-something female who moved from Austria to Scotland in 2009. Formally addicted to coffee, the UK has turned me into a bit of a tea snob and made me discover lots of wonderful things, e.g. pies. While I love to do a lot of things like writing, taking pictures, baking, traveling and spending days lazing about, my current pay checks says language teacher and will continue to say so until 2013 where there will be no pay check but dust and snakes as I'll venture into Asia. But that's still quite some time away and meanwhile I'll share my thoughts and worries and pictures of pies and short trips with you while gleefully butchering the English language.

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