(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Signs you are in a former Communist state

You know you're in a former Communist state when...

  • you find toilet regulations in the bathroom (see photo).  However, I don't have the language skills to know if I'm doing it right. I may be risking an unpleasant encounter with the Toiletta Politza.
  • Bureaucracy: It takes me 4 windows, 3 receipts, stamped and signed, and 45 minutes at the bank to exchange dollars to Euros. Knowing that I've employed a substantial number of Romanians...PRICELESS. 
  • Bus stops are centrally designed to be every 1000 meters, regardless if the rider population would support stops every 500 meters or every block.  Transfers aren't particularly coordinated; everyone seems to expect to walk 300 meters or so between bus routes.  Apparently, no one thinks to themselves, "if the 30 would let me out 200 meters down the block, and the 38 would pick up 100 meters closer to the corner, then I wouldn't have to trudge through the snow and rain every day;" or they keep it to themselves.
  • Parking violations result in your car being snatched off the street (see picture 2).  They have this tow truck system they call the spider, with a crane that hooks under your wheels and lifts your car out of the parking space and puts it on a flat bed truck.  What happens next I have not figured out; I'm sure it is inconvenient.  As a friend says, "They never come tow someone who is blocking my garage; they say 'we decide who we tow, not you.'"
  • Social services are state secrets.  One of the Fulbrighters is studying the health care system,  and was initially denied access to the state-run hospitals, "State secrets."  He finally got permission from the equivalent to the Romanian State Public Health Director.
  • The waiter refuses to sell you a glass of wine, then removes all the wine bottles so you can't serve yourself.  And no, it wasn't because we'd had too much!  We were at a wine tasting, and Jim and I wanted to have a glass of our favorite with our meal.  After failure in getting the waiter to understand what we wanted, we went to the tasting table to pour a glass from the remaining bottles.  Jim got half a glass before the waiter took the bottle out of his hand, scooped up the remaining bottles (before I had even gotten a drop!) and whisked them off to the back rooms.  Our culture is set up to maximize cash flow, and at home if we were willing to pay, we could get what we want. Here, the culture follows a different value.


  1. Dan,

    Hope you're having a great trip. Your pictures have been amazing and your blog informative. Keep it up!

    I sent you an email. Please read as soon as possible.


  2. Welcome to my town. The "toilet regulations" are not Communist-era but actually a jokey sign, similar to how Americans put "Welcome to my Ool, notice there's no "P" in it, please keep it that way" signs up.

    Instead of boring your students with "cookies" (which guess what? Isn't a romanian food) why don't you ask them to translate the "toilet instructions" because they're quite amusing.

    BTW "Polizia toaletta" sounds like mangled Italian. The Romanian would be "Politia Toaletei".

    Spor la treaba, profesorule!