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Posts tagged ‘Romania’


Alternative Valentine’s Days

Heart with a world map

Valentine’s Day is a moment we should all pause our busy lives to celebrate love and the important people in our lives with whom we share special moments – not only lovers but also friends or family.

Obviously a popular holiday on the American continent, followed by Western Europe and in the last years Eastern Europe, the world’s interest towards the popular celebration of love has been rising.

Although Valentine’s Day is internationally celebrated on 14th February, some cultures have their own version of it around the year.

1. Dragobete – Romania

Romanians celebrate Dragobete on the 24th of February, a day that not only celebrates love but also the fact that spring is getting close. In old times it was an occasion for the young girls and boys to get together and play different games, dance and confess their love for each other.

2. Dia dos Namorados – Brazil

Brazilians celebrate Dia dos Namorados on 12th June, which is the day before Saint Anthony’s day (the marriage saint). One of the reasons Brazilians choose to celebrate love on this day is that traditional Valentine’s Day on February 14th would coincide with the Carnival celebration, which takes place in February and some of March. Dia dos Namorados is a day when people exchange little gifts, like sweets and flowers and lovers enjoy a romantic dinner or night out.

3. Qi xi – China

The Chinese version of Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the seventh night of the seventh month (also called Double Seven festival) of the Chinese lunar calendar – that is sometime in August. Qi xi (pronounced cheeshe) is nowadays celebrated similarly to other cultures by offering flowers and chocolates to the loved ones as well as couples spending a romantic day together.

4. Valentine’s Day and White Day – Japan

Japanese culture celebrates love on the same day as Valentine’s Day but instead of men offering gifts to women, it’s the other way around. Then one month later, on 14th March on White Day, it’s the men’s turn to reciprocate the gifts. The difference is that Valentine’s Day chocolates are a symbol of a man’s popularity, but the ones on White Day are only for couples or romantically involved people. Black Day (on April 14th) however is a day when the singles, or the people that haven’t received any gifts on any of the holidays, gather to “commiserate”, often wearing black, eating black coloured food and complaining about their love life.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day – or maybe you don’t celebrate at all – we believe love is a great feeling that we should hold onto every day and show our loved ones how much they mean to us.

Download our app uTalk – Learn a Language to find out how to say “I love you” in 130 languages.



To tip or not to tip?

A social dilemma you’re bound to fall into at some point is whether or not to tip – and how much! Tip too little and you risk the waiter chasing you down the street shouting abuse; tip too much and you might gravely offend the staff. Tipping customs vary all over the world, between different countries and regions (not to mention situations), so do your research before you travel!

How much should you tip?

In the USA, tipping is mandatory and fairly high, with 15-20% being expected. Service wages are fairly low, meaning people factor tips into their pay, and waiters will ask you where their tip is if you haven’t left one.

In the UK, tipping is more relaxed and is never really expected in a pub or cafe, or anywhere with self-service. In restaurants, 10% is usually expected, but if you feel the service was poor then you can express this by not leaving a tip.

Move into Romania, however, where 10% is also recommended (more if you’re really happy with the service), and not leaving a tip would be considered very rude: do not try to return to a restaurant where you didn’t leave a tip.

Drinking tips

In lots of countries in Europe, the traditional attitude towards tipping can be seen in the language: German ‘Trinkgeld’, Swedish ‘dricks’ and Danish ‘drikkepenge’ all mean ‘money for drinking’, as does the Slovak ‘prepitné’, French ‘pourboire’, Slovenian ‘napitnina’, Serbian ‘напојница’ and Croatian ‘napojnica’. The idea behind this is that you just round the bill up or leave a few coins, as a contribution towards a drink for the waiter.

Further East, the direct translation is even more specific: in Russia, you leave money ‘for tea’ (‘чаевые’). The same is true of Kazakh‘s ‘шайлық’ (шай- shai- tea’), Uzbek‘s ‘чойчақа’ and Tajiki‘s ‘чойпулӣ’).

Beware, however, that tipping practices have changed significantly and just a few coins often won’t cut it any more in these countries: be prepared for at least a 10% tip, as a broad guideline.


When not to tip

So far, the problem has only been how much to tip, and if you’ve accidentally tipped too much in America or Europe, it won’t cause any massive problems. But in some areas the attitude towards tipping changes drastically.

In Malaysia, Singapore and Japan tipping is not practised at all and could be considered odd or even offensive.

In Georgia, it can be seen as an affront to the notion of hospitality. Beware as well that a tip can easily be misconstrued as a bribe, which you definitely don’t want to get in trouble for, so make sure you look up before travelling whether tipping is normal practice in the country you’re visiting!

Have you ever been caught out by tipping etiquette?



10 reasons to visit… Romania

As you know, we love travelling and learning about all kinds of cultures around the world, so we decided to start the ’10 reasons’ series – every now and then we’re going to give you 10 reasons for which you should consider visiting a new country.

This month I chose Romania because it is my home country and because I can think of a lot more than ten reasons to visit this beautiful country. So, enjoy your read and please note that the reasons are not stated in any particular order – all are equally important.

1. Breathtaking mountain landscapes

Romania is one of the ‘lucky’ countries which gets to enjoy both mountains and sea, but the truly amazing landscapes are definitely to be seen in the Carpathian mountains. There are two main roads that traverse the mountain chain and they are Transalpina and Transfagarasan. These roads reach the altitude of 2042 metres (6700 ft) and take you through endless curves and sheer drops – make sure you pull over to take photos.

Transfagarasan highway, Romania

2. Transylvania

This might be the best known area in Romania, mainly because of the Dracula myth that is supposed to have taken place here. I’m not going to tell you about how you can have vampire encounters (Dracula is as real as Edward Cullen so don’t get your hopes up), instead I’m going to tell you that this is a very special part of Romania, having many colourful medieval cities with beautiful architecture as well as friendly people and delicious food – but more about this in the following points.

3. Black Sea resorts and summer fun

My hometown is on the Black Sea shore and I can promise you, it is like Ibiza down there. There are parties almost every day of the week during the summer but the weekend is when it gets really loud and fun. Most Romanians go there for a couple of weekends during the summer for festivals and other party-related events. You can even go on your own, you will make a lot of friends. During the day, you can lay on the beach and get a nice tan to show off when you go back.

4. Finger-licking food

If you decide to take a trip to Romania, make sure you are ready to come back home with 5-10 pounds extra, as the food over there is delicious – from the national food cabbage rolls (or stuffed cabbage) with porridge made out of yellow maize flour, to any kind of pies and cocoa sponge cake to Turkish influenced cuisine, everything you will eat there will taste amazing! On top of that, most Romanian women are really good cooks.

5. Ski- and winter-resorts

Now, I’m not much of a skier but I can tell you that you can have a great time skiing or snowboarding in the winter in the Romanian mountain resorts. The best known area for this is Prahova Valley, which is basically a river making its way thorough the chain of mountains and there are about 7-8 small resorts where you can get your share of winter fun, winter landscapes and mulled wine (what, did you think there’s no alcohol involved?).

Skiing in Romania

6. The Danube Delta

If you’re more the nature-loving/sleeping-in-a-tent-is-fun kind of person you might want to take a trip here. This place is a naturally formed delta, where the Danube flows into the Black Sea. It is known for its wild places because it is pretty difficult to live there all year round given all the water and muddy islands. There are some men-built resorts where you can stay if you don’t enjoy the wilderness that much but the true sense of this place is that you can have that bonding-with-nature kind of experience.

7. The beautiful girls

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a ‘place’ you can visit, they don’t have them all lined up behind a window (although, you can find that in Amsterdam – so I’ve heard). It’s just that Romanian women are known to be beautiful and that is mostly because they take much interest in their appearance and they enjoy going out in cafés, pubs or clubs – so that makes them something you might want to experience seeing in Romania.

8. Bucharest nightlife

Speaking of clubs, this brings me to the capital of Romania – Bucharest. This big city has a vivid nightlife and fancy, luxurious clubs with music that plays till the sunrise. The custom is that you go to a club where you party & drink til 5-6 a.m. and then you go and have some Turkish kebab or shaworma (a kind of wrap) as a hangover cure. The place where you can find most of the clubs is the Old City Centre, which is very beautiful to visit during the day as well.

9. Northern Moldavia

If you are more the museum-visiting type, this area is one that you would enjoy. There are a lot of old monasteries (some date from the 14th-16th century) where nuns and monks still live nowadays and that are part of the UNESCO world heritage because they are represent the Romanian tradition. They are usually surrounded with vegetation so that can be a place to find peace and serenity even if you are not religious. Be careful of the dress code – you have to wear trousers (or a long skirt) and something rather decent for the top part.

The Voronet Monastery

10. The people

I’ve saved the best for last. One important reason you should visit Romania is to find that the people there are welcoming and warm, that you can make long lasting friendships very quickly and that even though Romania is a country that has had many struggles in the past, people are still good at heart and they will welcome you in their house as a friend, not a tourist.

And of course before you go, don’t forget to learn some Romanian, and take uTalk with you in case you get stuck while you’re there…

If you have any suggestions for our next ’10 reasons to visit…’ post, please let us know!