What Do You Learn When You Travel Abroad?

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ProverbsColloquialism Or Popular Wisdom

What do you learn when you travel abroad, really? In preparation, you might do some research about the place you decided to visit. About the country, in general, the regions you intend to see, cities, villages, beaches, mountains. You check flights and accommodation deals, possibly car rentals. What is the weather like? What should you see and do in the place(s) you plan to visit? 

The Huniade Castle, Romania
Images: Pixabay
The Huniade Castle, Western Romania

You might read a bit about the local history, geography, culture. Indeed, you will do some research about food and drinks, night-life, museums opening hours, local currency and exchange rate. The list does not end here.

Thanks to the beautiful community of travel bloggers and price comparison sites, it has become easy to plan the perfect holiday.

River Danube mountain sculpture Romania
River Danube as it enters the country

So, now you have everything prepared, and a few days left until you’ll start packing, you might want to learn a few words that could come in handy as you step out of the airport terminal at your destination. Such as greetings, please and thank you, how much, check, my name is, what’s yours etc.

It is only polite to show a bit of consideration. The locals know that you are a visitor and appreciate your effort. It is something you will observe and enjoy as a tourist.

Mocanita Steam Train, Maramures, Northern Romania
Mocănița Steam Train, Maramureș, Northern Romania

I wonder how much thought you would give to the popular wisdom of a nation before visiting. To their proverbs or sayings. Something you will not master even after you return home but can make you laugh and help induce a more carefree, holiday state of mind even as you’re reading now. 

Brasov Transylvania Romania
Brașov, Transylvania. Central Romania

Not to mention that it is likely to hear one or two at your destination. 

Imagine that feeling when you get the meaning of the saying. See the smile of the local you are speaking with broadening. And the satisfaction that, although you can barely articulate a few words in the local language, you are still able to communicate effectively. Priceless!

If you chose Romania as your destination, you would discover an extraordinary diversity, breath-taking scenery, hospitality and generosity as you’ll rarely find, foods you will fall in love with and remember for a long time and cheap, quality drinks. You would also hear things that will baffle you when translated into English. 

Brown Bear, Carpathian Mountains, Romania
Brown Bear, Carpathian Mountains Range, Romania

Romanian is an ancient language, spoken since times immemorial by the Dacian people, as Romanians were called in the old times. That means before the Romans became desperate to expand their empire towards the down of their civilisation and crossed the Danube to occupy southern Dacia.

The King's Rock Mountain in the Carpathian Range, Transylvania
The King’s Rock Mountain in the Carpathian Range, Transylvania. Personal photo

It would be useless to argue over how Romanian was born; there is too much debate about the subject as it is. The thing is, no language was ever created overnight.

One conqueror or another might have occupied parts of the country for some time; some words might have suffered influences, new ones were borrowed. Still, in essence, Romanian remained the same language spoken in this area for many thousands of years. 

Pelican colony in the Danube Delta, as the river runs into the Black Sea
A pelican colony in the Danube Delta, as the river runs into the Black Sea

It might be the reason why Romanian is a unitary language without dialects, spoken in the exact same way by all the inhabitants of all the historical regions of the country. The accent might vary, after all, Brummies and Scots or Texans and New Yorkers have their own pronunciation as well, you get the idea.

Constanta City, The Black Sea, Romania
Casino in Constanța City. The Black Sea, South-eastern Romania

In time, of course, Romanian evolved, like any other modern tongue. Even more in the most recent times, when a lot of slang found its way into the language. 

Also, being an incredibly rich and colourful language and the Romanians a highly inventive, humorous and slightly mocking people, the proverbs followed the trend. They absorbed the creativity of the nation, becoming funny beyond wise.

So, let’s talk modern Romanian proverbs. Not because I am a native and I get them, but because when translated into English, they sound hilarious.

Bran Castle near Brasov, Transylvania. Not Dracula's Castle
Bran Castle, near Brașov. And no, the real Vlad Dracula had never stepped inside! He was the king of the region south of Transylvania, called Wallachia

Let’s say you have a conversation with a local and insist something is what you say it is. You won’t give up and push it to the point of driving the local nuts. The Romanian could reply a tad exasperated that you take them out of the watermelons (mă scoți din pepeni!)

Nuts, watermelon, both foods, same meaning, right? Just keep in mind that you driving (as in driving a car) them nuts  (squirrel’s favourite foods) makes just as much sense to them as their watermelons to you!

Chindia Tower Wallachia Vlad Dracula's royal court and place of executions, impallings
Chindia Tower, Târgoviște, Wallachia. Vlad Dracula built it at his court. It was his favourite place to watch executions (mostly impalings). He used to force his guests to watch the horror shows as well!

Maybe it’s time you dropped the argument before they will lose temper, or their mustard will jump off (îi sare muștarul). You are on holiday; conflict is the last thing you need! 

Relax, the Romanians are way too hospitable. They would rather settle with a tasty traditional meal and glass of wine or țuică, a famous Romanian brandy made out of pears or plums. You will have to annoy them badly to get them to beat you until your flakes start flying (te bat de-ți zboară fulgii!)

I insist, Romanians love tourists, they want you to appreciate the splendour of the country, they won’t beat you! That’s cool; you’d think, sighing relieved. They will say it is concrete (e beton!)

Brasov City Centre High Street
Brasov City Centre High Street. Personal photo

As you follow your plan (or improvise) and travel around the country, you will see scenery that will take your breath away. So much beauty might surprise you, to say the least. But don’t be surprised if a local will proudly proclaim that your face fell off (ți-a căzut fața) when you saw this or that of incommensurable beauty! 

No need to check, your face is still there, where it has always been. The Romanian is only pleased that their country has something to show that took your breath away.

Brasov Christmas Market and Christmas Tree
Brașov Christmas Market. Personal photo

As there is beauty at every turn, you might slow your pace. You want time to imprint the images deep in your memory and take a million pictures. But the local knows there is a lot more to see and they feel they must show it all to you, so they might get a bit annoyed that you’re wasting time. To them, it would seem as you’re rubbing the mint (freci menta!) 

Don’t worry; you won’t have to prepare any herbal infusions! Besides, you own your time, and you are on holiday, so you can dillydally all you want. Now explain dillydally to your Romanian host!

The hause where Vlad Dracula was born in Sighisoara, Transylvania, Romania
The house where Vlad Dracula was born in 1431. Sighișoara, Transylvania. Personal Photo

If something confuses you, you might be staring like a turkey hen at the boughs (te holbezi ca curca’n crăci!)

Do not despair, you’ll get it, eventually. When your coin will drop (îți pică fisa).

Poiana Brasov Ski Resort Brasov, Romania
Poiana Brașov Ski Resort. Personal Photo

Try, if you can, not to do anything crazy, in general, while travelling. To a Romanian, it will be a clear sign you are gone on a raft (ești dus cu pluta!)

It is also sound advice not to do anything wrong, or throw your boggers into the beans (să dai cu mucii în fasole). It will forever destroy your reputation as a respectable person.

Transylvania countryside Romania
Transylvania countryside

After so much sightseeing and exploring, you will drop dead, enriched, but over exhausted. You’d be cabbage, actually (ești varză!

You would also be cabbage (no indefinite article) if you didn’t find your passport before your flight back home because you are a bit messy.

The Sphinx, Bucegi Mountains of the Carpathian Range, Romania
The Sphinx. Rock formation, Bucegi Mountains in the Carpathian Range

Don’t stress too much; the passport will show up. Unwind and, since it is your last night in the country, you should have a drink with your new friend for life. 

If you observe that this person drinks a lot, you might wonder why nobody warned you that they were a drunkard.

Well, one or two of their friends might have mentioned that they were a blotting paper (e sugativă), but you didn’t quite catch it!

Dino Park Rasnov, Brasov, Romania
Dino Park, Râșnov, near Brașov. Personal photo

The Romanian wisdom doesn’t end here, but I would like to hear from you now. Which one did you find funnier/more bonkers? And what other crazy things have you heard in your travels? Where? In what language? I would love to learn some.

Palace of Parliament, Bucharest, Romania
Palace of Parliament, Bucharest, Romania

I hope you enjoyed reading it! Please share the love by saving this pin to your travel or learning languages boards; it will help this blog grow and motivate me to write more for your enjoyment! Thank you!

Huniade Castle

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Vagabond Around the World

Working as a journalist during university was pretty exciting. But landing a cruise ship job barely a year in my new graduate career was something else! Overnight, I moved from an already exhilarating job to an even better one. One that would allow me to wake up every morning in a different country. What more can a twenty-something wish for? The fact that I was fluent in a few languages helped. It made it easier to obtain the position I was seeking at the Shore Excursions department. Apart from dispatching tours in the morning and selling tickets in the evening, I would spend nearly every day on different trips. I did this a few years, spending half a year onboard and about two months at home. I enjoyed it immensely. I met fascinating people from all over the Globe and collected memories to last me a lifetime. Not to mention that I received a salary for seeing all those magnificent places the Earth has to offer! In an ideal world, everybody should live as they want. For me, that would translate into travel, then travel some more and keep travelling!

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24 Responses

  1. Cassie says:

    I have always thought about going abroad, so this post was super helpful! I actually applied for a program to go to London just before the pandemic hit, so of course that had to be cancelled. I am hoping this summer I am able to! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  2. Laia Feliu says:

    One of my favourite things about travelling is learning new things… My boyfriend was in Romania a couple of years ago and he loved it! I can’t wait to go! Also, I’m Catalan and apparently, there are like a thousand words that are incredibly similar and mean the same!

  3. Alyssa says:

    Your face fell off! 😂 I think that’s the funniest one, in my opinion. I love hearing about the differences in languages and how we speak. I would be intimidated while traveling abroad because I’d be afraid of offending someone.

  4. Jenny says:

    This made me smile this morning. When we traveled to London as a family, I didn’t think much of the language barrier because, well, it’s the same. Boy, was I wrong. Some of those sayings went over my head. We then made a game of writing them all down so we could remember later.

  5. Nathalia says:

    Very interesting! I’m bilingual and still find it amusing when colloquialisms don’t translate the same way.

    Nathalia | NathaliaFit – Fitness & Wellness Blog

  6. Marguerite says:

    Love this post! So unique and different 🙂 Only after moving to Germany did I realise, thanks to locals, that English also has some pretty odd expressions that confuse non-native speakers but that I took for granted!

  7. Angela says:

    Great post! I’ve always wanted to travel abroad and learn more about different cultures. You learn much more as a traveler. Romania sounds like an interesting place.

  8. Jen says:

    Wow, I never thought that Romania as a destination is this dreamy (a little knowledge on Romania really)! Is travelling there as expensive as other European countries?

  9. Rachel IRL says:

    This was so fun to read! Romania has been on my list for quite some time, and this has totally reminded me why I want to go there.

  10. Daniella says:

    You can learn so much as a traveler if you interact with the locals. Thanks so much for sharing such an interesting perspective of Romania. I’m dying to visit after seeing your amazing photos!

  11. Tegan says:

    I am in awe of your photos! I would love to do a road trip through Romania. Planning to visit next time we’re in Europe; I will definitely read your blog for advice!

  12. DiElle says:

    Wow this looks incredible, such amazing photos. Thanks for sharing this, really enjoying the impression you’ve given here of Romania 🇷🇴

  13. Saptarshi says:

    Read so much about Romania… guess what only in novels related to Dracula!! but now tou took me to a virtual tour of this cultural heritage enriched country!! great going.

  14. Sarah Styf says:

    Beautiful pictures and you make Romania sound lovely. Maybe when we’re finally able to travel and I convince my husband to go Europe 🙂

  15. Paige says:

    Wonderful post! I love learning local idioms, they’re so enjoyable and help you realize how incredible language is!

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