Managing in Romania
Choosing a Country Where Tech is Thriving
Romania is characterized by spectacular mountain scenery, sweeping plains, and a beautiful coastline that hugs the Black Sea.
It has rural communities barely touched by the 21st century, but in buzzing Bucharest it has a capital city that is the Balkans' answer to Silicon Valley.
It's a country that's steeped in a turbulent history and the Transylvanian folklore of Dracula, and one that is still shaking off the legacy of communism and dictatorship. Yet, Romanians are among the most hospitable and big-hearted people in Europe.
In this article, we explore how to live and work successfully in Romania, and how to engage with and get the most from a Romanian team.
Treat this article as a general guide to working in Romania – nothing beats common sense when gauging business relationships and managing a team. Read this blog post and our article, Working Abroad, for more advice.
Romania is bordered by Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova, and the Black Sea
Romania is the largest country in Southeast Europe, at 230,000 square kilometres. It is bordered by Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova, and the Black Sea, and is home to about 20 million people.
The majority of these are Romanian (83 percent), followed by Hungarian (6 percent) and Roma (5 to 10 percent). The population has dipped in recent years, as people have sought opportunities in richer countries.
More than 80 percent of Romanians are Eastern Orthodox Christian. Religion is an important part of the national identity, though a dwindling number of Romanians are devout church-goers. The Romanian language is a Latin one, rather than Slavic, despite being in Eastern Europe.
Summers can be hot, with temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius, but Romanian winters can be bitterly cold, with the mercury regularly plummeting to minus 10. So, either way, make sure that you go there prepared for all eventualities!
Rebuilding Romania's Society and Economy
Romania is rebuilding and restructuring, economically and politically, after the communist years of 1947-89.
It held democratic elections in 1990, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2004, and became a member of the European Union in 2007.
Romania has performed well since joining the EU. Its economy has been growing at an average 3 percent a year since 2012. In 2016, that figure was 4.8 percent, the third-fastest growth rate in Europe, according to the World Bank. However, it is still the second-poorest country in the union, behind Bulgaria.
Bucharest has experienced a financial boom recently. Unemployment in the capital has fallen, private consumption has grown, and wages have risen. Also, the city is establishing itself as one of Europe's startup hubs, and is home to about 170 high-tech companies.
In fact, one of the positive legacies of communism is a strong telecommunications network and an education system that focuses on science and technology. For example, as of 2017, Romania had the sixth fastest broadband network in the world, way ahead of the U.S. in 17th place.
Romania is keen to improve its financial security, and to exert more influence across Europe. To that end, the country has been making inroads toward tackling two of its biggest challenges: corruption and political stability.
Romania has a fascinating past. Brush up with a quick history lesson, but do be aware that your Romanian colleagues may be sensitive about their country's communist era.
The Romanian language is closely related to Italian, and English is widely spoken in the major towns and cities. Most Romanian words are pronounced as they're spelled, too, so communication may not be as daunting as you first think. And your Romanian team members will appreciate you having a go!
Here are some key words and phrases for you to learn:
|Hello||Salut/Bună ziua||Sah-loot/boo-nuh zee-wa|
|Please||Vă rog||Vuh rohg|
|Goodbye||La revedere||Lah reh-veh-deh-reh|
|Thank you (very much)||Mulțumesc (mult)||Mool-tzoo-mesk (moolt)|
|What is your name?||Cum vă numiţi?||Coom vuh noo-meetz|
|My name is ...||Numele meu este ...||Noo-meh-le meu yes-te|
|Pleased to meet you||Încântat de cunoștință||Oohn-kuhn-taht de kuh-nosh-tint-zuh|
|Do you speak English?||Vorbiţi engleză?||Vor-beetz eng-leh-zuh|
|I don't understand||Nu înţeleg||Noo in-tze-leg|
|Could you please speak more slowly?||Vă rog, vorbiți mai rar?||Vuh rohg, vor-beetz may rahr|
Vacation and Holidays
The dates for Romanian public holidays are as follows:
- New Year's Day – January 1
- Unification Day/Union of the Romanian Principalities – January 24
- Easter Sunday – Date changes each year (April 8 in 2018, April 28 in 2019)
- Easter Monday – Date changes each year (April 9 in 2018; April 29 in 2019)
- Labor Day – May 1
- Children's Day – June 1
- Pentecost/Whit Sunday – Date changes each year (May 20 in 2018; June 16 in 2019)
- Pentecost/Whit Monday – Date changes each year (May 21 in 2018; June 17 in 2019)
- Assumption Day – August 15
- Feast of St Andrew – November 30
- Great Union Day – December 1
- Christmas Day – December 25
- Second Day of Christmas – December 26
Working in Romania
Working hours in Romania are typically 40 hours a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Labor law states that a working week should not be more than 48 hours, including overtime.
Overtime can be compensated for by an equal number of vacation hours. These have to be taken within 60 days of the extra work being undertaken. Otherwise the time worked must be paid in full.
The Romanian government gives tax incentives to employers offering work to long-term unemployed people, older workers and single parents. The pre-tax minimum wage in Romania converts to about $290 a month, the lowest in Europe after Bulgaria. But the cost of living is low, too.
Workers are entitled to hold down several jobs and be paid for each accordingly. However, they are not obliged to tell employers of any other jobs held.
Most Romanians aren't overtly ambitious or "corporate" in their attitudes toward work. This is, perhaps, a legacy of communism, where the collective result was more important than the individual. Similarly, Romania remains heavily bureaucratic, so brace yourself for plenty of paperwork!
Annual Leave and Parental Leave
Romanians are entitled to 21 days of paid annual leave. Private-sector workers are entitled to unpaid leave in exceptional circumstances, such as the weddings or funerals of close family members.
Parental leave is generous in Romania. The first parent can request absence of 12 months, receiving 85 percent of their net income each month, plus a bonus for 12 months after returning to work.
Alternatively, they can benefit from two years' leave, but without the return-to-work bonus. The second parent can request leave of one month.
Getting the Best From Your Team
Romanian business culture is hierarchical, and decisions are usually made at the top. Your team members will expect you to provide strong leadership. You'll likely find that few people who report to you will ever question your judgment, so brush up on your decision making skills before you go.
Romanians tend to dress modestly and conservatively for work. Business meetings are usually formal, so don't remove your jacket or sit down until the most senior person in the room has done so. Also, address everyone formally (Mr/Mrs – Domnule/Doamna) until you are invited to use their first names.
Punctuality and respectful behavior are important, particularly when dealing with senior people. You'll likely find that your Romanian team members will be generous and hospitable toward you, but getting to know them can take a while. Once trust is established, however, you'll be considered “one of their own.”
Bribery is illegal in Romania, but giving small gifts (such as alcohol or confectionery) to business partners is commonplace. Sharing something from your hometown with your team when you meet them will likely help you get off to a good start.
See our article, Gifts in the Workplace, for the dos and don'ts of gift giving. Take care to understand anti-corruption laws both in Romania and in your home country (which may apply even when you're abroad), and to respect your company's policies on this subject.
For example, in the U.S., the legal distinction between a gift and a bribe is not completely clear. See the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for more information. Also, the Bribery Act 2010 explains what constitutes an offence under U.K. law, at home and abroad.
Safety and Security
Violent crime is rare in Romania, but be alert for pickpockets and money-exchange scams. Simply keep walking if someone approaches you offering to exchange currency.
Be aware that homosexuality was illegal in Romania until 2001, and same-sex marriage is still not recognized. However, hate crimes related to gender, sexual orientation or race are also very rare.
Romania has enjoyed steady economic growth for a decade, and is facing up to the challenges associated with corruption and political instability.
However, it's a reasonable time to start getting involved in Romanian business, particularly in the tech sector, where there is strong infrastructure.
To bring the most out of your team members, behave respectfully and be mindful of hierarchies. Lead with authority, but ensure that you're approachable and patient while building working relationships.