In Romanian, there are several ways to greet someone and ask how they are doing. For example, to someone older or in an authority position over you, you might say, “Ce mai faceți?” To same-aged folks or friends, you could say, “Ce faci?” or “Cum ești?” The latter literally means, “How are you?” Ok, ok, boring language lessons, I know. But here’s the point of me bringing this up.
In America, often when we ask someone, “How’s it going?” or “What’s up?” or “How are you?” we don’t really care. Or if we do care, we only want to hear the truth if it’s something positive. But, one thing I’ve noticed, and really loved, about Romanians is that if you ask them how they are doing, you’re going to get a real answer (unless they are responding with very simple Romanian so that we understand). Now, I don’t mean you’re going to get a long sob story, but just the truth.
If someone is stressed about an exam or work, they’ll tell you–not whining, mind you, but just simply the facts: “I’m okay, just work has been a little stressful lately.” Even at the churches we’ve visited frequently and developed friendships with, there is rarely the “church face” going on. It makes it easy to say, “I’ll pray for you, then.” And anytime I’ve done that, it’s been very welcomed!
In all the frustrations of certain cultural things we don’t fully understand yet (will we ever “fully?”) and the slow-going of language learning, I have a great appreciation for this aspect of Romanian life. Sometimes the straightforwardness of people here throws me off, like when older women scold us for Isaac pants riding up when he’s sitting on my lap on the tram, exposing a couple of inches of bare skin, or their tying Illiana’s winter hat tightly under her chin so that air won’t sneak up there into her ears, or random people questioning me suspiciously about why Naomi is out with us during the day and not in school. But, I’m getting used to it, and some day I will be able to stand my ground more confidently as I learn more of the language and customs. Until then, I can appreciate that when someone at church smiles and tells me they’re doing really well, I can believe it!