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Comparative culture

The Irish are friendly

The friendliness of the Irish people is notable upon any return to the country.

It is common in Ireland for strangers to cordialy greet each other upon meeting

This does not happen in Romania — not normally. People are more wary of a stranger. This does not mean that they are less friendly, when you do get a chance to speak — just that they are more wary of a stranger.

This is true not only of a person who looks foreign; I've spoken with Romanians who bemoan the demeanor of the average Romanian shopkeeper. Sometimes a shopkeeper will treat a customer as if there were nobody there, some people say. It may just be that the magazine she's reading is more important to her than business or social courtesy.

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But the hard exterior is only a shell, I think.

I stopped into an cybercafe in the city of Cluj, one day, only to look and to ask — on pretense, so that I could look — about the price of internet access. I tried my best Romanian. She was an awful thing, and she treated me like a pure annoyance. I left.

But I did not find another cybercafe, and against my wishes I could only go back there, while I was in town and had the chance.

This time, I decided to speak to her in English — and to let her decide whether or not she could understand me. She showed me to a computer terminal, and she was polite or at least civil.

Halfway through an email that I was writing, I took off my sweater and put it on the table beside me, at which point the computer shut out blank black.

After I'd accepted what had happened, I was unable to get the machine to turn back on. I went and I told the girl that something had happened — that the computer had quit.

She was friendly. She was not only civil, but polite. She told me that I should not touch the cable that runs down along the wall, because doing so can shut off the machine — and she told me so in a way that made her seem like she didn't mind speaking with me and even trying to help me.

When I paid and left, she was even friendly.