Home Page


Steve Edwards' website

Bringing proper change to a Romanian shop

I stayed in the Transylvanian region of Romania for about a month at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008.

I visited again for one week in the proceeding summer.

In the summer of 2009 I spent about three weeks in RO — Transylvania, Bucharest, and Vama Vara on the Black Sea.

If you don't bring proper change into a Romanian shop, you might have to pay extra.

Sometimes the shopkeeper does not have sufficient coin — or, at least, says not. It's common that he or she will offer the customer some token item in lieu — a piece of gum, or a single-serve paper-tube packet of coffee powder.

The difference is normally quite small, especially relative to the greater spending-power of the euro that I earned in Ireland those days. But getting shorted at the cash register can be unpleasant. It's one of those behaviors that are good to know about so you understand that it it's not just you. I first heard of the practice from a native Romanian, and experienced it only later. To state the obvious, it is done to fleece that little bit of cash from everybody, native and foreign.

I was in a cafe once where I had a 5 lei note and the tea cost 1.5 lei. The lady tried to offer me a whole pack of gum in lieu of 3.50. I said no — and felt guilt, later; but I thought it conspicuous that I was going to be sitting a couple of meters from the bar and that she had clearly decided that she would probably not be able to produce the change in the time it would take me to drink the tea and read for a while. She did make a gesture; she gave me what change was in the drawer, and in a few minutes brought another leu over to my table. It was still short; but in the circumstance (my Romanian being poor, for one thing) I decided to thank her.