Guest writer Ana Soviany covers the topic of stereotyping, which is a phenomena which hits from within the country, not only from outside its borders.
About five years ago, while I was still in college, I met a Spanish exchange student who had come to study communication sciences at my school. All eager to practice my bad Spanish (that I had picked up back in the late 90’s, while watching Latin American soap operas), I approached him and we had a few small chats. We mainly talked about our classes and school projects, but I also asked him all the usual stuff people ask those who have only recently arrived in a certain country. I asked him about the places he had visited in Bucharest, the Romanian food he had tried and the Romanian words he had learned. I don’t remember many of his answers, but I do remember he told me something that, even though I was well aware of the not-all-that-positive image Romania had, still shook me. He told me that his family back in Spain wouldn’t believe that his new Romanian colleagues were pretty much “just like” his former Spanish colleagues. That is, regular kids who were dressing, behaving and enjoying themselves just like any other European students. They imagined Romanian people as a bunch of shabby and sly figures, lurking in the shadows of some depressingly dirty blocks.
Though at the time I could only laugh at my colleague’s confession, it did leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I couldn’t understand why on Earth were there people who found it difficult to believe that Romanians wore blue-jeans, as opposed to the decrepit garments they were imagining. Although, in their defense, it has to be said that my schoolmate’s relatives were just unknowing, rather than ill-willed. Stereotyping just seems to be the easiest way to understand something you don’t really know.
But not only misinformed foreigners look down on Romanians. Self-loathing is something that I often notice in my fellow countrymen. Using the disparaging rather than affectionate pet name of Românica (sort of Little Romania), many Romanians tend to blame ANYTHING that goes wrong around here on the mere fact that we live in Romania. Anything is possible in Românica, they say, and I often joke that if something as absurd as an invasion of flying monkeys was to happen, no one would even bother to be truly shocked. People would just shake their heads and blame the abstract: “This is Romania, of course flying monkeys would come here, of all places. We deserve it!”
Just to make it clear, I don’t think that Romania should be glorified by default and that we, as Romanians, bring awesomeness to the world by merely existing. I just think Romania is a normal country (and oh, how I crave for the use of “firesc”, the slightly more poetic Romanian word that expresses normality). I think it is unnatural to hate the country you in which you were born and raised and I think that, as Romanians, we should all take care of our country, respect it and help foreigners discover what Romania is really like, all stereotypes aside.
By Ana Soviany, Guest Writer,