Expats doing business in Romania are often attracted by its large domestic market, its young and educated workforce, and its prominent position in Eastern Europe. Functioning for many businesses as a gateway to the Balkans, the country is expected to continue growing at a steady pace.
The attractiveness of Romania's business environment is reflected in its positive rankings in international business surveys. Most notably, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020 ranked Romania at 55th out of 190 economies. The country ranked first for trading across borders and also scored well for enforcing contracts (19th). That said, there is room for improvement when it comes to dealing with construction permits and getting electricity, where the country ranked 147th and 157th respectively.
The Romanian working week is from Monday to Friday, with business hours typically being from 9am to 5pm.
Language of business
The language of business is generally Romanian, although many people also speak other major European languages such as English, French or German.
Shaking hands when meeting business partners is customary. Neglecting to do so would be seen as an insult.
Dress code varies according to the situation. In formal business settings, dressing conservatively is recommended – suits for men and a skirt that falls below the knee for women. Business casual is acceptable for more relaxed settings.
Giving small gifts to business partners is considered polite and is fairly common. A traditional gift from the expat’s home country is usually a safe bet in a business context. Being invited to a colleague’s home is a special honour, and a gift of chocolates or wine is customary. Gifts are often opened in the presence of the giver.
While gender equality is guaranteed by Romanian law, most executive and management positions are still held by men.
Business culture in Romania
Romanian business culture is formal and hierarchical, with an emphasis on respect for seniors and elders. Decisions are made from the top down and are rarely questioned by junior associates.
Interactions in business are usually formal and associates address each other using formal titles. Should an expat develop a more informal relationship with a Romanian associate, it's still expected that they would address them appropriately in formal situations. The most common formal titles in Romania are domnul (Mr), doamnă (Mrs) and domnişoară (Miss).
This extends to meetings in Romania, which often follow a strict protocol. Expats should wait to be seated and only take off their jackets after the most senior person in the room does so. Small talk should be avoided unless initiated by local associates. Punctuality is important, especially in the private sector, although expats should be prepared to wait.
Direct communication is valued but expats should also be sensitive and patient, especially when providing an opposing viewpoint. Part of this is maintaining eye contact, which is a sign of respect and interest.
Formality tends to soften as individual relationships form, but this isn't a process that can be forced or rushed. Expats should allow their Romanian associates to set the tone of discussions.
Despite the layers of formality, relationships are central to success in the Romanian workplace. Partially as a result of its communist heritage, the collective is valued above the individual.
Attitude to foreigners
Romanians have a reputation for being hospitable and are generally known to be friendly towards foreigners. Locals who live in urban areas are often able to speak foreign languages such as English, French or German, making communication a lot easier for many expats. At the same time, many Romanian businesspeople are wary of being taken advantage of by foreign companies, meaning that expats will have to work hard to build trust.
Dos and don’ts of doing business in Romania
Do be direct but sensitive, and focus on business, unless otherwise prompted
Don’t talk or make jokes about the communist regime or Roma people
Don’t be late for meetings, or call ahead and apologise if it is unavoidable
Don’t boast about achievements or make exaggerated claims
Do display courtesy at all times