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  • Ilinca Stroe

The Psychology of the Romanian People: A Rough Collective Portrait

In 1937, a prominent Romanian academic, Constantin Rădulescu-Motru, published a study titled The Psychology of the Romanian People. Its main claims were that the Romanians are a gregarious people, not very autonomous or perseverant in their work. That, however, is not how other peoples see us. Today, Americans associate us primarily with vampires (because of master Dracula), while Western Europeans disapprove mainly of our perceived antisocial and unconscientious behaviour.

A remake of the old study was needed to clarify our place and role within the value framework of the new geopolitical structures Romania is now part of (NATO, the EU). The new research took around ten years to complete. It was carried out by a team academics led by psychologist Daniel David from the Babeş Bolyai University in Cluj Napoca, and published in 2015 by Polirom: The Psychology of the Romanian People. The Psychological Profile of the Romanians in a Cognitive-experimental Monograph. Here are its main discoveries:

The Romanians’ cardinal feature is distrust in other people. Except for the close family circle, the Romanians trust nobody, apparently. Acquaintances as well as total strangers have to work long and hard to gain our trust. Chronic distrust also prevents us from working well together, from collaborating constructively.

The Romanians demonstrate selfish individualism. Our concern for the general good is low and does not exceed the family or, at the very most, the circle of our acquaintances. We generally have a poor civic spirit and ability to join into collective action for the public benefit, and we are not committed to the common good.

The Romanians’ personality structure may support a bit too many negative aspects. We have a cultural style that drives us to repress and elude, which makes us defensive, cynical, skeptical or even misanthropic. Our defensiveness can end up in inferiority and/or superiority complexes.

The Romanians’ three major points of reference are the work, family and religion. Through work, in which area we are highly competitive, we feel we gain social recognition and fulfill our potential, while the family is the environment we perceive as totally safe. As for religion, it gives meaning to our life.

The Romanians are quite conformist. This has to do mainly with the unquestioning acceptance of and submission to religious dogma. However, religion is experienced in a balanced way: besides being normative, it also facilitates good-doing; besides the afterlife, it implies helping and supporting people in this life.

There is a gap between the Romanians’ potential and how we actually are. On the one hand, our high potential for cognitive and emotional intelligence, for creativity and learning is comparable to that of the British and the French, on the other its actualisation is deficient because of our socio-cultural environment.

So where does all that take us? Our aspirations are smilar to those of Western countries, of which we most admire the US, the UK and France, but we lack the confidence that we can fulfill them. Should our socio-cultural context change, we would stand a good chance to become who we want to become. What’s needed is a paradigm shift at all levels, despite the persistence of the old paradigm. In Daniel David’s words, “if we care about this country and this people, I believe it is the job of a new generation of intellectuals ... to build a new Ethos of the Romanian people, one which maximises the potential ..., determining through a modern socio-cultural context a surface psychological profle that can turn us into a happy and respected people with key contributions to the human civilisation.”

Apparently, we’re on our way there.

International House Bucharest, through its Romanian Language Department, runs online and face-to-face Romanian courses and cultural integration workshops for foreigners living in Romania or interested in the country’s culture, language or history. For more information, click here. To enrol, contact And to follow our video series “Your Romanian Class”, subscribe to our YouTube channel.


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