(Alternative title: Rumänien, das Schmandsland)
I’ve been visiting Romania for almost six years, several times per year, for about a week at a time. I don’t get much exposure to the language (though I find it exceedingly interesting) because these are all work trips and we work in English or German (depending on who is visiting with me). Basic conversation, travel-related vocabulary, and all the other first-year language lesson topics have mostly remained a mystery to me. But there’s one area in which I am starting to feel more comfortable:
I confound waiters. I walk in, ask apologetically “Vorbiți englezește?” and bewilder them by rejecting the English-language menu they offer me. They are so happy to have it ready and I am grateful for the gesture, but that doesn’t help me. At this point, I need to see the native names for the food items in order to know what they are.
Still, I am surprised it took me this long to recognize the linguistic link between my wife’s favorite food — Schmand — and Romania’s: smântână.
It’s in chicken dishes. It’s in soups. It’s even in desserts. Bottom line: if you love sour cream, have a stent put in before you visit Romania.