L'anthologie of Global Inestabilidad Transpuesta - Instabilitate vs. Stabilität: How Important Are Cultural Differences? - Romania and Germany (Part 44)

Transposing emblem by Andreea Sepi
In June 2017, half a year after its new government took office following the December 2016 general elections, Romania experienced yet another unforeseeable development on its rocky political scene: the PSD (Social Democratic Party), the majority party, was desperately trying to topple its own government.

The PSD withdrew its support for its own team of ministers and forced a no-confidence vote through Parliament. The fact that, only months earlier, the very same cabinet had survived massive street protests to cling to power in a January anti-corruption scandal only adds to the oddity.
Bucharest, Romania - Center of Bucharest

And that's not all. The Romanian PM surprised everybody by refusing to toe the party line and resign. A political crisis ensued. The summer fun did not stop there. A new government was sworn it, and with it, new and controversial tax proposals.

The press and social media exploded. Possible party intrigues were "exposed", gloomy forecasts printed, endless debates followed.
Alba Iulia, Romania - Foundatain Statue

But that's all that exploded. The economy continued its steady growth and the population did not seem too phased. Activists responded on Social Media by hijacking the Facebook pages of PSD leaders and posting hilarious updates in the typical Romanian brand of "gallows humor." And eventually some of the more bizarre tax proposals were dropped after a meeting with EU officials in Brussels.

What makes Romania so resilient to this type of instability that would be deemed insane anywhere else in the world?
Brasov, Romania - Aerial view

The answer might lie in the cultural profile of Romanians themselves. According to Hall, Hofstede, Trompenaars, Lewis and others, Romania is a short-term oriented, polychronic culture with a person-orientation rather than a long-term devotion to quantifiable results. Throughout history, the Romanians have grown accustomed and almost indifferent to political chaos and basically thrive on flexibility. Agile management has been a reality way before the term was even coined, and it means changing plans and objectives as times and circumstances change.
Bicaz Gorges, Romania - Bicaz Canyon

Although one might think, from the descriptions above, that living in Romania is like living in the middle of a perpetual earthquake, there is surprising stability in people's daily lives, there is very low crime and very low social violence. The Romanians achieve a balance by offsetting their pragmatic flexibility with relative conservatism and a love of tradition in their social and family lives. Also, there is no taboo on expressing emotions, so outbursts are frequent but short-lived. Personal feelings and interests, and quick solutions are important aspects of the Romanian decision-making process. There is an interesting combination of old-fashioned collectivism and acute individualism. The paradox also includes an ability to endure combined with relatively low perseverance in pursuing an objective goal. Romanian sports teams or athletes notoriously perform better when they have their back to the wall than when they're ahead, and Romanian popular wisdom blames this on "our slacker mindset."
Munich, Germany - English garden

A lot of what happens in the lives of ordinary Romanians follows a "fast and feast" pattern. Many Romanians are extremely rigorous and conscientious about their diets during the religious fasting periods, only to eat themselves into a frenzy at the ensuing celebratory meal. They will save up an entire year for that one summer-vacation-cum-shopping-spree where they are known as generous tippers. At the confluence of three major cultural vectors - Latin heritage, Orthodoxy and the Balkans - Romanians have long learned to cope with difficult times by not taking them too seriously. Sooner or later, something or other is bound to change anyway.

Nothing can be further from the steadfast, rule-oriented German way of doing things. Compared to Romania, life in Germany is steady, monotonous and highly predictable. It follows a clearly outlined structure. In fact, you'll hear many Romanians complain that they "don't feel alive" enough in Germany.
Munich, Germany - Munich subway station

Germans like to go about every aspect of their livelihood thoroughly and with a clear plan for the long haul. A long-term orientation, self-control, discipline and strict regulations, impersonal institutions and the thoroughness of solutions make up the core of the German cultural standard. On almost every level studied by the consecrated models of intercultural communication, Germany is placed at the opposite end of the spectrum from Romania: stability, rigorous procedures, adherence to rules and plans, objectivity and a staunch results orientation are the German “modus operandi.”

The country has been ruled by a stable great coalition (Große Koalition or GroKo) between the center-right CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union) and the center-left SPD (Social Democratic Party) for the past four years with very few signs of tension. The only conflict has been a light skirmish on immigration and security issues (between the CDU and CSU), but even in that case, there was never any imminent danger of disintegration. The debates were usually mature, subdued, and extremely weak (or soft-spoken) by Romanian standards where “ad hominem” attacks are ubiquitous in politics. Germany is characterized by stable coalitions at the local, state and national level, based on the ability to separate people from the problem, discuss interests instead of positions, and, generally, address issues in a much more objective manner (Sachorientierung).
Munich, Germany

Although it is difficult to identify the exact causal relationship between a short-term orientation and instability (is a short-term orientation a response to chronic instability, or a generator of instability?), the issue of stability vs. instability (or Stabilität vs. instabilitate, in our case) is likely to be connected to issues of self-control and self-discipline. These are very important parts of the German cultural profile, but not so much a part of Latin or Balkan cultures, to which Romania belongs. While Germany today is a spectacularly stable political and economic heavyweight, where any perceived uncertainties are taken very seriously and where political instability has become almost unthinkable, dealing with instability is almost second nature in Romania. Surprisingly, in a certain context, that can make for pretty good macro-stability too.

From tacit acceptance of fate to languid resignation in the face of endless delays and changes of plan, from adherence to tradition to the deliberate building of informal networks, and from effective improvisation and problem-solving spontaneity to resilient business growth, Romania remains an oasis of stability in South-Eastern Europe - despite its tumultuous neighborhood and its hotly debated political scene.

Andreea Sepi
Postcard version of The Emblem of Instability Transposed at 1080 Wyckoff


David, Daniel (2015). Psihologia poporului român. Bucureşti: Polirom
Hall, E.T & Reed Hall, M. (1990). Understanding Cultural Differences. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press.
Hofstede, G, Hofstede G.J., Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations. Software of the Mind. Revised and expanded 3rd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill
Lewis, R.D. (2004). When Cultures Collide. Managing Successfully Across Cultures. London: Nicholas Brealy Publishing
Rădulescu-Motru, C. (1910). Sufletul neamului nostru. Bucharest: A. Baer
Thomas, A., Kammhuber, S., Schroll-Machl, S. (2003). Handbuch Interkulturelle Kommunikation und Kooperation. 2 Bände. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Thomas, A., Rubatos, A. (2011). Beruflich in Rumänien. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Trompenaars, F., Hampden-Turner, C. (1998). Riding the Waves of Culture. New York: Nicholas Brealy Publishing

Further reading:

Boia, Lucian (2012). De ce este România altfel? Bucureşti: Humanitas
Djuvara, N. (2008). O scurtă istorie a românilor povestită celor tineri. Bucureşti: Humanitas
Ispirescu, P. (1975). Märchen. Berlin: Altberliner Verlag
Mungiu-Pippidi, A. (2012). De ce nu iau românii Premiul Nobel. Bucureşti: Polirom

Postcard version of The Emblem of Instability Transposed at 1080 Wyckoff


Photo 1: Bucharest, Romania - Building - Ciprian Lipenschi

Photo 2: Bucharest, Romania - Center of Bucharest - Hadrian

Photo 3: Alba Iulia, Romania - Foundatain Statue - Tony Urban

Photo 4: Brasov, Romania - Aerial view - Krasnevsky

Photo 5: Bicaz Gorges, Romania - Bicaz Canyon - Dziewul

Photo 6: Munich, Germany - English garden by Franz

Photo 7: Munich, Germany - Munich subway station by moomusician

Photo 8: Munich, Germany by Camilla Bundgaard

Parts of the Emblem of Instability

Alvisi, Andrea. Political and Social Instability: The Brexit Mess. May 2017.

Bahras. Unstable Air Pollution - Unstable Solutions: Mongolia. June 2017.

Bichen, Svetlana Novoselova. Mental and Cultural Instability: Russia and Turkey. February 2017.

Caetano, Raphael. Instabilidade emocional: Brazil. February 2017.

Çakır, Peren. On the Road in Search of Stability: Argentina and Turkey. June 2017.

Cordido, Verónica. Instability, a Stable Reality: Venezuela and America. April 2017.

Dastan, S.A. The Stability of Instability: Turkey and Syria. March 2017.

D'Adam, Anton. Psychosocial Instability in Argentina and America: El granero del mundo and The Manifest Destiny. January 2017.

Delibasheva, Emilia. Political Instability: Electoral Coups in America and Bulgaria. December 2016.

Ellie. Angry Folk: Korea. June 2017.

Farid, Isis Kamal. Stability Is Not An Option - Egypt. August 2017.

Friedrich, Angelika. Introduction: The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Fondevik, Vigdis. Unstable Nature: Norway and Denmark. October 2016.

Halimi, Sophia. Modern Instabilité: Youth and Employment in France and China. March 2017.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Embracing Instability - Spain. February 2017.

Kelvin, Sera. The Stability in Expecting Emotional Instability: Brazil. April 2017.

Konbaz, Rahaf. The Castaways: On the Verge of Life - Syria. August 2017.

Korneeva, Ekaterina. Instability... or Flexibility? July 2017.

Larousse, Annabelle. Legal and Emotional Instability in a Transgender Life - Ireland. August 2017.

Larrosa, Mariela. The Very Stable Spanish Instability. April 2017.

Lobos, José. Political Instability: Guatemala. May 2017.

Mankevich, Tatsiana. The Absence of Linguistic Stabilнасцi: Does the Belarusian Language Have a Future? December 2016.

Meschi, Isabelle. Linguistic Instabilité and Instabilità: France and Italy. November 2016.

Mitra, Ashutosh. The Instability of Change: India. January 2016.

Moussly, Sahar. The Instability of Tyranny: Syria and the Syrian Diaspora. December 2016.

Nastou, Eliza. Psychological Αστάθεια and Inestabilidad during the Economic Crisis: Greece and Spain. December 2016.

Nevosadova, Jirina. Whatever Happens, It Is Experience. May 2017.

Partykowska, Natalia. Niestabilność and адсутнасць стабільнасці in the Arts: Polish and Belarusian Theater. January 2017.

Persio, P.L.F. Social Instabilità and Instabiliteit: Italy and the Netherlands. November 2016.

Pranevich, Liubou. Cultural Instability: Belarus and Poland. March 2017.

Protić, Aleksandar. Demographic Instability: Serbia. July 2017.

Romano, Mavi. Unstable Identities: Ecuador and Europe. October 2016.

Sekulić, Jelena. Нестабилност/Nestabilnost in Language - Serbia. August 2017.

Shunit. Economic Instability: Guinea and Gambia. April 2017.

Shalunova, Marina. Language Instability: Russia. June 2017

Sitorus, Rina. Instabilitas Toleransi: Indonesia. May 2017.

Skrypka, Vladyslav. National нестійкість: Ukraine. July 2017.

Staniulis, Justas. Nestabilumas of Gediminas Hill and the Threat to the Symbol of the State: Lithuania. July 2017.

Sousa, Antonia. Social and Economic Instabilidade: Portugal. January 2017.

Vuka. My Intimate Imbalanced Inclination. March 2017.

Walton, Éva. Historical and Psychological Bizonytalanság within Hungarian Culture. January 2017.

Yücel, Sabahattin. The Instability of Turkish Education and its Effect on Culture and Language: Turkey. July 2017.

Zadrożna-Nowak, Amelia. Economic Instability: Poles at Home and the Polish Diaspora. November 2016.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. Instability in Relationships: Russia. April 2017.

To follow: emblems by Syrian, Romanian, Lebanese, Argentinian, Moldavan, British writers and translators

Further reading

Azazeal, Alex. Отражение Spiegelt Reflection. 2014.

Friedrich, Angelika. The Emblem of Instability. September 2016.

Friedrich, Angelika. Sub-Under-U-метро-Bahn-Ground-Way. 2014.

Gergiev, Vladimir. Street - Straße - Улица. 2014

Metivier, Anthony. Kunstart. 2014.

Smirnov, Yuri. Art de streetулица. 2013.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part I). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part II). August 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry, et al. Transposing Emblem - Junk Culture - Müll Trashed Мусор (Part III). September 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Forward to Next Transposing Emblem. January 2016.

Whittlesey, Henry. Changes to Transposing Emblems. November 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Excerpt of new emblem transpoзиция on trash. September 2015.

Whittlesey, Henry. Müll trashed мусор. 2013

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