Toaleta este libera? Da, ci nu este gratuita.

On 18th January 2023, Jurnalul, one of Romania’s top newspapers, dedicated its front page to how food is becoming more expensive in Romania than in Western Europe.

Romanian phrase of the day, mai scump decât în, More expensive than in…

(If you are practicing masculine, feminine and plural…)

Zahărul – mai scump decât in Luxemburg. (n.s.)

🥔🥔 Cartofii – mai scumpi decât în Germania.  (m.p.)

Făina – mai scumpă decât în Franța. (f.s.)

We will add some that they left out.

Carnurile – mai scumpe decât în Belgia. (f.p.)

Cursurile de limbă – mai scumpe decât în Țara Galilor.  (n.p.)

Only in Portugal is inflation higher.

The one that caught my eye was that sugar is more expensive than in Luxembourg.  Luxembourg has the highest minimum wage in Europe.  But what should have surprised me the most was that meat is more expensive here than in Belgium.  (I don’t buy a lot of meat, but Belgium is known for being expensive, just ask a Dutchman).

However for some Western Europeans, language classes, accounting services, and legal services give the biggest sticker shock.

Serviciile de contabilitate, mai scumpe decât în Portugalia.

Serviciile juridice, mai scumpe decât în…?

I guess the deal with legal and accounting was I never needed them in the UK.  You would only call the lawyer on special occasions, when someone did something wrong and didn’t want to resolve matters amicably.  You could easily find books of ready made contracts for everything from hiring an actor for your film to subletting an extra room in your flat.

Language classes are often subsidized in Western Europe.  In Belgium, I studied A1 and A2 level Dutch for free, as part of an integration program.  The teachers were well paid, and some other students did pay a fee, but even those were reduced.

The local university in Aberystwyth gave free night courses to all staff (in everything from Welsh language to astrology and music theory), and many other organisations paid for language courses.  If you didn’t have a degree, you could easily do a taster course.  Even the paid price (if you were one of the rare people who received no concessions for unemployment, underemployment or retirement but still had enough time on your hands to take a course) was still about half of what Romanian classes are.

Different countries subsidize different services.

In France, there were subsidies to help the unwaged appreciate theatre.  In the UK, most museums are free to enter.  In America, you almost never need to pay to use the toilet.  But that doesn’t mean the toilet is always free.  Sometimes someone else is in it, or it is being cleaned.

Remember, free is at least three words in English, without charge (gratis), without impediment (liber), and available or unoccupied (also liber).  If you say,

toalete este liberă,

that means no one is in it, or that it is available, but you still might be charged to use it.

If you want to say that using the toilet costs nothing, then you might say,

Folosirea toaletelor este gratuită. 

(future story idea – at what cost Liberty?)

mai ieftin -» cheaper.

In Romania, parking spaces are reasonably prices, but only if you actually manage to land one.  (I heard they were free but there is a small charge.  If you can afford a car, you can probably afford it).  Also, there are fantastic outdoor sports facilities that any resident can book without charge.

So, no, I am not saying that everything in Cluj costs more.  But, not everything is cheaper here.

Subsidies can make some things artificially cheap in rich countries.  Three big ones are healthcare, childcare, and education.  (Okay, so a child’s education is technically free in Romania, but I hear that some expats are turned away from the local schools).

Then there are other things expats may take for granted.  Grandparents around the corner may help out with childcare without realising, by simply taking the kids to a day out.

Translation is relatively cheap, but some people may not be used to having their documents translated at all.  In Belgium, most English language documents from the UK were accepted without translation, at least before Brexit.  Again, subsidy happened here too, my integration course helped pay to create an equivalence of my university degree and work experience.

But if you are used to needing translations, you will find that authorised translators in Romania work at very reasonable prices.

Heating and electricity are not exactly cheapest in Romania either.  Romanians tend to use less electricity than most other Europeans (Romanians are not alone here.  Portuguese have been criticized by Americans and Brits for not having air conditioning in their buildings.  Of course, Americans live in and drive well-regulated refrigerators, but yes, a Portuguese mall can feel like a sauna on a hot summer’s day).

Living in any another country can be mai scump decât acasă.  That is, unless you choose to adapt.

The author writes plays, history and stories, mostly in English (at least until he learns more Romanian).  Some examples can be found at

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