Romanian humour

Romanian humour

Romanian humour, like all of Romanian culture, has many affinities with five other peoples: the Latins (Spanish and Italians), the Slavs, the Balkan people (Greeks and Turks), the Germanic peoples and the Hungarians.


The earliest Romanian character found in an anecdote is Păcală. His name is derived from "a se păcăli" ('to fool oneself') and, since this word cannot be found in any other related language, we can safely assume that he's part of pure Romanian humour.

The Ottoman influence brought the Balkan spirit and with it other characters and situations. Nastratin Hogea of Anton Pann is a classical example of an urban tradesman. As Jewish people from Russia settled in the Romanian lands, two other characters joined Romanian humour: "Iţic" and "Ştrul", a pair of cunning Jews, mainly seen as ingenious but avaricious shopkeepers.

With modernization and urbanization, especially during the Communist regime, Romanians needed a new character, different from the traditional Păcală, and it was found as Bulă, the tragicomic absolute idiot. In 2006 Bulă was voted the 59th greatest Romanian.

With the fall of Communism and facing the harsh realities of Capitalism, a new kind of joke became popular: those of "Alinuţa", a sadistic and stupid 10-year old girl.

Ethnic jokes

"Roma": Jokes about the Roma (Gypsy) ethnic minority in Romanian. Recurring themes are stealing, refusing to work, having too many children - essentially all the negative stereotypes about Roma people in Romania.

"Scotsmen": Jokes about those kilt-wearing, mean, and feisty skulks, who never fail to act against common sense just to save a few pennies in the short run.

"Russians" are often seen as primitive, rude and drunkards.

: Q: What is big, red and stinks?: A: The Red Army when they take their shoes off.

: A poor Russian fisherman catches a little fish which grants him three wishes. The first wish was "A big vodka". The wish is granted and the fisherman drinks it, then the fish asks for another one. "I want that the whole Volga to be made out of vodka." The wish is granted and the fisherman swims in it and drinks from it. Afterward is asked for the last wish. He says "You know what? I want another vodka".

"Somalis" are seen as underweight and hungry.

: Q: In what part of Somalia is the density of population greatest?: A: It depends on the direction of the wind.

"Albanians" are seen as not very technologically advanced during communism times.

: Q: How can you stop an Albanian tank?: A: You shoot the soldier that is pushing it.

: Q: Why is there a rubber-band shortage in Albania?: A: They're saving it for their satellite launch.

"Hungarians" are seen as proud and wise, but naive. The stereotypical Hungarian is called "Ianoş" and usually is accompanied by a Romanian named "Ion".

Regions of Romania

One feature of Romanian humor is that apart from the ethnic jokes, there are also jokes about people of other regions. They are usually told using the way each region uses the Romanian language. For example, Moldavians pronounce /tch/ as /sh/ and /p/ as /k/, Oltenians make use of the perfect simple (rarely used in other regions) and the Transylvanians use some words of Hungarian and German origin such as 'musai' (meaning must) or 'fain' (meaning fine), as well as starting most sentences with the interjection "No" (not used as a negative).

* Moldavians ("Moldoveni") are seen as slow and talking with a noticeable accent

* Oltenians ("Olteni") and Muntenians ("Munteni")are seen as trying to be ingenious, but failing every time. Nea Mărin is a character created by Amza Pellea (himself an Oltenian) who is the archetypal traditional Oltenian. They do talk a lot too, people for the other provinces think about them that they talk before thinking.

* Transylvanians ("Ardeleni") are seen as patriarchal and slow, both in acting and thinking.


"Policemen": Most Romanian people are not fond of the institution of law enforcement and try to avoid contact with constables. Policemen are generally regarded as primitive, uneducated and totally corrupt in Romanian public opinion. Some of these police jokes belong to the absurd genre.

: Q: A policeman is shaving himself. The telephone rings. Why does he cut himself?: A: So he knows where to resume from.


Especially during the Communist regime, political jokes were very popular, although they were illegal and dangerous to tell. [C. Banc and Alan Dundes, [ "First Prize: Fifteen Years. An Annotated Collection of Political Jokes"] (1986) ISBN 0838632459] . In the democratic Romania, these jokes are still popular, although the themes changed: now the politicians are seen either as hopelessly corrupt and greedy or as nationalist madmen.

As Ben Lewis put it in his essay [ [ "Hammer & tickle"] , "Prospect Magazine", May 2006, essay by Ben Lewis on jokes in Communist countries] , "Communism was a humor-producing machine. Its economic theories and system of repression created inherently funny situations. There were jokes under fascism and the Nazis too, but those systems did not create an absurd, laugh-a-minute reality like communism."

: The Cluj local administration discusses the erecting of a statue of Avram Iancu. A councilor says "The statue should have a hand pointing to Hungary, so the Hungarians would know that we're watching them". Another one proposes that "in the hand, Iancu should have a noose, so they would know what to expect if they try to steal Transylvania". Another councilor proposes that "a Hungarian should be shown in the noose". Then, Gheorghe Funar (the well known nationalist Mayor of Cluj) says "I say that we should replace the Hungarian every day!".

: Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Ion Iliescu are invited to see an airplane built entirely out of gold. They are told that they can enter it and look around for as long as they like, but they can't take anything. Clinton goes first, stays five minutes, upon his exit the metal detector blares; Clinton had taken a screw and a nail with him. Yeltsin goes second, stays five minutes, upon his exit the metal detector blares again; Yeltsin had stolen a fistful of screws. Finally, Iliescu enters the plane, and stays there five minutes. And another five minutes. And another... Suddenly, the plane takes off.

"Radio Erevan": just like in the most countries of the ex-Soviet bloc, Radio Erevan jokes were popular during the Communist times.


* [ "Bancurile românilor"] ("The jokes of the Romanians") (in Romanian)

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