Focus on Romania

Essential tools in the trainer’s kit in Romania are similar to those required in most Central and Eastern European countries: Establishing trust, engaging trainees, and developing a personal connection with them are of paramount importance.

If ever a tumultuous history, constantly changing geographical borders, and political hardships shaped the national character of a country, it is Romania. With a language originating from Latin, deeply rooted Orthodox Christian beliefs, and a pragmatic mentality, Romanians have managed to earn the title of the “greatest survivors in Europe.” Romania joined the European Union in 2007, and since then, the nation of approximately 20 million people has been steadily growing its economy while struggling with the challenges of managerial modernization.

The university educational system in Romania, especially the business and management component of it, does not fully meet Western corporate requirements, which explains why leadership development and cross-cultural training programs play a significant role in filling the void.


Essential tools in the trainer’s kit are similar to those required in most Central and Eastern European countries: Establishing trust, engaging trainees, and developing a personal connection with them are of paramount importance. And all this must be achieved within the Romanian cultural context, in which conventional corporate HR concepts, practices, and programs often are ignored, resisted, and misinterpreted.

The desired way to conduct training in Romanian culture is characterized by courtesy and respect for the participants, which is demonstrated by the trainer both verbally (not putting trainees on the spot, not openly challenging their beliefs and ways, being flexible and non-confrontational) and non-verbally (formal smart business attire, reserved and respectful attitude, and being well organized and prepared).

Further compounding the trainer’s task is an additional challenge represented by a deeply embedded, historically motivated distrust of foreigners in Romania and concern about being taken advantage of by them. The situation is even more complicated by the fact that the vision, values, and beliefs that constitute a fundamental part of corporate leadership development and cross-cultural training programs often are understood as alien, utopian, and irrelevant by local trainees, who are using realities of their own everyday life and work as benchmarks. These, unfortunately, still include omnipresent bureaucracy and rampant corruption, among other issues.

Thus, as a trainer working in Romania, you will have to realize that “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” Trainers are not just providing another business training program—they are challenging the trainees’ system of values and their cultural legacy. And they are doing so in the English language, in a country where English is not as widely spoken as in most other European countries. Therefore, another challenge for a trainer in Romania will be to identify the “almost English-speaking” trainees, often assigned by the local HR department to the program for a body count, and to engage the advanced English-speaking trainees in helping others to understand the concepts. Trainers would be wise to use the process as a teambuilding and trust-developing exercise to create social opportunities for trainees to get to know each other on a personal level.

Trainers’ own English language should be concise, explicit, and to the point. Stay away from sports idioms and slang, and be prepared to decipher abbreviations and acronyms. Speak in short sentences and use visual aids, graphics, and charts, rather than delivering a sermon from the podium.

Should you work with an interpreter, additional challenges may be encountered. You can avoid many pitfalls if you approach the task as a collaborative team effort. Spending time with your interpreters before the session to explain the concepts, the flow, and the goal of the training program, as well as providing them with all the materials, will drastically improve your chances for overall success. It is also important to explain the crucial importance of their role in the training program delivery.

Oleg Smirnoff is a senior associate with Global Dynamics Inc., who specializes in global leadership development, and executive cross-cultural training and coaching. Smirnoff has more than 20 years’ experience working in global business, consulting, and training fields. He supports Fortune 500 companies, government and policy organizations in North America, Central/ Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. He can be reached at or (305) 682-7883.