Adventures in Romanian Retail


GALATI, ROMANIA — On my last day in Galati, I had to get my hands on some duct tape, some small nuts and bolts, and a spool of stiff wire with which I might re-mount my GPS unit to my rearview mirrors. I drove to the outskirts of town and found a Praktiker, which is part of a German chain of do-it-yourself home improvement stores.

One thing I’ve noticed while travelling is that locals are generally pure at heart in their desire to help Johnny Foreigner go about his business. The problem is, these pure-hearted people, God bless them, also have a tendency to assume that Johnny Foreigner is probably a bit slow, and unsure as to what’s best for him. Their reasoning, I think, is that tourists have a very specific set of needs, and anything outside that narrow set is highly unlikely to come up as a real-world use case. Add a language barrier, and you often end up with the well-meaning native struggling, and spectacularly failing, to divine exactly what it is that the hapless foreigner wants.

I marched into the Praktiker, and thought I’d save some time by asking the guy at the information desk where I could find the items on my shopping list. He was a young fellow and looked eager to help. Our tête-à-tête went down like this:

Me: Good day. Do you speak English?
Information Desk Guy: Enhhhhhh…. Yes. Little bit.
Me: Great. I’m looking for some duct tape, and some thick, stiff wire. Like, for tying things together.
Information Desk Guy: You want… hotel?
Me: No, no. No hotel. I need duct tape. Do you know duct tape? It’s… silver. Tape. Tape. And sticky.

He then raised an eyebrow, leaned in conspiratorially, and lowered his voice.

Information Desk Guy: You want… girl?
Me: Girl? What the– Jesus. No. I need duct tape, and wire. You know, wire? Wire. And nuts and bolts.
Information Desk Guy: You want… hotel?

I chuckled and thanked him for his efforts and went rooting around the store for what I needed. Eventually I found everything.

In hindsight, I should’ve approached it like this:

Me: Good day. Do you speak English?
Information Desk Guy: Enhhhhhh…. Yes. Little bit.
Me: Great. I would like a hooker and a hotel room, please.
Information Desk Guy: You want… duct tape?

The Praktiker in Galati: Sometimes more than just a hardware store


273 Responses to “Adventures in Romanian Retail”

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