By popular demand: Curent

We’re now officially doing requests. And the first… well, it has to be… curent.

As anyone who has ever tried to open a window on a hot, steamy, Romanian train in the middle of summer will know, curent (translated, amongst other things, as ‘draught’) is that all purpose bad guy which causes colds and which is – according to Romanians of a certain age (though we have met young people who fall for it too: unsurprising in a country so obsessed with star signs and such nonsense) – the greatest of all known threats to human health.

If you do not believe us, try it.

Wait until high summer, until the temperature is around 45 degrees, and then board a train. Wait until it reaches full speed (usually around 30kph, if the train is going downhill), then open a window and see what happens.

You will be set upon by everyone else in the carriage, who will shout at you for being so irresponsible and to all intents and purposes attempting to kill them. Indeed, we are shocked that attempted murder by curent is not part of the Romanian penal code.

You do not need to be on a train to see curent in action either. Buses, taxis, cars even non-moving apartments are all conduits for this evil force. Basically, any kind of moving air (known of course to perfectly sane people as ‘a nice breeze’) should be considered curent and therefore lethal.

Marilyn Monroe had trouble with curent too. Maybe that's what killed her?

Next time you get in a taxi with the kids and the driver says to you ‘E curent in spate?‘ (‘Is there a draught in the back?’) the answer you should give is ‘Da, si e placut, ca e cald afara.‘ (‘Yes there is a draught, but it’s nice, for it’s hot outside.’) He will look at you in utter astonishment (before calling the child protection services).

Well he would, if Romania had any child protection services.

According to the myth, pensioners, children and babies are generally considered to be the most vulnerable to curent, which will explain why parents dress children – especially babies – in warm clothes even in the hottest of temperatures.

The persistence of the curent myth owes much to it being something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. While colds are of course caused by viruses and not draughts, immunity can be reduced by a weakened constitution, and what better to weaken the constitution than spending the first years of your life wrapped in cotton wool?

A related Romanian superstition is the idea that children should not be given cold drinks. Even younger parents will ask that soft drinks be served at room temperature. Buying a child an ice cream outside of summer months can also get you told off (it happened to us once: though it was 30 degrees and baking hot, a lady of about 50 came running over to lecture us on parental irresponsibilty when she saw that we had given Number One Son an ice cream. ‘But it’s April!‘ was her reasoning).

71 comments

  1. Anon says:

    You’re a fucking moron.That’s all I wanted to say.Have a nice day.

  2. Roger says:

    The one thing I found annoying on Romanian trains was paying for a 1st class ticket and then people just sitting in first class compartments without the first class ticket!

    Maybe next time I’ll buy a second class and sit in first although I am pretty sure the train guards would make me do as my ticket stated being English. I even had a Police Officer check my ticket on the 1662 to Iasi.

  3. Giuseppe says:

    I’ve always thought this whole “curent” thing was BS even when I was a kid.

    Now I make it a point to create a drought wherever I can. I guess that must make some sort of sociopath :D

    • Giuseppe says:

      Good God, a draught, not drought! :))

      I’d be in the freakin’ news if I could create drought wherever I please :D

    • Keith says:

      I do exactly the same thing! This draught business annoys for its utter nonsense. In the age of Google, you would think these silly superstitions would be knocked down/proven false with haste but noooo. Just ride in the car with my father-in-law, roll down a window and get scolded for trying to kill him. Fuck I hate ignorance!

      • Anon says:

        These cultural ‘illnesses’ are always amusing. For giggles check out Korean Fan Death. It’s the reason fans over there have a ‘safety switch’ which turns it off automatically so it doesn’t kill you in your sleep.

  4. Jessie says:

    We put our foot down on the train a few weeks ago when the ladies across from us complained about our open window. And my husband, four children, and I all emerged healthy and sweat-free.

    • Parmalat says:

      You know, I ran some tests on myself.

      This curent-induced headache has to do with a diet lacking vitamins. Which is understandable because Romanians have been eating sans vitamins forever. I mean – if it’s not pork and bread, it’s not food. But pork and bread don’t contain vitamins.

      In the West you eat a more varied diet and that’s why you don’t get curent-induced headache.

      This conclusion is the result of a double-blind placebo scientific test which I ran on myself. Basically comparing 2 dieting plans: one with Herbalife shakes and vitamines and another one with no food at all. And exposing myself to curent from various sources: door, window, outside in the park and at various speeds and temperatures.

      • Anon says:

        It’s impossible to run a double blind placebo controlled trial on yourself…
        *if* people are actually getting headaches due to curent (instead of just confirmation bias) it’s probably just due to the nocebo effect.
        And Herbalife is a scam, hence the reason it’s banned in several countries.

        • Parmalat says:

          It’s not a scam, I lost 15 kilos with Herbalife :P

          • Mister Rearguard says:

            @Parmalat. So you’ve knocked your daily 2litre intake of Coca Cola on the head then? Romanians love their Coca Cola…

          • Roger says:

            @MisterReaguard and lays too along with pufleta …. I think they are called?

            But having said that their pufleta’s are really nice and the michi I had in a market area near Gara De Nord was spot on!

            @anyone ……….. Where is the best place to get Vin Fiert in Bucharest as hoping it would match the stuff I got in Iasi!

          • Parmalat says:

            Vin fiert is simple to make :)

            Just get your favorite red wine, boil it, add some sugar, very little cinnamon (be careful, very little cinnamon cause it tastes bad if it’s too much) and a few slices of orange and that’s it :)

            Wine doesn’t boil like water, it just pretends it’s boiling…

          • Roger says:

            @parmalat, cheers mate ……… Sadly when I’m in Romania I have no access to be able to boil it etc ….. So when I am in Bucharest, do you know anywhere you would recommend to go?

          • Parmalat says:

            Humm… I drank some wonderful vin fiert at the restaurant which sits in the middle of Cismigiu park, unfortunately the rest of the restaurant is quite shitty, they rarely have what’s written in the menu. But if you just want to go there for the wine, it should be great :D

            By the way, that restaurant is one of the last places where you can see how restaurants were like in the times of Ceausescu… some things changed, but many other things are just as they were 25 years ago.

          • Mister Rearguard says:

            I went to that restaurant just the once about 5 years ago and I had to wait 3hours for carbonara! I also asked for a bit of that cheesey stuff to sprinkle on top and that cost more than the meal itself…

          • Roger says:

            Is it the one called Monte Carlo?

            I checked the menu and they have no vin fiert :-(

            Unless it is an extra they serve in winter months only?

          • Parmalat says:

            Yes, Monte Carlo. Just ask for vin fiert, they’re gonna boil some for you and it actually tastes great.

          • Parmalat says:

            I wouldn’t recommend it either, Mr Rearguard. It’s just the wine that tastes good, the pickles and sometimes the mici [when available]. Everything else is boring, cooked in old style appliances (that’s why you had to wait that much) and not of the best quality. It’s overpriced too, I don’t know why my father likes it, he could get much better food and service at Hanul Drumetului for like 70% of the Monte Carlo price… maybe it’s got to do with the times when he was young.

          • Roger says:

            @parmalat thanks for the info mate!

          • Parmalat says:

            I have 250 ml left of today’s intake and another 2 liter bottle in reserve.

            Yeah, it wouldn’t work while drinking Coke… I had to give that up, drank only 2 liters / week while I was on Herbalife.

          • Anon says:

            Herbalife is a multi-level marketing (read pyramid) scam, which is why it’s banned in several countries. It’s also been linked to liver and kidney failure. Ingesting that much protein is not healthy for you.

            You lost weight because you set out to lose weight, not because of magic powder.

          • Parmalat says:

            Of course, I didn’t say it was magic powder. It just helped me to eat less of the bullshit I was eating before… that’s the entire concept of Herbalife powder: replace 1-2 McDonalds meals / day with it and it should make a huge difference without getting you hungry in the process.

            I could have probably done it with fruit and salads too, but not in 2 months…

          • Craig Turp says:

            Yes, yes but you don’t have to buy expensive branded products such as Herbalife to eat well. A balanced diet is enough.

          • Parmalat says:

            A box of Herbalife powder costs 105 RON and it contains about 30 servings. One serving contains nutrients that human body picks up from a 2400 kcal meal. And that’s real, you eat a serving of Herbalife and you’re not hungry anymore, the body gets what it wants. One serving is supposed to replace a meal in the loss weight process.

            Now try getting a better bargain than that :mrgreen: What kind of a balanced diet you would have to eat and in what quantities to match a diet containing Herbalife?!

            The only problem is that it tastes rather bad, regardless of the nutrients – it takes away most of the pleasure, you’re still gonna want to taste the Big Mac…

          • Anon says:

            It doesn’t though Parmalat…
            Herbalife contains a huge excess of protein compared to a healthy balanced diet. This can lead to Ketosis and eventually liver and kidney failure.
            In fact a quick google shows that this concern had been raised and documented in the scientific literature
            http://www.nutricionprevencionycontrol.com/herbalife.pdf
            Not every calorie is equal

          • Roger says:

            If you have the will power a very low calorie balanced diet along with moderate exercise (maybe just walking/cycling/swimming) will see you lose weight at a rapid rate if you stick to the plan!

            At a time when I wanted to lose some weight in a short space of time all I ate and drank was steamed veg and drank water …….. 11lbs lost in 12 days!

          • Parmalat says:

            Well, I don’t have the will power so I’m gonna stick to Herbalife :mrgreen:

          • Roger says:

            @parmalat :-)

          • Mr Rearguard says:

            I found out that Parmalat recently passed away due to eating too much Herbalife. RIP.

  5. KeSq says:

    We recently had the pleasure of travelling by train from Rosiori de Vede to Bucharest (about 1hr 30 mins). The train was a modern two car unit, with air-conditioning. However the air-con was not working. We soon realised this after about ten minutes when we were cooking. (approx 25-30 degree air temperature outside) So we opened the small emergency window, fitted to the train for such an occurrence. Within minutes it was slammed shut by a female passenger from further down the carriage. No, “do you mind if I shut the window?”, just slammed shut without discussion. Fortunately my partner is Romanian, (otherwise why would you want to visit Rosiori de Vede), and she explained the Romanian draught issue.
    Anyway, we were cooking, and all the Romanians were sitting in there in sweat. I thought I would pass out if I had to spend all this time on this train in this heat, so we opened the window again. When window was open, it was bliss, a cool refreshing breeze. I looked closely at the breeze, but could see no cold, flu or cancerous cells contained within it. It looked like a good breeze to me. Anyhow, within 5 mins, a man came and slammed the window shut, again, no pleasantries involved. At this point my partner started to challenge his actions, to no avail. Romanians on the train would rather die a slow lingering death from heatstroke, rather than risk the dreaded cooling breeze.
    We opened the window again for a third time. The same man soon appeared and as it turns out was a railway employee, for he produced the key and then LOCKED the windows to prevent further opening!
    At this point I had the idea to use an A4 sheet of paper to make a fan. I could create as much of a breeze as I liked with my own fan.
    Health & Safety is not obviously an issue in Romania, as when the train was approaching Bucharest Nord, rather than wait for the train to stop at the platform, like in most European countries, the man who shut the window, opened the doors using the emergency door release, jumped out of a moving train, in order to have a shorter walk to his place of work.
    Therefore I conclude, draughts are hideously deadly, but jumping out of moving trains is perfectly acceptable. If I never set foot in Romania again, I would die a happy man, but I don’t think I am going to be so lucky.

    • Parmalat says:

      =))))))))

      We’re gonna export this ‘curent’ stuff in the near future I guess.

    • C.B. says:

      Cool topic, now Craig should put one on ice!

      (Indeed, most Romanians are just as scarred of ice water – something you get even before the traditional “hello” in any US restaurant.)

      I’d have broken that train window in a jiffy, they even provide you with little tools to do that with when you are abused as you described. On the other hand, for years now from May to November I slept with the windows and the two large doors of my garage open; my bed is positioned such that “current” is a manageable challenge. This year I needed for my hives the plastic sheets that covered one of the windows so I began running “current” a little earlier in the season and whether it was the progressing age or the unusual weather conditions of this year I got very sick, twice so far! Aside from the suffering (last time I was also caught without “tuica”/treatment & anesthesia and that made for some serious and prolonged pain) lots of work got delayed with serious consequences so from now one I think I will be less of a hero and adjust the “çurent” season by at least a month at each end.

      Should you find yourself again in similar situations I suggest you don’t put up with people preventing you from accessing fresh air. Don’t be afraid to get physical with those Romanians. Let us then know how thinks worked out for you – some close-up pictures would be nice touch at that point as well. (Personally, I have a big chest so I intimidate them quite easily and get my way.)

      Tine-ne la curent!

  6. genna says:

    There is one exception to the Curent golden rule. In any bus in Bucharest with air conditioning, during hot days, people will open the windows in order to let in the warm air. Must be in order to fight the curent coming from the air conditioning by using its natural enemy.

  7. [...] for the first and (probably) last time in 2011 about a couple of Romanian traditions and phenomena: Curent, the need to be the first person off public transport, and the fact that heavy-handed legislation [...]

  8. [...] passengers of this bus apparently did not believe in deodorant but most definitely did believe in curent because my window was the only one open and I had to fight for it to stay that way.  I should [...]

  9. Mr Rearguard. says:

    I quit going to Raymonds/James Joyce bar because the staff objected to me wanting the window open to allow some fresh air in.

    • Parmalat says:

      Yeah, last time I went there – some fresh air was badly needed as well.

      But I thought this must be the “official” atmosphere and smell of an English pub/restaurant and I wouldn’t want to spoil the cultural diversity… so I enjoyed the smell of fried fish and chips.

      I gotta catch one of those curry nights. And the chocolate cake was delicious. First time when I saw it I thought “you gotta be kidding me, I’m gonna eat this in a single bite, why are they asking 4$ for it!?”; then again… :X

  10. Andy H says:

    You’ll be pleased to note that this is an issue that brings all Romanians together regardless of “nationality”. The only difference is that here in Ciuc while the cause of all ills is the draught, the cure for all ills is palinka rather than tuica (though nobody here would ever boil it).

    The other thing that drives me crazy is the prescription of antibiotics for everything. I can only assume that doctors give people antibiotics because they know that this is what people expect. Surely the Romanian medical degree does not teach doctors that antibiotics are actually useful for flu or other viral conditions? Does it?

    Another common belief appears to be that spicy food will damage your kidneys (and/or liver, depending on which amateur medical specialist you speak to). I pointed out to me mother-in-law that there were entire populations of people in places like Mexico and India who were not all on dialysis. “Ah, but they are naturally resistant”

  11. Raluca says:

    In Bosnia, where I am at the moment, it’s pretty much the same, I think curent is an Eastern-Europe-wide phenomenon. I was told that you could even get cancer from curent, or at least some sort of paralysis.
    Drinks fridges in smaller shops get turned off end of October and don’t come back on until about May.
    The funniest bit was when my boyfriend went to see a doctor here for pain caused by what later proved to be kidney stones and was told he had ‘cold of stomach’ (brought on by exposure to curent) and needs to wrap a blanket around his waist when going to bed. By a doctor.
    We will laugh at that one forever!

  12. Cz says:

    Here is a great commercial. Maybe we could learn a bit from it and go along with the draft :)

  13. When I had a pinched nerve in my neck two years ago, I went to a doctor in Cluj, a real doctor, begging for a muscle relaxant. He told me that it was the curent. I should drive with my windows up and my pain will go away. He refused to give me anything to help.

    Another doctor gave me an expensive prescription for what i later discovered was simple Ibuprofen, which is what I had been taking for four days to little effect.

    I ultimately suffered blinding pain for two weeks.

    • Craig Turp says:

      Indeed, I have noticed too that being a qualified doctor with all the certificates and what not does not appear to preclude a belief in this baseless superstition.

  14. Anca says:

    Oh dear…I just emailed my mom the link to that Telegraph article Peter posted in the comments about the “curent” and received the following reply back: “Dad just had a bad case of cold due to it over the weekend”! *head desk* I guess even 20 years living in the US won’t cure someone of the anti-curent belief…

  15. Anca says:

    I seem to have escaped that one bit of Romanian brainwashing…it’s 50F/10C outside here in Seattle and I have the window open, which I am sitting near.

  16. Parmalat says:

    I’m taking my previous comment to the new post so as to establish a complete encyclopedia of curent in one single place:

    Did you know that when it’s a storm with lightning bolts outside, you shouldn’t leave the doors and windows of your appartment open because it makes curent and it attracts the curent from outside (curent electric from the lightning bolts) and your risk a lightning bolt to fall straight onto your appartment??

    My grandmother told me that.

  17. Dina says:

    What do you think of this one: according to my cleaning lady, her sister lost all her teeth because of the curent in the metro…

  18. Peter says:

    Last (hot) summer in Bucharest, I bought my parents in law a new fan. Almost every time I left the living room, my father in law turned it off, curent you know! :-)
    Trying to open a window in the car or turn on the airco is causing screams and fear from the oldies. And guess what, the next day, for sure one of them has to sneeze or has a running nose. They know what did it to them: curent! And all of this because you didn’t wanted to listen to their advise…

    • Peter says:

      A good remedy when you have a cold or an ear infection (because of sitting in curent) is to pour sunflower oil in your ears and stuff them with cotton! Also a good headrub with medicinal alcohol, and then sleep with a “caciula” on your head brings quick recovery!

  19. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Craig Turp, Robert Borislavschi. Robert Borislavschi said: RT @bucharestlife: By popular demand… All about that most Romanian of phenomena: curent http://bit.ly/eKAWea [...]

  20. Geronimo says:

    Going outside with wet hair is also guaranteed to kill you. Again, even in the height of summer.

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