Do you know that person who comes to your staff meetings, pretends to participate but keeps checking his or her smartphone?
Or the two people who whisper to each other during meetings? Or the curmudgeon who rolls his eyes when someone makes a comment?
We have those people in Moldova, too, although they are generally more discreet than back home, at least in the meetings I’ve attended.
As someone who attended several meetings a day for many years, with a reputation for keeping my own meetings short and sweet, I’m a connoisseur of meeting behavior. I’ve continued taking mental notes since I came to Moldova, at meetings I’ve attended in Ialoveni, Chișinău and elsewhere.
Even though I can’t understand everything people say in Romanian, some of their body language is familiar, although generally more formal and polite. In both countries, a meeting may include someone bemused (or irritated) by everything. One person may speak with a rhetorical flourish, while another mumbles or reads in a monotone from a notebook and never looks up. Some people address the entire room while others speak only to the person leading the meeting.
Similarly, if a meeting drags on too long, people may start staring ahead, flipping through papers or glancing at their watches, regardless of whether the conversation is in English or Romanian.
If someone’s cell phone begins ringing, especially if it has a distinctive ring tone, others in the room will quietly chuckle. The phone’s owner will probably look chagrined and race to turn it off, although sometimes only after whispering “I’m in a meeting” to whoever is calling.
One big difference in Moldova, though, is that everyone is addressed as “Domnul” or “Doamna” — Sir or Madam. And when it comes time to schedule the next meeting, they’re more likely to check their paper daybooks instead of the electronic calendar on their smartphone.
Here’s one of the best things about meetings in Moldova: There are far fewer Powerpoint presentations. That alone is a good reason to leave America and come here.
Oh, and if you’re reading this on Facebook, rest assured they sneak peeks at that, too. Every meeting I’ve attended has also included an American guy from North Carolina who glances frequently at the Google Translate app on his iPhone. Discreetly, of course.