The Roma developed a nomadic lifestyle to escape persecution
Due to their comparatively dark complexions, the Roma people have faced centuries of discrimination at the hands of Europeans. In 1554 the British parliament made being a gypsy a crime punishable by death, and at various points Roma communities have been forcibly enslaved. In order to avoid falling victim to such persecution, the Roma adopted a nomadic lifestyle, never settling in one area for too long and moving around in their now-famous caravans.
Roma people don’t follow a single religion
There isn’t a single unifying set of religious or spiritual beliefs shared by Roma groups. Instead, Roma communities tend to adopt the religion of the country they live in. Romani describe themselves as “many stars scattered in the sight of God,” and most of the world’s major religions are represented amongst individual Roma communities.
Romani speak an ancient language
All Romani speak a common language, which is called Rromanës. This language has its roots in ancient Sanskrit dialects, and shares commonalities with Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali. Some words in the English language, such as ‘pal’ and ‘lollipop’ have been taken from Rromanës.
Romani follow cultural rules known as “Rromano”
Whilst Roma communities follow a variety of religious faiths, they are unified by a set of cultural rules and values known as “Rromano.” These emphasise the importance of purity, cleanliness, respect, honour, and justice. In essence, Rromano provides guidance for what it means to be a good member of Roma society, and instructs Romani to act with virtue and dignity.
The worst Roma punishment is banishment
In Romani culture, disputes are typically resolved by a group’s elders, who are also responsible for meting out punishments. Minor offences are usually met with public admonishment, which will serve to damage the offender’s reputation. In extreme cases, a Romani can be permanently banished from his community, but this is reserved for only the most severe infractions.
Roma culture is very hierarchical
Roma communities, known as ‘Kumpanias,’ consist of anywhere between ten and several hundred individual families. The Kumpania is broken down into smaller clans, which consist of several families linked by ancestry and are known as ‘Vitsas.’ Each Vitsa is led by a ‘Voivode,’ who is always male and holds the position for life.
Family is incredibly important to the Roma
Since the Roma have never had their own country, they place great importance in maintaining harmony in their individual communities. Family is considered to be the bedrock of Roma society, and there are many rules and traditions that govern how families function. Romani marriages are often arranged, generally when the bridge and groom are still in their teens, and wedding ceremonies are elaborate affairs with hundreds of attendants.
Roma culture is very flashy
Romani are known to be fond of flaunting their wealth, and extravagant displays of opulence are common in Roma culture. Flashy jewellery is worn by both genders, and women wear headdresses literally adorned with money. Romani also decorate their homes with gold and silver ornaments and religious icons.
Being generous is important in Roma culture
As much as attaining wealth is encouraged in Roma society, being generous is seen as equally important. Romani have a strong hospitality culture, and will often lavish their guests with food and gifts. Being generous when times are good also ensures that Romani families will be able to count on help should they ever fall into hardship.
Most Romani no longer use horses and wagons
Traditionally, Roma communities would travel in large caravans made up of wagons pulled by horses. However, the Roma have moved with the times and these days rely on more modern modes of transport. Whilst some Roma groups still rely on horses to get around, most have embraced the use of cars and RVs.