Roma Gypsies are a nomadic people who for centuries have wandered throughout mainland Europe. They originated in Northern India, with successive communities migrating through the Balkans and into Western Europe. The name Gypsy comes from an adaptation of the word Egyptian, as scholars originally believed they came from Egypt. They prefer to be known as Roma or Romany Gypsies. They will not necessarily describe themselves as coming from their country of birth. They are 'Roma' first, and then reference is made to their country of birth.
The Roma language is called Romanes. While this language is common to all Roma groups there are variations due to influences from the majority language in the region where they are currently living or from which they originated. Roma interpreters are difficult to find in Ireland, and the fact that they are virtually all male has caused serious problems for Roma women.
Some Roma have converted to the religions of the country in which they now reside, typically Christianity or Islam. For traditional Roma, sleep is an area of contamination. On rising Roma people must not speak to anyone or handle food until they have washed their face and rinsed their mouth.
Lifestyle, Customs and Practices
Roma have strict beliefs about cleanliness and purity and anything that is not clean is not pure. Dogs are regarded as guard dogs - not pets. They are not allowed in the same living areas.Traditional Roma believe it is a sin to appear naked in front of a person of the opposite sex and strangers of the same sex. Therefore, it is difficult for Roma to submit to a strip search. Males should not sit next to a Roma woman as it may cause offence to spouses or close relatives of the female Roma. If a Roma person dies in a rented house, the family may vacate the dwelling. Roma use different bowls for cleaning clothes, washing up and food preparation. Dishes can be defiled if they are placed on the floor or if dogs or other animals eat from them and must be destroyed. The kitchen table is kept clean and it is considered unhygienic to sit on the kitchen table. Strict codes of modesty require that women, particularly adult/married women, wear long multicoloured skirts and do not expose any part of their bodies including their arms or legs. Roma people have a first name and a family name, which is used for official purposes. Traditional Roma will also describe himself or herself as John son of Frank or Mary wife of George. They may change the official family name if they feel it is bringing them bad luck.