Romania-Insider.com interviewed Nicholas Hammond, partner and co-founder of law firm Hammond, Bogaru & Associates, who has been living and working in Romania since the early days of the new born democracy in the country, after the fall of communism in 1989.
Interview by Corina Chirileasa
Name, occupation, where are you from?
Nicholas Hammond, Solicitor, London/St. Albans, England.
For how long have you been living/working in Romania? What brought you here in the first place?
I have been working in Romania since 20th January 1990 at 18.15. I even remember the time. I travelled to and from Romania for four years until I moved here in 1994 to run the Romanian office of what was then Taylor Joynson Garret. They subsequently closed the office and I remained. What brought me here in the first place was a Romanian BAC 1-11 with two engines and the overhead luggage carrier collapsed on landing. The real reason for coming was that I had always been fascinated by the area and wanted to visit. I had a Romanian friend/client who said he would always take me when Ceausescu died. So there I was on a plane with one of my partners and my then wife to see Romania. Landed at 6.15 and at 7.45 on a very cold bus into Bucharest.
What do you do here in Romania?
That is a question I frequently ask myself. As a lawyer when I arrived I asked what I could do. However it soon became apparent that I had skills which I could use in the Romanian legal environment. We hired local lawyers and then developed our legal practice here in Romania. I worked with a number of firms and then joined with my partner Cristian Bogaru five years ago to set up our own law firm. So I practice English law advising clients as necessary. I act as the interface between western English speaking clients and Romania. Business ethics attitudes and ways of doing business are very different and sometimes they need to be explained. Often there can be confusion because of the use of language. Having been here so long, I begin to understand the differences. So with Cristian I now run this law practice.
Where else in the world have you worked/lived or just traveled? For what projects?
I spend 40+ years working and living in London. Until I came to Romania I had only traveled and lived abroad on holidays so moving here was a completely new experience. I do not think I could have done it without my wife, who I married in 1999.
What is your favorite place in Romania and why? When and how did you discover it?
My favorite place in Romania is with my wife and family. Outside of that I would not say I had a favorite place as there are so many places where I have had a good and memorable time. New Year in a hotel in Sinaia and fireworks on the table; a drunken boatman in the Danube delta; a really bad hotel in Neptune; a magnificent double level hotel room in Sibiu. There are so many memories all obtained by traveling around Romania.
What don’t you like in Romania? What would you change about it?
Apart from the roads and the drivers, I just wish Romanians would be more positive about themselves and the country. They can achieve much but everything seems to be such an effort. The response to most things is no – it cannot be done. If they developed the art of positive thinking – not “smechering” – they would achieve so much. What also I would change is the Romanian attitude of trying to put down anyone whom they perceive is more successful than them. Rather than try to achieve the same they try and bring everyone down to their own level. ‘Do not kill my neighbor’s pig; help me to improve’ should be the motto. Also be proud of your country and do not keep running it down. Politicians are trying to destroy Romania, do not let them destroy you. Romanian do not have a very strong national identity. If they had this, things might be better.
How do you spend your free time in Romania? What would you recommend to others?
I do not really have a lot of free time unfortunately, but when I do, we like to travel around Romania and the surrounding region. Even a day trip to Bulgaria can be fun. I would advise others to travel around as much as possible. Eating in Romanian restaurants is also a good thing to do.
What do you think is your biggest accomplishment in life so far? Give us a few details please.
I think one of my biggest accomplishments so far has been working with some great young Romanian lawyers, who have since gone on to open their own law firms. I privately take some credit for that; I may have been a hard teacher, but I see now that they learned something. Also with Cristian we have built a good law firm and team, who are a credit to themselves and us.
What are you passionate about? How often do you get to pursue your passion in Romania?
I am really passionate about flying. To be in the air with only God as the co-pilot is a great experience. God does not talk much though, so if there is a problem you deal with it. Trouble is I do not do it now as age is against me. There are many bold pilots and many old pilots but not many old bold pilots.
What are the main pieces of advice you’d give foreigners who plan to come to Romania?
My advice is I am sure the same as others’. Keep an open mind. Look, listen and do not say anything until you are sure. Romanians do not trust until they know someone whereas from the west we tend to trust until proven different. Therefore keep an open eye on what is going on and be careful. I would also say, to them Bucharest is not Romania. Get out of Bucharest if you want to see the real Romania and meet the real Romanians. This does not mean Bucharest is not real, but outside they have more time for you and their country.