Bucharest city tales: Building administrators in Romania and how to deal with them – a brief guide for expats

Columnist Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe writes in her weekly column about life as an expat in Romania. This week she covers the topic of building administrators, whom most expats who live in blocks of flats are likely to meet during their stay in Romania.

When everybody appears to be on summer holidays, there is somebody who never seems to pack their bags: the administrator of your building. The one person you may in some ways want to have a little holiday from.

I must admit, the building administrator was a novelty in my life when I moved to Romania. In Denmark most of the costs related to the building, such as water, stair cleaning etc go into the monthly rent of your apartment, so it is not something you have to really think about.

But in Romania, it is different. An administrator takes care of the block of flats, which one the one hand is a good thing, but on the other, he or she will always ask you to do things, since the extra costs in the building are not covered from the rent here. They will ask for various payments, monthly payments of stair renovation, cleaning of the common area, or, in my case, chase me to hand them over the water consumption data from my new flat.

I have moved quite a lot while in Bucharest, and almost everywhere I have stayed there was a lady administrator. Usually she is a nice older lady looking like she could be your grandmother. But be aware, because behind the petite face with the Bambi eyes is a fierce person, who will go all in when it comes to getting payments from you, or getting the water consumption data, or whatever else is expected from you in that building.

I must admit I have learned a lesson or two when in comes to building administrators. I can’t recall the administrator from the place in Bucharest where I lived, but I remember her dog, that would chase me through the garden in a constant battle. It was all about managing to get to the main door without the dog getting near my ankles. Once I remember going down the stairs to open the main door and get out, just to see little dog in front of the door showing its teeth. I slammed the door waiting on the stairs for a rescuer who never showed up, so I had to knock on the administration lady’s door more than once until she took the dog away.

The highest disgrace you could experience in your block was your apartment number being marked on the payments board in the building in RED, to make it clear to everybody that you were late with your payments. The problem however is usually not being able to find the time to meet the famous administrator lady and pay the monthly dues. Her brother would sometimes open the door, and make some sounds I never managed to fully understand. And he would never have change money. Financially-wise, paying to the brother was not a good idea, since he probably saw it more as a charity payment to him and not so much as the official pay for administrative costs.

Well, but I moved on and the next administrator, a man this time, was the type of person I never really figured out. He was sitting in a box in the entrance of the building. Always looking at people and observing from behind his glasses, he would follow every step you make. I often had the urge to try a funny walk while passing by his box, just to see if he reacted to it in any way, but I never really dared. He was the kind that has large books with lots of numbers and figures, and this tiny pencil that got smaller each time I saw him. But the pencil was surprisingly always working, as the man was carefully sharpening it every time. And with that mini pencil he would write down with a mini writing the payments you made.

Let me tell you, administrators are here to stay, they were here before you, and they will probably always be here, so learn to deal with them, otherwise you will also be chased by a woman asking all day long for your water consumption number, or have your door decorated with small paper pieces about the same issue, but in a writing style that would make any archeologist think they found the link to a secret and unknown way of writing.

I don’t know why, but administrators have always reminded me of dinosaurs. They can look very grumpy, and they can pump themselves up, so you expect to hear a stunning dinosaur roar from their little grandmother or grandfather mouth. They have this special look, because they feel powerful, and they do have some sort of power, a  terrorizing one, even if on a small scale.

Getting to know your building administrator will in some cases involve many very small notes, receipts with a mini writing. And even if you don’t know who your building administrator is, be sure that they know you. And reading the water consumption is a serious matter, so don’t postpone it.

There are rules in a block of flats, and you just have to accept them and acknowledge the commands of the administrator. Do not dare to jeopardize anything, or you will end up having your name marked in red near the entrance door. And trying to avoid the administrator if futile, she will be everywhere….

By Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe, columnist

Eleonore is Danish, she holds a BA in Organization and Management and specializes in Corporate Communication & Strategic Development. She is also a Market Economist and a Multimedia Designer. She is currently working in Bucharest as the Executive Director of UAPR the Romanian Advertising Association. As a Danish Viking in Romania, with a great passion for ’covrigi’, she has a burning desire to find out more about Romania especially Bucharest, and enlighten the small differences in the culture between Denmark and Romania.. Her weekly columns will give you insights into an expats life in Bucharest written with humor and a big Danish smile.

(photo source: photoxpress.com)