Bucharest city tales: The expat way of living – roads you can choose

Columnist Eleonore af Schaumburg-Lippe writes in her weekly column about life as an expat in Romania. This week she writes about Expat life– the roads you can choose and the phases you can go through living as an expat.

Romania is the only country I have lived in besides Denmark, and shortly after arriving in Bucharest, I got a new name, or title you may call it. I was now known as an expat. As I see it, there are some roads you can choose living the expat life here in Bucharest. It of course depends on how long time you intend to stay in Romania, the reason why you moved to Romania, if you are here because you were sent by a company, you meet a Romanian man or woman or you just wanted to travel and be a trespasser for a while.

Here are the phases I have observed an expat typically goes through in Romania.

1. Phase – Welcome to Romania – the ‘all is new and exciting’ or ‘I hate it here’ phase.

In this welcome to Romania phase you take pictures of everything and gaze around saying “Wow look at that building” etc., everything seems like a fresh new start, and everything is possible. It’s a bit like being on a holiday, where every day you experience something new, everything is one big adventure and you are very open and you go out a lot and meet a lot of people.

Surrounded by people, it can actually get a bit overwhelming. Most expats that arrive here don’t know so many people, and some may have worried before they arrive about finding friends and meeting people. This is certainly not a problem in Bucharest, where there are a lot of expat groups, meet ups and a lot of active embassies and a very active foreign nationals environment.

A small hint, don’t take it the wrong way, but although in the beginning you might think, ‘I’ve got friends, no problem’, finding later that to some you are a friend but to others merely a ‘contact’ can be a disappointment. Contact in this case means, “can you introduce me to this or that person,” “can you get me a job in this or that country,” “can you get me into this or that event” or even “can you pay for this or lend me some money.”

How you manage in this phase will become a key point in how your life evolves here.

Then there is the expat group whose members say: “I am here until my contract ends and then I am out of here.” These expats complain and just don’t like it here, they are not many, but I have come across a few. What I hear as the top three complaints are: The frustration and stress about the business environment, the corruption, lack of morals and ethics, or as one said to my surprise, lack of high level cultural events. Usually you will not meet this group so often, as they return to their home country as soon as possible, or spend as much time out of Romania as they can.

Phase 2 – Finding your identity or Being Romanian-ized

Then the half integrating phase begins, the half integrated expat life – a person enjoying the best of both worlds, still appreciating their home country but also embracing Romania more and more. This is when you can hear the profound words from expats – Living in Romania has given me an identity.

In this way of living, you have expat friends, but you also begin to have Romanian friends. You begin to change or grow as a friend of mine told me. Either you begin to find your place and path here in Romania, where you feel that you have something to offer to Romania, and at the same time you also learn a lot from the Romanians, it is a give and take circle, or alternatively you can become a lost expat soul in the nightlife of Bucharest.

This is what I call expats who are behaving in a way they would never do in their home countries. The term lost soul is maybe too strong, but try not to fall into the trap of adapting to some less positive values, becoming very egocentric, always talking about money and work and maybe even doing dubious things when it comes to morality, often with the goal of finding the cheapest beer and being seen with yet another young lady.

Which of the roads you choose to walk will of course affect your life here in Romania. So step wisely.

If staying here for half a year to a year, expats have a tendency not to integrate in Romania, but focus more on the expat environment. But all this can change, that’s life.

When you ask an expat: How long will you stay in Romania? The answer is almost 100 percent “I don’t know.” Some of the expats who have lived here for many years will usually tell the story about how they came here with the expectation of staying no more than a year, but then they just fell in love with the country, a man or a woman and found an identity here.

Suddenly passing through Romania has changed into making a home here, and now only the future can tell them what will happen.

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: sxc.hu)


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