Guest writer Ashley Parry looks back on his first year in Romania, the country where people have commerce running through their veins, know how to throw a real party, and you don't 'have to be somebody to speak to somebody'. The place where a lot of doors may get opened when you're a foreigner, but many get closed because of it, and where there are tons of options to spend your free time.
Invariably enough, I was introduced to Romania via the fairer sex. We met in the UK, she was studying at university there and I was enjoying life in general in my home town. I hasten to add that we are no longer together. Through that relationship, my first trip to Romania was at Christmas time to Constanta, in 2009.
I want to emphasize that the reason I fell in love with Romania was not necessarily because of the girl; I believe it was because of the stark difference between all I’d ever known and this new Eastern European country I’d never really heard of. You could smoke anywhere you liked, the parties were unbelievable and the energy of the people was tangible. You may have realized by now that my priorities back then weren’t particularly all encompassing but for me, at the time, Romania was the land of true hedonism.
Over the subsequent three years, I visited Romania four or five times again, experiencing the Black Sea coast in the summer and a little skiing in Predeal. I had my first ever skiing experience in Romania and loved it from the start. I won’t even begin on my initial thoughts of Mamaia nights out; in a word…Epic!
In February 2013, I was whole-heartedly bored with my life in England. I had done everything, experienced everything and most definitely had got the T-Shirt! I guess the traveling spirit inside me needed to get out and do something new and exhilarating. So after another skiing trip to Predeal in December 2012, I decided to up sticks and give living a real go over here. Of course, I could have chosen anywhere but my thought process was that I had a handful of friends here, a little knowledge of the language (under-statement of the year) and it was only three hours home if I changed my mind.
So I came, I saw and I set myself about to conquer! It was a month or so before I found my first job but it really wasn’t for me or what I was looking for so within six months, I’d left. I needed something that didn’t have that '9 to 5' feel to it. So it was one day, while lounging on a sun bed by Lacul Tei (hard life, I know) that a friend of mine said that his company was looking for a person to join the sales team. I went along to meet with the boss and we realized that, through my experience in the transport sector, we could have a mutually beneficial relationship here. I learned about the business, became genuinely enthusiastic about the concept and was consequently made the GM of which I am extremely proud to be. I’ve been given the reigns and now I’ll run like hell with them! That is the short story of my one year in Romania.
Now what about the likes and dislikes gained through my first hand experience living here?
The first aspect of Romania I’d like to discuss is business, considering that is what I mainly do and where I hope to make a career. As you would imagine, business is done rather differently here in comparison with the UK.
On the positive side, Romanian people, it would seem, literally have commerce running through their veins which is fantastic! There is a distinct hunger for success and achievement that truly gets under your skin. I’ve always said this since I’ve been here but it would seem that, because of the aforementioned observations, you get stuff done here a lot easier than back in England.
If you’ve got the know-how, a little brains and a good idea, most people will give you the time to listen to you; regardless of whether they are a CEO or a manager of a local coffee shop.
Now, at this point I’d like to mention something because I imagine a few of you may be thinking this. Yes, I am an expat and yes, I am British. This could go some way to explaining why I find it so easy to speak with people of decision making status. Although, a lot of doors do get opened because of my nationality, I am also sure that a lot get closed because of the very same fact.
However, for the most part, it is good. I always felt, and still do, that you have to be somebody in England before you get to speak with somebody. Romanian people don’t hold the same ideal which I am thankful for.
Moving away from business, I absolutely love the variety of options that a person can have at their disposal when choosing what to do in their free time. The huge advantage of this country is that you can choose to escape to the mountains at the weekend and breathe in the beautiful scenery, just 2-3 hours outside of Bucharest. You get to experience a different demographic of people when you leave the city and it really is refreshing to get away from the hustle and bustle sometimes.
I recently visited Piatra Neamt and I can confidently say that it was absolutely brilliant. A town surrounded by magnificent mountains. Great place. On the other side, and weather dependent, you can take a trip down to the coast and have a ‘five-star’ holiday. Growing up in England, sun, beach and hot temperatures were confined to a holiday and the fact you can jump in a car and be there within 3 hours is truly amazing.
I am particularly picky with my food. And Romanian food can leave a lot to be desired especially when you have been brought up on more Western style delicacies. This isn’t necessarily a good thing and, in truth, I am, slowly, coming around to more and more traditional dishes. It’s just the tendency, more often than not, to fry most meals here which is too much sometimes.
My understanding and appreciation of cheeses has been blown apart while here though! I am a huge fan of Telemea cu Oaie! Delicious with a pinch of herbs and some sunca. I do doubt, however, that I’ll ever like mamaliga. Just can’t do it, I’m sorry!
I can tell you one thing. Romanians know how to throw a party. It’s been said before and I am sure it will be said again but seriously, they know how to do it properly. The sun rising doesn’t stop most! One difference I have noticed is that in England, we would start a night out around 8, whereas here nights out don’t begin until, at the earliest, around midnight. I guess that’s why everyone is able to keep on going until the morning. Aside, from the bars and clubs, I had one of the best nights on New Years Eve, simply by staying in an apartment with friends and socializing! Simple pleasures.
The people! What would Romania be without the people? Not much. I have been welcomed here with open arms, for the most part, and am genuinely thankful for that. The people here are kind, thoughtful, generous, honorable and, most importantly, friendly! I am so grateful for the friends I have because I do doubt I would still be here without them. My friends are always there with an open ear, willing to listen to, with enthusiasm, whatever issue or topic I wish to discuss about.
I have encountered a few people that find it to be a personal and national insult because I have not learnt the language fully yet. I know a few expats here too and they tell me the same. My answer, when someone accuses me of being lazy and not asserting myself enough, is that I implore them to understand my situation. English is widely spoken here meaning that the motivation to speak Romanian is mostly non-existent. Don’t get me wrong. I do try a lot to learn and practice my Romanian skills and when I do, people seem to appreciate it. I just ask people to have some patience and not necessarily see my lack of language skills as a disrespect to them or Romania. I think, by me living here and making this beautiful country my home, is a compliment in its own right.
Lastly, the ambiguity of Romania, from an international stand point. Whenever I go home or speak to my friends on Skype, I, of course, tell them about all of the delights I’ve experienced but no-one seems particularly interested in making the trip over here. Not with any real haste.
And do you know what? I am completely fine with that. Romanian has its own unique charm that I believe will be lost should it become overpopulated with Westerners. No, that was a mistake. Not Westerners. Just the English! Trust me, you wouldn’t want the vast majority of our ‘lager louts’ here. You’re better off without them.
After all, why do you think I am here?
By Ashley Parry, guest writer
(photo credits: Ashley Parry)