What I love about Romania - Thomas Hofmann (Germany): Bucharest has a dynamic and pioneering spirit
We're inviting our readers to share their stories with us and tell the world what Romania means to them. Thomas Hofmann from Germany filled in this questionnaire and let us know what he loves about Romania and more.
Business executive Thomas Hofmann lived in Bucharest for more than 18 months, prompting what he calls "a real love affair" with the country.
While Bucharest looked a bit challenging initially, it revealed in time its "dynamic and pioneering spirit." He would recommend Romania for both living and visiting, for its lively cities, beautiful landscapes and the experience of getting to know the locals. The climate and the food are two things he enjoyed in Romania, alongside, surprisingly to many, the traffic in Bucharest. More about his experience in the country and his insights into Romania in the Q&A below.
What is your name and what is your nationality?
Thomas Hofmann, German
Share your story with us briefly, so we understand your relationship with Romania.
In 2018 I was contacted by a Romanian business associate whom I met back in 2009 in Germany. He asked me if I would be interested in helping him to develop his retail network in Romania with a focus on Marketing and Business Development. Due to my extensive management experience in various industries and companies (Intel, Volkswagen, McDonald's etc.) and my strong sensibility for local differences and cultures, this looked like a perfect opportunity. I lived for more than 18 months in Bucharest - the start of a real love affair.
Would you recommend Romania as a country to live in or to visit?
Definitely yes - both for living and visiting. Romania is a beautiful country with lots to discover. From lively cities like Bucharest, Brașov, Cluj to the countryside and the unique nature of the Danube Delta - last but not least: getting to know the Romanian people.
In the beginning, Bucharest was indeed challenging in some ways, but it was easy for me to adapt once I made myself familiar with the place. Bucharest has this dynamic and pioneering spirit that is mostly lost back home. If you are ready to roll up your sleeves and work hard, Romania can be very rewarding.
What are some of the misconceptions you most often hear about Romania, and how do you feel about them?
Most of the misconceptions and prejudices result from knowing little about the country, its history and people. I heard about fears regarding high criminality which are complete nonsense. I have never experienced any situation in Bucharest or outside which made me feel uncomfortable - any time, day or night. On the contrary: I consider Romanians rather friendly, helpful and caring. At times even shy and reserved when it comes to strangers. Once you get to know them better, you can experience their passion and talent to dance, sing and celebrate life.
What is the most powerful feeling that Romania brings to you, and why?
Romania is a very proud country with a difficult history. What I felt a lot is that people are now looking positively into the future as being part of the EU and eager to make the country prosper again. Based on talented and ambitious young people who are coming from the universities and want to make a difference in their home country.
Please tell us the three things you like the most about Romania.
The weather: most of my life I spend in Munich, which has a rather good climate and is known for its blue sky and white clouds (which is reflected in the Bavarian flag). I still prefer the long warm season in Bucharest - from March to early November you can spend your life outside (parks, cafès, restaurants...) and it's just a two hours' drive to the black sea.
The food: I travelled a lot in Europe and elsewhere, but I was surprised about the variation, taste and quality of the Romanian food. It's a bit on the heavy and meaty side - most of the time - but there is so much choice: from traditional food to exquisite cuisine. And you can enjoy it in numerous restaurants for very decent prices.
The traffic in Bucharest: I know this one might sound very surprising to most people. Indeed, at times there are just too many cars on the road, and yes, there are some really bad and inexperienced drivers around. But they are never aggressive as you can see in other European cities, and the Romanians are "creative" and "forgiving" drivers. There is a lot of interpretation of what the rules are and how to behave. As a German, this gave me a feeling of freedom and flexibility, which I don't have at home.
If you had to advertise for Romania as a country, what would be the top things you would mention to promote it?
The top things to promote is the variety of the country: vibrant cities, beautiful countryside, picturesque mountains, sandy beaches, large lakes - very similar to France, Italy or Spain. There is definitely something for everyone to enjoy during holidays - in more detail.
The rich and unique culture which is reflected in beautiful buildings, museums, churches, parks and so forth.
The climate is perfect - very similar to the more travelled neighboring countries in the South East of Europe.
The fact that Romania has some hidden gems and is a lot less travelled than other European countries.
What could make Romania the perfect country for you (what's missing)?
In some areas, the (touristic) infrastructure is still very basic and makes travelling a bit of a chore. The roads are not always in good condition, and some have numerous potholes – which can be stressful and even dangerous while driving.
As in other countries, the quality of service is - at times - very basic and unreliable. Especially in what public services are concerned, but not only. I have to admit that I had some very positive experiences, which do compensate for some disappointments.
What I missed a lot in summer are lakes to swim in and public pools. There is the spectacular "Therme Bucharest" (which has an equivalent in Munich, by the way) but not a single lake to swim in.
I do also hope that Bucharest invests in more bicycle lanes which could make commuting and getting around in town a lot easier and safer and would contribute to less pollution.
Honestly, apart from that, there is little to complain about.
What are your favorite places in Romania and why?
I love big cities, so Bucharest is definitely my favorite place in Romania. I enjoy the mix of some "lost places" and the modern buildings, the life on the streets, shopping, restaurants, cafes, museums, art galleries etc. There is also a lot of green in the city, like the large King Michael I Park (Herăstrau Park).
Some special places I can recommend in the area are the Mogoșoaia Palace, Peles Castle, Lake Snagov and the Curtea de Arges Cathedral. Also worth a visit is Brașov and its surroundings, Constanța at the Black Sea and definitely the unique area of the Danube Delta.
As I said before, a great mix of beautiful places to visit and enjoy.
What is your favorite Romanian food?
Even if I eat more and more vegetarian food due to its positive impact on the environment, I love the tasty meat which is offered everywhere here in the country. My number one food, though, is the desert "Papanași". It is unique, and I also love the modern interpretations of it, like those offered in the Sky Tower Restaurant.
What do you like about Romanian culture, history, customs? Please give us some examples.
Like with traffic, Romanians are mostly more relaxed with the daily chores and challenges of life. Whereas we Germans tend to be "perfectionists," the people in Romania accept imperfection as a fact of life. One of the best descriptions of the difference between Germans and Romanians is: "Germans tend to complain a lot if things don't work. Romanians, on the contrary, are thankful if things work." This is not be meant to be disrespectful but full of admiration for the ability to take life a bit easier. As a result, one of my favorite phrases is "merge și așa," but let's answer this in the following question.
What are the Romanian words/phrases a non-Romanian speaker should know, in your opinion?
There are many expressions and sometimes very poetic phrases which demonstrate the rich culture of the Romanian language. Here are just two picks of my favorite expressions: "privește cerul." - This can be read on walls across the city. As I understand, it can have various meanings from the direct translation "look at the sky" to dream, hope, plan, do, regret, be grateful, be happy ... a very expressive phrase.
"Merge și așa" does reflect this lightheartedness which we miss a lot in Germany. Sometimes this attitude can drive you crazy, but if you take a deep breath and reflect, most of the time it's indeed true.
"Asta este" is an often-used phrase if someone does not want to discuss anymore or just wants to make a final statement - like an exclamation mark!
Anything else to share with us, which was not covered in the questions above?
I would love Romania to invest more in green ideas. I see a big potential for this country to reduce pollution and (plastic) waste and to preserve its beautiful nature. Unfortunately, I have only seen little awareness towards these topics - even with young people. This would be one of the areas I would like to promote and focus on - if a company asks me to come back to Romania and work for them.