Paul Wood: Romania is no longer the exotic, funny and interesting country it was in the ‘90s

Paul Wood is a Brit who fell in love with Romania while traveling here back in 1990. At that time Romania was for him one of the most interesting countries in Europe. Eight years after his first encounter with Romania, he moved to the country and started working as a Senior Consultant for Antal International. In an interview for Paul Wood, now owner of Apple Search recruitment company, talks about the country he first discovered more than 20 years ago and what it has become.

By Irina Popescu

Former London resident Paul Wood gets around Bucharest by cab, as he doesn’t have a driving license. His favored mode of transport has led him to the conclusion that Romania would have a better Government if its representatives were taxi drivers, who he says are probably much more honest than the politicians. Well, not always true, he remembers. His taxi dialogues follow a similar script – they all speak about the meaning of life, the nature of God, and the deficiencies in the Romanian Government, becoming the ‘Greek tragedy chorus’ in his life, he confesses in an interview for

For Paul Wood, the 49-year old Brit who became a true Romanian over the years he spent trying to understand this country, it is no longer as interesting as it was when he first came here back in 1990. “To be very honest, I’m having a kind of a double take, because I’m not sure now what I am talking about when I say I love Romania. I don’t know if I love Romania as it is now or if I love Romania how it was 13 years ago. Certainly I’ve never been in such an interesting country as the Romania I visited in 1990 as a tourist. But the country I lived in 1998 was also a much more interesting country than it is now, from my point of view as a foreigner. That is partly because Romania now is much less exotic, much less funny, much less interesting, compared to what I was used to,” he says.

Paul Wood, passionate about old films, feels like he’s living in a film noir in Romania sometimes: [pullquote]“I have quite a few close Romanian friends and love the parties given by my circle of Romanian friends, get a great kick out of this city which fascinates me. It’s slightly like living in a film noir sometimes.”[/pullquote]

‘In Romania, everything is difficult but after a while you get used to it’

What brought him to Romania in the first place was his attraction to things “that people would see as boring”, but also because he had a sense that Romania still had something that had been lost in the Western Europe.

Even so, the Englishman from Southend-on-Sea in Essex loves Romanians, although he presents them as self-contradictory. Romanians are, from his point of view, human, warm and kind, but at the same time, very cruel. People are very formal and seem to have a tremendous sense of cohesion and common values, as they respect God and the church, but they have less of a sense of public spirit, he says. “I remember a Romanian friend of mine who spent eight years before 1989 living in Paris, who once said to me: <<Paul,  Romanians are individualists, but they are not individualists like, for example, the Irish. We Romanians are only individualists because we can’t stand each other>>. There was a great truth in that. Romanians speak very badly of each other, individually, and they speak very badly about Romanians as a collectivity,” says Paul Wood. Unlike so many people in Western Europe who believe in liberalism, the Romanian knows very well that life is very difficult and human beings are very bad and they just want to point that out, he goes on.

Paul Wood remembers a Romanian moment with his sister. It was a rainy day in Constanta and he had to take some money from a cash machine. The weather was very bad. The roads in the city looked more like rivers, and the pavements were invisible under the torrent. “This is like living in Africa,” his sister said. Paul Wood, passionate about Romania, was quick to answer: [pullquote]“Well, in Romania everything is difficult but after a while you get used to it. Either that or you go mad.” [/pullquote]However, he doesn’t find that true anymore. “But I liked the fact that it was difficult, I think that made it more enjoyable,” he adds.

One of the many changes he didn’t enjoy was the Old Town’s metamorphosis, where Paul lives. “I live here in the Old Town that used to be very nice and relaxing but now it’s full of bars and restaurants. I shouldn’t object about that, but now it’s more kitsch,” Paul Wood adds.

Even if Romania is often seen by foreigners as a difficult country to live in, it still remains a beautiful country for the Brit. “It’s true I’ve told people to come to Romania but I am very glad that nobody follows my advice. Foreign tourism would spoil everything. I remember in the first week in Romania in 1998, a friend of mine, an Englishman, asked me: <<You know what’s the best thing about living in Romania?>>. I said: <<No>>. He said: <<It’s thinking about your friends back in England that are feeling sorry for you.>> And that was so true.”

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(photo source: Paul Wood’s personal archive)