What I love about Romania - Jessica Busch Sipos (USA): It is still a "hidden gem" so there is an authenticity to the experience
As part of our Romania Appreciation Weeks campaign, we're inviting our readers to share their stories and tell the world what they love about the country. Jessica Busch Sipos joined our campaign and filled in this questionnaire. Below you can read more about what she loves about the country.
Jessica Busch Sipos has visited the country many times after meeting her Romanian husband in Yokohama, Japan. She highlights the authenticity of the experience of visiting the country, where the tourist presence hasn't reached the level of other famous areas in Western Europe and puts its natural landscapes and food among the things she enjoys most about Romania and among those she would mention to advertise the country.
She argues customer service could improve in the country, where she also sees a lot of potential in the artisan textiles and crafts & arts. Nichita Stănescu's poetry and Pavel Stratan's songs are also among the things she loves about the country, alongside the resilience of the people. More about it in the Q&A below.
What is your name and what is your nationality?
Jessica Busch Sipos, USA
Please share your story with us briefly so we understand your relationship with Romania.
I met my Romanian husband in 2004 in Yokohama, Japan, where we were studying Japanese together for our respective doctoral programs (he: Japanese Language and Literature, me: Medical Anthropology)
Would you recommend Romania as a country to live in or to visit?
I have never lived in Romania, but have visited many times since 2005. It is a wonderful country to visit. Part of this is because it does not yet have a strong tourist presence; it is still a "hidden gem," so there is an authenticity to the experience. When I'm visiting, I never feel that the culture is put on display or is for sale, as it might be in more touristy or iconic places (like Hawaii, where I did my graduate work) or famous tourist areas of Western Europe.
This may change as Romania is "discovered" as it will be in coming years, especially as a site of pristine environment and last vestiges of European wilderness.
What are some of the misconceptions you most often hear about Romania and how do you feel about them?
Americans don't really have much of an impression of Romania, aside from orphans, AIDS, and Communism. (Since that's from the 80s, you see Romania is not much on the radar here!) Honestly, Americans have very little "conception" of Romania so have few "misconceptions."
However, my husband has told me of some western European misconceptions about Romania. They remind me of some of the prejudices Americans hold against Mexican and Central American immigrants and refugees, partly borne of cultural differences and partly owing to ignorance of political/economic hardships endured by the people of those places. While Western Europe got the economic benefits of the Marshall Plan, Eastern Europe got the tragedy of Soviet occupation.
What is the most powerful feeling that Romania brings to you and why?
Love. There is such deep and abiding love in the people.
Please tell us the three things you like the most about Romania.
The resilience of the people
The freshness of the food (there are no tomatoes like Romanian tomatoes!)
The heartbreaking landscape
If you had to advertise for Romania as a country, what would be the top things you would mention to promote it?
The natural environment
The fresh, local food (people pay top dollar here for "local" food!)
What could make Romania the perfect country for you (what's missing)?
Better public toilets!
Better customer service
More artisan textiles and crafts and arts (so much potential!)
What are your favorite places in Romania and why?
Sighișoara; hills of Codlea when I first heard a shepherd's flute the first time I visited; Moldavian and Bucovina monasteries; Centrul Vechi of Bucharest (so beautiful and fun).
What is your favorite Romanian food?
Ciorbă cu perisoare (e.n. sour soup with meatballs), slănină (e.n. cured pork fatback), fasole bautută (e.n. mashed beans), papanași (e.n. fried or boiled doughnut-shaped pastry filled with soft cheese), crenvurști (e.n. similar to Vienna sausage), kurtos kolaci (e.n. Kürtőskalács - spit cake predominant in the Székely Land), langos (e.n. deep-fried flatbread), and salata de vinete (e.n. eggplant spread) - and I despise eggplants any other way!
What do you like about Romanian culture, history, customs?
I love colinde (e.n. carols). There is such a lovely melancholy that seems so appropriate for the season.
I loved listening to my husband tell me Romanian history--it seemed so romantic. The saviors of Western Europe, resilient after getting field burned by the Ottomans over and over... I'm even a fan of Vlad Tepes and feel righteously indignant he has been so maligned into a vampire!
I love Nichita Stănescu's poetry and Pavel Stratan's songs. And O-zone was blasting through Yokohama's malls when my husband and I were dating.
I love the Middle Eastern influence on Romanian foodways.
I love the custom of lighting candles for the living and the dead at churches everywhere in the country. That is a truly beautiful tradition.
I love the custom of eating food for the dead. It's very comforting.
There's honestly too much to say for this small interview - so many beautiful things about Romania.
What are the Romanian words/phrases a non-Romanian speaker should know, in your opinion?
Sărut-mâna pentru masă (e.n. Thank you for the meal). Everyone should say this!
(Photo courtesy of Jessica Busch Sipos)