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An Open Letter To Romania's Leaders

Dear Leaders,

Do you ever wonder, if only fleetingly, what your legacy will be? Will school children learn your names, will your statues stand on pedestals in parks? Will you be remembered as wise, enlightened, leaders who made Romania better?

In case you ever do wonder, the answer to these questions is, of course, 'No'. 
You will be remembered as 'The Post-Communism Communists', 'The Incompetents', 'The Corrupt', 'The New Phanariotes' - though that is a generous comparison, the Phanariotes were at least educated and, at times, capable governors, patriots even.  You, on the other hand, will have done nothing more than govern, speak, and behave like the communists you replaced in 1989, though with a touch less patriotism and a lot more incompetence.

How does it feel to know you cannot point to any one single nation-building accomplishment? No crowning achievements. No names to stand out and go down in history, except maybe with the label 'mos…
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A Breakdown of The Romanian Consumer Market

Much the same way in which politicians are not the only problem in Romania, because there are voters on the other side of that coin, the businesses that thrive despite their sub-par products or services tend to survive only because they continue to retain customers who, in their ignorance, sustain a sub-standard offering.

Romanian businesses have come a long way over the past several years. Owners are now looking outwards and willing to invest (a bit) in branding and marketing, they make an attempt at differentiation beyond the price point, and they at least pretend to pay lip service to the notion of customer service. The resulting increase in competition has left the businesses who do not adapt in an an existential limbo, with an archaic business model focused on being everything to everyone but in reality being nothing to nobody.

I say that these business are in a limbo because they continue to exist while, in developed markets, most would have died out long ago. We can credit thei…

A Guide To Importing Your Belongings and Vehicle Into Romania

Jennifer reached out with some suggestions for new blog posts and I thought, why not have a guest blogger? Her post addresses several questions I've already received from readers and will be helpful to anyone who is looking to make the same move I made years ago. It is a well sourced guide, but keep in mind that when it comes to bureaucracy in Romania there are usually alternatives and variations to the process on a case by case basis.

Jennifer Bennet loves to travel and to write when she travels. She also enjoys reading and a simple life with few belongings.
Here is her guide to importing your belongings and vehicle into Romania.

Smârdan Street in Bucharest,
Source: Ștefan Jurcă via Flickr

There aremany reasons to make Romania your new home, when looking to change your country of residence. Romania offers free or nearly free healthcare to foreigners, as long as you work within the country. Crime rates are also quite attractive, with the capital city of Bucharest enjoying a rating as…

"Crucify Me" - A Conversation With a Romanian Politician

We were celebrating a friend's birthday in a rented log cabin on the banks of Lake Tarnita when I met Steve (not his real name). Steve was well dressed, in dark coloured slacks and a white button up shirt with cufflinks. It's only worthy of mention because I found it overly formal for a cabin get-together where the principal activities were eating, drinking, and karaoke, but to each his own. He'd kept to himself most of the evening, but then he came by the kitchen-counter/bar where I'd gotten comfortable with a bottle of Ballantine's and we got to talking, initially about travel.

"If I could live anywhere in the world I'd move to Costa Rica." Steve said.
"Why there?"
"Nice, peaceful country. The weather's perfect. And it's far away from here."
"And you'd leave Romania for good?" I asked.
"Oh yeah, this country is done for."
"How about the future?" I asked, just to be philosophical.

In Memoriam: Doina Cornea

In the summer of 1988, my mother took me along on a trip to Cluj.  My recollections are vague; the giant 'Mathias Rex' statue in today's Unirii Square (back then known as 'Libertatii -freedom - Square'), excitement at taking the tram and the bus, an oppressive summer sun beating down on the city.

But I also remember a small leafy street, mom holding my hand tight as she pushed past a small gate into a little yard, and the affectionate welcome we received from her former French Literature professor, Doina Cornea.

I knew there was an element of danger to the situation though what I understood about it is uncertain. What is certain is that they left me outside to play, while they went to speak inside a walk-in pantry. I later understood they had gone into the pantry because there were no microphones there.

At the time, I did not associate microphones with singing and live music. I understood microphones to be small, hidden devices, planted inside people's homes by…

10 Things Romania Does (A Bit) Differently - Part 2

Most lists don't begin at number 6, so if you want to start at the beginning, head over to Part 1.

6.  The Clothes Dryer
The mighty clothes dryer, a staple appliance in just about every North American home, is essentially non-existent in Romania. While it isn't suspiciously regarded as a harbinger of death, as is the A/C unit, it takes up a lot of space and consumes plenty of energy, both of which come in short supply relative to Romanian preferences. Besides, if everyone had a dryer, then balconies, clothes lines, and drying racks would take up space for no good reason, and doing the laundry would be an all too efficient endeavour (generally considered bad taste in our neck of the woods).  Of course dryers do exist, usually on a steam-drying system, sometimes in a 2-in-1 washer/dryer combination (which requires no external vent or filters), but it's nonetheless a long-forgotten luxury for many a nostalgic expat.

7. Sidewalk Parking
I could write several blog posts about pa…

10 Things Romania Does (A Bit) Differently - Part 1

A few days ago, after walking into a grocery store, I couldn't help noticing I was in a state of trepidation. The reason? I'd walked in with my gym bag, purposely avoiding the security guy at the entrance. I felt his eyes must be following me and that a loud, "Hey, you!" would ring out the moment I turned into an aisle.

It turns out that the longer you live somewhere, the more you get used to it. A truism, of course. What is not immediately apparent is that this isn't necessarily a good thing, especially when you find that you've become used to something you may have found, at some point in the past, in another place, entirely unacceptable.

This is why, now that I've crossed over the honeymoon period of my move to Romania, I find my enthusiasm for life here wanes when, for the 286th time, I  am forced to walk into a supermarket through the designated entrance point, even if an empty checkout is much closer and no less accessible. Then, upon entry, a grump…