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10 More Reasons Romania is Better Than America


I get it. The US is special. I hate to say it, especially as a Canadian, but it is.

But it's mostly special because of the America that it used to be. The idea of America is special.

There was, once, an American Dream within the reach of any hard working man. It was a country that offered unprecedented freedoms and opportunities unmatched by any other. The great melting pot was about inclusion towards one common goal, it was not divisive, individualistic and driven by a Bergeron-esque vision of 'equality'. Assets were not based on decades-long lines of credit, and salaries kept up with cost of living increases. I could go on about 'the way things used to be' but you can look it all up if you're interested. If you live there, you should be.

The reality in America is different now.

Sure, it's still the land of plenty. But the plenty is not all good. Plenty of debt, plenty of poverty, plenty of obesity, plenty of civil unrest coupled with plenty of heavy-handed policing, equals plenty of uncertainty and plenty of reasons why other countries might now be better than America. One can't help but feel that it's all hanging on by a few delicate threads in the hands of the same psychopathic bankers who helped crash the economy in 2008.  

The last 'Romania vs. USA' post, published back in 2012, is the second most read post on this blog (check the sidebar). Could be the title has something to do with it. Outrageous, isn't it? But while I kept it light the first time around, the comments section is anything but. There is a lot of emotion there.

Still, the points I made are valid even today. But with this post, I'd like to let some of the readers have their say.

Here are ten more reasons Romania is better than America,  as inspired by comments from the original post.

1. Kids can have a better childhood in Romania. They have the opportunity to entertain themselves with their own imagination. It's not about socially constructed play dates and parent driven, kid-friendly activities. For children, the magic of childhood is the self-discovery that occurs at that happy crossroads of minimal supervision and the freedom to explore. By and large, it's still safe enough for kids to discover life on their own in Romania. It's not for nothing that Romanian children were found to be the happiest in the world.

2. For the equivalent of $5 USD you can get 15lbs of fresh fruit and vegetables at the market. Check it out, I calculated for a kilogram each of tomatoes, peppers, onion, potatoes, carrots, apples, and plums. I'd also have enough left over for a loaf of bread. Needless to say the fruit/veg in question is usually organic, grass-fed, homegrown, etc..whatever word you prefer for 'natural'. You can't get that anywhere in the US. While many Romanians love to say that prices in grocery stores match western prices, it's simply not true. When it comes to buying the basics in Romania, these are always a fraction of the cost in countries that use dollars or euros.

3.  You don't have to live your life at the mall. One reader explains: "you can listen to classical music at the Philharmonic in most cities for $3 to $5 a ticket! Can't beat that - my son and I have been to 100 concerts in 5 years here. All superb." Don't forget UNESCO sites throughout the country.  It'll be another thousand years before anything in the US has the same cultural/historical significance. As for museums, concerts, and the cinema, you'll never pay more than $10 for an entrance to anything.

Which bring me to...

4. In the US everything costs money, and if it doesn't you're conditioned to believe it's not worth doing. Simple things like reading on a park bench, going on a hike, cooking dinner with family, or working on your vegetable garden are often seen as quaint eccentricities, throwbacks to life in the early twentieth century. In Romania, these are the most affordable and the most enjoyable of activities for the average person.


5. One recent comment on the original post makes some very hard-hitting points. It's written in Romanian and translating it all could be a post of its own. This is not so much a reason why Romania is better than America, as much as it's about debunking a common myth. I want to be very clear on this: you cannot live "a decent life" in America, on minimum wage, any more than you could in Romania on minimum wage. I know Romanians love salary comparisons, so once and for all, let's do the math:

A) The average minimum wage in the US is $7.95/hr.

B) At 40 hours a week (if you're lucky enough to get those kinds of hours as a part-timer), you're looking at about $1,200/month before tax.
BB) If you're a full-timer with an annual salary, the average entry-level salary is 15k-30k/year (once again, before tax) so on the high-end that's $1,800/month, net.

C) You will need to commute to work. The term 'walking distance to work' is basically fantasy if you live in the USA. Public transport is extremely unreliable and unfriendly compared to Europe. It's also not cheap but cheaper than owning a car. You're looking at spending at least $100/month. You'll also spend a lot of time on it, so if you subscribe to the "time is money" dictum, don't forget to calculate that opportunity cost.
CC) A car costs, on average, $9000 a year. That's $750 a month. So now, as a debt ridden university graduate (or, as a Romanian immigrant just starting out and looking for the American dream), you've got  $1,000 left out of which you need to pay rent, buy groceries, and live the American good life.
CCC) Okay, you've thought it over and you just can't afford the car. Have fun busing it or taking the subway, where, in addition to wasting a lot of time, you have a very high chance of being robbed or assaulted during your long commute to and from work. That's what you get for not having a high enough salary to buy the car. 

D) Average rent across the 50 states is $1,117/month

(Now that we've seen this figure, let's agree that the minimum wage earner, at about $1,000/month, cash in hand, is already out of the running for this comparison. My advice for anyone in that income bracket is to get acquainted with food banks, 46 Million people in America rely on them. Also, I highly recommend you don't move to America if that's the work you're looking for. From here on in, we're going to continue with the entry level earner who makes $1,800/month)

E) You didn't buy the the car (which, by the way, on your $30k salary is only affordable after scrounging for many months and after building up a credit history)  so you've got $1,700 left after paying for the bus pass. 

F) Rent: You decided that you can't afford the average $1,000/month rent cost, you need to go under. If you live in a big city that's at least $800/month though, including the roommate. You won't like the way your place looks, nor the area, maybe not the roommate either, but there is grocery shopping and a couple of other things to worry about, so for the $900 you have left over you're willing to overlook the more unpleasant parts of this American dream experience.

G) Groceries: Let's say that's about $300/month, so you've got another $600 to go.

H) Connectivity: You're going to want a phone and the internet. Bad news is that the internet is going to be a lot slower than what you're used to in Romania. Your bandwidth will also be capped, so no downloading torrents please (also you can get sued for doing that). Anyway, the phone, on average, will cost you $73month, and the internet is about the same. That leaves you with $450.


I) We know you're going to be spending money for lunch. For a bottle of water here, a pack of gum there. These incidentals will cost you at least $250/month. You'll think that it's much less and that you can afford it, until you find yourself a week before payday with $20 in the bank. 


J) It's not American dreaming if you're not American living. That means you're going to do after work drinks maybe a couple of times a month lest you're shunned as anti-social by your colleagues (who are going through the same struggles you are, mostly).

This was all to say that, when you compare the financial struggles faced by somebody on an entry level salary in the US and Romania, there is no significant difference. In fact, you're actually worse off if you're an American in the above scenario. You don't have an entry-level job in America, even a poorly paid one, without a university degree. Attached to that degree is a student loan that you're going to be paying for many years to come. Speaking of loans, I didn't even bring up credit card loans. Which you will have, otherwise you don't have a credit score and therefore no credibility, and therefore you're going to have a very hard time buying a car or renting a place (neither of these is a problem in Romania). Oh, and God forbid something happens to you and you need a doctor....

6. Everyone is entitled to free health care in Romania. Indeed, the rural hospitals are terrible, and if you draw up a list there are probably more cons than pros about the Romanian healthcare system, but it's there and they will take care of you. And you won't be destitute after. This puts you a step up on any American who's had to visit a hospital without health insurance. By the way, any comprehensive health insurance plan starts at around $400/month in America. I should've added it to the cost of living calculations at #5, but then I couldn't have written points I and J, and what kind of life would that be?

b) This video is a great primer on the facts of American healthcare. If you don't watch it, at least consider this: "The average hip replacement in the USA costs $40,364. In Spain, it costs $7,371. That means I can literally fly to Spain ($827 return trip), live in Madrid for 2 years ($24,000), learn Spanish, run with the bulls, get trampled (all free), get my hip replaced again ($7,371), and fly home for less than the cost of a hip replacement in the US...It's crazy, but it's true"  

7
. Romanian internet is better than American internet. Basically wrote about this at #5h, above, but I want it to be loud and clear. In the 21st century, unlimited, high-speed internet is just as important as highways.

8. The fear of terrorism and gun crime hasn't made the entire country go crazy. People in the US are scared of each other, scared of anything that's not made official by law or by mainstream media acceptance, and nowadays, scared of any kind of contrarian thoughts and opinions. It's a fear based society, period (and this also goes for Canada, by the way).

9. Romania is better because its schools don't need to be labelled 'Drug Free/Gun Free Zones'.

Disturbia, USA
10. Romanians are better educated. Well, this may be a bit of a stretch, I'll admit, but let me qualify this. The comment in the original post said that, as opposed to Americans, Romanians have to "cram a lot of knowledge in their heads" because that's how they can escape poverty. I'm guessing that's what the poster, who is likely a twelve year old (based on the writing I hope it's a twelve year old) meant to say. What I am sure about is that, by and large, a Romanian with a high school diploma will have a better grasp of the basics of science, math, geography, and the humanities than your average American.

11Intellectual pursuits are still respected in Romania. Intelligence is appreciated and stupidity is laughed at, as it should be. Intelligent people are still celebrated and their opinions are valued. This article does a good job of explaining the reverse in the US, the Asimov quote stands out, in particular: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." (Italics, mine)

What it comes down to, really, is this last point.

Everything wrong with America today follows from the ignorance that permeates all classes of American society. The poor are too ignorant to realize they're trapped in a cycle of poverty and that they're not getting out even if they get a second or third minimum-wage job, as they're encouraged to do. The opportunity to get that third job is made to look like a good deal. The middle class is too ignorant to see that the government doesn't ever have their interests at heart and that rampant consumerism and endless distractions will never get them out crippling debt. Instead of addressing these huge problems, they spend their political energy on non-issues like 'equality'. The rich, well, these issues don't concern the rich very much, do they? Best (worst) of all, many Americans think that they are still world leaders in democracy, economy, and cultural values. Is this true?


On a final note, I understand that the term 'better' is shallow. What I want to point out is that when people say "America is the best country in the world" or, inversely, that Romania is the worst, they likely haven't taken a single one of these points under consideration.

Comments

  1. Please don't spread lies.
    Our "free" heath care is not free as in we rarely have funds for your medicine and food in hospital, you will always have to bribe the surgeons if you want to get in line and get that surgery and the chances are you will die anyhow before that because we have almost no skilled doctors.
    Just google how many fund raising campaigns are out there for kids and people from Romania that need to get money to go to another courty to get treated there because we don't have the doctors here that know to do set procedure.
    So if anything I would say, yeah romanian's heath care is good if you are dirt poor an you get the state paying for you, but for the working class and higher up it's appalling. For the middle class and higher up it's most likely they get misdiagnosed and/or killed in our public heath care.
    Oh and also for the doctors that have to stay in the public system, are paid crap and stuck just to get the degree while majority of their bosses and teachers are communist phlegmatic surgeons that see people as cattle and won't look at anyone w/o a bribe.
    Why not fire them? - Well you can't. The whole union helds protection for them and it's only role is to keep them in power while rooting the others that they are paid crap. We have surgeons that cut a patient's penis off intentionally and did zero days in prison! So yeah, accountability in the public sector is zero!
    At least in the american system I know if I pay I get to live, ok it's expensive, but you are alive! In Romania you aren't!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing I wrote there is a lie, please stop with the drama.
      I even made a point of saying there are many problems with the Romanian healthcare system. It's absolutely shocking in some cases and I agree with most of your points. At the same time, people DO get free healthcare here. You can get brain surgery and the ensuing recovery care in a state hospital without anybody expecting you to pay a cent. I know this first-hand.

      As for the need to go to another country I'll say this: If you go private in Romania you'll get treatment just as good as anywhere in the EU, problem is that people think this is still the 90s and that they need to leave Romania for any minor complication, even if they don't. But don't take my word for it: http://www.petreanu.ro/2014/12/18/o-tara-ca-afara-in-spitalul-european-polisano-din-sibiu/
      Anyway, that's another discussion entirely, it was not the point I was making.

      Bottom line, healthcare in America is a nightmare unless you can comfortably afford the insurance and any out of pocket expenses. And even then, plenty of people run into problems when insurance companies arbitrarily decide they won't provide coverage. Here's more on that fun aspect of American healthcare: http://lisabadams.com/2011/03/29/the-impatient-patient-getting-every-penny-from-health-insurance-companies/

      You make it sound easy, "If I pay, I'm alive". That's great. But what if you don't pay because you can't? I bet you'd save every penny for a flight to Romania and take your chances here.

      Delete
  2. #7 you didnt mention that I get 1Gbps for 15$. And no limit actually means no limit, not the US "no limit until you hit a certain limit and then we throttle".

    Hell, they even called me (the ISP) to ask me about suspicious activity on my account that one week when I filled 4TB of space with stuff. They didnt throttle, they just wanted to know everything is fine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup, good point. Didn't want to get that into it because the ridiculous speeds and cheap prices almost sound like an urban legend to non-Romanians who are basically still on 56k in comparison.

      Delete
  3. Point 2, Matt. You've given me nightmares with your 'grass-fed' vegetables and fruit. Seriously?

    I travelled right across Romania by train, and I don't remember seeing peaceful flocks of bananas grazing in the fields (although that might have been because of the snow rofl).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trust me, Leon, these Romanian veggies love their grass :D

      Delete
  4. Well it might be difficult to understand if you have never tasted Romanian countryside grown tomatoes, apples, melons, etc. I totally get you Matt. I haven't eaten a good strawberry ever since I left Romania. I've lived thru so many taste buds disappointments living in the West that just thinking about fruit became associated for me with a negative experience. I've practically given up eating fruit when in fact it used to be my favorite. Now I would sell my soul for a nice"domnesc" apple from my grandparents house in Salaj.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know exactly what that was like...

      Delete
  5. I think you have to take into account location. I live in Texas and it's quite different from other parts of the SUA. I lived in the Targu Mures area for almost 2 years and it's different from the large cities like Cluj.
    What I love best about Romania is the people. They're very friendly to me, warm up to conversation quickly and help me with learning the language. Maybe because I look like Mos Craciun. I visit with young people there for hours. They're knowledgeable, polite, respectful and don't act like morons.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, if you look like Mos Craciun you can even get a wife in Romania!

      And she also cooks :D

      Delete
  6. You make some good observations here (and I have to say some really bad generalizations about a country of 330 million people). But ultimately what is the point you are trying to make? That the U.S. is not the greatest country in the world?
    In the US, we have poverty, corruption, and woefully inept leaders, just like Romania. We also have a beautiful country, vibrant cities, and smart people who care a great deal about where the country is headed, just like just like in Romania.
    I think it’s fair to assume that many Americans think it is the greatest country in the world, despite the problems we constantly struggle to overcome. There is a great national pride here, and from what I understand (as well as observed when I have spent time there), that is something that is lacking in Romania.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fred, I see where you're coming from and I know that this reads like a big America bashing party. It's not what I'm going for, but it is necessary to make my point.

      I appreciate your comment because it shows how you have a very rational point of view on the pros and cons of life in both countries. Most Romanians do not. You also point out the lack of national pride in Romania. I've also brought this up in many previous posts.

      This post was meant to address both of these issues.

      Firstly, that there are plenty of reasons why moving/living in America is not a move to Nirvana (these reasons are often completely ignored based on the generalization that 330 million Americans are living the good life), and secondly, the widely accepted notion that there's nothing to cherish or to be proud about in Romania.

      I could have been more PC about it, but that's not what I was going for either. That said, I wasn't looking to offend and hope that I haven't.

      Delete
  7. Thank you this interesting post. Can you recommend any websites where expatriates like yourself discuss the clever (read: cheaper) ways to get from the United States to cities like Cluj? I really want to visit this summer but I have to be budget conscious, and the cheapest roundtrip ticket on seeing is over 1600 US dollars!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check prices from Canadian cities.
      Don't wait until summer to go.
      Try Budapest as a destination and bus/train the rest of the way.

      Delete
    2. I think you mean Bucharest. Budapest is in Hungary. :)

      Delete
  8. I often read your blog and enjoy it very much. People like you should get involved in a political project of national interest. Have you ever heard of Lista Nationala wich has just been registered as PLN (Partidul Lista Nationala)founded by the Brothers Coja:http://ioncoja.ro/doctrina-nationalista/partidul-lista-nationala-in-durerile-nasterii/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouragement ;)
      I'm like most other people here who can't stand the politics - won't touch it with a ten-foot pole. The problem is the bureaucracy, the mentality/attitude, and -most of all - the lack of competence.

      The system needs a wholesale shake-up from top to bottom. I agree it needs to start somewhere...I guess nobody really knows how to define that 'somewhere' as the 'right' somewhere.

      Delete
  9. Point 5 - Lacking comparisons to costs in Romania. :((

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Minimum wage in Romania (which is state approved) is roughly $250 for any random college graduate and that breaks down to $1.5 per hour on a work schedule of 160h a month.

      Delete
  10. I don't get why so many Romanians and U.S. Citizens (I'm not going to call them americans because they don't deserve it) are getting so butt-hurt in the comments, both to this article and the first one.

    First of all, to the guy that said he speaks perfect English, you made 3 mistakes only in the first row. Go back to school, friend. Or at least be more humble, your English is, at most, 9th grade level.

    Secondly, Romania and the U.S.A. are very different countries. Some things are way better in Romania, others are much worse. What's the problem? Does it hurt admitting it? Why? Ask yourselves these questions before publicly embarrassing yourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I mean... It's not all that peachy.

    You're listing a bunch of stuff that's great about Romania and ignoring all the bad aspects of it.

    Like it or not gypsies are a real problem, the slums they live in are comparable to Brazil's favelas in terms of quality of life, they're despicable and a lot of gypsies end up as criminals. A lot of very liberal countries are judging us for being extremely fucking racist but... you'll have your run in with them sooner or later.

    The Healthcare system is fucked and you're full of shit on that part. Most middle-income people would rather drive to Hungary to get medical attention because the doctors that are left in the country are either really really old or very unqualified. Most of the new doctors right now leave and work in Western countries because the doctors are not getting paid enough. Yeah I get it it might not be as bad as going bankrupt if you break a finger but it's still pretty bad.

    And your income comparison is again very very very bad. People in Romania literally can't live off of minimum wage, in the US they can. The only way I can see Romania being a viable choice as a country to live in is... if you get all of your income from the outside and you don't pay any taxes for it... and you're extremely anti social and would rather sit at your computer all day. You could do that just to save money. And I'm not even gonna get into how corrupt people are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've written plenty of posts about Romania's ills, so an "America is better than Romania" post would be terribly boring and unimaginative...Just like your comments.

      Delete
  12. And here I was, hoping the flurry of e-mails were commenting on my post. Sadly, it was the juvenile argument against whatever positive things were contained in some "10 Cool Things.." or some such harmless silliness.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Romania seems like an amazing country. I hope I can visit there someday. But I wish people would stop with all the "America is better" nonsense. The truth is we have fallen behind many other countries. I am young and I do want kids one day, I just don't want them growing up in America. It's not like it used to be. Maybe one day I can even move to Romania and open up a restaurant. It might have problems, but it seems to have far less problems than America. And no you can't live on minimum wage in America. Maybe you can scrape by if you're a young single college student, but that's all you'll be doing is barely scraping by.

    ReplyDelete
  14. The grass is always greener, Kayley...
    Many people think the solution to their woes lies in another land. I assume in saying this you've lived in 'recovering' countries. Like in America, unless you have an in-demand skill that makes you marketable to a major international company you will be living hand to mouth. The advantage is you will be living in a political disconnect, not understanding all the idiocyncracies of public life in your new home, which leaves you well-situated behind rose-colored glasses. Learn well the immigration and labor (and possibly drug) laws and learn well the laws that govern your presence and behavior.
    Of course, if you have major culinary skills, financing, and business acumen in an EU economy you could make a restaurant a go.
    Actually, I wish you the best of luck. I plan to move to Romania, but I have reasonable resources and contacts and plans.

    ReplyDelete
  15. No. I meant Budapest. Many tell me it is faster and easier to get to the western regions of Romania by travelling from Hungary. I haven't tried it myself, however.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The last time I lived in the US (Southern California) I met slews of twenty-somethings who worked sometimes more than three part-time jobs, couldn't afford a car so cycled everywhere (maybe no bad thing), lived with several roommates whom they disliked for the most part. When I asked them how they coped, they answered "I do a lot of drugs." (They weren't kidding either, as they offered me some.) Land of Opportunity? No more.

    ReplyDelete

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(Edit: In Romana mai jos)

Hello Matt,

Here we go again: Rosia Montana. I got involved in this project about four years ago. I had had phone interviews with radio stations in Bucharest; I published several articles in two or three magazines in Bucharest. I hosted, guided and loaded up with data and portable computer equipment one “Romanian explorer” as the Romanian media called her: Uca Marinescu. Perhaps the name rings a bell. Anyhow she never got back to me; there was no feedback, no follo…

Why Romanians Don't Like Romanians

To my knowledge, this national self-loathing is a uniquely Romanian experience. Maybe we share it with some of our neighbours, but I doubt it. I've never seen a people dislike their own as much as the Romanians.
This is going to be highly generalized, but as with most things I write here it's rooted in personal experience and observations. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

1. Romanians like the exotic, to be Romanian is the antithesis of what it means to be exotic.

2. Romanians are often prejudiced. The thought process goes something like this: If you're Romanian you're probably bereft of interesting experiences and financially limited. You're from 'the-worst-country-on-earth', after all. If  you're well off, then you're just a rich asshole (probably a thief, too). Either way, your Romanian-ness ensures you're seen as a person with limited horizons who likely can't offer anything new or different.

If you're Western European or Nort…