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How To Love Romania Like A Foreigner

It's no secret that foreigners in Romania tend to have a much better opinion of the country than its native inhabitants. This, of course, goes for almost anywhere else, but it really stands out in Romania. It's easy to say that it's the novelty that attracts foreigners here. When you visit a new country, your senses are assaulted by new experiences and the more unpleasant bits of a trip get washed away by the euphoria of discovery. This doesn't explain what makes people stay though.
My experience, and that of others who've made the move to Romania, is that the initial appreciation doesn't need to depreciate as long as you follow these four simple rules.

1. Look at solutions, not just the problem - We all know that Complaining (with a capital C, yes) is a beloved pastime in Romania. It's normal to complain, humans do it all the time and it can be therapeutic. The secret to effective complaining is in splitting the discussion into the bitching session and the solution session. Steps below:

a) Identify the problem.
b) Bitch and moan about the problem
c) Vent your frustrations some more
d) Suggest some solutions to the problem.

Here's an example in script format.

(A group of [F]riends in a restaurant. Although they are sitting in the non-smoking section, the smoke from the room next door is making its way to their table.)

F1 - This smoke, can't stand it anymore. (waves hand in front of face as if to clear the air of smoke)
F2 - Yeah, it's like nobody in this country has heard any of the evidence over the last forty years that explains how harmful smoking is.
F3 *coughs*
F1 - Nope, they refuse to believe. This is ridiculous though, completely ruins your meal.
F4 - And your clothes!
F2 - All it takes to change the law, is for one of the people who works in a place like this to sue for getting lung cancer. That's how it happened in Canada.
F3 -  It'll be years before that happens here! The EU will enforce a ban before that.
F1 - Okay, what if there was a website that tells people where you can find non-smoking places in Romania?
F2 - Yes! Great idea. And it should rate the level of clean air. Like this place says it's got a non-smoking section, but we may as well be sitting in the next room.
F1 - Exactly, this would get one star or something.

And that's kind of how was born.

2. Appreciate the authenticity - In Romania you meet a person, you start talking to them, and in the next five minutes you know their life story. This is a lot more interesting than "nice weather we're having". Also, when was the last time you ate fresh feta straight out of a shepherds lunch basket (One of the best videos on the foreigner's experience here, with my buddy Sam. The part I'm talking about is at around 8:20, but well worth watching the whole thing). And yeah, freshly mowed lawns smell great, but if you want perfect decor outside, you might as well get a Persian carpet and lay it out front. Grass is meant to grow wild and your yard should be full of things that grow. Also, food should be natural, and in Romania it still is, for the most part.

3. Get involved - Remember those huge Rosia Montana protests? Without taking away from the dedication of the local organizers, I do want to point out that the movement as a whole, was initially started with the help of a feisty activist named Stephanie Roth -obviously not a Romanian. During the protests, one of the most vocal people was a Norwegian-Canadian who now lives in Cluj. He created some videos and was very active in promoting the cause.
There is also this lady I came across on twitter. She's a British expat who's moved to a village in northern Transylvania.  I don't know her, but I find what she's doing for her community is very admirable and I'm certain her involvement in the community makes her feel good. And accomplished.
Without ever getting involved, nothing does change. It's that whole Be The Change philosophy. It's the only way. There is no magic button.

4. Appreciate the good things - Here are some things I love about living in Romania. I think they're all taken for granted by most Romanians.

a) Great internet service: Other than Google Fiber (available in three cities only), internet in North America is a joke. Your average package costs about $70/month, it's slower than the most basic package here, oh, you also get a usage cap of  around 150 GB per month. Sounds fun doesn't it, pirates? Here are a couple of packages in Canada and one from Romania (no usage caps, of course).

b) The outdoors are amazing. You got cool stuff like mountain villagescave systems, and this thing. There's also the Danube Delta and the Black Sea coast that offer moments of magic.

c) The wine is really good. Holds its own against French or Italian wine good. Too bad it's so poorly marketed outside of the country that it forces foreigners to buy cases here and ship them back home - I met a French guy doing just that in a local wine shop.

d)  Don't think I can repeat this enough. Natural tasting food. It's extremely common to meet people who don't like tomatoes in Canada - it's because they've only ever eaten the tasteless, plastic, supermarket tomatoes. Same goes with apples, peppers, cucumbers, cheese, honey, and pretty much any product that is made, or grows, locally. I don't know how long it'll still last, but I know I'm going to enjoy every bit of it while it does.

e)  No last call in bars/clubs: This might not seem like a big deal, but if you want to go out and have a proper party, trust me, a time limit puts a real damper on things. You haven't partied till you come out to meet the sunrise. This is every weekend in Romania (every day @Janis  for those who know). This is also never in Canada.

I often hear, "Foreigners and their foreign money love Romania, but it's not the same when you're a Romanian with a Romanian salary." Point taken. When, and if, that's the case. But let's be honest, this doesn't apply to every Romanian. Neither does it apply to every foreigner. It's a very escapist generalization that only propagates the myth that we're powerless to do anything about the fate of our own country.

I'll leave you with this question: Out of the four rules above, which of them are exclusive to foreigners with foreign money?


  1. So Matt ... or is it F2? :P Nice to see the positive vibes, keep it up!


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