A land of adventure: From culture shock to local fabric

Newsroom 04/03/2008 | 17:53

Although I wasn't exactly thrilled by what I saw during that first visit, at least it was hot, a nice change from the dreary weather back home. But Bucharest in winter wasn't pretty at all and I started to wonder whether I had made the right decision. Fortunately, I met some great people here that helped me to get over the culture shock in these first months. There were first of all my new Romanian colleagues at Sanoma Hearst Romania, who introduced me to Romania and the city. I was immediately impressed by their hospitality and openness towards foreigners like me. They showed me the few hot spots in town (remember Salsa?), but also back then exotic places like Vama Veche and, of course, the Carpathian mountains. And bit by bit I started to discover the city and to appreciate it. It is funny, in a way, but it seems to me now that the uglier a city looks at first sight, the more you start to appreciate the little gems you discover along the way. Probably this is one of the reasons so many expats decide to prolong their stay in Romania. Another side effect is that the expats that remained shared a common appetite for adventure and a certain easy-goingness that I still find very attractive. I mean, where are the days that you could ring up a few friends to invite them for a barbeque that very evening? Or a Friday afternoon last minute decision to leave for Vama Veche and return to the city early Monday morning? Those were the days…
A lot has changed ever since. Yes, we grew older and as a consequence our lifestyles have changed. But also the city has changed dramatically. In the early days I was mainly doing business with foreign owned companies. Now a lot of my clients and suppliers are Romanian. And we became more Romanian ourselves! Most of us now master the language to some extent, with the exception of a few die hards. Quite a few of us now even have Romanian family and have become part of the local fabric. And also the feel and the look of the city has changed dramatically, unfortunately not always for the good. Yes, a lot of buildings and parks have been renovated and the streets are getting better. But with a much needed increase in purchasing power also came some Western-style issues. Traffic has become horrific, due to an exponential increase in the number of cars and a total lack of city planning. But, more importantly, the mentality has changed, at least in the big cities. Nowadays, it only seems to be about making (more) money, the next (bigger) car, the next (bigger) investment project. Of course, investment opportunities are plenty and we all benefit from it, one way or the other, but it seems to me that along the way we have lost our ability to enjoy life with little means. There are a lot of fancy restaurants, bars and clubs you can go to nowadays, but the number of home parties and barbeques seems to have dwindled alongside. We all
know this is the price we have to pay for “progress”. But it also reminds me that “more” isn't always “better”.

By Peter Jansen

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