I bid adieu to Bucharest at the end of January. I must say it has been one of my most unforgettable moment of my life. Never before have I dreamt of living in an Eastern Europe country but my study has given me this opportunity.
If you’ve been reading my Bucharest posts and also Aga’s guest post on Bucharest, you will know that Bucharest isn’t exactly a pretty city in which you will fall in love immediately. Even after I left the city I was still unsure whether or not I disliked it. There were certainly times when I hated it so much I couldn’t stand it, but there are also times when I think “hey it’s not so bad after all”.
When someone says that they have a bad news and a good news, I always want them to start with the bad one so that somehow the good news will cover the bad one. So I will start with the nays of Bucharest.
I lived in a university dorm, I was living in a dorm for a year in France and it was fine apart from the fact that it was only 9 squared metres, my dorm in France was surprisingly quiet given that it had hundreds of students living in it, despite a few drunken shouts it was a great place to live and study. In Bucharest however, my dorm was in between two clubs, let’s just say my piece of silent heaven was in my sleep…with earplugs. After a while you get used to the music thumping almost every night and my head phone was my favourite friend.
Often I had no heater or hot water…sometimes for 3 days in a row, yes guys, 3 WHOLE days when it is snowing outside with freezing minus-who-knows-what weather! This is probably the most annoying thing about living in a dorm. Whenever I ask the dorm manager why it’s off, her response would be “I don’t know”, well that was helpful.
When travelling alone to the city centre, I was completely fine and felt safe until an old drunken man tried to flash me his you-know-what as I was waiting for my friend Sunday morning. There were other people near me but somehow they didn’t see what was happening or chose to completely ignore me. As I ran back down to the metro station, this man started chasing me and after 10 minutes of hiding in the crowd, he decided to leave. I felt like I was in a cheap action movie. This story can happen anywhere else in the world, to me in happened in Bucharest, which made me a lot more cautious. It didn’t stop me from going to places by myself, I was just more cautious.
If you are from a third world country, studying for more than 90 days in Bucharest then for sure you will need to take get a residence permit. This means you have to go to the immigration office. For this, I advise you to take a friend for moral support. I went to the immigration office 4 times: 2 times the lady behind the counter was extremely rude, one time they shouted at me and there was only one time when the lady said nothing, which in this case is counted as polite. I think that immigration office everywhere is more or less the same, but I have to say I was shocked by the rude attitude. I was taking my residence permit due in that day, and they told me it wasn’t ready and I wanted to get a statement letter as I needed it to process my next study VISA. She arranged a date and time, which was exactly the same as one of my exams at the university, the same exact time (of course right?!). I tried negotiating for an earlier time but obviously she did not care and instead shouted “I don’t care” several times. It was a very frustrating moment for me, but luckily my teacher understood and gave me an exception. Again, if you need to go to the immigration office, bring a friend.
And my last piece of complain: the post office. Near my dorm, there is a post office with extremely nice people who speak English. However, I wanted to send a package to Singapore and they couldn’t do that so I had to go to the central post office. Look, I don’t speak Romanian, I know a few words only and it was kind of foolish to go to the post office without bringing a Romanian-speaking friend which I have been warned before. After being confronted that I should be able to speak Romanian since I was living there by one of the staff, a really nice stranger helped me and was kind enough to translate the document I was given. I guess a part of it was my fault for not preparing myself for this. You can see also that there are really nice genuine people and also rude people anywhere, so you really can’t generalize a place.
Despite the fact that I experienced some bad moments, there were also some really nice, unforgettable ones too. Like the time I spent Christmas in Brasov. Surrounded by the Carpathians mountains, Brasov was fairy-tale like. I experienced a warm and welcoming hostel with extremely nice, local people who ran the hostel. They even made us Christmas dinner with traditional Romanian food.
I was awed by the beauty of Bran castle and its surroundings. It was an amazing time for my friends and I to spend the holidays. The locals were friendly and tried their best in explaining when we asked for directions – it was amazing.
I could also never forget the day my teacher told us to finish 30 minutes early so we could go sledging behind our school. That day it was snowing rather hard and we could not stop shivering from the cold. Behind our school there was a rather big hill, our teacher decided to take us sledging since none of us has ever experienced it. I was giddy and full of excitement.
And in Romania, the selection of food is amazing. Romanian food is both delicious and homy. Not only did I taste the local food, I also tasted other cuisine from all over the world like Indian, Lebanese, Arabian, Chinese…and all were so good that I came more than once to each restaurant. The best thing apart from the taste is the price: cheaper than I would spend in France.
In the night, down at the old Lipscani street, Bucharest seems different with a great party vibe. The Romanians know how to party hard and they will just show you how every weekend. The only problem with me was that I hated the smell of smoke inside the clubs and bars, it was very annoying. I think without it, it would just be perfect.
Romania is a great country, it’s worth visiting especially the Transylvania region which has unspoilt nature. However, I found Bucharest to be a challenging place to live in. I found it really hard to connect with people working at the immigration and post office. Although having to live in quite a few countries already, these things can really happen anywhere because after all it’s not about the country, it’s about each individual.
One thing I regret in Bucharest was not being able to explore more. I wish I could but I was there to study (that was my main goal!) and my assignments kept piling up into a big ball of work that I couldn’t get out much during my last month of staying there. But hey, I might be back in the future. There are still places I want to see: Rasnov, Sibiu, Sighisoara.
For me living in Romania was like being on a rollercoaster. It’s exciting, every day there was just always a story to tell, an adventure. It kept my adrenaline running. I might have left a little piece of my heart in Romania, so I guess there’s more love than hate. I hope to see you again Romania.
What do you think? Would you live in Romania?