My Love-Hate Relationship with Romania

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”.

The Nays

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.

Kürtös kalács – originally from Hungary – is delicious!
The Yays

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.

Brasov from above

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?

58 Comment

  1. WOW! I had exactly the same adventure at the post office while sending things over to Spain where we were moving, I had to go to the central one (I mean is it the only European capital city where there is only one post office from which you can send a package to another country?) and similar with immigration office when applying for residency. To the no’s list I would add awful experiences when renting a flat… Long and sad stories in our case. Anyway, after almost 3 years after leaving Romania behind, I don’t regret the whole experience. BTW, how is your next destination treating u?

    1. Oh I also had problem with searching for a flat which was why I gave up and preferred the university dorm with less hassle and a lot cheaper. But I do get you!
      I don’t regret either! It was such a unique place to live isn’t it?
      Switzerland is treating me good so far, I love it here! 🙂

  2. Wow you had a lot of ups and downs in Romania! I’m sure you’ll look back on your time there and cherish the good and the bad parts – they make us who we are!

    1. I sure did and looking back at them, I just shake my head and laugh. It was frustrating at that time but now it just seemed like an adventure. Was not fun but I will always cherish them 🙂 And you are right Lilian, the experiences make us who we are!

  3. I think if I had the opportunity to live in Romania I’d make sure it was for less than 90 days.

    And Seriously … how can they expect people to speak their language fluently, so quickly? I know Romanian’s supposed to be a Romance language and you’ve been in France but even so, it’s no wonder you had difficulty learning it with all its Slavic influence. Cheers to you for sticking with it, that says a lot for you.

    1. I never regret living in Romania despite my problems, it was definitely challenging but I learn a lot from it too.
      Romanian itself is a great language I think, my Romanian friends did teach me some words but of course it was not enough and yes people do make silly comments but I think that’s just them being negative on foreigners!

    2. We,the Romanian people,aren’t asking foreigners who come to live in our country to speak fluently our language in a short time but this doesn’t mean that all the office working people have to learn english just to make your life easier.We always have to face this kind of problems when we’re going abroad and we don’t complain about that.People who learn english are doing this in case they need to go abroad,not to prepare for welcoming strangers. After all,our country is called Romania,not english-speaking-country-in-case-foreign-people-come-to-live-here.

      1. Hi Ionela, of course that’s totally understandable. Also in Indonesia, my country not everyone speak English. And as stated also, I find Romanians friendly too, I don’t know how many times I’ve been helped with strangers on the street :). Thanks for stopping by my blog!

        1. You’re welcome ! Congrats for all the travelling experience:)

          1. Aww thank you for the sweet words! I will come back to your country one day, it is too beautiful to be missed 😉

    3. Linda, they used to have intensive language courses there for foreign students until about 20 -25 years ago.
      The courses were so well designed (they took in between 3 to 6 months) that most African or Asian students (they had heaps of Vietnamese, Chinese, etc) learned basic Romanian in that amount of time, and lots of silly people probably do not know that method does not apply anymore and they behave stupidly with the students.
      This is not an excuse, I would be the last one to excuse them – I feel only compelled to explain in order to clarify a bit the situation.

      The Slavic influence in the language is far less than you think or rumors have it be, the language remains basically Latin rooted. The confusion lays mainly in about 50 words borrowed over the borders and the fact that due to the Orthodox religion the first Bible came via Russia using the Russian alphabet because the Russian alphabet is in fact the old Greek alphabet and Greek was the “French” of the Middle Ages in Romania. 🙂 The Bible was written then in Romanian but with the Russian alphabet instead of the Latin one.
      The Bible brought in few words but that has nothing to do with the essential Romance language Romanian is.

      You should also know that many foreign students studying for a degree there, must learn the language, it’s really hard to tell the difference between a short term student and one who’s been there 3 years. People expect most of them to be there for longer and know the language because most lectures are in the official language of the country as everywhere else.

  4. Uhmm…I guess Bucharest is not the friendliest city to live in, ya? But I’m glad you have some great times too 🙂
    I’m quite sure Switzerland will treat you much better. I had such a great year living there. The people were so friendly and helpful 😀

    1. Definitely not Deb! But it’s where the adventures are 😉
      Oh Switzerland, I am loving it! People are friendly and helpful and speaks English! Wonderful here 🙂

    2. There is no perfect world, no perfect life, no perfect people nor perfect places.
      However, Romania offer unique experience in all the ways…probably same as in …Asia?
      I am Romanian, been in so many countries but nowhere is like home, with the good and bad bits IT’S HOME!
      Maybe you should visit us sometimes and change your mind a little more about places and people.
      Cheers!

  5. Great article, I am born and raised in Bucharest and I know that you are right on the things you say.
    Bucharest is still a cold heart city that attracts many extremes in Romania, the postal and immigration office workers are typical communist era functionaries, still not reformed.
    I’m glad you enjoyed the clubs, the city is packed with students and they party a lot 🙂
    I think the street you mentioned in the article is Lipscani not Tuscani (named after the greeks that had shops on that street centuries ago).
    Regarding the clubs near your dorm, I know that a few years ago there was a debate about them and the students choose to keep them open 🙂

    1. Thanks for the approval 😉
      I really had a great time in Bucharest despite the obstacles. And oops! You are right it is Lipscani Street not Tuscani (what was I thinking!?), I love going to the old city for the weekends with my friends such a great vibe.
      I didn’t know there was a debate about it, but I would’ve disagreed or at least keep only one club 😉

    2. Thanks for the correction by the way, I corrected it 😉

  6. Hahahaha, you and your post office phobia 😀 I don’t know, the post offices in Eastern Europe are a place I find rather funny, but then again I have never urgently had to send important things from there. To me they are a relic of socialism, or of what I imagine socialism to have been like, a stereotyped version of all the grey unfriendly dullness that badly made Cold War propaganda would have sent to the West. Amusing! Apart from that, lovely post. Romania, as you know, is high on my list for I haven’t been yet, and there’s a reason. Romania I feel a bit different about than a lot of other countries in the area, I have a gut feeling that I will have to handle it with care. I cannot wait to go there though!

    1. Whoa Mariella! You describe Eastern European offices so nicely 🙂
      It is a country you should treat with care, but once you’ve seen it I’m sure you’ll be drawn to it for life.

  7. Great post Aggy! It’s all part of expat life, no? The whole push-pull between loving and hating where you are. I guess what determines whether you stay is if you have more loving days over ones laced with frustration, anger and “hate.” Sometimes I think it’s perfectly ok to come to the conclusion: “nice place to visit, but don’t want to live there.” I’d give Romania a go, for a trip at least, thanks to your posts. 😉

    Good luck with your fresh start in Switzerland! 🙂

    1. You’re absolutely right, at the end of the day I think Romania is a perfectly fine place to visit but to live there again, I would have to rethink. Perhaps living in Brasov would be a little better than in Bucharest. Then again, it’s the adventure of being an expat 🙂

      1. I know an Indonesian who still lives in Bucharest, he lived there since the Sixties as his wife was Romanian – so it depends what ties you up to a country and what not 🙂
        Later they divorced but he still stayed although he could have returned to Indonesia as he was single now – the power of habit I believe kept him put…

        Today I’ve read another travel blog where a 1/4 Romanian from Fiji (!!) made few comments! His grandad was Romanian! Imagine! In Fiji! There must have been some great love there – I suspect he must have been a sailor on the Southern Seas…or something like that to reach so far… 😀

  8. I have never been in Bucharest but it looks very interesting. Although it’s true there are rude and nice people everywhere in the world, it seems it made it all bit more difficult in Bucharest as there are still a lot of people not speaking English.

    1. Hi Freya, the young people in Romania mostly speak English. But yes in shops and restaurants, there are a lot who don’t speak English. It helps when you know a few Romanian words too, which was what I did, but obviously my range of vocabulary wasn’t enough to deal with post office 🙂

    2. You should know Freya that during the communist era, Russian was the compulsory language taught in Romanian schools and not English or French or German…as those were considered ‘imperialist’ languages by the communists.

      Starting with 1948 to late Sixties no-one was allowed to study any foreign language but Russian. Even Latin and Greek were forbidden for years. They even launched the fad that Romanian is part Slavic – it was a Russian machination in fact.
      That’s communism for you.

      There are delicate shades of historical facts that are not known well enough so that people can really understand certain things. It’s a bit more complicated than it seems to be at a glance.
      I know because I was born there and spent my youth there and it was really bad.
      That harm cannot heal in a generation or two, the country needs a big cleansing, meaning that few more generations of ex-communists and their children and grand-children need to be extinct and only then a turn-around will be possible.
      Unfortunately, the Eastern Orthodox Church in the vacuum following the fall of communism put a grip on the minds of the people, and that is not going to help for the better.

  9. Hey Aggy! It’s good to hear about you’re adventures in Romania! 🙂 You have been warned 🙂 Weeell done, anyway!
    What would be the first things that you would change there, if you could? I’m thinking to get back to Bucharest soon to continue my studies… What could we start with? 🙂
    Good luck in Switzerland and hope to hear from you soon!
    Alex

    1. Hi Alex! So good that you’ve found my blog 🙂 I would change the cold winter! You were right it is so cold there in the winter.
      I hope you will enjoy your time back home and also your study!

  10. It’s really interesting to hear both your good and bad experiences in one place. I find most people either fixate on all the good or all the bad. It’s nice to hear both sides of your experience living in Bucharest.

    I love the last photograph! Beautiful.

    1. It was definitely a great experience, now no longer living there, I really do miss it!
      I really like that picture too, looks so magical doesn’t it?

  11. like some of the people above, I am also Romanian. I live abroad for 13 years now and I must admit that I myself feel like a guest when I visit Romania, Bucharest included. “Like a guest” means in this case that degree of uncertainty, unsafeness when you are a foreigner. While you find warm and/or educated people, unfortunately the chances are high that you meet rude and aggressive specimens. That’s why I would recommend next time (if there will be a next time) you stay with a local most of the time. There are plenty of travel bloggers who, I’m sure, would be more than happy to give a tour of the city or help with practical details.
    English is spoken by most educated young people, but not at all common in post offices, administration, whatever …
    The bottom line is, in cities like Bucharest, more than anywhere else, a local means … gold! 🙂

    1. Oh I did find some friends while I was in Romania, and I have to say it was “gold” like you said. They were so nice to me and we still keep in touch until now! I really did have a great time there despite the disadvantages I had to go through.
      Will most definitely come again to Romania! Thank you for visiting my blog 🙂

  12. […] located somewhere downtown. I have recently read a couple of articles about the life as a tourist/visitor in Romania in general, and in Bucharest in particular. And I think I have a special […]

  13. Not sure if I could live in Romania. It doesn’t seem like the kind of country that I would like for a longer period of time. I’m very picky about where I live (that is why we’re traveling all over the try and find the perfect place to live) and I just don’t think Romania would be it 🙂

    1. It is definitely not for everybody (as in every country) but I would recommend you to visit the country, it is a stunning country with so many beautiful landscape and interesting history 🙂

    2. There’s no perfect place on Earth! LOL
      When I came to Australia I loved it to death. Now, not so much. Why?
      I’ve discovered there’s plenty of racism here and as the climate changes, it gets hotter and hotter every year and all of a sudden this is no longer the perfect place.
      It’s the same everywhere – first you hate the unknown, then you get comfy and love it a bit more every day, then you know it all too well and see the flaws too, then you realize no place on this planet is perfect. The same goes for people. 🙂
      Make the best of it – that’s the only way.

      1. I agree Deanna! You get used to it after a while and you just get the best of it and eventually you’ll oversee the bad 🙂

  14. […] My Love-Hate Relationship with Romania by DEW […]

  15. […] Nonetheless, it’s interesting to read the opinions of other travellers to see a few other angles, like the first impressions of Romania as experienced by Waegook Tom and the reason behind Aggy of Dream Explore Wander’s love-hate relationship with Bucharest. […]

  16. Glad to hear you had good experiences in Romania. As a traveler and Romanian myself, it always makes me happy to hear that. Come back!

    1. Hi Monica! Romania is such an interesting country and I sure will be back soon! 😀

  17. Hi aggy! I am a 27 year old kiwi girl looking to travel through Eastern Europe very soon, I have looked at many guide books and all the things there are to do in Romania fascinate me so I wish to go there. However I am a solo female traveller and I am a little worried for my safety – I plan to travel like a backpacker using public transport and staying in hostels. From your experiences in Romania can you please shed some thoughts on the safety of the country to travel through as a solo female traveller? Many thanks!!

    1. I guess it’s pretty safe to travel alone, places like Brasov is especially safe for solo traveller. Just like travelling alone to other places, trust your gut and make new friends along the way. If you don’t feel safe, I’m pretty sure you can find friends at the hostel that will be more than happy to come along with you 🙂

    2. Hi Kelly, I would warmly recommend you to get in touch with Romanian couchsurfing people just to get some tips for them about the city where you plan to travel and maybe they will offer their help to show you the city. Usually the couchsurfers are very open-minded and willing to help.
      Best of luck and enjoy your trip 😉

    3. Hi there,
      would you mind visiting this website please? I am sure you will love it.
      http://www.iloveromania.co
      REMEMBER THIS: in almost every country and nation in Europe ( at least ) you will find more nice beautiful places in the north than in the south ( Greece, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria..) and most of the Capitals are overpopulated, more stress and routine in most places, therefore more chances to find unfriendly stressed people.
      Like someone said above, in important places like immigration, police, court, even post office, is good to go with a local friend to help you out translating and showing you how is done @ first experience of its kind. Bare in mind that in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg and list goes on, people do not speak English much even they understand you, and that will be the best scenario. Come in UK, they speak English way too much and extremely incorrect, in special when they bring some racist comment laughing at you.

  18. Oh my Aggy, sorry about the post-office and all that…I don’t know if it would make you feel any better but, even Romanian receive the same type of treatment…and it drives us crazy too. Sometimes people just forget to be polite or understanding or God knows what… Just a tip for all of you, whenever you are in need just try asking the younger people for help. Most of them know at least one foreign language.
    @Ionela Balan: are you kidding me?!? Of course not all clerk people should know English, but may be it’s time to wake up and do something about it. We should facilitate and offer the opportunity to them to learn a foreign language,at least in the big cities (especially Bucharest!). Ohhh, and common sense and respect it’s not about language it’s just about being a human being and thoughtful about those around you. I know how it’s like to live in Bucharest and sometimes it makes your hair go grey when you need some bureaucratic work to be done. Best advice for the foreigners, whenever you need to complete such formalities, just ask the help of a Romanian 😉

    1. Hey Alex! I was so lucky that I always found someone to help me. You know even if people were rude to me at the post office, there were always some kind person who would stop and spare a moment or two to help me and I love that! I guess this kind of things happens everywhere. It would be nice if bigger cities such as Bucharest offer better facilities you are right, but until then I would still recommend Romania to people since it is a gorgeous country with so much to offer…and people do help! 😀

  19. I was curious about finding more of your favorite places in Bucharest. The cons were dead on. Going to the post office here is like a taking a step back to another century. And the bureaucracy is horrible. Did you get to visit Cismigiu Park? That’s one of my favorites. And let me just tell you, as a local, I absolutely dislike the old center, the prices there are ridiculous 🙂

    By the way, I laughed at “Bucharest and its artistic side”. Not sure if it was meant to be ironic, but I find that statue hilarious every time I see it.

    1. I went past Cismigiu park every week but never actually entered it (silly me!), perhaps my reason was because it was so cold that time! I agree with you about taking a step back to the century with the post office, it certainly felt that way!
      Oh, I should’ve written “artistic side” 😀

      1. It is indeed better to see it in spring or summer. I was working on a project of mine, taking pictures of places I actually like in Bucharest, but then the snow storm came and I have to wait for better sunnier days to finish it. 😀

        1. I would love to be back in Bucharest during Spring, I think it would give the whole city a different feel that what it gave me during its winter.

  20. Hi Aggi,

    I read about your adventures in Bucharest, my native city…:)

    First of all, the Central Post is definitely NOT the only post office where you can send a “colet”/ packet to another country…:)) I don’t know how you got this info, maybe your friends didn’t know about it…
    As for the English language not being spoken everywhere…well, this is what I experience now in Switzerland, in the German-speaking part. I had to adapt! Learn a bit of German etc.
    Some people in the service area are nice, some are not. Bucharest is a hectic place and people don’t have (any) patience, that’s the truth, so the chances to encounter rude people are higher…..as for the public servants in Immigration office…they would have been equally rude to Romanian natives! – this comes from communism, and it is something we have to work on a lot, to make the “authorities” respect the regular people because, after all, we pay them! Although I had to speak German at the Gemeinde, here in Switzerland they are at least more polite…
    Now, just keep in mind that many stupid rules/customs come from communism – a period when my country was very “closed”….so we still have to catch up with the West on many subjects.

    If you go back, ask some friends to show you around, it would be much easier!

    Best regards and congrats on your achievements,

    Camy

    1. Hi Camy! I was told about the post office thing by the guy who works at the post office nr my university. He referred me to this “central” post office.
      Of course I totally understand! I know some Romanian friends and so I do know more or less why they behaved that way. I also lived in Switzerland after Romania, but Zürich was a very English friendly city so I didn’t need to use a lot of German 😉 I thought Romanian was a very interesting country, I really did try to learn the language but my course was very full and I stayed only for 5 months – would’ve preferred to stay a little longer and get to know the language though. I did pick up some words to order food and say thank you, etc which helped me in some circumstances. Anyway thanks for stopping by!

  21. Harry Tambun says: Reply

    i’m so excited abt the story written by you about Romania. I’ve met with a couple of Romanian at Phuket when i was there on Jan this year. Both of them are so nice, and beautiful people. base by your story, luckily, i found the ones who can speak in english and we shared abt our own culture. and guess, they were so excited to come to Indonesia and u know, they kept their eyes on us, i mean our country. they told me about their next project abt conservation in North Sumatera, looking for Orang Utan and some species. wow, they put a lot of attention here. I bet, they have been in North Sumatera now, as they told me that they will do the project on April and it takes about 2 months. ah, i hope i’ll go to Romania one day, East Europe is one of the places that i want to travel then.

    1. Romanians are very friendly people! And Romania itself is a very interestinf country, I’ve not yet met any Romanians while in Asia, but your friends sound wonderful! Hope you do get to see beautiful Romania one day!

  22. Hey Aggy I would like to know have you ever visited the city named Iași in Romania? That city is far enough from Bucharest but still i found myself thirsty for Iași’s air ! 🙂

    1. I haven’t! There are so many places I need to see in Romania! Such a gorgeous country. I was really happy to be in Brasov for several days and it was definitely a breath of fresh air from Bucharest 🙂

  23. I’m a native Romanian and I’m ashamed by the immense ignorance of the public services. Oh, and of people like Ionela, who says that the ones working at the post office should not know English. Seriously? They are paid from my money (I pay taxes to pay them) and I would be proud if Romania would be a bit more multiculturally oriented. Bucharest sucks. It’s loud, smelly and ugly. We have other cities which are a bit more beautiful and worth living in.

    1. Sometimes I feel the same way of my hometown too 😀
      But you know as an expat living in Bucharest for a while, I gotta say it has some nice things too. I got to enjoy some Romanian culture and met some really nice Romanian locals.

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