Don’t worry LP editor! I’m not leaving for a couple months, but I have already started to line up some freelance work and travel for the summer and I’m beginning to realize all the things I’ll miss about being here. Off the top of my head…
Nice people: If you stay away from the post office, the police, hell just about anyone in a position of authority, Romanians are really wonderful, warm people. I’ve been helped out by countless strangers during my research and my friends are so quick to drop everything to give me a hand when I’m having trouble that I have to be careful what I say, lest they quit their jobs just to help me fix a flat tire. And it’s not just a social closeness, people here are very tactile, almost to a fault – the next person who absentmindedly crowds me while on line at the supermarket is going to get their toes stomped. Both men and woman are very touchy-feely. Women hold hands and hook arms while strolling down the street or loosely embrace while at a standstill and men are all handshakes and pat-you-on-the-back, even with strangers. Equally, people think nothing of standing front-to-butt while on line or conspicuously eyeing the action while you’re at the bank teller. Sometimes there’s just a little to much intimacy for comfort.
Yummy, cheap food and wine: Romanian food is usually quite simple actually, but it’s remarkably tasty and there’s plenty of it (unless you go to one of these newer restaurants that are toying with the nouveaux cuisine concept). The wine here and the stuff brought in from Moldova is the highest quality, most inexpensive wine I have ever encountered. A cheap bottle is about two euros. A great bottle is about four euros. Where else do you get that kind of deal? It’s just heaven.
File sharing network: This is arguably a shallow item to list here, but if you’re not aware, filing sharing in Romania isn’t illegal, mostly because they couldn’t get a handle on all the hackers here if they had 100 years to get it done. Indeed file sharing services, and the software to navigate it, is included when you buy internet service. You can get virtually anything; music, software, TV shows, movies… You won’t find the second season of The Jeffersons, but shows like Friends, South Park, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Desperate Housewives, Alias, anything recent, are available in their entirety if you look hard enough. MS software is often available on ‘the network’ before it reaches the shelves in the US. And movies? Forget about it! I downloaded a very respectable copy of “V for Vendetta” three days after it was released in the US and a DVD rip of King Kong the day after they hit stores. You really don’t need a TV in Romania with all this entertainment available for free.
Girls: The women here are gorgeous, friendly, down to earth and usually quite smart, particularly if you live in a huge university town like Iasi. And with current fashion trends dictating that everyone dress like they’re on vacation on St. Barths, I’m often just happy to sit on a bench and watch the beauty (and skin) parade by. It’s hell on my productivity in the summer. What can I say? I’m a dirty old man before my time.
Reduced materialism and commercialism: OK, admittedly, this is rapidly getting out of control and I fear Romania will be another US in a couple years, but for now materialism and commercialism is tolerable and that’s the way I like it. People know the value of money here (because they all get paid $hit), so there’s no pet psychiatrists, Beenie Babies or people who hire models to come and hang out at their parties. Sadly, every year this sentiment fades. Personal loans became available a few years ago and people who watch too much MTV are already living beyond their means, buying up fancy cars (even just a year ago, a BMW or Mercedes was something to see, now they’re everywhere, and God help me, I saw my first Hummer a few months back…) and a month’s wages are dropped on knee-high leather boots or 50 Cent brand pants that they won’t be able to wear in public a year from now.
I’ll stop here, but needs to be said that while I’m stressing out on bureaucratic messes and praying for the opportunity to punch out the next guy that leans on his car horn for no reason, I’m going to miss a lot things about Romania while I’m hightailing it out of here for a little quality time in a First World locale.