Tuesday, 23 October 2012


What is so good about Romania?

This is a question we are often asked. Why do three Brits want to come from the land of 'milk and honey' that Britain is perceived to be and come to a country like Romania?
How can we be that crazy?

The really sad thing is that the people who most ask us this question are Romanians themselves.

I don't think I will be able to explain it fully in words, it is a country that needs to be experienced by others from these more 'affluent' countries for it to be fully understood. It really is more about one's own feelings more than it is about simple logic, and maybe, not everyone will appreciate it. However most of the visitors we have had from all of these 'more developed' countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, and the Philippines have seen what we have seen, and they have felt what we feel. 
In our words they have gone home from Romania, with a Romania shaped hole in their heart's that can only be filled by returning one day.

I can also say, without a shadow of a doubt that what follows is not true of all Romanians. We have a number of Romanian friends who have returned home from other countries to settle back here with their families, and they are more appreciative now of the real truth of Romania by their own direct comparison, and they are very proud Romanian's.
There are also a small number of younger Romanian's who are also steadfastly proud of their country and demonstrate it by doing the simple things, like driving Aro's and older Dacia's, being satisfied with and proud of these older Romanian models rather than hungering for the BMW's and Mercedes that so many yearn for.

A lot of the younger Romanians we meet though express a wish to do nothing more with their lives than escape the country to the 'riches' of the West.
I have even heard one on Twitter recently who said they 'hated' this country.
Well we don't hate it, we love it, so when asked we give a simple answer, life here, at least in the place we live is 'Real'.

I honestly don't know what it is that young Romanians dislike so much about their own country, to me it is so sad, and it is as much a mystery as it is a mystery to them that we actually WANT to be here. 
I honestly can't explain why those Romanians show such a callous disregard for their country, particularly in the way a number of them are prepared to leave litter and spoil beauty spots here without worrying about what others coming along behind them will find. I am dismayed by those peoples lack of respect for their own country. I really don't understand it.
Maybe it's the lack of development, maybe it's the lack of decent roads, maybe it's the perceived corruption, maybe it's just the 'maybes' of a 'grass is always greener on the other side' way of thinking. 
Maybe it's as simple as the glamour and the lies of Hollywood movies that they have seen and believed in as they have grown up.
I simply don't know.
It may also be that these people believe what they hear from others who have returned after short stays in western countries with stories of the fortunes that they have earned. Stories that are quite simply lies, designed purely to make those people out as some sort of hero for going away and coming back 'rich'. Lies because in our experience many of them seldom do come back richer, they return to the same lives they had before they left, perhaps even worse off, living in homes that their families have fully owned for centuries, houses that their families actually built for themselves, and going back to scratching a living out of whatever they grow and can sell.
Any who do bring money back seem to use it up very quickly and go back to wishing to return to make more.

I honestly don't understand why these people can't just stand back and look at their country and see it for the beautiful place it is, so full of promise, with so much potential, and stay here and help to build it, not just for themselves but for future generations.
In our little way, I hope that we ARE doing it, I hope that we are helping to get the message out about how beautiful and how wonderful a country Romania is, particularly by comparison with the 'more developed' countries.

True, we also know a few who have actually returned with enough money to start their own businesses or to build themselves new homes, but they are very rare and only a very few.

When we are told by young Romanians what they hear from other young Romanians about what they have 'achieved' while they are away, we usually just smile and shrug our shoulders. We have learned though bitter experience that to try and refute these claims or explain the realities of this 'other' life is futile. Our words often fall on deaf ears simply because our audience doesn't want to hear the truth, they don't want to believe that there isn't something 'better' out there for them to go to. So, in a very Romanian way we often just shrug our shoulders and leave them to it.

We have tried, so many times, to explain that the greater amounts of money that these people believe they can make in 'more developed' countries also gets eaten up in higher costs for the ordinary things. How the costs of coffee, beer, cigarettes, food, rents, etc, etc are all so much higher and take a much greater lump out of the money you receive than they do here in Romania.
We know that salaries in Romania aren't very high, an average of 350 Euros per month for a teacher or a doctor for example. We also know that costs of living here are rising, but not as fast as in other parts of Europe or the UK. By comparison though, the basics of living here are still also much cheaper than other countries.
The net national debt is also much lower in Romania than in many many other countries and it wasn't all that many years ago that this country owed nothing internationally.

However all of this talk about financial comparison isn't answering my own question, it is merely arguing what I see as a mistaken point of view that so many young Romanians have.
So many of our friends and the volunteers who have been
here want to record their stay in this way, with their
handprint on the end wall of our garage.

Life here is 'Real'.

What does that mean exactly?

We live in a village, but we are close to a city, Deva. Most of the people of this village still live life from what they can grow and breed to eat, making money occasionally out of the surplus that they grow and by bartering with their neighbour's. We are beginning to do the same, we have fenced off an area of our large garden so that we can plant our own crops and this year it bore fruit, literally. We succeeded in growing 3 months worth of potatoes, a chest freezer full of cherries, onions we are still eating, our own garlic, and so many apples that once we had bottled about a ton, the only thing we could think to do with it was make cider! (not that I have any objection to that!). Next year we will start earlier, do even better and grow more, we may even get our own chickens for eggs. 
We might stop short of keeping our own pigs though, and yes we do sometimes hear a pig being slaughtered for meat in the village, but that is what 'life being real' is all about.
We also have neighbours, real neighbours. 
In the UK we had people who lived next door, but they weren't neighbours. They cared nothing for us or our welfare, they cared only about themselves, and yes, we did try to befriend them and show that we cared, but to no avail. When we did try we were greeted by an attitude that we were freaks and in one case outright antagonism, so like everyone in the UK does, we gave up, and lived our lives entirely separately from people who were only living a few feet away.
Families too in the UK aren't the close-knit groups they once were, family 'ties' are getting weaker as sons and daughters move on, move further afield. Divorce and family separation are also contributing greatly to this. I'm sure that all of this is as true in other 'Western' countries as it is in the UK, but it isn't so true here in Romania.
If we stay home for a few days and our neighbours don't see us, they call on us to see if we are OK, or they tell us off for not coming out when they do see us.
I know that if we needed help, we could go to our neighbours and get it. We wouldn't have doors shut in our faces and not everybody requires some sort of payment, they would do it because they are our neighbours and because they are our real friends.
It's also true of our friends who live in the city, if they don't see us they call us to see if we are OK, if they think we need help they offer it without being prompted in any way.
We get those offers from so many here, so many more than who would have genuinely meant it in the UK.
As a result we are prepared to do the same for them, whenever, and however we can.
Family ties are also much stronger here. At particular times of the year, particularly Easter and Christmas, sons, daughters, cousins, aunts and uncles gather from wherever they are in the world to be together at the family home. A phone call on the day doesn't suffice here, not on it's own anyway.
So, in a nutshell, that's what we mean about life being 'real', genuine mutual respect, genuine sharing, genuine neighbourliness (probably not a real word but it says what I mean), genuine unconditional friendship, genuine love.

Not a lot else I can say.
Anything that you would like to say?


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