"Here are the 7 wonders of the Romanian world: sunny days, hot temperatures, warm hearts, bright minds, colourful imagination, golden fields and delicious food!" - Michelle Rosenberg
“Why have you chosen to live in Romania?" or better yet, "What are you still doing in Romania?" As a Haitian-French foreigner, whether it be people I meet or people I already know, I’m asked these types of questions on a regular, almost weekly basis. Generally speaking, these questions are asked in a sarcastic tone, as if living in Romania wasn't a good enough choice. Surprisingly enough, the first to ask are often Romanian nationals, who commonly resent aspects of their country and history, and are surprised that anyone coming from the outside could actually find it attractive and want to stay.
As much as I can understand them, and regardless of all the pessimism I see and hear all the time here, I’ve decided to list ten reasons why I love living in this country.
1. TRUE CONTINENTAL CLIMATE
Having grown up on a tropical island for most of my youth, I've always been attracted to seasonal changes. - You want what you can't have, huh? - And Romania offers four very distinct seasons throughout the year. I love each of them, but I must say that winter is probably the most enchanting to me, offering several meters of snow combined with a dry, icy cold climate. Here, in Romania, I've felt temperatures ranging from -40°C in the winter season, all the way up to +40°C in the summer. You can only imagine the wide variety of sensations in between and throughout the year that this place has allowed me to discover and appreciate. Whether it’s building snowmen in the winter, the perfume of flowers blooming in the Spring, enjoying the seaside parties during a heated summer evening or the sight of Autumn leaves changing colors beautifully until everywhere you look is a beautiful shade of orange. Time and time again, year after year and despite the time I’ve spent here, I’m fascinated by nature's work.
2. BREATHTAKING NATURAL LANDSCAPES
Okay, let’s face it: Deforestation and wildlife extinction is a reality that one will face no matter where they are in the world. But in Romania, there are still so many wild and untouched nature reserves. The Carpathian Mountains offer a breathtaking natural landscapes that I could only imagine before coming here. I’ve travelled to other continental countries, and I am speaking from experience... Romania's flora and fauna are gorgeously sumptuous. Impressive coniferous forests, lakes, bears, wolves and huge birds populate the country - so much so, that spotting them is fairly easy. And, you know what I love even more? Romania isn’t “one and done”, it’s got a little something for everyone. Not only does it have beautiful mountains, but it also has valleys, plains and direct access to the Black Sea that offers a pretty touristy beach over the summer.
3. MODERN-DAY PEASANT VILLAGES
As soon as you leave the city, you can easily access the countryside and find yourself in charming little rural villages where life seems to have stayed the same for centuries. Most often, everyone knows everyone in these villages and people live quite simply, growing and farming a lot of their food. You can still see (and experience first-hand) very traditional ways of heating and cooking, but also beautiful traditional clothing, crafts, dances and music. The people are usually very welcoming, pleasant and open to outsiders, too.
4. AN UNTOUCHED HERITAGE
You can literally travel absolutely ANYWHERE in Romania and chances are, you’ll come across picturesque roman or medieval remains that are worth taking the time to visit. Castles, palaces, fortresses, citadels with fascinating stories - as many as your curiosity can indulge! Name it, you can probably find it here. Even more so, many of these amazing locations equally offer peaceful and outstanding viewpoints. Romania’s heritage appears to have remained untouched over the passing of centuries and having the opportunity to live in a place with such obvious history and culture is something I embrace.
5. STRONG TRADITIONAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE
Another one of the things I deeply appreciate about Romania is that tradition and culture here isn’t just something you find in the countryside or amongst the older generations. It's still very strong and present in everyday life as well as in the city, too. It just seems as though everyone takes part and enjoys honouring their traditions through food, music, all sorts of religious customs, clothes, social events and special annual occasions such as Easter, Christmas and noticeable Orthodox Saints. I have fallen in love with traditional Romanian meals, drinks, homemade and gourmet produce, but just as much with the folk music and dance. Romania is at a crossroads between Europe and the Middle-East, and thus, you’re blessed all these different Slavic, Mediterranean and Oriental influences, which makes the culture so colorful.
6. LIVELY CAPITAL CITY
What I enjoy most about Bucharest, the capital and largest city of Romania, is the fact that it is relatively safe and has tons to offer. I can easily spend my time here just admiring old art deco interiors from the golden ages, having trendy dining experiences with my friends and family, enjoying picnics or bike rides in big green parks and forests, going to the movies, theater or opera. There are so many good spas around the city too, while the nightlife and clubs are awesome. And let’s not forget the cool, local pop and house music! Bucharest may be the capital, but to me, it doesn't come off as monstrous. Maybe that’s because I favor the city center and the Northern part more, or perhaps it’s because I've seen much bigger and messier cities. Still though, I find Bucharest to be dynamic, clean and pretty green.
7. HEALTHY FAMILY-FRIENDLY LIFESTYLE
I happen to live in a residential area of Romania, where the community is very solidary and proactive. There aren’t many foreigners that I know of, mostly native Romanians, and I personally like how communicative they are, whether online or when out and about. I feel as though the families here are quite mindful and fond of healthy living. To be honest, I'm happy that junk food has not taken over people's lifestyles here. I see a lot of babies and children everywhere I go, a lot of dads and moms out with their kids doing everything, and society in general offers a lot of family-friendly services. I have the impression that everyone is very respectful and affectionate toward parents and children, and as a mom myself, I not only take that into consideration, but appreciate that a lot.
8. FOREIGNER-WELCOMING ATMOSPHERE
I’ll be honest, I do find that Romanians are somewhat clumsy with foreigners, especially in what they say or how they say it at times. That said though, I don't think they are racist people whatsoever. I think many of the natives here aren’t necessarily used to foreigners and different cultures, but the vast majority of Romanians are quite curious about others in general. I first arrived in Romania in 2003, and the number of foreigners and expats is on the rise (despite not being very high, all the same). And I'm happy to see more multiculturalism around me, notably in Bucharest. Romanians are great at speaking several languages too, which helps when you don’t come from here. Most speak either English, French, Spanish or German, and therefore, it's pretty easy to communicate with almost anyone. More so, the Romanian language can be relatively easy to learn, especially if you already know another Latin language. I find people here, in general, to be very respectful towards foreigners.
9. EASY TRAVELING AND CHEAP FLIGHTS
One of the perks of living in Romania is that you can find easy and cheap flights to other countries in Europe. Being a self-proclaimed nomad myself, this is quite enticing to me. It's very easy to travel both East and West. For example, from Romania, you can visit dream destinations in Greece for very little money. Or visit off-the-radar locations in surrounding countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere too. There are longer direct flights to the Middle-East, the Caribbean or the US that are generally cost effective, too.
10. AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS
For the first little while, I found it hard to blend in and meet locals here. However, with time and effort, I came to build very authentic and lasting friendships. An important reminder is not to give up if you find it hard at first. And I guess that’s the same for anywhere, really. It's a matter of time and trust, in my opinion. Once you get past that point, people become very sincere and laid back… Especially so in Romania!
In the end, there is no perfect place to live, anywhere in the world. No matter where you go, there are things you’ll like and dislike, even love and hate. Romania is a rather smooth country to live in. It isn't always easy dealing with the state administrations, the infrastructure, the public medical or educational services, but overall, I feel very comfortable and even chose to start my family here. I am proud that my husband is from this beautiful country, and my family will always embrace the Romanian tradition and culture.
Sarah The Digital GypSea
Romania, October 2019