Josh is our British friend from Bath, near Bristol. We both met him back in October 2013 when we were living in Bucharest and he came along with his mate of his to volunteer in the hostel Iulia had helped start up there. We stayed there till the summer of 2014 and then left for China, but Josh stayed. He found his comfort zone in Bucharest, after a little while volunteering he switched to a proper job in telemarketing, he made local friends and is still enjoying, one year and a half later, the Romanian life. We asked him to share with us a bit of his experience and he was nice enough to tell us about how it feels like to be an expat in Romania and what are the things that kept him there for so long.
1. You came to Romania in October 2013 and never left the country. What enticed you to go to Romania in the first place?
Initially the fact I found a volunteer position in a hostel; I had also visited it before in 2011 and knew the money I had saved would last long here. It is also fairly well connected to the rest of Europe with all the budget airlines so would have been easy to move on had I decided to. But there wasn’t really a solid reason for it, just made sense at the time.
2. Before coming to Romania, have you ever lived abroad anywhere else?
Yes, I lived in Athens Greece for 1 year.
3. It’s not very common that westerners choose Romania to be their home. Did you plan to be in Romania for such a long time or did you just end up not leaving?
I actually planned on returning to Greece, I knew I didn’t want to go back to UK so soon, and with the way things panned out it worked out quite well staying here.
4. What are the main things setting Romania apart from other places you’ve lived in / visited?
It’s really safe, I can only really speak about Bucharest as it’s the only place I spent a long enough time to comment, but I think it’s strange for a big city to be so quiet and safe despite how it might look. And I have never lived somewhere with such extreme differences in weather, boiling in summer and freezing and snowy in the winter.
5. Was it hard to adjust to Romania at all? Do you ever feel socially isolated living in Bucharest or do you feel that you’ve been accepted in the community?
I didn’t find it too hard to adjust, people are helpful and you never really see anything shocking or completely alien. I certainly don’t feel isolated, can go out and talk to people whenever I feel like, everybody speaks perfect English, and I think most people are used to having foreigners around now.
6. Is there a big expat group in Bucharest that you know of? And do you often spend time with them or do you have Romanian friends exclusively?
I guess so, there’s a lot of Irish/British bars and I know some are frequented by expats, I don’t really go to them often though but everyone I did meet seemed friendly enough, but I don’t really feel like I need to go there or be part of the community. I have mainly Romanian friends, I don’t feel like they would ever be as close as friends back home as we can’t mutually relate to certain things, have different sense of humour etc. But is still just the same to go out and do things with.
7. What are your favourite expat hangouts in Bucharest?
I will say Mojo as it’s the only one I really know 😛
8. What advice do you have for anyone coming to live in Bucharest as an expat?
Not sure really, it’s not a hostile or unfamiliar feeling place if you’re coming from Europe I guess. Don’t take taxis, I was taking taxis all the time as they’re so cheap compared to back home, but can save so much more money using the public transport. The transport is ridiculously cheap, efficient and can basically go anywhere in the city with relative ease.
9. Are there any headaches to living in Bucharest as an expat? Can you name a few?
The thing with ‘the draft’ I read about it online before, but you can’t even begin to comprehend peoples’ attitude to open windows and comfortable room temperatures, it’s completely backwards.
It’s the same if you’re a foreigner everywhere certain things you will never see eye to eye on I guess, people are quite old fashioned.
10. Did you get much chance to travel around the country? What are your favourite destinations in Romania that you’d recommend or that you’d like to see?
Not as much as I’d have liked to, my favourite place is definitely Sibiu, I have only been in winter but it’s a proper chocolate box town; the coast also was nice and ate great fish however I was there in May and will go back this summer to appreciate it properly.
Bonus question: What Romanian beer is best on tap? What about your favourite traditional Romanian food?
Ha I’m not sure if it’s just me or not but Romanian beer gives me the most brutal hangovers, the drinking culture here seems to be drink a few slowly all night rather than hammer as many as you can, so maybe that’s where I’m going wrong with it. If I am out though I normally drink Ciuc, it’s always reasonably priced and as far as I can tell is not too different to any other international lager they charge more for.
My favourite Romanian food is definitely Ciorba (sour soup), I think is one of the things I will take with me if I leave, in the summer cold it’s good, when you’re sick it’s good, general goodness, like soup but more refreshing. And also Coliva but apparently that’s a desert made just for funerals so can’t really say I can’t wait for the next time.