Write an article how it is for a Swede to live in Craiova, the good and the bad, that was the challenge from Damian, so here it is.
I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m a Swede in Craiova
I am a Swede living in Romania and a pretty common question is why? Why did you move to Romania from Sweden? With perhaps a measure of not being able to understand this move against the general flow of people from the country.
Usually I reply “Why not” or if I am a bit more honest I say “Because my wife comes from Craiova and we thought we would give it a go.”
I can not write this article from any general point of view, as my experience will probably differ from any other foreigners that made this leap. However some things will be the same for most foreigners, at least for Swedes, that I have some evidence for at least.
I have a general conclusion about every country I have been to and that is, people are basically the same wherever you go. Most are interesting, intelligent with a sense of humour, perhaps not all at once, but few people have them all and that includes me. If I manage one out of three I am a happy camper, and if I miss all three that is still OK, you play the cards you are dealt.
So lets get down to business and stop being so general, saying much about nothing, how boring isn’t that. It is like watching a film that ends after the opening credits, and we can do better than that I think.
Negative and positive things about Romania. Well they actually mix together, as at a first glance something might seem really negative, but usually you find a humorous twist with time. For example the time we went to check our car, we started 07:00 in the morning and at 19:00 we were still not done, stuck in an endless loop of seeing the same action failing over and over again. Now that can be seen as negative, and for sure it was negative at the time. However even then I started laughing at the Kafka like situation we had got stuck in and today it is a semi-funny story to tell our friends. So you see even small negative things, and small it must be considered, have some sort of silver lining to them.
Other things brought a catch-22 moment to my life, like the time I moved here and needed a bank account to get my semi-permanent residence papers. Small thing you might think, but alas it was not at all. The first bank said yes, of course you can get a bank account with us, just show us your papers for permanent residence and we are all good to go. My rather feeble attempts to explain that I needed the account to get the papers fell on rather deaf ears. So with some brisk steps we went next door, to the next bank who said not a problem, here you can get a bank account. Now in Sweden you get a bank account, at least for me, by showing you ID card and signing one paper, 5 minutes later you are done. Here the very nice women brought a stack of papers that looked like a countries budget proposal, and for a brief moment I thought it was for someone else, how wrong I was. After 30 minutes of signing papers, everyone of them and sometimes on both sides I had my account, almost that is. In the end I got it, but it was a Gogol like experience of a bureaucracy that came to life. Now this is not the most bureaucratic experience I have ever had, just go to Borispol airport in Kiev and try to find a pen to fill in the required paperwork and you will hear Gogols laughter echoing in the lofty airport building.
Of course some things lack that silver lining, a visit to the hospital show the big difference between Sweden and Romania in perhaps not the brightest light.
However the people are the bright, beacons of the city, different from Swedes of course and generally in a good way. A more relaxed attitude, showing more openness and to my horror a fondness for dancing, specially for me who don’t dance. I sometimes try for 1 minute or so and then the realisation comes that it is better for everyone if I sit down and watch the people, better for them but especially for me.
I do have a character flaw, the biggest I have, and that is fairness, in a rather inflexible stony kind of way, and you will soon see why this is a flaw. I have always been like this, if I say something, even with a ironic smile I actually do mean what I say. If I have a meeting at 19:00 and I promised to be there at that hour, I will be there on the dot, if it is at all humanly possible. If I promise to fix a running tap that day and the time is just before midnight, with me being dead tired, I will still start fixing it, or trying to anyway. Now so far not such a bad flaw you might think, but here comes the rub. I just assume that the way I am everyone else should be also, I know rather presumptuous of me. It means I treat everyone as I would do a friend or my family, informal but always doing what I have promised and I expect the same in return. In Romania I feel a more laid back attitude to the doing part and perhaps a more rigid attitude to the authoritarian part.
Where Romania trumps Sweden is originality. There is a much more vibrant atmosphere here, more creativity perhaps out of necessity, whatever the reason it makes life more interesting and colourful and make Sweden feel rather more grey in comparison.
So to end this rather talkative article I will have to come to some conclusions how it is to live in Craiova for a Swedish alien, legal but still an alien.
- Languages barrier is hard but most people are helpful and the younger generation speaks an excellent English.
- Romanians have a nice way to get around obstacles, like when you have a 2-lane road you are almost certain to find 3 or more cars side by side. The weather can not be understated, I do love the warmness of the spring/summer and autumn, and I do hate the cold, specially before the heating is turned on in the apartment, more like Siberia than close to the Mediterranean.
- It is a good place to live in for me at this moment, but of course the few road blocks I have encountered have not been anything to worry about. You have such things as corruptions, bribes, exercise of public authority in a bad way, healthcare and so on. I am not blind to these problems but the problems are not for me to try and fix, that would be presumptuous if I tried.
- So with cons stacked up against pros this city wins on the pros side. It is the only place I want to live in at this particular moment, the pros just over-trumps the cons, and the pros are for sure the people, a very nice bunch indeed.
Written by JMS