The communist regime in Romania used to impose five-year plans on its industries and citizens. Most of what is happening in Romania today is based on a day-by-day rhythm. Romanians are said to take the best decisions when they have to improvise rather than plan. That still keeps me wondering about how Romanians think about the five years ahead of them.
The past 20 years of Romanian history were at least very volatile. A small number of people got incredibly rich by selling former state companies and laundering the profits away. Romania was governed by chaos while people tried to get used to the new requirements that capitalism imposed on them. With EU membership in sight, Romania slowly started to revive between 2000 and 2005. Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007 and overall economic prosperity has been on the rise ever since. Young people have plenty of options to choose from, both in their professional and in their personal lives.
..thinks Romanians do not know how to apply for EU subsidies
Unfortunately, not all choices are favourable. With prices continuously on the rise, young professionals are often committed to working weeks of well over 50 hours, usually spread out over a daytime job and a weekend job. Victor (18) still has some time to think about his options. Now in highschool, he hopes to go to the police academy in the near future: `Becoming a police officer is probably the best I can do to fight corruption in this country.`
Diana (20) has another recipe but with the same idea in mind: `I am studying journalism and want to specialise in the investigative journalism. I find corruption one of the most interesting subjects and I am not afraid for any trouble that job may bring.`
Ovidiu (25) wants to use the upcoming years to open a club in Bucharest. He explains that many Romanians dream of having their own business, because they are tired of being exploited by their bosses: `They behave like dictators. Romania doesn`t have any managers, just instructors. If you want to get a better salary, it`s easier to change jobs than to get anything sorted out with your manager. Working independently is not a goal in itself, it`s just a way to make money in a pleasant way. Making money is a choice in these days. If you are smart and willing to work, you can earn yourself a very decent salary.`
If all goes well, Ovidiu does not have to wait for 5 year before his establishment opens its doors. `We bought the land and will soon start the construction. I am now figuring out how to decorate the place and which furniture will suit best. The music style will be hip-hop, R&B and the unique selling point will be the dancing contests we are going to hold between groups of people. Competition in Bucharest is fierce, so you have to come up with something new. What we are doing will be unique in Romania. I am confident that it will work out well`, he says. Ovidiu has been saving up some money over the last few years and managed to get a bank loan for the remaining investments. `Getting such a loan is a lot easier now than it ever used to be. Romania is improving itself by the day. You can see it in the streets: people wear nicer clothes, buildings are being restored and people are starting to have confidence in the future.`
Luminita (24, photo) is a bit more hesitant when it comes to having a positive outlook on the future. `2008 did not start off well`, she says. `There is a lot of uncertainty about rising prices. Food is getting more expensive and we have to pay for many services in Euros even though our salaries are paid in Lei: phone bills, internet, gas, rent.. Romania may have access to a variety of EU funds, but there is no know-how of how to access them and use them in a sensible way. Fund applications are lengthy and complicated and many people are not even aware of their existence.`
`Health and education are also in crisis. It`s better not to get sick in Romania at this moment, because going to a hospital is likely to make things worse rather than better. You could easily go to a hospital completely healthy and leave it with some kind of unknown disease caused by some kind of unknown bug. Doctors in public health care either lack equipment, or medication or they are unprepared. The situation is said to slowly improve but for now, private healthcare is the only alternative. And it`s a costly one.`, Luminita explains.
`EU membership has advantages, but it also makes life more difficult in some areas. Farmers face restrictions on where and how they can sell their products. Some cheeses can now only be sold 30 kilometres from where they were produced, because the EU is scared about diary products that are home-produced and not always entirely sterile.`
`At the same time, the visual appearance of Romania is becoming prettier by the day. A huge wave of renovations and reconstructions started about three years ago, especially here in Sibiu. We were the European Capital of Culture for the year 2007, which was a great impulse to the economy. The entire city centre was cleaned, roads were improved and we started to have foreign tourists coming in. That process will probably continue in the coming years. I also think that fewer Romanians will leave the country to install themselves abroad. Some of my friends did, some others talked about it but haven`t done it so far. I think most Western countries are already so full with immigrants that there`s hardly any space left for another few Romanians.`
Ioan (25) thinks that Romania is bound to go up, because it could`t go further down from where it started. He and his colleague Alin (26) tell me about the trend for Romanians women to study and forget about getting married and having children. Up until recently, girls married when they were in their very early 20s. `Now, they study and try to make a career, and only afterwards will they start thinking about anything else`, they say.
If everything goes the way Vadim (18) plans it, he will be studying in Bucharest for the next few years. `I want to work in international diplomacy, preferably in bilateral relations between the UK and Romania. Romanian emigrants are having difficulties integrating there and I think that it would be good to work on improving the situation.` Vadim`s forecast for Romania is rather positive. `I am waiting for the introduction of the Euro and hope that it will bring more
balance between salaries and the cost of living.`
Adriana (28) wants to become a photojournalist but that ambition has only come up recently. `I am still learning and I know I still have lots to learn. If possible, I would like to make reports from war zones like Iraq. If I could get anywhere near the quality of work produced by Roberto Cappa, that would be great. I just need to find out how I want to combine it with my future family life, which could be quite a challenge.`
Petri (30) will be using the coming five years to become a professional sculptor. He is already involved in similar activities today, working on film decors and making accessories out of polystyrene. `I will use that experience to also start using other materials and translating my own ideas into sculptures. I now spend my weekends working on that, but my ambition is to slowly replace the official job by what is now still only a hobby.`
Petri is wondering whether Romania will still be Romania in five years` time: `It will just be another European country. Local traditions are already rapidly disappearing from the cities, and that trend will soon start spreading to smaller cities and to the countryside. As long as people keep thinking that everything coming from the West is superiour to what we have ourselves, they all collaborate in phasing out our cultural heritage.`
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