Nothing but positive
Most reactions to the Us European project are quite positive. Some are not. As it has been made clear to me, the tone I have so far used in describing Romania is degrading, too harsh and too Western. Since today is my last day in Romania, I will try to make up for any emotional damage that my writings may have caused to sensitive souls. I am asking people only to tell me positive things about Romania. Here`s the result:
`Nothing`s positive about Romania`, says Norbert (23), who considers himself Hungarian even though he was born in Romania. `I hate Romania, but I live here, so I`ll have to deal with it`, he explains.
..is not too happy about his home country
Kalman (29) is also Hungarian ? about half the population of Satu Mare is ? but his opinions about Romania are much more flattering. `Most of the people in Romania are very warm, friendly and helpful. Unfortunately, some of them tend to confuse money with happiness, which may lure them into anti-social behaviour. It all makes sense if you look at the unfair distribution of wealth. Some people, like myself, need two jobs to be able to pay the bills. Others became rich during the regime change in the 1990s. They can now afford everything they want. The money they initially earned in shady arrangements is now used to make money in a legal way, but with giant leverage. 18-year old kids can afford to drive around in Audi A8s, even though it would take a lifetime of monthly salaries to pay for something as expensive as that.`
In spite of the somewhat difficult yet improving financial situation, Kalman enjoys living in Romania. He specifically praises the Romanian landscape, which he calls very diverse and very suitable for exploring. His favourite parts of Romania include the Carpathian mountain range and the Danube Delta: `Both areas have biospheres that are unique for all of Europe: birds, fish, flowers, trees?. Everything largely unspoiled. I`d say Romania is a rough diamond: there is plenty to discover, but it takes some effort. In the meantime, we are trying to get our infrastructure up to a standard that will make traveling in Romania easier and more convenient, both in terms of roads and in terms of accommodation.`
People and places
The geographical diversity also explains the huge differences between people from the different regions. In an almost Italian way, Romanians care a lot about their geographical origins. They are attached to the traditions from their village, to home-made food and to shared celebration of the religious, seasonal or any other type. Serban (22) likes how Romania is at the cross-road of cultures: `Moldova and the North-East of the country have many Slavic influences, Transylvania bends towards Germany and Hungary, while the South of the country is more Balkanic or even oriental. Part of the country feels close to the west, while the other part leans towards the East. Romania is a bridge between those very diverse cultures. Our history shows that we are very adaptable. Communism put out mental flexibility to the test, but it ended up fine-tuning our survival skills even further.`
Matei (23, photo) mentions the Transylvanian cities of Brasov and Sighisoara as must-sees and he also praises the beauty of Romanian women. `Then, we take pride in our Palinka, which is not Hungarian. People may think it is, but the Hungarians actually stole it from us.` Before talking about the many national heroes of Romania, Matei lists how Romania compares to the neighbouring country: `Romania is better than Ukraine, Moldova and Bulgaria and definitely better than in Serbia too. But in Hungary, the life is better than here.`
Finding Romanian national heroes is not very difficult. Every, let`s say 5th, school is named after Mihai Eminescu, one out of every xx hospitals is named after Victor Babes, the academy of architecture is named after Ioan Mincu and the international airport of Bucharest has recently been renamed to Henri Coanda International Airport. So who is who? Mihai Eminescu is a writer/poet, Victor Babes was a microbiologist, Ioan Mincu obviously and architect and Henri Coanda was the inventor of jet-engines. Romanian science and arts are closely linked with France, many artists and scientists having spent a good share of their life in Paris. Then there`s sports, with football star Hagi, tennis star Ilie Nastase, architect Ioan Mincu, gymnast Nadia Comanici.
Matei explains that Romania is very grateful the achievements of its heroes. He is very concerned about the negative image Romania has in the rest of Europe. `But my overall opinion about the country is quite negative too. I would like to leave to the United States or New Zealand to get something done over there. I don`t want to go anywhere in Europe, because people from Europe look at us as if we were Gypsies. I heard that we can count on a more welcoming treatment in the United States.`
Unknown is unloved
Gazdag (26) points out that Romania has a high degree of art and civilisation, and that it it excels in many different disciplines, even though it`s a small country.
Doru (35) regrets that Romania has a negative image in the rest of Europe. `Some people think that we live some kind of medieval lives, with no facilities and, for example, no gutters along our roofs. True, we are attached to our traditions, because at least, we have got some left. I would suggest people to come over and find out for themselves that Romanians are not much different from other Europeans.`
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