Bună seara, good evening! It’s hard to believe that I have been living the dream in Bucharest, Romania for over a month. Working as a lady in tech is keeping me busy, but not enough to miss palinka on my palate! Getting back to business, have my expat first impressions met my expectations? Have I been pleasantly surprised or shockingly disappointed? Have I met any vampires along the way?
I hate to break it to all the True Blood fans, but Romania isn’t solely for spooky experiences. What you will discover is a coffee obsessed, forward-thinking metropolis with a rich history and bright future. As far as surprises go, here are a few things that changed my expat first impressions.
Early Birds Do Not Get the Worm
Living with an hour commute at home, I’m used to the alarm buzzing in the wee hours of the morning. Early birds beware, Bucharest is full of night owls, you won’t find much open before 10AM, especially on the weekend.
If you take a stroll at this lovely hour, you won’t find much more than a few locals heading home. Bucharest has some of the best nightlife in Europe, but this city certainly exceeded my expat first impressions. How do these young whippersnappers keep the party going all night? The answer to that question leads me to my next point.
Caffeine Obsessed Coffee Culture
One of the first words taught on the Duolingo language learning app is cafea, which is Romanian for coffee. This should have been a clue, but I did not realize how strong the coffee culture would be in Romania. Digital nomads rejoice, this city has a number of cozy cafes and the best wifi signal that Europe has to offer. Bucharest has everything you need to keep the midnight oil burning.
With cafes and 5 to Gos around every corner, you will not have to walk far to experience the aroma of a strong brew. Speaking of taking a walk, beware of the Romanian parking lot!
Sidewalks are Parking Spots
Anyone who lives the dream of car ownership in a metropolitan area knows the joys of city parking. The city of Bucharest dates back to the middle ages, and with old cities come narrow roads. As the population migrated from rural to urban areas in the communist era, so came the cars that transported them.
Since parking is at a premium, Romanians have found the creative ways to stash their rides. Sidewalks have become parking spots; Bucharest gives new meaning to the term ‘double parking.’ Born and bred in Boston, I’ll never again complain about how bad the parking situation in ‘Southie’ is.
Friendly Faces and Open Minds
One of the challenges I faced moving to the Balkans is reassuring family that I will indeed be safe. As far as misconceptions go, safety has not been a concern during my time in Bucharest.
I have encountered a few gypsies in my travels. However, they were far from the violent, pickpocketing nomadic beggars that I was warned about. In fact, the Roma people represent less than three percent of the population here in Romania. They also offer a unique cultural heritage which can be seen far beyond the borders of Bucharest.
Expat First Impressions
What I have discovered are very friendly people who are proud to call Romania home. If given a chance, they will do anything to promote the place they call home. Between the descriptions of the breathtaking landscapes in Transylvania to tempting your tastebuds with Moldovan wine, they will convince you that you should never leave! Waking up every morning has been delightful. Bucharest, Romania has certainly changed expat first impressions for this lady in tech.