Fascinating interview: American Businessman investing in Romania

Don Lothrop is described by the interviewer as "not a businessman but firstly a civic minded person". Lothrop has visited Romania 58 times since his first trip in 2003, in fact his American friends jokingly call him "The Romanian". He has some great insights on the biggest problems facing Romania today and what the future may hold. He touches on the following topics: illegal logging, economic fairness, young Romanians coming home from abroad and promoting true democracy in Romania. For me it was a great pleasure to see someone making positive change in this country where, I confess, I have felt it to be impossible at times. Enjoy this nugget of positivity!

Strange things at the Antipa Museum of Natural History

I did a bad bad bad thing (cue music). One afternoon we visited the Antipa Museum of Natural History and upon seeing their displays I kind of broke their no photo policy...a lot. Trust me I don't make a habit of breaking museum rules especially at art museums but I couldn't fight the urge to document and share the crazy things inside this museum. The set ups are pretty cool to look at and in some cases (see wild-eyed cat below) they are just plain hilarious. Some of these animals are very old so I'm guessing they've had some patch jobs done (read: oddly placed eyeballs, lumpy facial structure and/or missing clumps of fur). It was a quirky yet fun afternoon. If you go a few hours before closing like we did you'll practically have the place to yourself.
Here's what I captured with my super stealth spy gear (aka my camera phone):


Top 5 'Moving to Romania' Questions Answered

Every now and then I receive an email from someone who wants to move to Romania or is at least considering the idea. They often have the same questions I had before moving. I remember searching the web for any kind of first-hand information to no avail back in 2010 before I moved. So below are the top five questions I receive from readers and their answers. I must preface this with the reminder that these are my own opinions based on personal experiences.

1. How do I get a visa / resident permit? - The easiest way I know of to get a resident permit is to marry a Romanian (done!) or get hired by a large corporate company based in Bucharest. The later has the resources to provide any permit or visa you need. American tourist visas are granted right when you enter the country (that passport stamp is important) and last for 90 days. After that I've heard of people traveling to the nearest country, Bulgaria, and then returning to kickstart another 90 day tourist visa period. This last option is a bit risky in my opinion since you are leaving your chances up to the mercy of an immigrations officer who may or may not want to stamp your passport. The benefit of the 90 day country hopping plan is that you get to avoid the endless headache that is the Romanian immigration office and its paperwork. A general note: After living here for over a year I've observed that Americans are much more concerned (or should I say conditioned?) in regards to following immigration laws than your average Romanian. I've had a few laugh at my deep concern to be in the country legally. "Who will catch you if you're not?!" is a remark I've gotten a few times. Make of that what you will.

2. Can I work in Romania? -From my experience the vast majority of American expats that come to Romania do so because they or their spouse have obtained a job here. If that is your situation you probably don't need to read this paragraph. For the 2% that come to Romania without employment already secured I would say: come with a good chunk of savings. Romania has been hit by the crisis like everyone else. Jobs are scarce and if you were to be hired, employers are required to prove that they could not find a Romanian qualified to do the same job. Teaching English or working for an NGO are areas worth looking into. Speaking Romanian is not required across the board but it will greatly improve your chances of finding work.

3. Should I learn the language?- In short, yes I think it is great to learn the language wherever you may be living; Romanians definitely appreciate the effort. On the other hand many Romanians speak English very well so learning Romanian is not a must before moving here. If you can, try and at least learn the basics before coming.

4. Healthcare?- Romania, like many in the European Union, has a state run healthcare system. The big difference being that in Romania the system is "in shambles" and requires bribing of medical staff and/or paying for private medical care (source: Public Radio International article). This is a complex problem who's intricacies I won't get into on this blog. The reality is that you will probably be able to afford quality private medical care (much cheaper here than in the US) and won't use the state run clinics/hospitals. I've had both good and bad experiences with the medical system in this country. I hate the idea of bribing but love that my medication which usually costs $100 USD back home was a mere $4 here. If all this makes you nervous than I advise you do what I did- get all your major check-ups or operations done before moving.

5. What is it like living there? Short answer: Safe, at times frustrating, and always interesting. By far Romania's two greatest assets are its people and the country's natural beauty. The later of which you'll only see if you leave the city. From my experience Romanians are extremely close with friends and family. If you are someone they know and care about they would do anything to help if you are in need. It is a great feeling, especially if you ever have the pleasure to be a guest in a Romanian's home. On the other hand, if you are a stranger the treatment is not nearly as warm and welcoming (at least in the big city of Bucharest). There is a joke amongst Romanians that roughly translates to "Romania is a beautiful country, too bad it is inhabited" For me this joke hits at the bitter truth about a country who has all the resources to be great but which has suffered at the hands of mass corruption in government and greed. So how does this translate to daily life? Well things don't always work as they should here. As simple as that sounds, there is a level of civil orderliness to life in the United States that is not the same here. It can be a rough adjustment.

My story:

Girl meets boy.
Love strikes.
Boy moves to Romania,
girl (now engaged) follows suit.

I'll be living abroad for the first time in my life beginning January 11th 2011. Follow this blog if you want to see my adventures.