A new Euro generation tries to build a life
I am on the train from Brasov to Sibiu, in the middle of Rumania. The weather is cold and there is some snow. The train slides slowly through the open landscape and there are hills on both sides covered with the first snow.
I meet Tania, she has studied in Bucharest but returned to live in Sibiu. It takes her some 6 hours by train. This is far too long as EU money is not spent on better tracks. Inland trains are slow and old and are mostly from the Ceaucescu years. Not much has changed, there is no high-speed network. The same is true for highways, only secondary roads, no highways. In surrounding EU countries this is mostly the first thing when the EU goes full throttle.
This implies travelling is time-consuming in Rumania. Luckily the countryside is beautiful land she has wifi over the telephone and a lot of work to do.
Rumania certainly does not lack brains
One of the many complaints is the education system is badly neglected. Complaining is the national hobby. They could join the Dutch (and the Greek). Most Rumanians I meet recognize this habit. In the mind of the Rumanians, their country is surrounded by conspiracies to take all away from them. The same indignation victims however recently choose a clearly corrupt and incapable government of ex-communist big shots wanting to make corruption below 50.000 Euro not eligible for prosecution.
Brains and education do not automatically guarantee an existence. Lumitsa is my landlady in Sibiu, a doctor specialized in children and endocrinology with her own practice. But she too needs to work abroad still (Belgium this time) to make ends meet. Her son wants to set up a dental practice but the banks refuse credit. Her husband is a vet but there is no work and he started a business in central heating. A good business as everyone needs to be kept warm. They get by but need to be enterprising in a way not imaginable for West European medical academics.
They bought a derelict Austro Hungarian house and are now in their process of renovating it with their own hands (and the help of the two sons). The fees of her services are on the wall, a specialist consultation costs appear 25 euro, a lot of money here, a fraction of the cost I am used to. After goodbye, if I want to do business in Rumania, they would be interested True entrepreneurs hindered by bureaucracy and corruption
well, there is corruption everywhere
She is genuinely surprised when I try to make clear in North-West Europe this is on a small scale definitely not the case. Is this possible?
In Sibui I flee from the cold to get a coffee in a local hostel. Open after 12 pm it says but it is around 20.00. Should this not be 12 am? Not according to Dana (short for Daniela) who mans the bar. She has a degree in biology and would like to work in a medical lab. Lab work pays badly here (300 Euro per month) but in a medical lab a lot better. This, however, requires a registration which is only available if you already work in a medical lab. A bureaucratic catch 22. So she now helps out serving coffee in a hostel. Temporarily until her handmade leather bag business catches on. My suggestion of making a web site and maybe start a business making sites along with the bags is met with suspicion: this would be true capitalism. Back home however I notice she has actually started a FB page: Zazoo handcrafts a first step to having a business. The dream of a lot of young Europeans.
On my way back on the same track I meet Alex, working on a PhD in biology. His is a reverse story: he works in Sibiu for a Norwegian eco-project and goes home for Christmas now. A friendly modest intellectual capable of looking at his own culture at a distance. He has been in Norway and has been able to save some money to buy an apartment in Bucharest. For all youthful this the first step to economic independence. He has no idea what he will do after his PhD, it will most likely be something totally different like IT. This s the only area with good chances.
His observations of local habits Rumanians are most interesting; they tend to smoke all food, cheese, meat no matter what, if water could be smoked they would do it. He is not unlucky being an only child as in most Rumanian families there are horrific feuds. I like his soft touch humour. Once in Bukarest he has to hurry and I am satisfied I learned a lot.