Uberexcited (2)

The taxi service Uber launched its services in Bucharest today, to predictable levels of excitement from the hipster bedwetters who think that anything American is amazing and to be embraced without question.

Take a day off people: it’s a taxi service. Charging the same as any other taxi company in Bucharest (1.39 lei per km) Uber is a welcome addition to the taxi pool (the more taxis, the lower the fares) but no reason for the levels of excitement currently being displayed on social media. (Back in October we actually suggested that Uber would not work in Romania as taxis were already so cheap).

Besides, early reports suggest that there are actually zero Uber taxis currently available on the streets of the Romanian capital.

For anyone interested, here is the official Uber press-release and accompanying infographic. You have to love the bullshit corporate bollocks language: ‘ridesharing.’

We laughed.

PS Here’s a fun exercise: compare the original Uber press release with any news item/blog post about the launch published in Romania today. Like this one. Or this one. See if you can spot the difference.

The Romanians Are Coming: Episode 2

Well it’s just finished, and it was very good. Watch it here:

The episode centered on a nurse, Mihaela, who left what looked like a relatively comfortable life in Constanta to work in a nursing home in Sheffield. (In fact, she had been promised another, more glamorous gig elsewhere: it was only when she arrived in the UK that she found out she was going to Sheffield: she also gets ripped off due to ‘complications’ with her papers and eventually returns home. It’s an awful story of exploitation by the agency that hired her).

If anyone comes across badly in this episode it is the English – the people of Sheffield especially – who are portrayed as racist scum. (Actually, the people interviewed are racist scum. One bloke even talked about the ‘weakening of British blood’. Really).

The programme also – it has to be said – does little for Sheffield’s image in general. Will the people of Sheffield (or the city council) be crying about it? No. Will there be protests outside of Channel 4’s offices? No.

We therefore await the reaction of the snobs. Given that, once again, no wealthy Romanian bankers living in Knightsbridge were featured, we are certain that they will still find something to complain about.

Meantime, the immediate reaction of Brits on Twitter appears to be very positive and generally pro-Romanian. A few examples from the hashtag #romaniansarecoming:

Etc. More here.

The snobbery behind the outrage

Argh!!!!!! Poor people!!!!!!

We thought it a bit strange that some Romanians might object to a television series that portrayed Romanians as, erm, hard working, entrepreneurial and prepared to make great sacrifices in order to carve out a better life for themselves.

It is now increasingly obvious that the real problem some Romanians have with the Channel 4 series The Romanians are Coming is not that the programme portrays hard-working Romanians, but that it portrays the wrong hard-working Romanians.

Episode one, after all, featured three members of what the offendotrons would no doubt describe as ‘the lower orders’. Imagine that! Imagine British viewers discovering that Romania has working class people.

It appears that what the professionally offended snobs think Channel 4 should be concentrating on are not, in fact, the genuinely heart-warming stories of people leaving often dire poverty to take any job they can get so as to offer their families a better life, but instead the equally heart-warming stories of wealthy Romanian lawyers, brokers and bankers being headhunted by City of London firms.

After all, who wouldn’t shed a tear at the sight of a top PR executive being forced to leave her Corbeanca villa for an Isle of Dogs penthouse with river views? It would make for highly emotional television.

Take a look at this rather revealing Facebook post by a student at posh Goldsmiths: ‘We will present some of our Romanian professionals, artists and students working and living in London.’ Poor people clearly need not apply.

We also hear that instructions for those wishing to attend yesterday’s half-arsed protest outside Channel 4’s offices specifically requested that they dress ‘business-like.’ No, we are not making this up.

In fact, it actually reminded us of when we attended a protest against the introduction of student tuition fees back in 1996, organised outside parliament by the Socialist Workers Party*. We turned up straight from a bout of post-lecture shopping and got some funny looks as we stood there chanting anti-student poverty slogans while holding a large Benetton bag full of new, colourful clothes. It was at that moment we realised that we were probably not really cut out for front-line left-wing politics.

Anyway, this whole palaver has at least confirmed one thing: Romania’s middle class has evolved enough over these past 25 years that it can now stick its head as far up its own arse as the middle class in any other country.

That’s progress of sorts, but please: the next time anyone shouts ‘discrimination’ at a television station, they should check their own prejudices first.

*No, we were never members. Trotskyist bourgeois-social fascist splitters.

Immigrants of the world unite!

Why did we decide to move to Romania?

There are various reasons, but one underlying motivation was the simple fact that at that time (1998) we had an opportunity to better ourselves. We were able to find work in Romania at a level we would probably have had to wait years to reach had we stayed in the UK. Many other British immigrants to Romania at that time had similar stories: even though the money was not always better as what was on offer at home (or, in our case, even as good) the chance to get on in whatever your field was – publishing, law, advertising – was too good for many to miss. We left home for Romania because it offered us a chance to better ourselves faster than if we had stayed at home.

While it’s not perhaps the classic immigrant story (we were not exactly fleeing war or poverty, although given that the faux-left wing Labour government of Tony Blair had just been elected prime minister there was a certain amount of fear that purges against the working class were imminent) we have nevertheless always empathised with the plight of immigrants everywhere, never forgetting for one moment that we too are immigrants: strangers pursuing fresh opportunities in a strange land.

As such, we are more than happy to identify ourselves with the dynamic, hard-working and highly entrepreneurial Romanian immigrants to the UK currently featuring in the Channel 4 documentary series The Romanians are Coming. You can watch the first episode here (the second episode is broadcast next Tuesday, with the third and final episode screening on March 3rd).

The reaction to the first episode of the series in certain circles in Romania however has been as predictably hysterical as you would imagine. Leading the charge of the professional offendotrons has been the increasingly ridiculous Lucian Mandruta, a former newsreader who – amongst other daft ideas – supports the reintroduction of compulsory military service. He suggested on his Facebook page that few Romanians would have the ‘stomach’ to watch the whole programme (leave alone episodes two and three). It is also worth noting that Mandruta apparently commented on the programme before it had actually even been broadcast.

Mandruta has been egging on Romanians in the UK to take a stance against Channel 4, which a handful did earlier today by holding a ‘silent protest’ outside Channel 4’s offices. That only a very few people turned up, however, speaks volumes: most immigrants – including myself – found little to be offended about. (By the way, we love how one of the protesters is holding an ‘Equal Rights’ banner. Given how the primary objection to the documentary appears to be that it featured – Heavens forbid! – a Romanian Gypsy, that’s ironic).

Our less than learned opinion about the first episode of The Romanians Are Coming is that is was very well made, investigating as it did not just the lives of the hard-working Romanians who have chosen to try and better themselves in the UK, but also taking an in-depth look at their back-stories, and the reasons they chose to leave Romania in the first place. It was objective yet broadly sympathetic to its subject matter, even getting the nihil obstat from that bastion of political correctness, the Guardian.

The antidote to Mandruta is Vlad Petreanu. His post on the subject (in Romanian) is well worth reading if you can, as is this piece in Adevarul, posted by Liviu Iolu on Sunday afternoon.

Finally, we couldn’t help but laugh when we saw Romania’s dear leader Victor Ponta tweet this on Sunday:

Even funnier is Teodor Tita’s ‘explanation’ of the tweet, here.

We look forward to episode two of The Romanians Are Coming on Tuesday, which apparently features more hard-working Romanians, including a nurse: perhaps one of the amazing Romanian nurses who took such great care of our mum when she was in St. George’s hospital last week.

Immigrants of the world unite!

RATB in new absurdity

There was a marvellous report on the news last night about how RATB - the company which operates public transport in Bucharest – has inadvertently picked up our ‘make public transport in Bucharest free‘ idea and put it into practice.

Due to an almighty cock-up in RATB’s Department of Crapness (we feel certain it has one), it appears that there is not a single Activ or Multiplu card currently available for purchase anywhere in Bucharest.

In other words, you can’t buy a ticket.

The lesser-spotted Activ and Multiplu cards. Rare

As such, passengers who do not already have cards need to either take their chances travelling on a bus or tram with no ticket (the woman at the ticket office in the news report suggests that ticket inspectors are aware of the problem and will be understanding) or – the reporter is helpfully told – find someone who has a card, pay them for one trip and travel with them. “You would have to get off before they do, of course”, the reporter is helpfully told.

RATB refused to make any official comment.

We assume that the shortage of cards extends to the farthest reaches of the RATB network, including the airport: we therefore wonder what newly arrived visitors to the city are being advised when they try to buy tickets? We will be at the airport next week and will find out. If anyone passes through before we do, we’d be grateful for any info.

In another brilliant piece of Romanian transport news, the country was this week told that it can no longer run InterCity train services: all current InterCity trains will be redesignated as InterRegio.

The reason?

Well, under new European transport regulations any train designated as an InterCity service must have a guaranteed average speed of at least 60 kph. Romanian trains cannot guarantee such speeds as the poor state of the tracks on many sectors of the country’s railways simply does not allow it.

Another great leap backwards for CFR.