If, like us, you’ve had enough of articles about Romania by foreigners which – when paraphrased – basically amount to ‘we like this country because it’s backwards’, then you have come to the right place. For this rant is intended to be the antidote to such clichéd rubbish, as well as a riposte to the loonies on the extremes of Romanian politics who see enemies everywhere, usually from the EU and possibly dressed in provocatively homosexual clothing.
Let’s take two simple questions:
Why then, do we like Romania? Why do we choose to live here?
They are questions we get asked often – as recently as last week in fact by a Romanian nurse at St. George’s Hospital in Tooting who was looking after our mother. She was insistent that we’d got it wrong. We had ‘gone the wrong way’, she said. Romania to England is the sensible move, not the other way around.
Truth is of course, it totally depends on the individual. For a Romanian nurse life might well be better in England. For us, life remains better in Romania than it would be in the UK.
Here are just five reasons why.
1. Cost of living
This is a list of five reasons but it could, ultimately, be reduced to just this one: Romania is a cheaper country than the UK in which to live. And whatever anybody might say, such things matter, hugely so.
Our modest income goes much further in Romania than it would in the UK. Replicating our lifestyle in London would take an income way beyond that we currently enjoy.
Of course, the UK offers potentially higher earnings, but that would involve getting a proper job and commuting to an office every day: something we don’t fancy much.
a lazy bastard somebody who likes a relatively easy life and is prepared to forego a potentially higher income in exchange for having one, Romania is hard to beat.
2. Low taxation
Both income tax and local taxes in Romania are low. The flat rate of income tax has been at 16 per cent for a decade and no political party appears brave enough to even consider raising it. Indeed, all talk is of lower income tax rates, not higher.
Local taxes (or council taxes) are also cheap. For a four-room apartment in central Bucharest we pay 536.88 lei per year: that’s just under £87. In exchange we get two (yes, two) rubbish collections per week: read it and weep, Londoners.
The only tax which sometimes bites in Romania is VAT: stuck at a whopping 24 per cent for most items. It is set to fall this year, however, perhaps as low as 20 per cent.
3. A small state
There is much bureaucracy in Romania, as anyone who has ever tried to do any paperwork can testify to. Despite that, Romania is a country which since 1989 has by and large left its citizens alone to live their own lives. CCTV is rare. We don’t get messages telling us that ‘Your internet service provider has blocked access to this website’ when trying to search for torrents. We doubt we will see any Steaua fans (or fans of other teams) jailed for singing offensive songs any time soon. You can smoke where you like (not always, we admit, a good thing). There are no calls for the minimum pricing of alcohol.
4. World’s fastest internet
Which brings us nicely on to the internet. We now enjoy one of the world’s fastest internet connections, regularly topping 900Mbps. With two kids who spend half the day on various devices, and with us having to send enormous files to printing houses this is a massive bonus. Indeed, the latest issue of Bucharest In Your Pocket was sent to our printer from London: it took almost an hour to upload, so slow are internet speeds in suburban Britain. In Bucharest it takes a couple of minutes.
And then there’s the matter of cost again. In the UK we pay £35 for internet alone (with Virgin Media). That’s for the top speed they offer in the area (Wimbledon): around 75Mbps. In Romania (with Telekom) for the same money we get our high-speed internet, plus landline, plus IPTV with all sport and film channels (HBO etc.)
5. Bright, dynamic young people
Romania is not the worst place in the world to run a company. We had to hire a couple of new members of staff recently: it wasn’t difficult. We were inundated with applications from bright, dynamic, multilingual young people ready to work for a relatively small basic salary but with the potential to earn plenty more if they met their targets. We were able to select the best of the best.
What’s ironic is that such people are available in the UK, but they are often immigrants.
All told, we guess that what we are saying is that these are the best of times for Romania.
We really struggle to fathom the logic of the increasingly vocal pan-Slavists who rail against the EU, against globalisation and against the modern world in general, and who call for a return to ‘traditional’ Romanian values, which they feel are somehow being eroded.
What exactly do these Luddites want? A return to the shortages of communism, when people queued for hours in the hope of purchasing basic foodstuffs? A return to the fascism of the 1930s, when thuggish legionnaires roamed the streets killing people for fun? A return to the feudalism and the slavery of the 19th century?
No, despite the fact that the idiotic Victor Ponta remains the country’s prime minister, this is the best Romania there has ever been. (That might not be saying much, but it’s true). Of course, it could be much, much better – there are still awful levels of poverty in this country, not least in the countryside – and there is much to be done.
Yet let there be no doubt about it: today’s Romanian (or, indeed, Anglo-Romanian) children are the luckiest there have ever been. The wealth of opportunity they enjoy is beyond the wildest dreams of even our generation.
They are healthier, better educated, freer, will live longer and will be richer than any generation of Romanians before them. And there is more to come. What’s to complain about?
Cheer up you blockheads.