DANAP.RO Interview with Yvette Larsson. Founder of the Bucharest Lounge. English Version

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– Who are you Yvette Larsson ?

Please : Check my Linkedin : http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=34364457&trk=hb_tab_pro_top

  1. You spent your childhood in Sweden, you live now in Denmark, but you consider yourself a citizen of the world. You do travel a lot, as you confess on your blog – “from a tropical island in the Indian Ocean to the cosmopolitan London and French Provence”. How can you explain your thirst of getting to know so different types of culture? Are you gathering material for some anthropological studies or maybe documentaries?

I grew up in Lapland, Sweden. Moved when I was 19 to study at Umeå  University. Moved abroad 2000 to La Reunion.  My dream was “ to live on an island where they dance salsa and where I have sand in my hair after a day at the beach” :-)))) 

I was always passionated about learning other languages and speaking to people from other countries. I am a very open and curious person who grew up in Scandinavia in the 80ties and 90ties. I was a real dreamer. When I was a teenager I had summer jobs at tourist places, campings , airports, cafés where tourists came and later on as a language school teacher in the UK and France.  I had pen-pals from all over the world. When I had to chose a programme for Upper Secondary School I chose the Humanistic Programme with languages, art, history and alike. At University I studied languages, education, media, and journalism. The read thread in my life has always been communication and people. I just love traveling and seeing the world. It’s pure passion. I’m very curious as a person. I find it hard to accept answers like “ NO “ .  I need to know the WHY. 

I love stories. I read a lot . My own kids are also citizens of a global village and speak fluently three languages and manage another two.  I have a talent, or how shall I say it, to feel at home, and be able to navigate  in many places and situations, in the world. 

However, I love Europe. I now came to the point that this is where I want to live. I also want to be just a short flight from my parents too. I want to be able to see them for the weekend if I wish. 

I am writing a book about Romania now. A Window to My Soul. There is a link to it here on the blog.

I have many documentaries in my head. Especially on the theme of “New Europe”. Eastern Europe needs to start shining now. There is so much to offer and us, in the west, just don’t seem to be interested. Due to many factors.  There is so much to show and discover. For example : your whole cultural heritage is completely in the shades. Ask somebody outside Romania’s border who Eminescu is, your National Poet. Tell me what answers you get. Just a small example.  I have a lots of ideas that I want to put into practice this year. 

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When you first came to Romania back in 1985 – was it a vacation trip, a travel tour through Europe? – the atmosphere was a little bit gloomy over all, I presume. What did you think at the time of the Romanians, a lot different from you fellow countrymen? What is the most beautiful recollection of that time? Did you think that you should revisit our country some day? Or, on the contrary, that you would never come back again…

In 1985 I came with my parents and grand-parents on a 2 weeks charter trip to Mamaia. It was cheap for us to travel there. I was only 13 years old, so for me it was a pure adventure , to come to a warm sunny place and to experience something completely different from what I was used to. Romanians then were closed and not talkative, for obvious reasons. But still, smiling. You know , the face speaks. Eyes speak. Smiles speak the same language anywhere in the world. I remember a lot of smiles. I remember people approaching us secretly wanting to buy all we were wearing, from top til toe, also for obvious reasons.  

Beautiful recollection? When I met this group of boys on our hotel  terrace in Mamaia and one of the boys spoke English. It was like a river flowing. I so loved it. Remember : I was a teenager and speaking to boys was great. Also remember, I am and was always, a curious one. I wanted to hear from them how life was in Romania.   

As we went home and I started to write to one of the boys, I definitely thought I would come back. I kept telling my parents “We have to go back”,  because I loved it so much. However, after a year,  we started to realize how the President kept its people tightly and my parents just didn’t want to go again as them, together with others from here , didn’t want to support that regime by traveling there.  

There came to a point when I thought I would never go back.

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– What actually brought you here back, in September 2011?

I met my pen-friend again here in Copenhagen after 26 years, and my curiosity came alive. What had happened to my Romania ? He wanted to show me the new Romania. That’s how it started.  It was purely amazing. 

I can’t really describe it in words the first day.

 

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-You’re writing on your blog that although “in a huge development phase, the Romania has a lot of potential”. https://bucharestlounge.wordpress.com/beauty-and-meaning/ Can you describe this potential a little bit more?

Potential to shine. Potential to open up the treasure box to the world. 

Romania has so many resources in a wide range of areas. Sea, mountains, an interesting capital, friendly people, amazing traditions, history, architecture, design, music, intelligent polyglots, delicious food and wine. There is an abundance there of it all. Bucovina, for example could be “the new Provence”, Bucharest the new hot spot for weekend traveling and Romania a European country to be re-discovered. When I travel there it’s like going into a world that is still closed to the world outside. For a split second I catch myself thinking “ maybe that ‘s how they want it, keeping it a secret”. I don’t think so. 

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The problem is: Romania struggles with bad press. Romania needs the crowds back. People need to SEE with their own eyes how wonderful Romania can be, behind the political blur and all the rest that is unfortunately shaping the picture of Romania outside its’ borders.

– Bad press, or bad lobby comes from outside, as well as inside our country.  Many foreigners consider us not only incapable of doing things well, but also lacking in national pride or patriotism. What’s your personal opinion on this?

I can’t speak for anybody else. What I see is people who emigrated because of possibilities abroad. I understand them. What I see is people staying, purely because they want to. I understand them too. As simple as that. Everyone must choose for themselves. It’s not in my character to judge others for their choices.  

I do see national pride and patriotism in Romania. 

I see Romania as a teenager that is about to create its identity. Already knowing what the deeper values are, being distracted from the world outside. Having problems at home. I think Romania needs a new fresh type of leadership.   

I would say : not only bad press. But : face it : there is hardly NO press about Romania at all. The world is not listening to Romania.

– Most of my fellow citizens consider our living conditions so unbearable that they choose to emigrate and start over their lives in other countries. Other people are unhappy about UE regulations on our country and consider that without foreign intrusion will be better off. Anyway there is a lot of low spirit in our country and an overall mindset that things will never get improved, that there is no hope about Romania. Can you comment on this?

Hope is a waking dream says Aristotle. 

I say : NEVER NEVER NEVER give up on things you believe in. There is ALWAYS HOPE.  I hope Romanians will keep their belief in Romania and never give up. 

What I find important is that grass root movements need to focus on the POSITIVE sides that are in Romania and build on that. You have to DECIDE to ALWAYS have a POSITIVE mind set if you want to attract positive change. It will not work otherwise. If you are entangled , day after day , in talks how bad things are, well, things will continue to be bad. If you focus on changing yourself and your community, it will spread. 

But, hey, who am I to say what Romanians and Romania shall do. I hold my position here in all humbleness and there are many truths. 

– How do you choose (on what criteria) your Romanian places and people to visit, to interview, to write about?

It varies. With regards to places it is mostly my friend  who takes me to places and suggest beautiful places.     I fell in love with Bucovina, Maramures and Transylvania, purely from seeing lots of pictures on Facebook. I haven’t been yet, but they are on my list .

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I read a lot. I contact writers and sometimes I am lucky to get a chat. I do things, I meet people on the way. For example: I learned Romanian and met a wonderful teacher. She took me to Carturesti and I fell in love with the place. Another example : I donated things through a project of the Bucharest Lounge and met lots of great people through that. 

On Facebook I met amazing people. Like you 🙂 It all vary. 

I am a very out going person. I speak to people all the time.

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– What is the most beautiful or rather uncanny place you discover so far on your trips through Romania?

I realize that the scenes of the moments of beauty is often set thanks  to my friend. However, choosing some.

 You know the most beautiful place….I think it is when we went to Prahova for the first time , I saw a bit from the country side on the way, and then I met with the people who worked with the childrens’ camp we supported in Valea Screzii. When I saw them it moved me. They do a beautiful and meaningful job and the priest Father Tanase is a rare, amazing human being whom I have deep respect for. I also think it was very beautiful to see the children there and it touched me on a profound level. 

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Being in Orthodox churches are also very moving, beautiful experiences for me. 

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Bucharest during a late afternoon in summer is fantastic. For me small things like getting a walnut from the tree, fresh and crisp, from the hands of my friend is also a very beautiful experience for me. In general, food that comes directly from the land and I can eat with friends is amazing. I had lots of those moments. 

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It was very exciting to see Mamaia and  hotel Dacia again after 26 years. Special. 

Every season has its beauty. I think Easter is a beautiful experience in Romania too. Oh, I can go on and on an on. It will never end. And you know what. I think it only started. I m set for the mountains in February and I can’t wait. 

– Most of us are forgetting about our rural tradition. Nobody did anything to preserve it, and much of it is lost our corrupted. Did you come across some “cradle” of rural habits, a place where you felt that some old popular tradition is still well preserved and native people obey their ancestors’ habits? What rural customs impressed you most?

I’m in a learning curve here. I see people who ARE doing things for rural traditions. Oh. There must be more of this. This is important . This is one of Romania’s strength. The old, real , authentic life, that has gone lost in many places in Europe. 

The vein. 

The oxygene. 

The soul.

Oh, I hope more people will engage in projects. I have many  ideas myself that I would like to bring alive in 2013.  The vein of the Bucharest Lounge is always to mix the old with a twist of modern life. That is what I love. To invite the 2013 modern person into the traditions of our ancestors. 

I belive we should pay respect to what they prepared for us, cultivate it and cherish it. Learn from the wisdom of our parents and grand-parents. 

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Get a scarf that is hand made from Bucovina, instead of one that is factory made.

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Stop this convenience thinking just because time is too short to touch base with yourself. 

Please. Stop and touch base with yourself. 

Decide on the important things. Stop the rushing about.  Try to live slow in a fast paced world. Yes. Try. Make conscious choices. Think about convenience in this example : how amazing is it to read an old love letter from a past time . It makes you smile. There is the letter. The hand writing. The stamp. The old address. Somebody made an effort to write it and post it for you . – Will your child be able to do that if she /he is sending only emails and chat messages? I hope kids will still continue to write with a pen and read from a book. I hope my kids will have the joy of real letters.  

Another example. Food. Romania has a lot of fruit and vegetables and other delicious food and drink.  Support Romanians instead of the convenience of going to a huge super market that sells tomatoes from abroad, tomatoes that dont taste anything. Oh. This is a theme I can go on for ever. How long time do we have ? 

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– Although there is the general opinion the Romania is a beautiful country, geographically speaking, many people think our carelessness and lack of tourism investments drives away not only the potential foreign visitors but also our people, who prefer to spend their vacations in other countries resorts. Leaving aside any political debate on how the tourism funds were/are spent, do you really believe in the Romanian tourism potential? If your answer is yes, can you give us maybe some objective criteria for your opinion?

Yes, I believe in tourism in Romania.

Romania must : 

  • Brand itself
  • Market itself
  • Employ positive, service minded people in the tourism sector. 

– What is the most fascinating native (if there is any) you met until now? Or your more picturesque encounter/happening?

I almost only meet Romanians when I am there. Only time I see foreigners is when I go to dedicated ex-pat meet ups. I’ve  met with many fascinating people. 

Every one of us is fascinating and has a gift in one way or the other. 

The most fascinating one, for me, is my pen-friend. His life, his struggles, how he overcame them, his wisdom and the way he consciously takes a stand for things. I always admired him. He is a young person with a wise , old soul . Romania has soul. 

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– Personally, I am keen on finding people passionate about their hobby or work. Did you any find passion and dedication around, any specific person who impressed you most?

I have a part of the Bucharest Lounge blog where I write about People who inspire . Check it out. In addition. I believe the whole Romanian people impressed me. Romanians are enduring and have lived through many challenges and hard ships. You are strong people.  I admire the elder generation a lot for their strength throughout tough challenges that were set onto the Romanians. I have deep respect for them. 

– Some think that Romanians are full of flaws and short of fine features. What is the talent of the Romanians that our people, maybe unaware of it, should exploit more, in your opinion?

I don’t know what your people may be unaware of.  

Fine features ? Take the metro one morning and you see one after the other , more good looking and more well dressed, after the other. People are elegant there too !!!! 

The true fine features in my eyes however are:  the strength, the endurance and the friendly, kind soul of Romanian people. 

Exploit more ? Well. We don’t know anything about Romania here in the west except for the negatives. Read that again. We dont know anything. That’s why I started The Bucharest Lounge. To paint a more “full “ , balanced , real picture of Romania.  To build a bridge between east and west, to open up for communication and create curiosity and at the end : get crowds back to Romania. 

You say that you’re now on your seventh visits in Romania since September 2011. You’re preparing a book on Romania. Can you give us some details about it? Do you still have documentary work to do? In what “phase” is the project? Did you decide on its title?

Anyone who is curious must go to my blog and read about it : A Window to My Soul. Phase : proof reading ,checking details, feedback sessions. I have work to do . 

-Besides your cultural interests ( https://bucharestlounge.wordpress.com) you’re an expert in communication and you also keep a professional blog on leadership – http://theleadershiplounge.wordpress.com. What can you tell us about your expertise in leadership? A schedule of your conferences to come, maybe?

I have a background in education, sports and health, coaching and leadership. I love to work with values/visions, talent/impact. I love and thrive in environments where I can facilitate making others the best they can be. I had my own company when my kids where small www.yvettelarsson.com and www.yvettelarsson.wordpress.com. At present I am looking for a job in Romania where I can contribute with my leadership skills. I can be hired for talks and workshops anytime. 

– Why your “lounge” choice of words for both titles of your blogs?

A lounge is a place where you get a coffee, smoothie, chai, frappe, and chill out with your friends. You sit in comfy sofas and you talk. You are relaxed. I believe great ideas come when you are relaxed. At least for me. I get my best ideas when I run or when I drink coffee and talk with others. When I am stressed or tense, nothing works. 

The word “ lounge “ is the type of communication that is purely me. The urban part of me.  I use an upbeat language. I like words like :  Romanianology. Super. Or The Awesome Project. Excellent. Or Mandra Chic. Funky.    Bucharest, because it’s the capital and a very cool name. A good name when it comes to inviting people in, from abroad. A good name for a future top one weekend destination in Europe;-))))) 

– Finally, a piece of advice, a word of hope, or a wish for the Romanians readers…

I don’t give advice to people who didn’t ask for it themselves.

The readers didn’t ask for it.

You as a blogger did;-) 

However, I can give words of hope.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up on things you believe in. 

ALWAYS stay optimistic.

 

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