Romanian Roxanna returns to Romania after two years in Sweden. Read about her impressions here.
“When Yvette Larsson heard about the fact that I will be traveling to my home city Bucharest, knowing about my passion for Sweden, how fast I adapted there and how quickly it became my home, as an expat herself who has been living abroad for 13 years, she gave me the great idea of writing about the reverse cultural shock that I will be experiencing while being away from Sweden for the first time after almost two years. Taking into account the similarities between us, at the same time being exactly in the opposite situation I said yes to her request. I reckoned it would have been a good idea to start writing straight away as I was experiencing or seeing different things, so that I would not omit anything that came along during my journey in Eastern Europe.
After planning quite fast and spontaneous my travel, straight after a long day at work I left the next day my home and beloved Stockholm, facing an tremendous fear of stepping out in another part of the world besides Sweden. I was sitting on the plane, with the first stop in Poland, country in which I haven’t previously been, where the flight attendant talked to me in Polish, even though I said to her that I could not speak Polish. Then again she continued to talk in this language which sounded so funny to me. At that moment I thought I will really miss hearing Swedish during my trip. Just before getting of the plane at Warsaw I was so surprised how the nature looked from above. My first thought was : where did the forests disappear? , being used with the large amount of forest in Sweden.
When I stopped by a café at the airport, while changing my flight, I went straight to a café, as determined as Swedish people are. One thing that I learned to forget was that here you get served at the table by the waitresses. When I entered I went straight to the display in order to order and then the waiter asked me to sit down and order. It felt very pleasant and the waitresses were nice and willing to meet all your requirements and needs.
When I first arrived in Bucharest, my parents were waiting for me at the airport. On the way home, by looking from the backseat windows I could not realize that much that I was in another country. I noticed the huge difference comparing to Sweden, but at the same time I did not remember it so well. My first impression about Bucharest was how similar the style of the city and the architecture is to Paris. When it comes to the cultural shock, the first one was the height of people. During the whole time I was in Bucharest, I felt so tall and fit. Men seemed short and women, even though they are beautiful and feminine, they seem very fragile. I never perceived them like this before, but now I was more used to the Scandinavian people, who are known to be very tall and well trained. I consider this difference is because in Romania people do not pursue a high interest for sports and neither do they train regularly.
When it comes to the weather I can really say that spring in Romania was almost like summer in Sweden. Another cultural difference that I noticed from the first day when I went to eat with my father at a restaurant, was the fact that in Romania people are not using their smartphones as much as Swedes do, especially when they are sitting at the same table with their family and friends. Another difference is that grownups in their 20s would not hang out with their parents, while as in Sweden it is quite often that children would go out for lunch with their parents for example. This might be also because in Romania, children do not move away from their parents’ home so early. Many continue to live with their parents even until their 30s, which is extremely rare in Sweden. ￼ ￼
When it comes to traditional Romanian food, I could say that going out to a Romanian restaurant can be a full cultural experience. I am a big fan of food in Sweden; I consider that its quality is much higher and that Stockholm really has to offer a good quality and variety when it comes to restaurants. On the other hand, when coming to the restaurants that serve local traditional food I think that Caru cu bere in the old center offers a real taste of the Romanian food, an exceptional service and at the same time a feeling of the local culture. ￼
One of the big difference between Stockholm and Bucharest when it comes to prices are the taxis. If in Stockholm I would pay around 30-40 euros for a 5-10 minutes one way trip, in Bucharest I traveled only by taxi a whole day, from one part of the city to the other one for only 10 euros, including tips. I heard many foreigners and tourists saying that Bucharest can offer one of the best nightlife and entertainment in the world. Being so used to it I could not understand that at that time, but after experiencing a more strict and very expensive nightlife in Sweden, I appreciated my night out in Bucharest as being the best nightclub and night out in my whole life. Partying as a foreigner in Bucharest, taking into account the glamorous nightclubs, the fact that you can go from one club to another paying almost nothing on the taxi and neither any entrance fees, the beautiful women, cheap alcohol and the freedom to do whatever you feel like, gives you the feeling that you own the places, you really feel like the king of the night.
The purpose of my trip was to take off a little time for myself, step away from the speed of life, relax, spend time with the family and re-experience life in Romania in order to write an interesting article about the reverse cultural shock with real insights from the expat perspective. Besides the last one, which was also the most important one, nothing went according to my plan, and life managed to surprise me once again with interesting events and exceptional people who I met.
When it comes to religion, maybe besides some communities in Småland, people in Romania are more religious than in Sweden. Since I have not been to the church for two years now, my mum insisted that we would go together to the same church that she has been regularly in order to pray for me. After I wrote my “acatism” (piece of paper you write your prayers to God and ask for his help, like with some important things in your life that you would like to accomplish), she introduced me to the priest, who asked me where I was living, and to my huge surprise he started to talk to me in Swedish. He said that he also lived in Sweden for a few months, country which he really liked. He added that he really admired the society, the culture and people in Sweden and also that his son who is a doctor is considering to move to Sweden. I do not know which were the chances of meeting a priest in Romania, who could talk Swedish and lived over there, but this happened the same day, and right after I went to pick up my mum from her office, where I met the accountant, who told me that her son was working as a teacher at Stockholm University and she offered me some advices concerning my life in Sweden.
It seems like just before I left Romania the first time, and even when I came for a short visit, all the ways lead to Sweden and I can only take it as a sign that Sweden is my faith. David Costello, from the Embassy of Ireland was one of the exceptional people I have met during my short trip to Bucharest. I first met David almost two years ago, at an event organized by me for the expats community in Bucharest, when I was working for Aidan Joyce, the businessman who used to own James Joyce Pub and Restaurant in Bucharest. David is a very important person for the Irish community in Bucharest, and despite the fact that he is a busy person; he is very nice person, warm and really easy to talk to. I really appreciated the fact that he took his time in order to meet me and he came together with his daughter Hanna and we had something to drink at at a café. Before traveling to Bucharest I was telling him about the article and I asked him if he knew some Swedish expats in Bucharest, thinking it would be nice to exchange some information about the cultural differences between Sweden and Romania. But maybe the biggest and most surprising experience of the whole trip was the fact that David booked a meeting and introduced me to Jan Björkman, a manager at IKEA in Romania.”
We will share the interview shortly.