It’s been 7 months since I’ve been in Bucharest. The past couple of months I’ve been under quarantine and staying indoors. That aside, people kept asking me how’s it been in Bucharest and how’s life been in Bucharest, how different life is compared to Bangalore.
Moving across the world is a huge endeavour and even though I’ve done my share of travels, moving and settling in Bucharest while smooth, experiencing day to day life in Bucharest took me by surprise. Here’s a list of things that stood out:
Public transport is hit and miss. I stay close to the office, so I can walk to work. There are buses, trams, and subway/metro and the metro is the preferred way to get around. Metro coverage is not that high, and most people use their cars when possible. Uber’s around as well and unlike in India where you’re most likely to be called asking which way to go, only to be cancelled - here it’s been pretty seamless, albeit I have seen relatively high wait times. But, they do come, unlike back home.
Romanians love their coffee(espresso, more than anything) and it shows. There’s lot of speciality cafes and it’s not uncommon to see espresso machines and speciality coffee everywhere - even at small supermarkets.
Beer is plenty and cheap. Often cheaper than cola/soft drinks. As with coffee, most supermarkets will have beer, whiskey and other spirits. The Romanian equivalent of local liquor comes in two different forms - the Pălincă and Țuică. Both are made from fermented plums with the pălincă having much, much higher alcohol percentage (60% vs 40%). During the winter here, nothing warms you up like a Pălincă shot.
Romanians are infamous for being bad(read rash) drivers, and you’ll experience it first-hand when you take an Uber from the Airport. There is one exception however: no matter how fast they are going, at the slightest indication of a pedestrian crossing, even from a mile away, they will stop. Rewiring my brain to tell me that I can cross at the zebra crossing without worry took a long time and I still haven’t gotten over that.
There’s a good number of parks, small and large. I love this aspect and it doesn’t make me miss J.P. Nagar.
Tap water is drinkable. My god. Cold + hot water on the same tap. My god. Mind blown. If you think that’s a big deal, try doing the dishes when the water is colder than ice.
Taxes are high. Get used to it. Nothing beats the shock in seeing the amount credited to your bank account being so tiny after seeing a high number on the offer letter.
Learn the language. If you say kannad nahi aata in Bangalore, most people will try to adjust - here I noticed that people, especially courier delivery folks or customer service folks, would say I don’t know and just hang up.
Did I mention language is a pain? Moreso when you see a huge supermarket and find that all the signs, boards, labels are all in Romanian. I feel so lost in large spaces, and when combined with the not-in-English boards it was so overwhelming.
Don’t expect a substantial change in life. Especially if you’ve stayed in the metros, close to work. Traffic is the same no matter the city. Crowds are the same, just less dense. This will vary from place to place but in general, don’t think you will be in a paradise.
Get ready to pay more for everything. Forget cashbacks and discounts. Want something delivered? Pay 5-30 Lei. Want something ordered? Expect minimum order amounts. This is especially so in Bucharest - Amazon is not available locally(though you can order from Amazon Deutschland or the like) here and Uber Eats is exiting Romania, among other places in the EU. Every seller here has their tariff for delivery.
No equivalent of UPI but alternatives like n26, Revolut, Transferwise etc are there. Contactless payments and Apple Pay, Samsung Pay etc accepted almost everywhere. Bank transfers are not free, even for incoming transfers. Not sure if this is something specific to my bank.
Learn2clean. Maids are expensive.
Forget small vendors selling dosa, vada, pani puri etc. There are some Indian restaurants around but they are quite expensive, and most of the food I tried wasn’t that great.
Corresponding to that, Indian stores are almost not to be seen. There’s one online shop - and if you look hard enough (and do a triple translation of your mother tongue - English - Romanian), you will mostly get the powders that you want, albeit in smaller pouches/quantities. Red chilli powder is difficult to get - you get paprika, which looks similar but doesn’t have the same levels of heat.
Bureaucracy is a pain. There’s a lot of bureaucracy involved pre-immigration, and till you get your residency permit and your loved one over, be prepared to continue doing paperwork.
The Resident Permit pain
Expanding upon the last, unlike the US, in Romania (and I believe in other parts of Europe as well) your visa is valid for a fairly short period and you’re expected to apply for a resident permit card. The resident part grants you entry into the state and has different validity periods. The resident permit also works as your identity and address proof document. Immigrants are legally obligated to have the address updated when you change where you stay. Now, to get the id card there’s a process to be followed which involves a bunch of document submission and about a month’s wait from the time you submit. However, till you get the resident permit, you will not get your id number (aka CNP/Cod Numeric Personal) - which is required for almost everything - from opening a bank account to applying for an internet connection and more. In fact, during my first week in Bucharest, I spent like 3 days visiting various banks, asking if they would open a bank account without a CNP. Some tried their best and failed, others flat out rejected. Ultimately, the manager at Banca Transylvania opened a bank account for me using my passport.