Walking 1.609 Kilometers In My Shoes

Since I realize not everyone reading this blog has been to Romania, or perhaps not America, or even neither, I thought I’d be kind of fun to pull back from the great, wider perspective a little and focus on the more tangible. It’s easy to talk about “Romania” as a giant , singular entity but sometimes a more personal look reveals interesting things.

Nothing’s more tangible and personal than my verrah own life, so I thought that’d be a wonderful place to start.

Conversion rates are from Google (at today’s rates) and the American food prices are from Peapod dot com. I realize that’s not exactly an equal comparison but for now it’ll have to do.

Since I obviously don’t live in America at the moment, the information in that column is a composite of my own memories as well as based on what I hear from people who live there now.

My morning today:

Romania America
Walk out of my apartment in the bloc. Walk out of my apartment, one of just 4 in a former house that was converted into apartments.
Walk down the street. Unlock and get in my car.
Pass a group of kids, chattering and laughing while waiting for the bus. They are clearly at ease. Kids are supervised until they get on the bus. From a young age they are taught to be vigilant of all unknown people and to fear bodily kidnapping as a realistic risk.
These kids are waiting for the ordinary city bus. Special, expensive buses are used to transport children.
On foot, I pass by several taxi drivers, sitting idly in their cars, reading the newspaper. In my car I rarely see a taxi driver anywhere and if I do, the driver is quite busy.
I continue to walk down the street, admiring the strange change in the weather. I drive from one red light to the next, mashing the gas and driving as fast as I can in between them. The car’s environment is set by me.
The sidewalks are in almost universally excellent condition. Sidewalks rarely exist.
I amble up to the local corner store and buy a single banana. There is no “corner store” and if there is one, it probably sells gasoline, beer and potato chips.
N/A I fill up the car with gasoline.
I continue walking down the street and make it to my veterinarian. I didn’t bring my cats – it was purely just a social visit. My veterinarian is extremely busy and the only time I see him/her is by appointment (or emergency) concerning my pet.
My veterinarian and I chat at leisure, drinking some herbal tea. N/A
My veterinarian gives me a sack of apples and pears picked from trees in her back yard. They’re tiny, ugly and fill of pinholes and other insect damage. They are, however, incredibly delicious and sweet. N/A
My veterinarian is trilingual. My veterinarian is monolingual but probably knows a few medical Latin terms.
I say goodbye to the veterinarian and continue on my way, passing many people out for a stroll, including elderly people and people pushing babies in strollers. Everyone is indoors or in a vehicle at all times on the streets except for joggers (possibly) and dog walkers.
Wave after wave of public buses pass by me, loaded with schoolchildren and adults. Maybe one bus an hour, half empty, will travel down this street.
Although I don’t buy anything, I briefly browse the 20 plus newspapers for sale at a sidewalk kiosk. N/A – no one walks anywhere so nothing is sold on the street and there’s never more than 3 or 4 newspapers (often fewer) for sale anywhere
A very nice elderly gentlemen stops me to express his admiration for my messenger bag. It looks vaguely like this and I like it myself, that’s why I bought it. Utterly charming fellow. N/A
I pass by an elementary school where (seemingly) hundreds of children are outside, running around and playing and screaming and laughing. I drive by an elementary school. All the children are inside. The only sound to be heard is the buzzer announcing class change.
I continue on my way, crossing several intersections with ease as the cars yield to the pedestrians. Pedestrians must be extremely wary of cars and crossing the street is often extremely dangerous. That’s yet another reason why I’m driving a car instead of walking.
I walk in through the automatic doors of a supremely modern and well-stocked hypermarket. I park the car and walk in through the automatic doors of a supremely modern and well-stocked hypermarket.
Not a single employee grins at me, shouts slogans at me or asks if I need any help. Yet when I approach one to ask for assistance, they are quite helpful. I have bells jingled at me and employees shouting slogans at me while others constantly approach and ask if I need any help. All employees are furthermore wearing buttons and uniforms with exhortations splashed all over them in bright fonts, such as “Have a Nice Day!”
I buy 10 oranges, weighing 2.24 kg (5 lb), for 7.85 lei ($2.4 USD). The skin of the oranges is not uniform in color, with some yellow and/or green patches. I buy 10 oranges, all of them spray-painted a lustrous perfect orange color, weighing about 5 pounds, for $6 USD (19.5 lei).
I buy 400 grams of cucumbers at 6.99 lei per kilo for a total of 2.79 lei (85 cents) I buy 14 ounces of cucumbers (pre-packaged) for a total of 2.99 USD (9.75 lei)
I buy one kilo (2.2 lbs) of chicken necks for 5.49 lei (1.68 USD) N/A
I buy an 800 gram (1.76 lb) pack of chicken wings for 8.8 lei (2.69 USD) I buy a 1.6 pound (725 grams) pack of Perdue chicken wings that cost 2.99/lb so I pay 4.78 USD (15.5 lei).
I buy a locally-grown head of lettuce for 2.45 lei (USD 0.75) I buy a lettuce grown hundreds if not thousands of miles away for 2.50 USD (8.1 lei)
I make my way to the cash register and pay for my items after the clerk scans them at the register. If I want a bag, I have to pay for it. I knew this ahead of time so I brought a bag I’ve used hundreds of times. I make my way to the cash register and I scan all the items myself and then pay a computer. Unlimited bags are free, but to feel good about the environment, I brought my own reusable one. Nonetheless I probably have hundreds of grocery bags at home.
On my way out of the store, I pass a machine that sells fresh milk. On my way out of the store, I pass four or five machines that sell Coca-Cola and other sodas.
Although the day started out blustery, I see the sun is shining so I decide to walk for a while yet. Once I’ve left the house, I’m forced to drive my car whether the weather is nice or not.
I stop by a neighborhood florist and end up meeting two extremely charming people, one a Romanian young man who spoke fluent Hungarian but no English and his elderly assistant, an (ethnic) Hungarian woman who spoke at least six languages, including some very passable Swedish. Although I’d never met these people before in my life, I stay in there at least half an hour chatting with them. When I leave, we’re all smiling. N/A
I conveniently walk across the street and hop in a taxi, one of numerous cabs just sitting there, waiting for passengers. The car is modern and in excellent condition. I call a cab. I wait 40 minutes for it to arrive. It’s usually an extremely worn-out Crown Victoria or other large vehicle.
I sit in the front and the driver discusses with me, at length, how temperature changes going on with the weather affect the sugar levels in fruit and how it’ll affect the trees and soil. I sit in the back, perhaps behind a plastic barrier, and maybe talk about sports.
I get to my bloc, get out of the taxi and almost get clocked in the head by a soccer ball as some kids are playing out front. I finally get home and park my car, being sure to lock it up tight. Children play in supervised areas only.

That was my morning :D


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Categorised in: Balada Supravietuitorului, my personal life

26 Responses »

  1. And knowing is half the battle! Thank you for this. It made me feel a bit better about my country. :)

  2. Automate de lapte se gasesc in pietele renovate (crangasi, drumul taberei, obor, etc) si am vazut si cu lapte de vaca si cu lapte de capra :)

  3. I think you might have turned more Romanian (as in bias) than planned. America can’t be that “locked down”. Is it?

    I’m curious. Do you have more expat readers than Romanians? Have you any idea?

  4. Sam, you have captured perfectly what I love about being in Romania compared to the states! I tell my Romanian friends often that they know not what they have. I have met a few Romanians in Dallas and I ask each one the same thing upon meeting, “Is the SUA what you thought it would be?” Each time the response is nu and in a slightly negative flavour, with nu elaboration needed. I like the slower pace of life in Romania and I feel much safer on the streets of Bucuresti at night than in Dallas. In Dallas we zip ourselves up in our castles and never meet out neighbours, we drive everywhere, and eat food that has nu taste, but damn it looks good! When I am in BUc I meet people all the time on the strada and always people have time to chat. One day I will live In Bucuresti full time and I would do this just for the rosie alone!

‹ Older Comments


  1. De ce îmi iubesc ţara | acsel.ro
  2. A morning spent in Romania vs. another morning spent in the USA « Gramo
  3. mă extaziez la Sam cel Român « partea luminoasă

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