I had the chance to meet a “fan” last night and I had a really wonderful time, chatting until quite late at night. Apparently she found the blog here over a year ago. She hasn’t come to meet me until just now because she was in the United States. In fact she’s spent most of the last 10 years in the United States.
During our talk, I asked her numerous times to specifically enumerate what exactly she thought was good about the United States. Although she was quite convinced that she wanted to return there (at least for now) she had a really, really hard time being able to isolate and identify what specifically was so good about her life over there. Yeah the money (salaries) is a little better and a few other things. But I hope she doesn’t mind if I answer the question for her, based on all the stories she told me throughout the night. The true reason why she had so many good times in America was because of the people.
This same person has also been to India, which is poles apart from America and definitely very different than Romania. Although she spent far less time in India, I’ve known a lot of people who have been to India on both visits as well as lived there for many years. Again, their collective answer is the people. It’s not the elephants or the architecture or the hamburgers or the rock n’ roll – it’s always about the people.
As you know, I live here voluntarily. I know many, many people who are “foreign” who live here as well. I know students from Germany who go to university here and Flemish people married to Romanians and even a few “older folk” and we all live here voluntarily. And if you ask all of them, as I have, why they choose to live here you will get a lot of answers. But it’s almost never the people.
India is a teeming mass of third world poverty, with enormous crowds of beggars and wild, chaotic streets. America is a nation of obese, gun-toting fascists. So why is it, despite all of these clear and obviously unpleasant environments, are the people so engaging? And why is it that here in Romania, with its unspoiled nature, with its mountains and valleys and beaches, with its peaceful, virtually crime-free cities, with its abundant internet access and delicious food, that this country is full of such unpleasant people?
Yes, Romanian women are beautiful looking. I got it. Perhaps some of the men are handsome as well, I don’t know. But there are very few beautiful Romanian people. On the inside, I mean. A lot of times they are bitterly negative scolds who count the thorns on a bouquet of roses. Other times they are vain, shallow, superficial and overly obsessed on their clothes and appearance. They engage in petty disputes with their neighbors and involves themselves in lengthy snitching and back-stabbing operations. Often times they are indifferent to the suffering and plight of others, easily able to kick a mangy dog out of their way or ignore a person who is injured or sick.
I know it sounds a little weird to hear this from me, now Romania’s official number one cheerleader, but I bring this up because for the longest time I wondered why this was so. Why are so many Romanians vindictive and petty and shallow and insensitive? Life is (and can be) quite good. Go count the number of homeless beggars in any Indian or American city and compare it to Romania! And yet time and time and time again I meet people who travel to India or America and they fall in love with the people there. But not here in Romania. Why not?
If the collective behaviors of Romanians were treated as a single “personality” of a human being, what would you call that? If you knew a person who acted like Romanians generally do, what would that person be like? What traits would you say their personality has?
Here’s my list:
As soon as I saw all those traits put together, I realized what it was. This is the exact same description of a spoiled (rasfatat) kid. Except for the fact that Romanians don’t tend to do a lot of yelling and screaming, they are, in general, behaving exactly like spoiled little brats.
Of course it wasn’t always that way. I’ve written about my talks with survivors of World War 2, which was tough going around here. But let’s face it, a few brave Romanians made a stand in Alba Iulia in 1918 but it was only due to the generosity (and a PR campaign) and regional politics of other countries that they got one third of their country (Transylvania). It wasn’t earned, it was given to them. A piece of paper was signed in another country and magic, presto, here’s a huge piece of territory given to you as a little Christmas present. Sorry, Hungarians but you backed the wrong horse.
The Soviet occupation of Romania was tough (1948-1954) but Ceausescu was a canny little weasel and he borrowed billions of dollars from the west to build useless factories. Communism wasn’t always easy but in Romania it was a sweet piece of cake compared to other places in Eastern Europe. Every Romanian I know who was an adult in those days has warm fuzzy memories of the “good jobs” in the (useless and stupid) factories, the vacations to the seaside, the low cost of meat, you name it. Then you got paid to have babies and a free place to live. Not a bad deal at all.
And then here comes a revolution in 1989, a quick and dirty affair, where a handful of people did all the suffering and dodging of bullets, and magic, bam, presto now everyone gets out from under the yoke of Communism with 99% of Romanians not having to do a thing. Most of them hid in their bathtubs until it was over.
In short order Romania is spoiled once again, this time with tanks and planes, hey please come join NATO and so they did. President Clinton came all the way out here just to cement the deal. And then after that came the European Union, oh you little wayward but beautiful sister, please join us. And so Romania got that too, without having to do almost anything at all.
Now of course I realize that all the hissy fits and temper tantrums are done by Romania’s politicians. When Holland declined to allow Romania to join the Schengen Zone, Basescu threw a fit. All these “big brother” EU countries want Romania to cut down on the corruption but oh no, Romania wants its candy and doesn’t want to eat its vegetables. No sir. Romania wants its corruption and the sweet flow of limitless EU funds, all at the same time.
The mayor of Cluj, Sorin Apostu, had a little hissy fit right in front of me. And I damn sure remember him constantly talking about how great it was to get free money from the European Union. And all along he knew quite well that he and his cronies were going to skim as much of that money off as possible. Why not? Romanians are spoiled little brats. They think if they look pretty and smile sweetly, big daddy (America, EU or wherever) is going to continue to hand over the treats. And the Romanian voters will continue to elect these greedy fools over and over again.
Some of you saw my video interview with Groparu, talking about how there’s something wrong with the men here in Romania. It was an off the cuff remark but I was speaking some real truth there. Men don’t do very well when they are overly spoiled. They become restless, inconstant and find it hard to focus and be dedicated. They also tend to stuff themselves with food and alcohol. But the women here are equally bad, pampered and spoiled until sometimes it seems their life is one long parade of clothes, shoes, make-up, gossip and chatter about their appearances. Boyfriends and girlfriends (and wives and husbands) are status objects, to be shown off like you would a new car or new mobile phone. As both genders get older, they turn to drinking and idleness on one hand (usually the men) and petty, vindictive negativity on the other hand (usually the women). And both genders engage in eye-poppingly stupid short-term greed and callous indifference to anything much further than their own corporeal pleasures.
I’ve told this story before but I remember going to the corner shop here in Cluj a few years ago on the day after Easter. I noticed it was completely deserted and the clerk told me that it was because all my (Romanian) neighbors were broke. They had spent all their money on alcohol and food for the holiday. And I know that’s got to be true as I’ve been in the “hypermarkets” before big Romanian holidays and it’s a madhouse of people in there all wheeling around shopping carts stuffed to maximum capacity with meat and alcohol and other goodies.
I probably know several hundred Romanians here in this country who are under 30, who have graduated from school and who have jobs. And yet I can count on one hand the people from this group that I know who can save money, who are not dead broke or in debt at the end of the month. Out of all of those people, only a tiny handful know what it means to have the discipline to budget your money.
Early last year (2011) I wrote about a newspaper piece in which Adevarul followed a group of university students to see if they could budget their money so that they could make 400 lei pay for all their food for a month. They could not. They simply couldn’t! Just like all the young, working people I know, they couldn’t resist the temptation to indulge. They are spoiled brats.
There are a few tough old bastards living in this country but by and large this is a nation of spoiled brats, who were given the gift of living in one of the most beautiful and abundant countries on the planet and yet they never appreciate it. Foreigners come here and immediately love it. Romanians are inevitably shocked by it when I tell them and ask me why. Open your eyes, dumb ass! It’s obvious why.
But when the little princes and princesses get their country handed to them, when they get all that territory and all that democratic freedom as a gift, when they get free tuition and free health care, when they get their cities beautified by free money, when they get their roads built by others, when they get their trendy clothes made by others, when they dance to music made by others, when they sip on drinks made by others, when they consider going to McDonald’s a cool thing to do on a date, when entire forests are logged to be sold abroad but all the toothpicks in the store are made in China, you get a nation of spoiled little brats.
As odd as it sounds, as awful as it sometimes is, it is the suffering that people go through in America and India and all these other places that makes those people so likable, so charming, so engaging, so creative and so attractive. I really do think that’s what it is. Because while Daddy loves his little princess and Mommy loves her special boy, nobody else finds your whiny, spoiled behavior charming at all.
Quite frankly what this country needs is a good, old-fashioned kick in the ass.