The Iron Grip of Moldova


Whew, am I still alive? Apparently so :) Thank goodness!

As you might have heard, I now have a job here in Moldova, and I’ve been having some real adventures. It is literally surreal to be back in an office environment after more than a decade of being a freelancer and working from home.

I’m still super busy trying to balance my official job with my other activities (including this often-neglected site!), so my apologies for the dearth of posting lately. One way or the other, I write about 5,000 words a day for someone, just not here too often.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d take a brief moment to explain some of the things I’ve learned at my “real” job here in Chisinau.

The Iron Grip of Moldova

About six years ago (woah!), I wrote a brief post about how people touch each other in Romania. Included in there was a brief discussion about how to shake hands (which was expanded upon in my book).

Here in Moldova, things are just a bit different, at least for men. For women, it’s the same – you never need to shake hands with anyone, and it’s kind of impudent for a man to shake a woman’s hands. But for men, the rule here seems to be give the guy a really manly grip. And that’s fine.

Where I’m living was once behind the so-called iron curtain. But I’ve come to start to fear going to work every day because the rule around here is that you have to shake hands (with an iron grip!) with every single guy you know, every single day. Woah!

I’m used to shaking hands with friends when I see them, but I’ve never been in a position where I see a bunch of guys whom I know on a daily basis. It feels a little weird to shake hands every single day with every single guy I know, but that’s what I’m now doing. And yes, I realize that me wincing every time a big guy crushed my hand doesn’t paint me in a flattering light, but so be it.

And I’ve also noted that it tends to be the Sashas and Alexeis who shake my hands with the most powerful grip. That is to say, the “Russians” are more into the manly iron grip handshake deal than the “Romanians”. Of course, all the guys I work with are Moldovans, but some use Russian as their first language and some Romanian.

My sample size is too small to be truly accurate, but once again I do believe that Russia and America are really quite similar.

Fearless Fast Food

Unless you’ve lived in both the United States and Romania/Moldova, there are little things that you’d never notice. For some of my readers, one of the below facts will be a surprise and the other not, while for other readers, it’ll be the opposite.

Despite being gung-ho individualists who regularly perform courageous acts and embarrassing things on YouTube for likes, Americans in general have a really weird fear of ordering/buying food. Why? I really don’t know. But Americans get shy/anxious when ordering food in a restaurant, ordering food at a drive-through, or calling a restaurant on the phone and placing an order. Many Americans, in fact, are so shy/feel so much anxiety about it that they always need/want someone else to do it.

This fear/anxiety over buying food extends even to the grocery store. Despite the fact that the average cashier sees hundreds of customers come through their line every day, 99% of Americans believe that the cashier 1) gives a shit about what they (i.e. the customer) is buying and 2) are secretly judging them for it. Click here and here to read stories about this very common anxiety/fear.

This fear/anxiety is why Americans love smartphone apps or websites where you can click and order food without having to talk to anyone at all. In Moldova, such a thing barely exists.

Now that I work in an office with a lot of younger people with plenty of disposable income, I see a lot of food being ordered into the office on a regular basis. And what surprised me was that literally no one has any fear at all when it comes to ordering food.

Furthermore, I’ve done my fair share of shopping at the grocery store here in Chisinau, and the cashier has never once made any comment of any type about what I’m buying. They honestly and truly don’t give a shit. And I see people buying all kinds of weird combinations (like a bottle of ketchup and ice cream) and they don’t look stressed about it at all.

Logically, of course, the Moldovan way is the “common sense” attitude to have. After all, even if the cashier/worker did think something was “odd” about your food order, so what? You don’t even know them!

But illogical or not, most Americans remain quite anxious when it comes to buying food even though 99.99% of them do it every single day.

Readin’, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic

I don’t do too much arithmetic (math) on a daily basis as that’s what spreadsheets are for, but I sure do a lot of reading. Some of it’s for my job, and some of it’s for pleasure. And I also do a whole lot of writing, 90% of which is published under someone else’s name.

One of the really nicer things I’ve been reading lately is messages/emails from people who have read something I wrote (using MY name), especially my books. Wow! Sometimes I get so focused on paying the bills that I forget that people actually do read my stuff – and like it! That’s a really great feeling.

I’ve also been getting a few messages from authors asking me for advice, which is also quite cool. I love writing, and it’s very gratifying to encourage/help other people write. I may not quite be “famous” yet (at least not for my writing), but that’s just a matter of time. And even in the future when I’m driving around my gold-plated limousine, I’ll always be glad to help out other authors.

And, without going into too many long-winded details, my writing here and elsewhere under my own name has been severely hampered by the fact that I have a computer older than Moses. Seriously, my computer was manufactured in 2006 (zoinks!) and I’ve spent most of the past two years squeezing every drop of efficiency out of it in order to pay the bills with not a lot of time left over to patiently wait for pages to load in order to write a blog post or other stuff.

What I really need is a new computer, and the good news is that my new job + my other freelance stuff has finally put me on a path to get one. Indeed, my goal is to buy a new computer by the end of the year (my wife got one a few months ago but hey, she’s my wife so she comes first!). Once that happens, you’ll see PLENTY of new stuff here on this site.

But… I have some good news that doesn’t have to wait until I buy a new computer! I have a pretty decent computer at work, and while I’m prohibited from doing things on it that are obviously unrelated to work (like write about Romania), I have been able to… ahem… bend the rules a bit.

I am now in the process of writing a new story, one that’s in a completely new and amazing format that has literally never been done before. Better said, I’m totally unaware of anyone writing a story in this medium because it was only invented six months ago. I can’t tell you anything else except that it was inspired by a book I bought when I was 7 years old that was literally the most amazing book I have ever read.

Is my new story cool? It’s super cool! And I’ve been having a TON of fun breathing it into life. It’ll be a couple of weeks before it’s done, but once it’s ready, all of you can read it (for free). Right now, I have a crew of 12 beta readers, and they’ve all been blown away and been giving me tons of amazing feedback. Wow! I am QUITE excited, so stay tuned for more news about that.

AND NOW YOU KNOW!

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