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Imagine an old man, taking care of his little coffee house next to the beach, talking to strangers and getting to know them better. This is Luis Garcia’s dream, inspired by his first out-of-the-country experience that took him to Romania. The Belgian-born, half-Spanish-half-Belgian is still in his early 20s, but is already aiming to achieve his dream of living life in a laid-back, relaxed manner as soon as he can. Straight after finishing high-school, Luis decided to adventure out into the world. Although planning to move to Cluj-Napoca, he eventually ended up living in Brașov, where he rediscovered his love for nature, his passion for snowboarding, and got to know himself more than ever before. Enjoy listening to Luis’ winter adventures in episode 3 of Wo/anderers!

What topics we go through in episode 3:

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Read the full conversation from “Episode 3: First times change you” with Luis Garcia below.

English transcript of Episode 3: First times change you

Daniela: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Wo/anderers podcast, episode 3.

Daniela: [00:00:30] Luis Garcia is a Belgian-born, half-Spanish-half-Belgian youngster around his early 20s, who marked his first out-of-the-country experience at 19 by deciding to go to live in Romania for a bit. The trip did more for him than just leave an impression. Luis gained a lot of self-confidence, clarity about what he wants to do in life, and the whole experience offered them a better way to look at the world. Currently a salesman back in Belgium, ultimately, Luis’ dream is to open up a chilled café next to the beach where he can enjoy other people’s company and just being himself.

Daniela: [00:01:04] A dream inspired, by the way, also by Romania. A quick thing before we get on to the episode. This conversation was recorded via Skype. So the audio quality at times might be a bit lagging…

Daniela: [00:01:17] Not so amazing? You’re going to see what we’re talking about. No, Luis is not Darth Vader. And we hope that you enjoy the show anyway.

Daniela: [00:01:30] Hi, Luis.

Luis: [00:01:32] Hello Dandeş.

Daniela: [00:01:33] How’s it going?

Luis: [00:01:34] Good. Good. Very good, how about you?

Daniela: [00:01:36] I’m also really… excited about the podcast. I think it’s going to be a pretty interesting conversation and I’m also doing pretty well.

Luis: [00:01:42] Yeah, it’s… it’s been a while since I picked up on the memories of the Romanian adventure.

Daniela: [00:01:48] That’s perfect. So let’s dive right into them with a memory that is pretty permanent on your thigh. Let’s talk about your first tattoo.

Luis: [00:01:57] Yeah, I got it… I think 3 or 4 months into the Romanian experience, I got it. And it’s basically the mountains, the ones we hiked in the past and some imaginary as well, of course, with the Braşv sign and 2 little details. Bart and Diana. Bart you’ve heard earlier in the podcast.

Luis: [00:02:20] Yeah, Bart is a little snowball. And Diana is a bear, somewhere in the back. And I also have, like, the telephone sign that was in front of my house.

Daniela: [00:02:31] Pretty cool. And why did you get this as your first tattoo? What does it mean for you?

Luis: [00:02:37] Yeah, I’ve been… I’ve been wanting to have tattoos for a long time. I really like the artwork of it. And the fact that it’s uch a permanent memory, so it’s to me… For me, it’s a bit like taking a picture and putting it on your body. And I really wanted that kind of permanent memory or permanent picture from Romania, because that was the first time I really went abroad alone, by myself. Just a wonderful experience.

Luis: [00:03:04] So, you know, now I see it every time I go to the toilet.

Daniela: [00:03:09] Perfect. You decided to go to Romania to work and to live. So it wasn’t just a touristic impulse that you had, to see just for a couple of days. You wanted to go and live somewhere abroad, experience life in a different manner. How did you end up choosing Romania from the many, many countries that you could have chosen?

Luis: [00:03:28] To be honest, it was quite randomly. So I finished school and about a month later, I was working at some metal company and I all also registered myself in a kind of bureau that fixes work for the people here in Belgium and goes about that. And then, I noted down that I also want to work internationally, and all of a sudden, someone called me to work in Italy, I think, in Rome. But it wasn’t… didn’t look that interesting. So basically, I picked up on it myself.

Daniela: [00:04:02] The work itself, or just the opportunity in general?

Luis: [00:04:07] Yeah, that total thing. And the work itself was the same work I did in Romania. So that was not the problem, but the pay was less and the company would be fixing where I’d stay. So for me, that was not interesting because I don’t really trust that and I want to have more freedom in choosing with who and where I stay. What I had in Romania, thank God.

Daniela: [00:04:31] And then you flew.

Luis: [00:04:32] Yeah. And then I looked… looked up on it myself, found some other places like Portugal and Romania. But it was Cluj, not Braşov. And then we went into the interview and in one of the last interviews they asked me, like, would you like to work in Braşov? Because we need people there now. I thought, yes, why not? I did my research on Cluj, but not so much on Braşov. And before you know it…

Daniela: [00:04:58] What did you find out?

Luis: [00:04:59] About Cluj or Braşov?

Daniela: [00:05:01] Well, you did your research about Cluj. So I guess, you knew more about Cluj than Braşov. But is there something that you found out about both cities?

Luis: [00:05:10] Yeah. Cluj was a bit more of a student city, a bit more lively. So, a bit more going out on the weekends and visiting more city-like stuff, to put it like that. And Braşov, in my…this is how it was in my thoughts, Braşov is this more mountain-kind of city.

Luis: [00:05:27] So more hiking, more snowboarding, less… less students, less busyness. Which it actually was in real life as well.

Luis: [00:05:37] I’m so fucking happy. Oh, yeah, I’m so freakidy-fuckidy happy that I chose for Braşov because it was more like that. It was more a calm kind of atmosphere. But still, there were things to do, places to go out, stuff to visit and snowboarding. Fuckin’ snowboarding, that was awesome.

Daniela: [00:05:56] Did you mentally prepare for the trip in any kind of way?

Luis: [00:06:00] Not so much, to be honest. No, not so much. It was more like, okay, this is the date I’m going to fly. Saying goodbyes to a couple of friends of mine, and then doing a little bit of research of Braşov.

Luis: [00:06:13] So just like a YouTube video, how it looked like, and a little bit of research.

Luis: [00:06:20] But to be honest, it was kind of… It felt… So Romania. No, it felt more like a holiday to me. Qua preparation, I was saying my goodbyes to my friends because I saw… I knew I was not going to see them for a long period. But I wasn’t really anxious or something. It just felt to me like, okay, I’m going there. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Daniela: [00:06:47] You were going there for the experience, basically.

Luis: [00:06:49] Yeah, that was it. That was it. Not for the money. Not for specifically I have something linked to Romania. No, just to experience going out on my own. This was what was thrown at me. I liked it, so I went with it.

Daniela: [00:07:04] So that was when you were 20 years old. right?

Luis: [00:07:07] Yeah, just 20. So, yeah.

Daniela: [00:07:10] Awwww, so young!

Luis: [00:07:10] I got a call of my 19th birthday.

Daniela: [00:07:14] Cool. And then you decided to put yourself on a plane. You flew to Bucharest. What happened then? How were your first days in Romania? How did you try to accommodate? Explain.

Luis: [00:07:26] I flew to Bucharest. It was night when I landed, so a bit disoriented. I did… The guy who was supposed to pick me up, so I was calling to the company, going in… Otopeni is it in Bucureşti, I think?

Daniela: [00:07:39] Yeah!

Luis: [00:07:39] Yeah, right? I was going upstairs and… in the airport, downstairs, left, right, didn’t find the fucker. And after a bit of like 1 hour or something, I just saw like a sign with “Luis Garcia”. Finally. Okay. Nice. All my luggage, took it into the car, and then driving through Romania. And I was…. I was fixed through the window looking, looking outwards and was just taking it all in because it was… Then it came. The realization like, okay, I’m here now. Okay, strange. And then the… Then all of that happens. It was also a really weird feeling because it was still a bit tired.

Luis: [00:08:21] It was the middle of the night, no idea when, 2 o’clock or something, 1 o’clock. And I was buying some cigarettes because he stopped, just chatting with the guy.

Luis: [00:08:32] And it was a really weird feeling that came over me, smoking a cigarette in a whole new country. Like, okay, I’m going to be here for God knows how long. I don’t know what to expect. Hmm, interesting. And then the belly feeling, the butterflies, then it started to come, basically. That was… that was a fun experience. I came to the hotel. There was a problem in the hotel because they didn’t have any rooms or something, but they booked a place in another hotel. This explanation was in shitty English, shitty French from both parties, so mine wasn’t that good as well. Then, the taxi driver came to pick me up and I needed to put my… my bags in the back of the car, in the trunk. But they didn’t all fit in the trunk, and he was just looking at me with a strange face, with a big scar on his head. Like “Yeah. So this is good.” And I was like, “No no, let’s… let’s just…I’ll just take some and take it with me in the back. I think that will be better.” And he’s just flabbergasted, looking at me. I closed the trunk, put it in the back, and be like okay, what the fuck is going to happen here? I came in to the hotel. Fucking tired. Then it was like 3:00 in the morning or something. I had a bit of sleep, woke up, and just started the day, basically. Going for a coffee. Looking around. Information everywhere. Doctor… And this is where I met you. I don’t know if that was the first, second, third day.

Daniela: [00:10:09] Yeah.

Luis: [00:10:10] Yeah, it was. It was. Yeah. One of the first ones.

Daniela: [00:10:13] It was one of your first days indeed, when we went to the doctor’s appointment.

Luis: [00:10:17] Yeah. Exactly.

Daniela: [00:10:18] How was it to work in Romania? Like what did you do? And what impression did you get from the working conditions and working with Romanians as well? Because it was definitely a different environment than the one you got used to in Belgium.

Luis: [00:10:31] Yeah, a lot. A lot of ones… So it was a strange first experience with Romania. It felt a bit not organized. And I’m a chaotic person. So it just intensifies all the chaos. But it was nice. It was nice, special.

Daniela: [00:10:50] So tell us more… a little bit about that.

Luis: [00:10:53] Yeah, in hindsight, now I’ve worked more in general. So in other companies, in other… in another country and more in my own country. So in hindsight, I can place it a bit better. In the moment, that was the first time I really went for a serious job. So not to be…allez… not to be rude, but not…

Daniela: [00:11:15] Not something part-time, not a student job.

Luis: [00:11:19] Yeah, exactly. And also, not a metal-working factory. A job… I respect the work. But what I did was basically… How do you call it? So what I did… I got the plates. I punched a hole. I put the plate there. I got the plate. I punched a hole. This was not working. This was robot stuff. In Romania, I did call center work. Just… work. Just like you, Mrs. Dandeş and Mr. Bart as well. Yeah. Yeah. It was… first we got… the introduction day. Then, we got the school so… so 2 or 3 weeks, I think, of information which was quite a lot for me and in the end, we were just falling asleep because, in the first week it’s all good. But then you get to know the people more, so the evenings become later. You go out and then you regret it the day afterwards.

Luis: [00:12:18] A lot of sweating, a lot of coffee. Yeah.

Daniela: [00:12:25] And a lot of meaning to be fully focused on the job as well, because the performance was… the demand for performance were present.

Luis: [00:12:33] Exactly. Exactly. You were thrown into it. Most of us, the first time we experienced this kind to job. This was for Microsoft support. The funny thing is, Bart wasn’t necessarily the best in computers, kind of stuff. So for him as well, it was a lot of information. He was the older one from the group, close to us. Don’t tell him I said that, but I’m saying it on the podcast, so probably he’s going to hear it.

Luis: [00:13:03] Let’s leave it at that. But it was, yeah…

Daniela: [00:13:08] But also, on the flip side, he was the one with the skill… with those sales skills. So he was the one that could… we could all the time depend on when we had questions about how to approach a customer or…

Luis: [00:13:20] Exactly.

Daniela: [00:13:21] How to deal with a difficult situation.

Luis: [00:13:24] Exactly. Exactly. Now, for me, it was a wonderful experience to be set together with this kind of person in the beginning of my professional life, if I can call it like that. It was a wonderful experience because he has a lot of sales experience. He’s Dutch, which also helps, they are quite talkative. And I learned so much from him in hindsight, I learned a lot, and not only professionally, but also life-wise. Gave me a lot of information that I still use upon this day, years after. So, thank you, Bart, if you’re listening.

Daniela: [00:13:56] Awww, We’re going to have special love dedications.

Luis: [00:14:02] Yes. Yes. So much, so much. Work-wise Romanians are… The only thing I noticed that is a big difference is how women and men are treated in the workplace. It was really… it was a bit more…a border between that. So, a very simple example…

Daniela: [00:14:24] A division.

Luis: [00:14:24] A division. Exactly. We gave hands to the males, but the females didn’t get any hands. They just got a “hi!”. Which for me was strange, but that was just, like. a small thing. For the rest, I didn’t really notice that much difference, except cultural-wise small things, but yeah, not… not that much.

Daniela: [00:14:46] What did you do with your first paycheck? How did you celebrate the fact that you were in Romania and you got your first paycheck?

Luis: [00:14:53] I wish I could say that I put it on my savings account, but I did not know. We used it to pay for the rent of the house. Yeah, a lot of pizza, Chinese food, and going out. Basically, that was… that was it.

Daniela: [00:15:12] It sounds good.

Luis: [00:15:13] That is how I used my first paycheck.

Daniela: [00:15:15] A lot of celebration.

Luis: [00:15:17]  Yeah, yeah. A lot of celebration.

Daniela: [00:15:19] And also, in this working environment, you got together with 2 other special people that you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, who you have tattooed on your thigh, Bart and Diana.

Luis: [00:15:27] Bart and Diana, yeah, wonderful people.

Daniela: [00:15:31] How did they influence and have an impact on your overall experience in Romania?

Luis: [00:15:37] There were so many beautiful experiences in Romania. So without them, it would have been a totally different experience, totally. We decided to live together. This also felt like nothing it came with ease, everything. It wasn’t like a big decision or something. They just invited me and I needed something. Okay.

Daniela: [00:15:57] This regarding the housing?

Luis: [00:15:58] Yeah, this regarding the housing and yeah, that was that was something.

Daniela: [00:16:02] Can you give examples?

Luis: [00:16:03] We looked at some other houses, Bart took to the lead in talking with them. Diana was so fucking helpful because of her Romanian skills. That was wonderful. And just living with them…man, man, so much fun. We were like a  family, the 3 of us, we went out together, we afterwards also together, we did snowboarding together, Bart and me  taking leads and teaching Diana how to do it. Bart more than I. That was just…wonderful.

Daniela: [00:16:44] That is definitely a chemistry that you don’t really get in most households. You usually hear about flatmates complaining about other flatmates that they don’t wash the dishes or they have some annoying behaviors that you need to talk out every time. So that is pretty sweet. And you are lucky in that sense.

Luis: [00:17:04] Yeah, I was. We didn’t really have problems or anything then. Everyone was like finding his place in the household.

Daniela: [00:17:12] So nice, nice.

Daniela: [00:17:13] A lot of… a lot of love in this podcast. That is super sweet.

Luis: [00:17:17] Now, now I realize how lucky I was with this just happening all so naturally, with zero effort whatsoever. And we just became best friends. That was… that was wonderful. Now, the person I live with, I told it to her as well. I had… I’m co-housing at the moment in Belgium. I told her that she felt to me a bit like Diana. So that was… that was… I knew I’m going to be at ease with her and that it’s going to be good. Didn’t tell Diana this as well. But they think she’s going to have a ohhhh moment when she hears this.

Daniela: [00:17:55] And what did you learn from, for example, from Diana about the Romanian culture and what did you teach Diana and Bart about Belgian culture? Did you have these kind of sharing moments?

Luis: [00:18:07] Yeah, we had. But it’s difficult to talk about now, to put the moments into words. Diana, as as everyone about his own culture, loves it. But she’s also quite critical. And she saw things that we didn’t see.

Daniela: [00:18:21] Regarding Romanian culture?

Luis: [00:18:23] Regarding the Romanian culture. Culture-wise, not a lot of things to complain about, but more governmental-wise. That was during the big strikes in Romania. I don’t know if they are still happening at the moment, but that was that period. I’m not super political, so it didn’t interest me more. But yeah, it was corruption, basically. And you know, you see those things when you… when you are in Romania, that probably some of the money, I don’t know how much, doesn’t go into the right places, just public transportation, as an easy example. That was a bit strange for me. That was a bit weird. But Diana also talked about the world.

Daniela: [00:19:07] How come was it strange?

Luis: [00:19:09] Because I grew up in Belgium. Here we have… we have our own problems. But when you cross a road that is for a train, there is a sign there, which makes you stop. I remember the first time we crossed the train-road. And that was like, oh, okay.

Luis: [00:19:26] There was a train passing by here. What the fuck? There wasn’t a sign to make me stop if it passes by. You just stop, look left and right. This is so fucking strange for me. Also on the highway, there was the sign that there wasn’t the place there for a horse and carriage. This is also a bit weird for me to see. To put it into words,  it’s a bit more backwards. I also was… not shocked, but it was… it was a bit of a surprise for me. It’s not so well backwards as we think. There are quite a few problems, but it’s also, at the same time, super-modern. So the clinch between older problems due to transportation signalisation, I don’t know what else, and new stuff, like the internet was better today than I ever had at my place in Belgium and other stuff as well. So the buses were almost all electric. This is not the case where I live. So it’s a bit of a clinch. The same with the cars that are driving around. One time you see a Dacia, and the other time, you see a Ferrari. The clinches bigger than I’m used to. This was also this strange.

Daniela: [00:20:50] Especially in Romania. I mean, in my opinion, Romania is a country of extremes. And you do see that even in these kind of very physical expressions.

Luis: [00:21:00] Yeah, exactly. And yeah, culture-wise, I was the Belgian guy. I don’t know if I stand for my country qua culture, but yeah, we have the beers, of course.

Daniela: [00:21:11] Did you teach people how to make their own fries?

Luis: [00:21:15] No, I’m not that big of a fry guy. So that was… that was one thing. The beers, of course, the beers were  important. The beers are important, especially at that age, and in this age that I am still now.

Daniela: [00:21:28] But it’s also interesting that you do find Belgian beers in Romania. So I think from that perspective, you did not miss out.

Luis: [00:21:35] Yeah, I think I drank my first Westvleteren in a Romanian restaurant. This was also interesting.

Daniela: [00:21:42] Seriously?

Luis: [00:21:43] I think so, I think so. It was a Westvleteren Trippel or something like that. But I don’t know for sure.

Daniela: [00:21:48] For people who do not know what the beer or this particular beer is, the Westvleteren is a pretty rare beer to find in Belgium. It’s made by monks and they produce a certain amount of crates per year. And then it’s more like… it’s given on a first-come-first-served basis.

Luis: [00:22:06] Very popular beer internationally.

Daniela: [00:22:09] Correct me if I’m wrong.

Luis: [00:22:10] No, no, no. Very right, actually, it’s very hard to buy it for yourself. So you find it in shops, you can find it in bars and restaurants, but it’s super, super popular.

Daniela: [00:22:21] And it’s also pretty expensive, if I remember in bars.

Luis: [00:22:25] Yeah. Not really expensive, but it’s not the cheapest one for sure, that’s for sure.

Daniela: [00:22:29] Monks do know how to make their alcohol.

Luis: [00:22:30] Fuck yeah!

Daniela: [00:22:32] To brew their beers.

Luis: [00:22:32] Especially the Belgian ones.

Daniela: [00:22:35] Told the German listeners you did not hear anything with the purity law for beers. It’s like, lalala!

Luis: [00:22:43] Yeah, just get used to it. Clearly we are better and we are going to be better in beer.

Daniela: [00:22:47] Cool. Now that we have the culture wars started between Belgians and Germans…. This is where they’re gonna unsubscribe.

Luis: [00:22:55] Maybe this is when they are going to end [subscribing].

Daniela: [00:22:58] But to continue. Luis, you were living with 2 people coming from 2 different cultures, even different from the one that you are belonging to, Belgium. How is it to live with 3 cultures in the same house?

Luis: [00:23:11] It was nice, especially because Bart was the older one in the house. So he had more life experience in general. And he is also quite Dutch. And I mean this in the way that he is loud and he will speak his ideas and he will speak his truth.

Luis: [00:23:28] This was also wonderful, me being a young man and trying to copy this off him as well. So we were all very outspoken in the household. And this was very nice. Diana, what a person Romanian mentality that for me still is a bit like the Latin mentality, so a bit more emotional, a bit more careful also in explanation… in explaining some things, but quite direct, which is for me then, once again, a bit more like the Balkan being. So that was also interesting.

Daniela: [00:24:05] So what I would also add to the list from Romanian traits that I have seen and I think in Diana as well, and in me as well. I would add being a bit self-conscious.

Luis: [00:24:17] Yes, very much so. Very much so. Diana was quite self-conscious in the beginning because we did the Dutch language speaking job and she wasn’t Dutch originally. Yeah. You know what I mean?

Daniela: [00:24:29] She didn’t come from the marshes of the West.

Luis: [00:24:31] Yeah. Exactly. But she spoke better Dutch than she believed herself to be. Bart being more careful about this and me being more direct.

Luis: [00:24:44] Her Dutch was good. She could use some practice, but she was very understandable. And I do respect that, knowing how hard our language is. And she was very self-conscious about that. Very self-conscious, in the beginning. It was… But as the months went on, as she was speaking Dutch home as also in work, it went better and better But the self-conscious thing, yeah, for sure.

Daniela: [00:25:08] That is a trait that I recognize in more Romanians. You can see both the positive and the negative side. Obviously, the negative has to do with keeping yourself down to a certain extent, not daring to try to talk, for example, in another language. But on the positive side of this trait, one can look at the fact that… it can also mean that you are more aware, your more empathy-prone, and you do want to do your best to make sure that that person understands you and that you can communicate. You want to show your best, your best self in front of them. And that is why, the moment when you put so much pressure on yourself, obviously that backfires. But the intention is right. It’s just that in the end, especially with language learning, you just need to do it. And you need to be okay with making mistakes, as awful as that sounds. Because we all want to sound superfluent. And with the perfect accent. And in the end, it is just a matter of accepting where you are and trying to move forward.

Luis: [00:26:01] Exactly. Exactly. And just accepting that that some things are not your own. So… so you need to learn. And that’s a big learning process in there. The positive side as well. And this I noticed in the whole of Romania, people are humble and I really respect that, especially putting it next to my neighbors, the Dutch people, they aren’t humble at all.

Luis: [00:26:27] In general, I just wish to…

Daniela: [00:26:28] Hi Bart!

Luis: [00:26:32] Hi Bart! I don’t mean this as a bad thing, but everyone knows a Dutch person…

Daniela: [00:26:35] But it is a trait.

Luis: [00:26:36] It is a trait… they have… How can I say this without being rude? They know what they can and they talk about it. They aren’t ashamed to be how they are, and they aren’t ashamed to… to share that. Belgian culture as well as Romanian culture as well, is a bit more humble. In that way, we underestimate ourselves and it’s… it’s not normal to be direct or act with… to act with a lot of self-confidence. This was also an interesting thing.

Daniela: [00:27:12] Did you notice any other similarities between Belgian culture and Romanian culture or how people behave? Let’s put it like that.

Daniela: [00:27:22] For example, one thing that I noticed when comparing the two cultures was and that this might not be a necessarily positive trait, but.

Daniela: [00:27:31] A backstabbing attitude when needed. I do feel like Romanians and Belgians have this sneaky way about themselves. It’s connected to this idea of not being necessarily direct or feeling under pressure when they need to be direct. And then, they will try to do things in a sneaky manner vs. just owning up to something. It’s something that I definitely saw in Belgians while I was living there.

Daniela: [00:27:59] And for sure, it is in Romanian… in our history and in our DNA. Trying to be sneaky.

Daniela: [00:28:05] It also denotes, to a certain extent, a sign of intelligence. It can… you can see it as that as well. But for example, that’s something that I did notice. I think this idea of, well if I can’t do it like this. I’m going to do it behind your back.

Luis: [00:28:25] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Really correct.

Luis: [00:28:29] I heard this first of Dutch people saying this about Belgians, talking about professional life. In their personal life, not so much, but professional-wise, super, man. If a Dutch person asks… I’m going to go back and forth between Dutch and Belgian a lot.

Luis: [00:28:48] I’m talking about Romania, but this is a big point of reference for me. Yeah. So if the Dutch person asks someone in the Belgian company, if… if everything is okay after the meeting and if there are problems, you can say this and that, they will not so much happened at that moment. But more, be like afterwards. After the meeting, people will talk about their problems towards their colleagues. So, it’s a bit of a hierarchy as well. And it’s going to be a bit more behind the back, just being like, no, no, I am good with that. This is good. Yeah, fine, fine. And afterwards, they will complain about it. And not be doing it. I noticed the same in the Romanians at the workplace as well. It felt a bit like a quiet home to me. And afterward, I heard this from a lot of Flemish people as well. And I know we still notice it now, at my work. So it’s… it’s all fine. It’s it’s good. And afterwards, when the phone hangs up, then we start talking about the problems and what we want differently. Yeah, it’s more of a hierarchy kind of feeling, which was also what was happening in Romania.

Daniela: [00:29:56] I definitely agree to that. I think, of course, the historical context is different for both Belgium and Romania. But maybe… I do think that the attitudes that Belgians and Romanians tend to have regarding hierarchies has something to do with do their past. If you think about it, both countries have been ruled by other countries. Both countries have had periods in their history where the official language was discouraged from being used or where you couldn’t get into a certain position if you do not speak the language of the ruling country.

Daniela: [00:30:29] So, for example, in the case of Romania, we ad hundreds of years under the Ottoman rule, or quite some years, also quite some hundreds of years under the Hungarian occupation, the country was split.

Daniela: [00:30:42] And obviously, the moment when you cannot express your national identity in your own land, you need to be, you need to build this skill of going behind people’s back and making sure that somehow, you end up on the winning side of the team and you get to express your full self. Whereas in Belgium, you know, you guys, as far as I remember, you did have a French occupation. I think it’s the most recent one? You also had some Spanish people coming over.

Luis: [00:31:12] Occupation? I think German is the most recent one. But what you are hinting towards is in the in the First World War, all the lieutenants and all the officers and he hired people with all French speaking and the soldiers, the Flemish, didn’t speak French. All of them.

Luis: [00:31:31] So, this is also a reason why quite a lot of people died because they didn’t understand what was asked of them. After the First World War, I think, or the Second, somewhere there in between, there was also a bit more resistance over that. So it’s… it’s not that long…

Daniela: [00:31:50] Definitely. Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. It’s not about conquering, but it’s more of a language emancipation. What I was remembering was that, at least in the… in the Flemish side, all the universities were French speaking. And to get a university degree, you needed to be French speaking, to follow French speaking courses. And that was obviously not something… that was an instrument to influence people into either learning French, which people didn’t necessarily want. But at the same time, it was a method to keep the Flemish side out of higher education and other important institutions. So that’s something that I do remember. And. When you are faced with these kind of situations, then you need to find alternatives, and I think this is how, in the end, both Belgians and Romanians and, for sure, other cultures as well formed this ability to think outside of the box. But in the sense of, how do I get my point across? How do I mark… How do I get to my goal? If these people are impeding that. Then you find alternative ways. And that is what we know today as being sneaky.

Luis: [00:32:53] Yeah, I think it’s mostly like what you said, that we didn’t form our own identity and didn’t show it to the outer world. This happened not too long ago. The Flemish identity is an old identity. Same as the Romanian one, but it’s quite recently that it’s become… became our own.

Daniela: [00:33:15] It became official and accepted.

Luis: [00:33:17]  Catalonia.Voila. Exactly. Exactly. Like Belgium is now French, German and Flemish… Dutch speaking. This is quite recently in the grand scheme of things. The same with Romania, I suppose.

Daniela: [00:33:30] Well, with Romania it’s, it’s been a while, at least the hundreds something years. But there are debates if you really want to get into history and obviously there are debates, because what do you consider Romania? Current-day, Romania or Romania before the unification in 1918? Because then you have to discuss also the fact that, for example, there is the Republic of Moldova, which used to belong to Greater Romania, obviously got seceded after the Second World War, and it had a lot of Russian influence into it. And for a long time, I’m not mistaken, Romanian was not in the top in terms of what languages are preferred to be spoken in public institutions and all languages you could use on the street. But let’s come back to your experience.

Luis: [00:34:15] You’re thinking sidetracks again.

Daniela: [00:34:17] Well, they’re not sidetracks.

Daniela: [00:34:19] They are relevant discussion topics. The discussion just goes from one point to the other. And I do see that they’re pretty important also for Belgium and also for Romania.

Luis: [00:34:28] It is funny that we talk about this because in my country, in Belgium, there’s a lot of… There was a lot of talk about splitting the French-speaking and Flemish-speaking side. And there still are parties could do want Flanders as a,,, as a nation on its own, which I do not agree with at all. So it is funny that you still find kind of similarities, but yeah, there are more countries, I guess. Spain has the same problems.

Daniela: [00:34:55] With Catalonia, definitely. And also not only Catalonia, they have more regions that want to split, like the Basque country. I mean, this is something again, it’s geopolitics, it’s culture, it’s history. That’s why I’m saying that there’s so much to be taken into account when making statements like this. It’s not something that we we should take lightly. But at the same time, we soon shouldn’t stop talking about these things just because they are complex, because that means stagnation.

Daniela: [00:35:19] But coming back to Romania, let’s get into some more light topics, like what did you do for fun in Romania?

Luis: [00:35:25] For fun, going on small trips like to Bucharest, inviting a friend over, going and drinking mainly, so… so hitting the bars during the weekends.

Luis: [00:35:39] This was… that was a big part, watching movies with my roomies. This was also fun, going for hikes with some wonderful people. One of them, you. You want more? Yeah. And snowboarding towards the end, towards the winter, snowboarding became a big part of my experience there.

Daniela: [00:35:58] Did you enjoy snowboarding in Braşov?

Luis: [00:36:01] I fucking loved it. There, the passion for snowboarding came back to me. I did it once when I was a lot younger. But since Braşov, it’s something that I want to do on a yearly basis. Or in an indoor park here in Belgium, on a weekly basis for this. Yeah, that was nice.

Daniela: [00:36:21] You also got lost on one of your snowboarding trips, if I remember correctly.

Luis: [00:36:27] Yeah, I got lost on a couple of occasions. One time, the snowboarding trip, this was a big getting lost. We even took it into account, like what would we do if we needed to sleep here? I took it into account seriously. I don’t know if Bart had this thought as well.

Daniela: [00:36:44] But what happened?

Luis: [00:36:45] Basically, we stopped at the end of one pist (for Luis, “pist” = “slope”). So, we were doing off pist.

Luis: [00:36:51] I’m going to blame Bart for the idea, basically. We thought we would take a side-way and end up on pist again, because it was a bit of a U-turn. What happened is that we got more and more lost, snowboarding in the middle of trees close to each other while I’m a total fucking novice at snowboarding. For Bart, it was easier because he was better skilled. For me, it was fucking falling every corner that I had to make. After some point, it was up to our bums in snow. I was so happy that Bart was there.

Luis: [00:37:29] Because he is… he has better endurance than me and he has more of a fighting spirit in that kind of way, where I am, I need to rest. I can’t take it anymore. He was like, come on, come on. Keep on going. Let’s do this. Blah, blah, blah. So happy that we got there because otherwise, that he was there because otherwise, it would have taken me a couple of hours longer.

Luis: [00:37:56] Then after 2 or 3 hours, we got back to some trail, which felt for me more like a fucking day that it took us to ge there. And then we kept on following the trail. We came into a town. And we had some palinca and Gluhwein with the guys in the town there, waiting for our taxi. Oh my god, what an experience, it felt for me that this took all day.

Luis: [00:38:26] But in hindsight, it was only a couple of hours through that. I feel kind of lame thinking about that, but it felt so much more like an adventure in that time because of bears as well. The signal was not working. It was just like, oh shit, this can go so wrong so quickly. But we got lucky.

Luis: [00:38:50] So that was nice. I also got lost all my own and then I got lost for a couple of hours hiking in the woods right next to our house, on Strada Jepilor. At the end of the street, I went into the woods and just kept on walking. And then my phone almost died and I tried to be like, okay, I need to go towards this antenna and then to the right. But it didn’t work out like that at all. I counted wild dogs and that was pfou… I was lost for 2 or 3 hours.

Luis: [00:39:27] There were scratch marks and I was like, is this from a bear or dogs? What the fuck is this, then? A lot of paw marks and as I continued, I heard dogs barking in the distance and that was like cool. Okay. Well, wild dogs, no bueno. so I went on to the right.

Daniela: [00:39:46] How… how was that?

Luis: [00:39:48] That was one of those little experiences. Also coming down from a mountain with Ștef on a walk.

Daniela: [00:39:55] Ștef being one of the colleagues.

Luis: [00:39:56] Yeah, Ștef being one of the friends and colleagues and it was getting dark. When we went down and Ștef is just such a fucking nice guy. Super, super nice guy.

Luis: [00:40:09] And me, Bart and Diana, I know don’t know if other people were there, but me, Bart and Diana were just fucking about, having some fun, and Ștef increasingly getting worried, like: “Okay people, we are on the mountain. There could be bears or something here. Let’s hurry up, you know.” But seeing this very friendly, but you could see, he was a bit more serious than he gave out to be. And after a while, we also started thinking like, okay, this is maybe not such a good situation and stared hurrying up a bit much. So all of those little wildlife experiences, you know, how to have the adventures in Braşov… that was woaaaa.

Daniela: [00:40:47] Made you feel alive?

Luis: [00:40:49] Oh yeah. Yeah. That it did.

Daniela: [00:40:52]  humorist, as…How did your Romanian experience change you, personally like, what did you learn from it? How did it shape you?

Luis: [00:40:59] I became a very bitter and anxious person, since Romania. I do not trust anyone at all. No, just kidding. It changed me as in, it was my first experience alone on the roads. It was my first experience alone in a new country and fixing everything myself, not being dependent on someone else. So in that kind of way, it changed me a wee bit. Thanks to the people that were there and thanks to testing out, how to put this into words… It gave me a lot of freedom to be myself because nobody knows you there. let’s put it like that. It’s not a big difference. It’s not about the people at home wouldn’t recognize me or something like that. But I could feel a difference when I came back. I was a changed man. Yeah. I gave myself a bit more freedom to… to be myself. And I saw that if I was this person, everything worked out for me just fine. If I put myself into a weird, dangerous, difficult, new spot, I handled it. And this gave me a lot of confidence, to be honest. Coming back to Belgium, especially, like, social-wise, I had a lot more confidence than before. I don’t know if my friends here would have noticed, but yeah, thanks to the Romanian experience, I became a more social person. And not that I had a lot of social anxiety before it, but especially afterwards, it was almost all gone.

Daniela: [00:42:37] You grew.

Luis: [00:42:37] I grew as a person.

Daniela: [00:42:40] Well, it will happen.

Luis: [00:42:43] Please do not mistake my tone, as humorist, as if I discard it. But no, that is exactly what happened. I grew as a person professionally, but especially personally.

Daniela: [00:42:56] And would you recommend Romania to other internationals?

Luis: [00:43:00] Oh yeah. For multiple reasons. People from Romania are, in a way, humble and are, in a way, sociable.

Luis: [00:43:10] It was, for me, quite easy to make friends there, to be honest, probably as well because of the work I did there, but yeah, to make friends at bars. As long as they talked English, it wasn’t like there was a big barrier. Like,  we don’t know you or you are not from here. I didn’t really feel that… always… There are always instances when, when it does happen, a drunken cunt at a bar who begins yelling to you in Romanian. All kinds of bullshit. But during that moment, I was speaking with a group of internationals and mostly Romanians. So I had a lot more good experiences in that way than bad experience. Lots and lots.

Daniela: [00:43:53] And what would you recommend to other internationals that they do or pursue to make their Romanian experience a very well live moment in their lives?

Luis: [00:44:04] From my experience?

Daniela: [00:44:05] From your experience.

Luis: [00:44:06] I like bars. I like coffee, and I like the fact that it’s very easy to meet new people and start conversations that would, I would recommend, go to a random bar, a local one, and preferably not another super touristy one, and just start talking with the people. Get a coffee, start talking with the waitress. How… What… She would recommend in the town, what is the history of the town? Just make… make friends and start talking about the smallest of stuff. Even, you will recognize funny differences. Or you will get to know little quirks of the… of the past of the town, which I did in Braşov, the first times I heard about it. I think this was in a bar. And this was from a waitress or something. I don’t know for sure. I didn’t know Braşov was Kronstadt in the past.

Luis: [00:45:05] And also, Diana told me a lot of the stuff. But what I would recommend to the people. Just go to a bar and just go talk to people. It seems quite difficult for some people, but it’s just as easy as a “Hi, how are you doing?”,  and build upon that.

Daniela: [00:45:24] Cool. And one final question. When can we expect you to be back in Romania?

Luis: [00:45:30] I don’t know, man, I don’t know. I want to be back in a couple of months. But I also want to be back in Madrid for another friend. But I want to plan it in and I want to have it as fast as possible. But I am the solution for this and I am also the problem. So yeah, that is the problem.

Daniela: [00:45:52] Makes sense.

Luis: [00:45:54] Exactly. And on a personal base. Yeah, yeah, for sure. I would want very much in February to try to come, but I don’t know for sure. I don’t know for sure.

Daniela: [00:46:08] Well let’s see. Keep the hope up. Luis, thank you so much for joining me in the podcast.

Luis: [00:46:13] Thank you again and honestly for people who are listening to this and thinking about going to Romania for  what reason whatsoever. As an expat, I had so much fun. The living standards I had there, it was also super nice. Super nice. So coming from Belgium, working for a West-European company.

Luis: [00:46:39] Of course, I was a bit of… in luck, just being able to have a good job because I speak Dutch. So as an expat, if you get into the same situation, I couldn’t recommend it more. As a holiday. Oh my God. Romanian is beautiful. It’s like a forgotten pearl in the east. It’s a Balkan beauties. It’s the Balkan beauty. Let me… let me say it like that. It’s so big. You have a lot of forests. Super nice hiking possibilities, snowboarding-wise, party-cities. Oh, my god. I do not love Bucharest, but that is me personally. But the smaller ones. My God, it’s… it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. And I recently saw that there is some kind of salt mine that has like an attraction park on the inside, I want to visit this as well now.

Daniela: [00:47:32] That is next to Cluj.

Luis: [00:47:32] Right next to Cluj. Okay. Nice. I will visit it.

Luis: [00:47:37] Romania give me a lot of problems: that I don’t have enough free time and funds to keep on returning. That is the biggest problem that Romania handed to me.

Daniela: [00:47:49] And with that, we close today’s discussion.

Daniela: [00:47:56] Thank you for listening to the 3rd episode of the Wo/anderers podcast. Thanks to Luis for being a really good guest and yourself for making it so far down the episode. If you want to get more goodness from the Wo/anderers podcast and from our project. Check out our Facebook and Instagram page. We actually started posted also news pieces every week, when we find something that is relevant for the international and Romanian community.

Daniela: [00:48:20] And you can find us by searching for wonders. That is W-O-A-N-D-E-R-E-R-S searches on Facebook, Instagram.

Daniela: [00:48:30] Give us like, show us some love, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on your podcast app of choice, whether you’re on Spotify, iTunes. These things help us to boost our name out into the world, and that more wo/anderers know about the project. Thanks for being with us on this epic journey, mulțumesc, bye bye. And la revedere.

Daniela: [00:48:56] Meow-meow-meow-meow-meow-meow-meow-meow. Meow. Meow? Meow.

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