You can find “Episode 6: Latvian mom meets Transylvania” on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, Overcast, and TuneIn.
Alisa State has always exuded a crazy love for life. She cannot live too far away from nature, she’s always on the go, and has more than enough energy to love and care for her beautiful Latvian-Romanian son as a single mom in Brașov. She didn’t know much about Romania before she decided to change her life forever. But the decision to explore and make Romania her home remained one close to her heart. In this episode, we dive deep into Alisa’s love for the Romanian customs and traditions, her hope for its society, what makes Transylvania so great, the Romanian education system, and what Romania can learn from Latvia in dealing with its communist past. Listen to all of that and more in episode 6 of Wo/anderers. Happy audition!
What topics we cover in episode 6:
- 0:00:00 – Podcast intro;
- 0:01:37 – Alisa’s funny name situation;
- 0:05:00 – Deciding to move to Romania;
- 0:08:29 – 50% beautiful, 50% what-is-this?;
- 0:13:08 – Alisa’s culture shock moments: too much garbage, graffiti on historical buildings, cigarette buds galore on the beach in Constanța – why?;
- 0:16:37 – How Latvia dealt with its uncivil behaviors;
- 0:17:27 – The story of the “Asta este” mentality;
- 0:20:01 – Romania’s problems with maintaining its historical buildings;
- 0:22:39 – Alisa’s positive culture shock moments;
- 0:25:25 – The Romanian education system – the good, the bad, the changeable;
- 0:31:15 – On Romanians’ love for heat, and their fear of drafts;
- 0:33:40 – Alisa’s long-term plans in Romania;
- 0:39:22 – Talking about Alisa’s ball of joy: her Latvian-Romanian-Russian son and how he is helping her dive deeper into Romanian culture;
- 0:42:53 – Alisa’s personal advice on how to enjoy your Romanian experience to the fullest.
- 0:46:31 – Podcast outro (we are looking for international stories about Romania! Write to us at email@example.com and let us know if you want your story to be aired on the podcast)
Interesting links from episode 6:
- About Romania’s digitalization efforts – news piece from Business Review, 2018;
- Local efforts towards Romania’s digitalization – news piece from Business Review, 2019;
- A bit of historic context on the Patria building complex in Bucharest – a true architectural landmark of the Romanian capital;
- This video should give you a clue on how serious dancing is at traditionally Romanian weddings;
- Monumente uitate – the organization that is raising public awareness regarding historical monuments in Romania;
- “Catching the draft” – or why Romanians carry on this draft-fearing tradition;
- Explore Romania’s top universities, according to Times Higher Education;
- 10 things you didn’t know about the Romanian language – from Culture Trip, 2018.
Listen to Wo/anderers’ episode 6 on YouTube:
Read the full conversation from “Episode 6: Latvian mom meets Transylvania” with Alisa below.
Daniela: [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Wo/anderers podcast, episode 6.
Daniela: [00:00:30] Alisa State is a unicorn-obsessed, Transylvania-loving, proud Latvian who likes to live life to the fullest. Her spontaneous spirit is exactly what brought her to Romania when she met the man she would later marry. They had a baby boy. But things happen in life. And now, Alisa is raising her son as a divorcee together with her Romanian ex-husband. She lives in Brașov, and in a time when more Romanians are looking to leave the country, Alisa believes that there is still great potential to be unveiled here. In our conversation, we get to talk about Romania’s breathtaking nature, its less-than-breathtaking care of its monuments and cultural heritage, what Alisa feels about the Romanian education system, and what Romania can learn from Latvia in dealing with its communist past. All of that and more in episode 6 of the Wo/anderers podcast.
Daniela: [00:01:27] Hi, Alisa.
Alisa: [00:01:28] Hey, Daniela.
Daniela: [00:01:29] How are you doing?
Alisa: [00:01:30] Well, quite OK. Just came from work and waiting for you to start this interview.
Daniela: [00:01:37] I’m very happy that you are here on the podcast. And let’s start. Let’s get directly into the chat and go with your name. Your name is Alisa State. And if people would not know, they would think that you either are Romanian or have some Romanian roots. But that is neither the case since you come originally from Riga, Latvia. So how does this name situation happen?
Alisa: [00:02:03] Well, after I married a Romanian, I got the surname. And as you mentioned, actually due to my work nature, I have to interact with different kinds of countries and of course, with Romania as well. And normally, when Romanians contact me, they start the conversation directly with the Romanian language, because, of course, they see the surname and they are sure that I’m Romanian. So, yeah, that’s usually really fun, especially when I start to speak a bit of Romanian because I managed to learn some. But then, when they start to ask a bit more complicated questions, I skip the English saying, well, sorry, but actually I’m not Romanian. I think they’re a bit shocked. And then they ask, where do I come from? And I say that I’m coming from Latvia, but I’m Russian. So, yeah, that’s… that’s fun.
Alisa: [00:02:52] But yeah. And I left the surname after a divorce, just because first of all, I want to have the same surname with my son. And secondly, if I’m staying here, I think it would be logical just to leave the Romanian surname.
Alisa: [00:03:09] So yeah, that’s… that’s the story.
Daniela: [00:03:11] And keep getting people confused.
Alisa: [00:03:13] Well, after a while, I hope I’m gonna manage to learn Romanian even better. So I will be able to keep the whole conversation. And yeah, some of them sometimes are feeling guilty and they’re starting to apologize, saying I’m sorry, I’m sorry I didn’t know. And that’s, yeah, a bit also sometimes fun.
Daniela: [00:03:33] You actually mentioned the one point a story when we were talking outside of the podcast about you being in the airport and being called Alisa State, if I remember.
Alisa: [00:03:43] Oh, yeah. Yeah. That’s also… that’s the case as well. And actually, when I just married and I changed my surname on Facebook as well, people who would not know me that well, so let’s say not the closest friends, they didn’t understand what’s happening. And they were also sure that it’s actually “state”. And yeah, they were asking what is, what’s up with your new nickname?
Alisa: [00:04:08] And I said, it’s not a nickname. It’s actually a surname.
Alisa: [00:04:10] And it’s pronounced State. Yeah. And even when I personally, I met my husband, so to say online, because we met online at work, me being in Latvia and him being in Romania. And especially because I never met Romanian people before, until that moment. And I was reading like, Dragos “state”. And I was like, what is that?
Alisa: [00:04:37] Is it a nickname? Is it like a dragon’s state or something? It was really confused.
Alisa: [00:04:43] So, yeah.
Daniela: [00:04:44] Just with a little typo.
Alisa: [00:04:47] Yeah. So, because in Skype you cannot put that little “ș” letter. So, it was also fun with his surname first and then I had fun with my surname as well.
Daniela: [00:04:59] Such a cute legacy.
Daniela: [00:05:00] So how did you decide to come and live in Romania?
Alisa: [00:05:04] We did speak just for work with my ex-husband. And then it went out of the work environment, online. Then we spoke online for I don’t know, I think at least 6 months or 7.
Alisa: [00:05:19] And we did spend a lot of time with camera, Skype and everything. And then we met. First I… The first when I met him, actually, the first time in person, I came here. Then he came there. And then again I came here.
Alisa: [00:05:34] So. Yeah. And of course, we were having feelings towards each other. And I just decided to move. So I moved for for him in the first place.
Daniela: [00:05:41] Awww.
Alisa: [00:05:42] Yeah. I had the good life in Latvia and all settled and a good job and my own apartment. But I realized that I see myself with this person, building a family. So why not? And anyway, I’m kind of a crazy person, easy-going.
Alisa: [00:06:00] So I decided to just risk… risk it all to do that.
Daniela: [00:06:04] So it wasn’t the hard decision necessarily?
Alisa: [00:06:07] No, I cannot say it was a hard decision. I mean, it really depends on the person, I would say, because it’s not the first time I’m doing that in my life. And I was always up to big changes and I was never afraid to start everything from scratch. So, yeah, of course, at some point it was sad to leave my family and friends. But on the other hand, it was my new sort of family at stake, so I cannot say it was really, really hard decision.
Daniela: [00:06:37] You were going for your future basically, right?
Alisa: [00:06:40] Yeah. And of course, I knew that it might not work. But again, I think this is something that there’s always worth to risk.
Daniela: [00:06:49] And did you research Romania throughout the preparation period? So before you moved to… you move to Brașov, right?
Alisa: [00:06:57] Yeah. I moved to Brașov and answering your question, no.
Alisa: [00:07:03] And to be honest, I didn’t know anything about Romania up until that point.
Alisa: [00:07:08] Especially because Latvia and Romania, it doesn’t have that much… any kind of relation between these two countries. So, yeah. I, of course, I just knew that it’s Dracula’s castle.
Daniela: [00:07:21] That it exists.
Alisa: [00:07:23] And then, I actually… I didn’t even know what’s the weather there?
Alisa: [00:07:27] What’s the nature? And of course, I started to, when I started to speak with my ex-husband, he showed me, he informed me that this is a beautiful country.
Alisa: [00:07:36] And I started to get some information that it has mountains and about the climate and so on and so forth. But yeah, like, honestly, I didn’t make any research.
Alisa: [00:07:46] And of course, after some conversations, I knew that this is not very, how to say, developed country or socially protected when you are… so where you are socially protected. So yeah, I knew where I was going, but not like, deeply. So to say.
Daniela: [00:08:06] Well, definitely not as detailed as you know it now. Because you have lived in Romania for how much?
Alisa: [00:08:11] Actually 5 years.
Alisa: [00:08:13] Just in the beginning of November. It was the 5 year anniversary since I’m here. So, yeah, quite a while.
Daniela: [00:08:19] Congratulations! I mean, I hope that it’s still congratulations at this point in time.
Alisa: [00:08:24] Yeah, I have… I have no problem with Romania. It’s all OK.
Daniela: [00:08:29] And how did Romania land with you?
Daniela: [00:08:32] Like the first time when you arrived there and you started settling down, how did the country land with you, what opinion did you make of it?
Alisa: [00:08:40] Well, of course, first, I would say, it was like 50 percent of I really thought it’s really, really beautiful country. And, to be honest, 50 percent was landing on the fact that it’s a bit behind than the rest of Europe. And of course, I was comparing it with my home country. And in my home country, yeah, we also have corruption and all that. But still, it’s well-maintained, it’s clean. And the government is taking care of the historical objects. That was… I was really sad when I saw that the country’s not taken care of properly. So that was my first impression, apart of the, as I said, 50 percent being mesmerized by the beauty of the country.
Daniela: [00:09:28] But then the 50 percent, indeed, looking at all the historical monuments and just seeing how they are now being restored or not being taken into account by public…
Alisa: [00:09:38] Exactly.
Alisa: [00:09:39] And things like, even because, as you know, you can stay here for like, 3 months and then you need to do just that yourself.
Daniela: [00:09:50] How did that go?
Alisa: [00:09:50] Well, of course, I was a bit… not shocked, because due to my life experience, it’s hard to shock me.
Alisa: [00:09:59] I was just seeing a big difference again between Latvia and Romania, because here the bureaucracy is still blooming at its best. And I had to really struggle for 2 weeks in order to collect all the papers.
Alisa: [00:10:15] So… So, yeah, that was another thing that I noticed from the start because I had to face it. Yeah, and that was another thing that really was very, very obvious for me in the very beginning, that the bureaucracy is still here and actually, the government doesn’t seem to be willing to change it anytime soon. This is how it looks still now, I think, so, yeah.
Daniela: [00:10:35] I know that there have been some projects that the previous governments tried to put into place, but nothing concrete came out of it, in terms of IT and in terms of digitalizing all of the administrative system. It’s just left to people who want to do something on a local level. I think, that would be the status quo at the moment.
Alisa: [00:10:55] And I think that has something to do with the corruption as well, because if it’s all going to be upgraded, a lot of employees will have to be fired, roughly saying. So, yeah, this is the big difference between Romania and Latvia, that in Latvia it’s really all digitalized, long time ago. And it’s much… the process is much simpler. You can submit a lot of things online. You can receive online. So, yeah, here I think it’s going to take a while until it’s gonna happen.
Daniela: [00:11:25] And interestingly enough, it’s not a question of technology, it’s really… it really boils down to the mentality of the people.
Alisa: [00:11:31] Yeah. And the situation in general. I mean, in government. And what I’m really… what I was really wondering why I keep hearing people complaining about communist times, about communists, but at the same time, they have the same approach still, themselves? So, when you have to go from… with one paper to 3 different spots and you have to get the signature in order to get another signature, and then you have to get back to the initial spot… Well, this is a bit too much.
Daniela: [00:12:03] And you don’t know if that will work.
Alisa: [00:12:05] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And then, they will say, you know what? You filled it…
Daniela: [00:12:10] You filled it wrong. Yes. I love that.
Alisa: [00:12:12] Yeah, but it’s not. It’s not saying anywhere. That’s the, that’s the main point here. And I think that it depends on… from the employee to employee that you face, actually, in the government department because they just, I don’t know. They just do whatever they think they want to do. I don’t know how to explain that, but yeah.
Daniela: [00:12:34] So there is a kind of freedom in Romanian institutions. It is just that it might be wrongly implemented.
Alisa: [00:12:42] Yeah. And I was actually, at least pleased with the fact that you can still pay the bills online and you have the applications. So, after I learned that, I was really happy because I was already imagining that I’ll have to go to the post office and and stay in the queue of 500 old ladies, you know, in order to pay my bills. So, yeah, this is already promising that they, at least, implemented that.
Daniela: [00:13:08] What other notable culture shock moments did you experience in Romania, that you can remember of?
Alisa: [00:13:14] Regarding to the shock, I would probably mention the streets and I mean, generally speaking, places being dirty. As in, people are… people here, they are also complaining about the situation in the country, situation in the government and everything. But in the same time, they are being such pigs, especially when you, I mean, when you go to a picnic place, in summer or whatever, spring.
Alisa: [00:13:43] I mean, I mean really popular spots, especially that are near to Brașov, because people are not willing to go somewhere more far. And of course, everyone is doing the barbecues, somewhere around. And when you see the tons of garbage left there, it’s really devastating. And in my opinion, if you’re complaining about the situation in this country, just start from yourself and of course…
Daniela: [00:14:07] Just start small.
Alisa: [00:14:09] Yeah. And also, of course, I was a bit shocked when I saw the beautiful, old Brașov and some writings being there on the walls. I understand that not all people are having common sense and they still do that. But it should be taken care of because it’s the old city, it is the face, so to say, of the, of Brașov. It should be really taken care of. And it seems that nobody cares. So that was another… so, yeah. So, generally, it’s kind of… the city being dirty. But I have to mention that after I saw other parts of the country… Well, Transylvania is still good.
Alisa: [00:14:49] Other parts of the country like Bucharest?
Alisa: [00:14:51] Well, yeah. Like Bucharest and like, I don’t know, even when you just pass through Transylvania, when you go towards Bucharest, and you get outside of Transylvania, sort of, so to say, and you start to enter into that area, where the highway starts. So to say this… yeah, it’s a different thing.
Daniela: [00:15:14] The one to Constanța?
Alisa: [00:15:16] Yeah. That’s also another separate story, which I was also… I was shocked, but we were talking about the beginning of my stay here. But in Constanța, I was shocked last year. So, this was another shock.
Alisa: [00:15:31] I was actually really devastated about the fact that, when I saw so Constanța and I already knew about the other parts of the country, that this country has it all, mountains, sea, everything. Yeah… And the sea was also so dirty. I mean, the seaside and not maintained… All the old buildings and the situation on the beaches also was really awful.
Alisa: [00:15:53] Like, you could see cigarettes all over and also the garbage.
Alisa: [00:15:59] This is yeah, that’s… that’s something that I am really… I’m really sad about it. First of all, because my son has to live here and grow up here. And it’s really sad that it’s happening this way. And again, comparing to my country, we also had that, but many years ago. And after that, the fines were implemented. So now, if… the police is always checking, they are actually always patrolling the beaches and if they see you smoking, you’ll get a pretty big fine. I think this is the only way, sadly, how you can educate the people. So maybe it would work if they would start to do something like this here.
Daniela: [00:16:37] That’s something that I wanted to ask because in a way, I feel that Romanians really put a lot of pressure on their communist past when they try to discuss our current situation. And they do put a lot of blame, of course, on it. But in the end, Latvia also was a socialist country. Of course, I’m not going to compare the histories because I did not know enough about Latvian history, per say. But the mentality, as you as you mention, the mentality is different. And indeed, I wanted to ask what actions or what was the vibe that made Latvian people realize that maybe they should let go of their communist past or their communist trauma and enter into this new… this new way of being, in which, yeah. If we need to change a certain behavior, then you might introduce bigger fines and then the police needs to reinforce them, because it cannot all just happen overnight.
Alisa: [00:17:27] Yeah, I mean, I’ll have to upset you. It was not the fact that people suddenly decided or, over the years, decided to get over the communist past. It is just, unfortunately, in Latvia, people were really fixed on the fact that Russia occupied them, that Russia forced them to join the Soviet Union and they wanted to get rid of everything that can possibly remind about this. And of course, plus, indeed, it is just a different mentality. I would say Latvians are just a bit different, in a way that Romanians, to be honest, seem to me a bit lazy.
Alisa: [00:18:09] I would say, it’s like…
Daniela: [00:18:11] Compared to Latvians?
Alisa: [00:18:12] Yeah. Like it’s this very popular saying in Romania, „asta este”.
Daniela: [00:18:17] It is what it is.
Alisa: [00:18:18] Yeah, it is what it is. And until I’m sorry your butt is not burning, you’re not gonna stand up and do something.
Alisa: [00:18:24] So, yeah. And Latvians are quite different in that mentality aspect. So, they don’t do that, especially because, again, we are not there only pure Latvians. There are huge amount of people who are really mixed, including me. For example, I’m having a mixed family. So I’m more Russian. But, in the same time, I cannot be compared with Russian from Russia because I already have that Baltic mix. So that mix that we have there makes it a bit different. So the Russian Latvians, we are more active, I would say, probably like that. The fact that we entered the European Union also changed a lot for Latvia. They realize that they can get funds in order to maintain and take care of all our historical monuments and objects and national parks and so on. So they used it at maximum. So everything what we have now repaired, maintained and renovated, it’s from European Union funds.
Alisa: [00:19:22] Here, for example, the difference is that they know that they cannot profit from this. So nobody cares. And they don’t even try to use it. So that would be probably the difference between our mentality and the Romanian mentality, like just being a bit lazy. I don’t know even how to express this.
Daniela: [00:19:42] The interesting part about it is that I do understand that aspect of Romanian people.
Daniela: [00:19:47] I see it as a kind of extreme behavior, in the sense of you either have super lazy people or you have insanely ambitious people that will work their asses off to do whatever they want to do.
Daniela: [00:20:01] Because, for example, I am thinking in the case of abandoned buildings, of course, like, if you go… if you go around Bucharest and that’s a city that really marks me in a negative way regarding the respect that people have towards their buildings. I lived in my first university year on Magheru, which is basically the Champs-Elysees of Bucharest or it used to be known as that. I lived in a historical building which now has been completely closed. It had a cinema, the Patria cinema, in case anybody knows of it. And now everything is just abandoned and obviously not taken care of. I also found out back then from some administration people that apparently… So this is a complex of buildings, basically, and it was held by a cement block, somewhere in the middle. And they discovered that that specific block just disappeared. I have no clue why or how, but somebody took that block. And apparently because of that, the building, the complex is even more unstable than it was before. So in case of a earthquake, which is what Bucharest people fear the most, because of 1977, there was a huge earthquake, a lot of damage. You can imagine that people do not feel really safe. And I understand why they close off the whole… the whole cinema complex as well. But when you go there and you see that this is literally a piece of history and it would be so nice to renovate it and put it back together, and then it’s like, okay, so why isn’t this happening? And that goes to what you were saying about the corruption and people not, you know, having enough funds to take out of the projects or…
Alisa: [00:21:31] Yeah, it’s just not interesting for them because they cannot profit from that. That’s a pretty sad.
Daniela: [00:21:38] And then, at the other end of the spectrum, you have an organization that is called Monumente Uitate, so Forgotten Monuments. And basically, what I do know about it is that it was founded by some people who wanted to restore all of these historical monuments and get the community involved in it. So, act more as a civic project than just let’s put some money in and renovated.
Alisa: [00:22:01] Did they succeed?
Daniela: [00:22:03] Yeah, they are succeeding. They are mapping out… I think they started with buildings in… different villas that they could find in Transylvania. And they are moving now towards the rest of the country, which I find amazing. And I wish them a lot of luck. They were actually looking for volunteers. So if anybody wants to do that, it’s Monumente Uitate. And you will see it in the link in the show notes. For example, you have these polar opposites that coexist in the same place.
Daniela: [00:22:28] You have the people who just look at their heritage being gone and then you have the people who really do whatever they can to save or maintain their identity through historical buildings and other things. So…
Alisa: [00:22:39] This is really nice. But as I said, it’s… I don’t want to make an impression that the Latvians are so… we also have our own problems, mental problems, so to say, as in the… as a nationality. But yeah. And we also, by the way, we also had this situation when a lot of monuments were really abandoned and they were staying and rottening. But what I really liked about my country is that once the opportunity came in 2005 (correction: Latvia joined the EU in 2004) when we entered in the European Union, they used it. So here they could do the same. But I just hope that it’s going to come. Maybe some time will pass and maybe, finally, they will start to do it here as well. Because, yeah. Latvia also was not always so nice and done. It took some time for, I don’t know, some parts of government to realize that this should be done. And actually, I have to mention that, yeah, indeed, Latvians are caring more about historical objects and monuments. But in the same time, I would like to mention what I really admire about Romanians in this matter, is that they are really devoted to their traditions.
Alisa: [00:23:50] And for example, for me, it was a shock. I mean, in a good way, with a plus sign, a huge plus. And when I started to party here and it was… it doesn’t matter if it was from work or with friends or with my ex-husband’s friends. Everybody is dancing. I mean, everybody’s listening to the traditional music and everybody knows how to dance traditional music. And it’s kind of a really fun thing for Romanian people. And I really admire that because it’s so awesome. In Latvia, you will ever, ever not find anyone who would actually listen to Latvian traditional songs at the party of youngsters. I mean, maybe you will find it somewhere in the countryside, I don’t know, probably, but never in between the… actually amongst the young people. Only the people who actually do it professionally, who… which are having a hobby and they are dancing or singing in the national Latvian choir or the dancing groups. Other than that, like never. And most of all, at the wedding, you will also never, ever see that.
Daniela: [00:25:06] Oh, no. At Romanian weddings, that is mandatory.
Alisa: [00:25:10] Yeah, I know. It’s a bit sometimes too much, I think. But still. It’s a really nice devotion. It’s really nice devotion to the culture, I think. And it’s really nice that Romanian people are passing it from one generation to another. So it’s not fading.
Daniela: [00:25:25] Definitely. Definitely. I want to get into another spicy topic regarding Romania: education. Because there is a huge debate on how the educational system works or not in Romania. And since you have your son in pre-school… well, he is in kindergarten, right?
Alisa: [00:25:44] Yeah, in “mijlocie” (the Middle League).
Daniela: [00:25:46] So you had some time to adjust yourself to the mentality that is being employed in certain kindergartens or in the education system in general. And also to the system itself. What are your first impressions about the Romanian educational system?
Alisa: [00:26:03] Well, I won’t… I would like just to point out that the mentality is not too different from us from…
Alisa: [00:26:10] I’m talking about the Russians now, mostly, because Latvians are different. Yeah. But the first impression was that for me, that’s still the most frustrating fact here, that they put too much pressure and too much importance to a discipline and to the activities that are preparing you for school. And when I’m talking about this topic, I only want to swear because these kids, let’s imagine a 3-year-old or 4-year-old. It has been already a proven fact that kids at that age, they need to… they need to move.
Alisa: [00:26:45] They need to explore. They have to go outside. And actually, they need to learn kind of through the games, in kind of a game form. And here, they put them to draw, to, I don’t know, to make some… something, some activities, like, the whole… all day long.
Daniela: [00:27:04] So just sit at a table and do stuff.
Alisa: [00:27:07] Yeah. Sometimes they do something else. But mostly, it’s all about these kinds of activities. I mean, I understand that it’s also okay and it’s also… it should be done. And I was lately attending a meeting, a “ședință”, in the kindergarten because the school year started and so on. And the teacher said that, you know, that your kid should be able to stay at least 15 minutes still and perform the activity that you actually gave him. And if he’s not doing that, something is wrong. Well, I already got triggered from that because it’s not true, because all the kids are different. And especially if a kid is with a temper like mine, for example, if he doesn’t like something, if it’s not interesting for him, if it’s not his thing, he will not do it. And that’s it.
Daniela: [00:27:57] Good luck with that in the Romanian system.
Alisa: [00:27:59] Yeah. So, they still want kids to be comfortable, to be obedient, to be comfortable to be in the system. And that is so, so outdated and so old-fashioned. And I really hope that that’s going to ever change because it’s really sad. It’s not normal. And when I asked the teacher, why are they actually doing this and why they’re having this kind of opinion, her answer was, well, the expectations at school are really high. And if you start to prepare your kid from now, it is going to be easier for him when he’s going to a first grade. And I’m sorry, but he’s 4. He’ll have all his life to study, to, you know, be set in the box, to have some sort of rules and obligations. But for now, he’s 4.
Daniela: [00:28:47] He is just a kid.
Alisa: [00:28:48] Yeah, but they they still… and what is really sad is that it comes from the teachers, because who else should change this system? I mean on the general level, starting from the government, I mean, other than them, because they are inside there, they are working with kids, they’re finishing schools, they’re finishing those psychology courses or whatnot. And they are the ones who are still pushing for that, which is really sad. And again, I want to mention a bright side about attitude towards children in general here in Romania. People in general are very, very child-friendly. And in Latvia, for example, you will not find this. So my kid, he’s going to each and every person sometimes in the trolley and saying “Bună ziua, ce mai faci?” (Good day, how are you doing?). And people are really happy to speak with him. And they’re really open and they’re smiling and they’re trying to give some candies or other, I don’t know. And this is happening mostly everywhere. So that’s a good point of people here in Romania – the attitude towards the children. But what’s… in regards to kindergartens, yeah, that the situation being fixed on discipline, that’s really, really sad. And yeah.
Daniela: [00:29:59] And it does shape the child to be obedient and be afraid of authorities throughout his life. And then we see a society that’s… looks like the one we have today in Romania, where people are afraid of questioning authority. They’re afraid to stand up for themselves. If they’re not afraid of this, they find it hard, it is not necessarily their natural response to something.
Alisa: [00:30:20] It’s like a vicious circle, indeed. I mean, we still have that also in Latvia, I will not lie, I will not say that we don’t have that. But in Latvia, in kindergartens, they are… they are going with the kids outside a lot. And if it’s a good weather and if the time permits, if the weather permits, they would stay outside for the whole day and they just go inside to eat and to sleep, logically. Here it’s maximum 1 hour, maybe. And it’s… it’s in the best case. And as soon as it gets a bit colder, I’m talking about end of October or November, that’s it. The kids are staying inside. And this is something that should be really changed on a general level because it’s not okay. It’s not okay for the mental health of children. It’s not okay for the physical health, I would say.
Daniela: [00:31:12] No, because they have a lot of energy to consume.
Alisa: [00:31:15] Yeah. First of all, it is the energy. And secondly, it’s not healthy, in general, to say 8 hours inside the class, which is, first of all, overheated.
Daniela: [00:31:26] In Romania, if there’s something… Like, people really love the heat in their houses, like 26 degrees in winter, at least tropical t-shirt, t-shirt-time. And yeah, well, the “curent”, which is basically the draft we… even I, like, I feel that thing. I don’t know if it’s genetically predisposed or what the hell is wrong with that, but I feel it.
Alisa: [00:31:49] Well, maybe it’s because, still, Romania, it’s a bit kind of on the southern part of Europe.
Alisa: [00:31:57] And I really noticed that. I’m just judging from the… being amongst my colleagues, for example, and, when I’m feeling really hot at work and I cannot stand it, and I have to change my winter shoes because I cannot stay in winter shoes, people are having, like, 2 pullovers and 3 scarves on them and they are really close to or arriving to the point where they are going to put also a “șapca” (a cap) and jacket on themselves. “Oh, it’s so cold.” And I’m like, really, what’s happening? So yeah, maybe it’s really a genetical thing.
Daniela: [00:32:32] Me and my partner are having these discussions all the times. He likes to laugh about it, let me just put it like that. It’s like, oh yeah, it’s the draft again, right? Like “mhmm”. And no, we do not have 26 degrees in our apartment. It’s decent, cool weather. But some things… some thing, they just get passed on. I don’t even know how.
Alisa: [00:32:55] Yeah. But it’s really genetically, I don’t know. And another thing what I would like to mention regarding the kindergartens here, is that if you want to have something more decent for your child in order to get him to a kindergarten, a private kindergarten, the prices are just, you know… so, it’s around 2,000 lei for a month, which I find really over exaggerated, in this case.
Daniela: [00:33:28] Yeah, for the level… for the salary levels in Romania, it is. And for the lifestyle expenses, it’s crazy.
Alisa: [00:33:39] Yeah.
Daniela: [00:33:40] Obviously, you love your son and you love your family and you do have a positive experience in Romania because you’re still there. And at the same time, we are noticing the biggest… I think it’s the biggest brain drain in Romania’s history, with all of the people going out of the country, myself included.
Daniela: [00:34:00] And trying to figure out a better future for themselves. But you choose to stay. And you choose to stay also for your son. I want to ask why is that? How was that piecing out?
Alisa: [00:34:15] Well, first of all, in Latvia, of course, if I would think about getting… going back home with my son. But again, in Latvia, yes, indeed. It’s a bit better quality of life, a bit better salaries. And…
Alisa: [00:34:31] But again, if you compare the salary, the average salary with the average expenses, it’s still quite the same like here. So life is not easy there as well.
Alisa: [00:34:42] And I also started to think about the fact that the education there is also not so good and it’s not valued much outside of the country. Only some private universities, that are basically coming… it’s like a branch. We have few that are actually… the main ones are from Europe.
Alisa: [00:35:03] And then in Latvia, we just have the branch. So of course, when you get a diploma, it’s also valued in Europe. Other than that, we had… I personally know the situations when a person would have a education in university, and then he went to UK and he wanted to start the Master’s and they said, well, no. With this diploma, you should start from the beginning. So, I was just thinking about this aspect, that in Latvia, for example, life is not much better than here if you really roughly compare it. And of course, the most important thing is that his father is here and they are really having a really close relationship. So he’s taking care of him as much as I do. So I couldn’t just separate them. That’s not right. That’s not correct. And that’s why, for now, I have to stay here. And if my son grows up and he decides to go somewhere else, it’s going to be already his choice, if you understand what I mean. If he wants to go for a better life somewhere else, then of course, I would wish that for him. And then, we will see.
Alisa: [00:36:11] So until now, until he’s 18, I’m here. And yeah, that’s… the major two general things was the fact that his father is here. And the second thing is that, for example, in Latvia, it’s not much of a brighter future for him. I would say, from the educational part, I think here it’s even better.
Daniela: [00:36:33] After he gets out of kindergarten.
Alisa: [00:36:35] School is going to follow.
Alisa: [00:36:37] And the fact that they don’t have even… how do you call it, “cantina” (cafeteria)? Which is also a shock. Yeah. That’s also, yeah. Well, we have to survive the school.
Daniela: [00:36:45] He needs to go with a little sandwich.
Alisa: [00:36:47] Jesus, no, that’s awful. Well yeah, we’ll have to survive also the school and then we’ll see what’s going to happen. Yeah. And actually, this is… I don’t know if it’s really related, but what I also wanted to mention that, at least here in Romania, we still have a nice food which is really natural, less or more. You can still find the good food. Yeah, it’s same in Latvia. So that’s why I’m. When people were asking me like, how did you move into Romania?
Alisa: [00:37:19] This is such a low, third-world country. And it’s not… it’s even worse than Latvia. Well, first of all, it has its advantages.
Alisa: [00:37:27] And when you asked why I chose to stay here, also in Latvia, we have a really, really huge percentage of people who are leaving Latvia for the same purposes, for searching for a better life. And yeah, so that was also a thing I had to consider when choosing if to say here or live.
Daniela: [00:37:46] Yeah, we will see what happens because, at least in Romania… I don’t know how it is in Latvia, at least in Romania, we’re beginning to see the social effect of this mass migration. Like the children that are left behind, or the new generation of Romanians slash other nationalities or that live in other countries, and they don’t really feel like they’re Romania. It’s going to be an interesting period, I think, for the country.
Alisa: [00:38:11] I literally have like 2 people who I know personally. So both of them, they actually grew up in in Italy, but they are Romanians.
Alisa: [00:38:21] And then they moved back when they were already, I don’t know, grown-up, so to say. I don’t know, 20, 19, whatever. So, they do speak in Romanian but they don’t even know how to write grammatically correct. So they are Romanians, but they are kind of Italians, but they are Romanians. So… they, now, they live here. They they came back, but they cannot, they don’t even know how to write grammatically correct because, yeah, they do speak perfectly. But what refers to the writing, they suck. I’m sorry, because they grew up in another country. So that’s also… And it’s so interesting, I mean, it’s weird, but it’s interesting.
Daniela: [00:39:02] Right? It’s a new chapter, I think, for the country.
Alisa: [00:39:05] That’s for sure.
Alisa: [00:39:06] And also, I’m very proud of the fact that I think I’m the only Latvian here in Brașov and my son is the only… my son is the only Latvian-Romanian-Russian boy here.
Alisa: [00:39:18] So yeah, that’s nice.
Daniela: [00:39:22] We should get you guys a medal or something like, honorary citizens of Brașov. But what language do you speak with your son?
Alisa: [00:39:29] Russian. So, I spoke with him Russian since he was born. Because, first of all, I I studied this matter and I read some articles about bilingual kids. And it’s really strongly advised not to mix the languages. So one parent should speak one language and another one, another one. So like this, they learn faster and it’s easier for for them to adjust. And indeed, now he’s speaking both fluently, of course, Romanian a bit better because he has more… He’s having a Romanian environment everyday. And his father and the kindergarten. But yeah, he speaks both languages. And sometimes, he translates to me Romanian words to Russian because I don’t know what is he saying there? And I’m saying, OK, can you please translate? And he’s like, yeah, that’s cute. But sometimes it’s really scary because he’s just 4. But yeah, it’s nice.
Daniela: [00:40:27] Oh, kids learn fast.
Alisa: [00:40:29] Yeah. And it makes also me to learn faster Romanian. Because it’s a shame not to understand everything what your kids says there sometimes. Oh, yeah, it’s fun.
Daniela: [00:40:41] So, if you think about your Romanian experience, what made it good until now? What did you do to make it good?
Alisa: [00:40:47] Well, I think people, in general, because as a nationality, I find Romanians really warm and open and quite easy-going. Then, it’s the work environment because it’s weird, but here I have much more stable job than I had back in Latvia. So back in Latvia, it was well-paid but quite unstable. Here, it’s a stable thing. And of course, the fact that I have a lot of Russians around me and some of them became really true friends, not just some colleagues that I hang out with. So, of course, that’s a huge, huge thing that made my life here much, much easier. Probably also the fact that the mentality of Romanians is quite similar to Russian mentality. So I don’t feel like I’m in a very different environment. So that’s another thing. And also, I need to mention the fact that I’m really easy-going and I am adapting fast and easy. I’m actually like a cockroach. I can survive radiation. So, yeah, all of these things. And yet, of course, the nature, that’s also a really, really important point for me because I come from a really, really small and green country and even the capital is surrounded by the forests. And anytime you want, you can go and have some fresh air. So for me, that’s really important here, that I’m in Brașov. It’s really stunning. I mean, the nature and I can always visit the forest or I can always go hiking and have some fresh air. That’s also actually really, really important because I would not be able to live in cities such as Bucharest, ever, because I’m not… I’m really nature person, saying roughly. So yeah.
Daniela: [00:42:44] You would have a tough time there, I would think.
Alisa: [00:42:46] Oh no. I would just die there after this. Oh no, I can’t.
Daniela: [00:42:53] It’s understandable. And I think we are at the last question of this chit-chat. What do you advise other internationals to make the best out of their Romanian experience?
Alisa: [00:43:05] Well, it depends how long they intend to stay here.
Alisa: [00:43:08] Of course, first of all, if they intend to stay here for a really long period, they… they should get a good job. Certainly. And of course, they should visit everything that’s possible to visit because it’s really amazing. Once you have the free time, you should explore Romania. And of course, I’m talking about Transylvania mostly. But I know that even in the Moldavian part, there are a lot of monasteries and things that you really should see. So, that would be my advice to people who are staying here and having free time, not like me. It’s hard to advise anything because everyone has really different life situations and really different origins because it’s… it really matters where do you come from. I think that for people who are more close to Romanian nationalities, like, I don’t know, Spanish or some sort of Latin American countries, for them it’s also quite easy because the mentality is still, it’s somewhere less or more of the same.
Daniela: [00:44:12] Yeah, they can connect to different elements of the Romanian culture through the Latin heritage, I think.
Alisa: [00:44:17] Yeah.
Daniela: [00:44:18] Well, that is interesting because, indeed, I think that for a person who comes from the east, they can go towards the Slavic side of the Romanian culture. For somebody who is from the West, they can recognize that as well. It’s quite the melting pot of cultures, I would think.
Alisa: [00:44:32] Yeah. And this is what I actually like about Romanians and about… even about the Romanian language itself, that it’s a really interesting and nice mixture of different cultures, though it has… Romanian has Slavic influence. So if you’re coming from the Slavic parts, you still can find something for yourself too, to be warm, you know, in your soul. And then if you’re coming from a Latin origin, then again, you will still find plenty of things that it’s close to your heart.
Alisa: [00:45:01] And that’s really amazing. And I think that if Romania will develop itself a bit better in, I don’t know, in 10, 20 years, it’s really a great potential to have a lot, a lot of immigrants here.
Alisa: [00:45:13] And yeah, I just hope that this country will have a better… Yeah, and just have a cool life, indeed.
Daniela: [00:45:21] Well, then, Alisa, thank you so much for this interview.
Alisa: [00:45:25] Thanks to you, too.
Daniela: [00:45:34] Thanks for tuning in to the latest episode of the Wo/anderers podcast. We are actually gathering stories for the next seasons. And in case you are an international who has Romania close to their heart, in case you have a story to tell. Please write that down at firstname.lastname@example.org. And that is stories at W-O-A-N-D-E-R-E-R-S dot com. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram. We’re actually bringing up quite some interesting stories between the international community and Romania, as well as getting you more into the traditional side of this beautiful country. We also have a YouTube channel. You’re free to subscribe there as well. Give us a like, share. You know all that social media shabam, Thank you. Mulțumesc. Bye bye. And la revedere.