Romanian Survival Book

November 23, 2006

Talented/Famous Romanians # 1

Filed under: Famous Romanians,Romanian Talent — darian @ 2:54 pm


OANA  PELLEA                                                      

 Oana Pellea is a Romanian actress with an impressive portfolio both in theatre and film. She is widely appreciated and respected in Romania for both her amazing talent, the awards she has won by now and her natural modesty.

 The daughter of legendary Romanian actor Amza Pellea, the remarkable popular culture icon of Nea Marin, she resemblance a lot of her father love for theatre and acting, hard work and passion. In a consumist culture that creates ‘stars’ and VIPs out of nothing, Oana Pellea separates herself through a normal attitude, outstanding performances in any TV, theatre or film productions,  and a simplicity that is nothing but a subtlety of the way she is.

I have seen recently the much expected Children of Men where she plays the character of a Romanian Gypsy and I found her performance charming, natural, real and absolutely great. She speaks Romanian and mumbles in Romanian and she manages to capture so finely and with a such a sensible sense of humor the way certain Romanians behave, walk and talk that is fascinating. In a theatre cinema almost full, her appearance made all of us smile happily to see a Romanian in an British movie that is already considered for the Oscars and some laughing at her hillarious look in the movie and the way she portrays her character: with wit, charm and a lot of humanity. No wonder then to be distributed by the director Alfonso Cuaron within an international cast of great actors; it was her talent and her eyes that got her role in this movie after a huge competition .

All you have to do now is go and see her in the Children of Men.   oanapellea2.jpg

(pictures from the Romanian newspaper Evenimentul Zilei)


November 21, 2006

Letter from California

Filed under: Letters from... — darian @ 12:39 pm

 Justin Sebe wrote me a while ago about how much he misses Romania and things Romanian in his everyday life in California. Here is his letter.


I miss you

I can easily spend a day dreaming away the hours captivated by my imagination of Romania.   Sort of strange I suppose that I should be so fond of something so small and unremarkable.

I miss Romania because I miss the people.  Don’t take my word for it, go meet them.   They are for the most part modest, nevertheless commercialism and its vices are dutifully present.   They are outgoing and welcoming.   They, often time, will involve themselves in your life without much regard to such social faux pas as ‘personal space’ or ‘polite distance’.   These sort of social nuances are left up to the socially antiquated such as the English and Germans.   Romanians will treat you openly.  I would say for a broader understanding, they are more akin to the French and Italians.   Friendly and social to a fault.

I miss Romania because I miss the language.   I have spoken to some extent 5 languages now, and Romanian is still my favorite.   A personal bias that I would not argue.   But I would, despite my bias, argue, no, encourage you to listen to it, to speak it and more importantly to learn the grammar.   For pronunciation, you have French, for mechanics, you have English, but for poetry and ‘sinceritate’ there can only be Romanian.

I miss Romania because I miss the food.   It is by no means the most decorated, nor is the most exotic.  In fact by all accounts, mine included, it is quite simple.   It seems to me that the staple is Mamaliga (mah-mah-lee-gah), followed by Piine (Puhy-ne).   The first is a sort of yellow corn meal while the second is just simple white bread.   While I can continue on for some time, here is just a brief list of all the other foods I like.   Sarmale (sar-ma-leh) a very delicious stuffed cabbage leaf, Salata de Beuf a type of potato salad that has chooped meats, vegetables and a good deal of mayonnaise.    Finally, my personal favorites are Michi, a\nreally interesting looking hotdog.   I\nsuppose the thing I love the most about the food is that its not pretentious,\nnor is it very complicated.   It is in\nfact simple and delicious.

I miss Romania\nbecause it is unremarkable.   I said this\nearlier, but it is truly the one thing I miss the most.   I currently live in America, in the state of California\nin Orange County\nnot too far from Los Angeles.   This area, much like the rest of the world\nseems preoccupied with convincing others they are truly something special.   I believe that if something is special, it\nis so of its own accord and its own merit.  \nI have lived here long enough to truly appreciate what it means not to\nbe wowed by all things fancy.   I\’ve come\nto miss and love those things which need no advertising and are great just as\nthey are. 

Small and unremarkable.

Finally, my personal favorites are Michi, a really interesting looking hotdog.   I suppose the thing I love the most about the food is that its not pretentious, nor is it very complicated.   It is in fact simple and delicious.

I miss Romania because it is unremarkable.   I said this earlier, but it is truly the one thing I miss the most.   I currently live in America, in the state of California in Orange County not too far from Los Angeles.   This area, much like the rest of the world seems preoccupied with convincing others they are truly something special.   I believe that if something is special, it is so of its own accord and its own merit.   I have lived here long enough to truly appreciate what it means not to be wowed by all things fancy.   I’ve come to miss and love those things which need no advertising and are great just as they are. 

Small and unremarkable.

Call for papers

Filed under: Uncategorized — darian @ 12:24 pm

The good, the bad and the ugly of Romanians seen by expats, foreigners and Romanians alike, as a cultural guide in understanding Romanians. 

RSB should be  a collective blog, so please don’t hesitate to send your ideas, suggestions, observations and I will post all under your signature. I will keep though the prerogative to delete or not post rude comments or inappropriate content. Debates over particularities about Romania and Romanians are also encouraged.

I am really curious to hear you and see how this project will grow. I must confess that this idea came on last night after few days ago I was reading Spiegel On-line International, where they are doing this research for the Germany Survival Bible and after a conversation with an expat in Romania few months ago, who was telling me about peculiarities he noticed at Romanians and wondering about the British and other nations. So, following the German way, the comments, suggestions and observations should:

• Talk about or describe the specificities of Romanians, Romanian culture and society.
• If you have photos to attach, feel free to send me and I will post it, mentioning the source, if these are related with the content.
• Have you any typical Romanian jokes, anecdotes, attitudes to share here, send them over.
• If you are a visitor just passing by or living here for long time you must have observed strange things about Romanians, alike with lovely charming habits. Share those here.
• I will try my best, in case you have your own blog with things of relevance for this project, to post links to it.
• Your posts can be either long or short, just a comment or a long description of something you noticed and you think it could qualify as Romanian pattern of some sort.
• You can send me your suggestions, ideas, photos, also on my email address to:

Thank you.

(September 08, 2006)

A few things…

Filed under: Uncategorized — darian @ 3:10 am

I planned a while ago to have a special section with talented Romanians/Romanians I like. This will be exclusively based on my own taste, preferences and subjectivity, so I will refer only to people I find talented/interesting/or I simply like.

I’ll also make a section with Famous/Infamous Romanians where I’ll try to list great Romanians and perceptions/reflections of bad Romanians as those reflected in the international  press lately (particularly British press). We cannot look only at one part of the coin, the good one or the bad one…as everywhere on this planet there are at least two ways at looking at something.

 As you can see, I have also moved the content -almost all!- to a new site: . I hope it will be better and easier both for me and those who read me and wrote to me so many emails with suggestions and questions. Thank you all, I did not post everything here, as many of you wrote on my personal email and that is not public.

On being Romanian

Filed under: Raving — darian @ 2:52 am

Ok, this is sounding more and more like a personal blog, so I will indulge this round again in ranting on my idiosyncrasies. One of these, quite stubborn, as it doesn’t let me live in peace is ‘on being Romanian’ or, more precisely, what it takes to be Romanian. Do you need a special something, a certain ne je sais quoi, to be born, live and act Romanian? Well, a few things, in my view.

First, you should be selfish: if you travel abroad do not get in touch with your fellow citizens, do not help them and do not talk with them. What you can do though, Romanian like, is dissing them with every occasion you get; if it happens than one Romanian is smarter, faster and better than you, then you MUST envy him/her, wish him/her bad luck and quietly pray that he/she will not succeed no matter what. If he/she will strike against all the odds, then you must humiliate this person somehow, find something from the past and splash it out.

Secondly, if you are born Romanian you will not help another Romanian; I have already said that. By the contrary, everything must be a competition die or get dead. No sharing information, no helping hand, no good words, no positive feedback, no harmless good intentions, nothing like it, God forbidden. You are on your own and you must eliminate competition, precisely smarter and better than you. As a Romanian, you simply cannot acknowledge and accept that others are better than you this is impossible. Envy has an un-limited dimension in this country. Not getting me wrong, I know a few projects/groups in Romania, made by Romanians who proved that occasionally solidarity is possible among Romanians: there is a group of young artists promoting each other but also doing common good projects, likewise a few groups helping Romanian students wishing to study abroad and collecting and sharing a huge amount of information pro bono, in the good style of European universities, where students share between themselves lots of ideas, notes, give and receive constructive feedback that will help them do a better job. Also, in any other European country when you meet new young people, you are almost immediately assimilated and introduced to their groups and invited to events and everything goes naturally, effortlessly. In Romania, if you belong to certain group, then is YOUR group and only yours; you will not allow another, a marginal to enter, you keep others aside. If one succeeds in this endeavour, then you have to play alike, fake it until you make it, as everyone does the same, in an all exclusive membership club.

Thirdly, constructive feedback is almost a neologism in this country. You are not allowed to criticize a Romanian, whatever he does. We don’t like critique, constructive or non-constructive is not relevant. We do things better here, our way, and we said that to Europe many times until these dull Europeans got it in their heads, and now Europe must do something to accommodate itself to the Romanian aquis; basically we did not integrate to EU, Europe must integrate in Romania, and that fast. Romanians will use often though this paradigm of ‘constructive feedback’ but is just a euphemism for blunt hostility, anger and a clear intention to smash you in pieces, if possible.

Fourthly, in general, neither Romanians want, nor they care for this country to be better, they care primarily about themselves. Exceptions are allowed, things are warming up a bit in this direction. Politicians do not give a damn; they are unscrupulous, arrogant, self-interested bastards. The people are poor, they strive a lot for the bread, go to pick up strawberries in foreign countries, abandon their children hoping for a better income, journalists are more often than not like small business affiliated to a certain power interest, NGOs likewise so lately, everywhere you perceive self-centred interests and hidden agendas covered up in nice words like soap balloons. The few journalistic investigations uncovering big corruption, money laundering, dodgy business and incompetence have no follow-up, nobody feels any sort of responsibility. How could they? Many ‘big’ journalists made their own business under one or the other of our governments, business people likewise, they lobbied and courted one or the other power centres and usually the most successful business, the one success story started from scratch has a liaison in the political background that we don’t even want to know about. My excuses to the very few serious business people out there, but I don’t know them yet.

Fifthly, Romanians have no shame: they can lie continuously; they will lie into your face without blinking. They also have no respect for their word and no shame. Do not be surprised if you deal with a so called business man, well travelled, and perhaps well educated in a foreign university, who has, under his apparently fine tuned manners, the worst type of impolite behaviour you will meet around these beautiful lands: the hypocritical jerk that will walk over you as soon as you turn your back. Beware; you cannot trust Romanian business men, as you cannot trust a Romanian politician. That so long awaited young political elite is not coming, is it all outside this country already, maybe they will make great politicians and business men in those countries, which treat them as they deserve and where they don’t need to compromise in order to ‘make it’.

Romanians complain a lot too, just look at me here: about themselves, about anyone else, about anything. I am Romanian, so I am not perfect, I am guilty by birth, therefore I should not fume against my fellow citizens, like an ungrateful, but I am just very tired, I regret returning to this country, it seems more and more like the worst decision I have ever made. I will never blame those leaving and not ever wanting to hear what is here. Romania simply does not deserve its good people and I know what it takes to stick around and hang in there and fighting to change things around these places……it is a long and exhausting battle and you must have some commando skills to survive in these volatile valueless grounds.

(photo from Vivid)

The French connection

Filed under: Politics — darian @ 2:44 am

This September 63 presidents and prime-ministers will meet in Bucharest for the XI Sommet de la Francophonie; it is considered the biggest international event in years. Never mind that few ruthless dictators will walk around in the free world un-bothered by anyone; never mind that we cannot actually afford the costs of such an event, never mind that the garbage is all over in Bucharest and that Romania has many priorities at the moment. It has been decided though in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that this sommet in Bucharest is crucial for Romania’s aspirations to become a big player in global politics and, if not possible, at least in regional politics.

The institutional francophony was born in 1970 at Niamey (Niger), having the clear purpose of a ‘Commonwealth à la française’, uniting countries with a common history, former French and Belgian colonies. More countries have joined the multilateral alliance, departing from initial tutee of France and Belgium. Initially, being a francophone simple meant a language connection, as the French Ambassador to Bucharest said to the press few days ago, nothing more. The cultural dimension is also not strong enough in many of the OIF (Organisation International de la Francophonie), but obviously this organization has gathered and is reaching towards an increasingly political dimension, perhaps as an alternative voice to the English global dominance in politics, economy, culture, and trends, whatever.

As for Romania, long time we thought that we are the younger sister of France and that Bucharest is the ‘little Paris’; in the beginning of XXth century young people of wealthy families went to study in France and French was spoken in Bucharest almost as a second language. Things have changed dramatically though ever since: Bucharest is no longer a resemblance of the ‘little Paris’, young people are going everywhere, but mostly in the United States and UK where the best universities are and where people do take research seriously and on the streets of Romania almost anyone speaks excellent English.

I understand very well that the stakes for this reunion in Bucharest are very high, and that Romania wants to play a bigger role in the EU from now on, eventually securing the French support in this way; the history has taught us though that you cannot count on a French support for sure. They change their mind often and they look after their own interest, like anybody else surely. I am not also sure that there is a vision for the future here, or only some megalomaniac aspirations; the reunion is clearly designed as a counter-balance to the loud Presidential support of ‘axa London-Washington –Bucharest’ in foreign politics. In my view, this huge costly extravagance (2,521 millions RON)is proving one more time that we have no consistency in Romanian foreign policy. We should have learned by now that you cannot jump boat all the time, and for a change one should stick with the first. So, to put it bluntly, I wonder whether this reunion has more to do with Francophony or with cacophony (this connection Francophony –cacophony has been made by Craig Turp, the editor of Bucharest in your pocket; more on

All things considered, I like French because they are the only one opposing the Americans most often than not; I like the French accent in English, I love French movies, I am fond of French Romanians like Ionesco, I love Paris and I always enjoy a charming French kiss. (photo from

Dating a Romanian

Filed under: Society/Lifestyle — darian @ 2:42 am

Hmmm….this is a tough one, as I haven’t dated a Romanian in ages and, in any case, I can only provide a girl’s perspective. I would hazard myself by saying that Romanians are a bit macho, they usually don’t know how to treat a women, of course exceptions are accepted, they wait for the girl to do all the tough part in taking the initiative while playing the cold, indifferent bastard. Then again, this is not a Romanian characteristic, I have seen worse. If they are not playing the untouchable, they are awfully dependent, possessive and annoying. Romanian men, I have heard, are unfaithful, macho, liars, and treat their women as their own possessions. Distinctions and perspective must be kept in mind; this description does not necessarily include the urban, educated male always (photo from

Generally, Romanian man are not as attractive as Romanian women, this is a fact of life, verified by many enthusiastic foreigners coming in this country for the famously beautiful Romanian girls. I don’t know how is to date a Romanian girl, I have never tried, and those who dated me …..that is difficult to track down and take the confession out of them, which places me in a very good position here.

Well, distinctions must be made also, on age, education, background, big city, small city. In Bucharest, not many people care about dating anymore, the relationships are at loose; I think is not trendy anymore to have a girlfriend/boyfriend….and that will probably make a very interesting sociological investigation. You can still find good guys, but these are afraid to approach women genuinely and often girls are left out being approached by awfully boring, persistent types….because the boring, uninteresting ones are always persistent. What else? As mentioned before, I don’t know much about the Romanian man profile lately, as I wasn’t hanging with Romanian men much, or at least I didn’t find yet a truly intriguing one. I am also not into the ‘hunting foreigners’ typology, is just happened that I have been in love with a foreigner, and in the last few years I have travelled and met other people, so not much socializing with Romanian men in this context. I should add that, generally, Romanian men and women have a weakness for anything foreign; so if you are a foreign in Romania, that makes you exotic instantly and your chances to date –and more- are high. A friend of mine was complaining the other day that in Romania male are coming mostly looking for the attractive Romanian female, while exotic foreign women for the Romanian male rarely. What can I say?! Life sucks sometimes.(animation from


Filed under: Romanian symbols — darian @ 2:38 am

Romanian national car, resembling the old Dacian territory name, the proud and glory of Ceausescu, a piece of resistance today on the streets of Bucharest. I don’t know much about the technicalities of Dacia, nor about other things connected, so feel free to get involved. I just know that few artists did few things on Dacia, I have bought a book about it last year as a present for a foreign in Bucharest, I should have got one for me too. Also, I have seen all over Bucharest the contour of Dacia on the walls as an ad-hoc stencil, very small drawing, but pretty, as being done by a child. I like it and an American friend asked me about it more than once…..So, there must be some more symbolism behind Dacia than I know or think at right now (picture by Maura Pitton, via

@ 1:56 PM   9 comments links to this post

Polenta (Mamaliga)

Filed under: Politics,Romanian food — darian @ 2:27 am


Mamaliga is a national Romanian food, but you may find it with Italians, Hungarians and other nations for sure, known around as ‘polenta’. Again, with Romanians things are more complicated and tricky, because ‘mamaliga’, as many other things Romanian, is not just food; there is a whole symbolism behind the poor innocent ‘mamaliga’. The mystery dwells in, at least, few aspects: how ‘mamaliga’ is cooked; our history; how we dealt with our history across time.

Romanians did not have a state organization until very late and they seem to have grown a strong resilience and patience over the numerous obstacles in their history. There were few brave rulers fighting back, but often outnumbered, and without a real army, and many times with the peasants enrolling voluntarily. Living right here, near the wilderness of nomad steppes in the beginning of Christianity, Romanians often left their houses and run into the woods, hiding of various people passing by, the Huns, the Avars, Slavs, Maghyars, Pechenegs, Cumans, but mostly the Tatars (Mongols); later, the Turks, Austro-Hungarians, the Germans, the Russians, the communists….as I consider the communists a foreign occupation given the fact that the gem of communists in Romanian resistance was very small, but the desire of Stalin to take over very big. If there are historians out there to contradict me here, please do.

The same resilience took place during the communist times. It is fairly known that in the beginning the communist system in Romania was one of the most brutal, crushing down any sign of disobedience and going much beyond that. I was born in Pitesti, where one of the most infamous communist torture prisons used to be; when I first read about that I was about 16 and I was shattered for the next few years. Around 19, I have met the greatest women in Romanian recent history, Elisabeta Rizea in her natal town of Nucsoara where, together with fellow students we were doing some sort of combined research on the application of property law and the resistance against the communists that took place in the Fagaras mountains for almost a decade and about few people know. The wives, daughters and relatives of those in the mountains were beaten up, tortured, cast out and still they did not betray. The atrocities were enormous, as the communist underground war was ferocious.

Coming back to ‘mamaliga’, that has a very special recipe: you take the corn flour, you pass it through a utensil to throw the bad grains out, and then you pour it carefully in hot water. You have to be patient, as you need to watch over it whilst boiling and smash thorough it constantly. When the boiling point is reached the ‘mamaliga’ should look quite thick and consistent. Then is ready; you turn it over on a strong wood plate and you leave aside to chill out. Here is the trick: ‘mamaliga’ is made of corn, which is the peasants’ bread, is thick but not as consistent as bread, is not baked but boiled to a certain point. You eat it fast; the leftovers are not good, as it is with bread. If is chilling out too much, then ‘mamaliga’ is not good; if is not boiled enough is flawed. So, there you go to an ad-hoc manual in defining Romanians: we need to boil to the hottest point until we take any action; even so, we might get it wrong if not boiled properly or chilled out too much. We have a peasant background, which makes us resilient and humble; contrary with some stereotypes that also makes us hardworking and generally honest. We are not of an aristocratic nature or background; the attempts to look like that are laughable. We had German kings, and few Balkan rulers with pretensions of aristocracy, but that was only a historical opportunity for installing the corrupt behaviour we perpetrate today. We had few good brave people, but very few; they were often left alone in a limbo given the problem with the boiling point I have mentioned before.

Nowadays, after boiling softly underground in the communist regime, many people seem to fake the boiling point all the time. Is not possible to fake it and not anyone notice that, because ‘mamaliga’ explodes and becomes what it is supposed to be only under real pressure, not artificially induced. The Romanian intellectuals were so quiet during communists, with very few exceptions, now they are active and loud and taking moral stands against people accused of so called ‘secret police files’. Comparing the agreement signed by anyone with the resilience of Elisabeta Rizea, anything looks pitiful for the first; then again, comparing the torturing officer, the one who betrayed his friends and family with someone who signed a piece of paper but never acted actively against someone, is a big nuance. I am tired of seeing the ‘mamaliga’ syndrome turned in such a delayed cleaning of our society, while the ones who have been always good in playing the puppets grin behind the scene. The whole idea of ‘lustration’ was addressed to them firstly and mostly and they are the ones who get away one more time.

@ 3:04 PM   11 comments


Filed under: Society/Lifestyle — darian @ 2:19 am

Queuing has a special connotation for Romanians’ life. In old time – read Ceausescu’s time- living in the line was the ‘normal’ life: get the milk early in the morning, queue in advance few hours, to secure that you get your one bottle of milk for your children, queuing for meat, fruits, just anything. The queue is something many of us, especially the young people, don’t want to put up with anymore.

If you go around the city – I mean Bucharest – you will still notice lots of queues. Being asked ‘why these people queue for?’, I wouldn’t know what to say. They seem to queue for everything still, in a loud, disorganized manner, with lots of comments, nerves and sadness. The queue has become a mental strain and a national peculiarity for Romanians. But is it that we have a passion for queuing or is just some sort of national mental disorder that gets us in line as soon as we see others sitting there? Or is the Romanian bureaucracy grounded in the line mentality, as there are so many services that you cannot pay for on-line, so we must go queuing. Take the cable TV, for instance. We only have 2 companies covering Bucharest and if you live in a certain neighbourhood you cannot choose, so you stick with yours no matter whether you are happy with it or not. And you are obliged to queue for long 40 minutes or more to pay your bill. Why is that?!

I am sure that there are many queuing stories out there. This suggestion on queues I have got from Mihaela Butnaru, via email, who has her own story.
(photo from

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