Author: Bianca Dobrescu
More and more Romanians are leaving the country for a better life. On the other hand, the number of foreigners who choose to settle in Romania has been increasing every year. They saw in our cities not only opportunities to do business, but also to further their studies and hold well-paid jobs. It is not surprising that Bucharest is the most sought after city. According to the General Inspectorate for Immigration data, almost 30,000 foreign citizens had the regulated right to stay in the Capital City at the end of last year, i.e. 30% of the total number of expats in the country.
Capital magazine interviewed five expats who used to live in developed countries on several continents but ended up settling in Romania, where they have successful careers or businesses. They all say the same thing: that there is potential in the business environment in Romania, that there is a place for everyone.
An Englishman in the Romanian education system
Dr. Robert Brindley is the Director of the American International School of Bucharest. He was born in Great Britain and lived in Australia for a long time. He had come across various cultures and came to Romania two and a half years ago to make a change, according to him. He set out to contribute to the development of a school because he likes challenges, he confesses, particularly when he sees a lot of potential in this field. “Compared to the UK and Australia, living in Romania is much less costly. However, the quality of products and services seems to be the same as, if not better than in the aforementioned countries. Not a lot of people realise that relocating is not easy. It might seem fun to move to another country and it sometimes is, but this requires taking your family with you every 3-5 years or even less, in some cases, and start a life from scratch, in a different part of the world, which, in many cases, is very different. For an expat to live well, and here I speak from the perspective of a foreigner working in Romania, who is also an employee, who needs to handle whatever is needed in a home, who has a family, a social life and holidays, the job needs to be interesting and keep them motivated. I would estimate that an expat needs EUR 6,000 – 8,000 a month to live well in Romania, with their family and children,” he believes. In his opinion, the living costs here are lower than in other European countries, given that the workforce and infrastructure here are more precarious. “This is still a developing country – and the workforce cost makes a tremendous difference,” he points out. Robert Brindley has been working in education for 36 years, and he does not see himself working in a different sector. According to him, the interest of Romanians in private education has been constantly growing, and parents have become more and more selective with the services provided by such institutions.
He sold his business to move to Romania
Javier Garcia del Valle sold his business in Malaga, Spain, when he was made the proposition to move to Romania and work for Happy Tour. At first, he was a member of the company Board of Directors; four months later, he was made CEO. “When you move to another country, you are not on your own; one needs to remember that an expat needs to provide comfort to their entire family. Then, in a different corner of the world, expenses occur, which you would probably not have in your own country. For instance, renting an apartment. And renting an apartment in Bucharest is more expensive than it is in Malaga. School charges likewise, since children need to study at an international school. All these make the living cost in Bucharest higher. Sure, the restaurant prices, transportation and shopping costs are not as high as in his native country. One needs to remember that an expat needs to provide comfort to their entire family,” he highlights. Pursuant to Mr. del Valle, if we compare Madrid, Spain’s capital city, to Bucharest, everything is less costly here, but in other Spanish cities, things are different. “If we compare the living cost in Malaga, where I used to live, with Bucharest, I can say that here it is twice as expensive”, says the Happy Tour CEO. According to the expatistan.com website, which provides global statistics regarding the living standards, the cost of life in Spain is 67% higher than in Romania. There, the average national salary is as high as EUR 1,754 de euro, much higher than the EUR 400 in Romania. Whereas a Spaniard can rely on EUR 845 after eliminating monthly expenses, a Romanian who earns the average salary has EUR 14 left.
The Frenchman who wants to change the mentality of Romanians
Patrick Ouriaghli invested over EUR 450 thousand in a social business relying on the 3Rs – reduction, reuse, recycling – and aims at the integration of people in difficulty as far as the labor market is concerned. He came to Romania in 2009 and he says he has gotten used to living here. The Frenchman confesses that what he loves here is the summer, the villages, the Danube Delta, walking with his family in the residential neighborhoods of Bucharest and admiring their architecture. “The advantage in Romania is that you can live on little money if you are not interested otherwise <>. For instance, in Paris, you cannot walk five meters without being tempted to buy something. Paris is an outdoor shopping centre: there are many things to do, to see, to eat, to drink, everything for a charge and it is quite difficult to have fun or spend some quality time without spending a lot. In Bucharest, on the other hand, things are not the same, you can really have a great time without spending a lot. However, the biggest disadvantage in Bucharest is that it is difficult to use public transportation or go from one part of the city to the other by bike,” he explains.
Feel the pulse of Romanian Health
Oren Iancovici came from Israel because he had a dream. He wanted to become a cardiologist and he knew that Romanian medical school is among the best, whereas in his native country it would have been very difficult to be admitted to a profile faculty. This was at the beginning of the years 2000. Ten years later, doctor Oren Iancovici opened the ARES clinics. “In Israel, you can live on approximately EUR 1,000-1,500 a month. Here you can do that for a minimum of EUR 500. At least, when you are a student and you don’t have a family,” he says. He speaks beautifully of Romanian doctors wherever he goes and he strongly believes in the private health system. This is the reason why he struggles, for the state to invest in private doctors, because, he says, Romanian specialists who choose to work abroad do not necessarily do it for the money – you do not really have the time to spend any money considering that all you do is work all the time, spending your time in the surgery room; one would rather manage to save the money and invest it in children; it is because abroad they have good facilities and the work is safer than in Romania. He hopes that the state invests in prevention and declares himself bothered by the ads about drinking the two liters of water a day. “You know what the worker’s opinion is when he is told to drink the two liters of water a day? That he might as well have some beer, because it is also a liquid,” Oren Iancovici points out. His business had over RON 16 million worth-of incomes in 2015, and he estimates a 25% turnover raise by 2017.
A business a la Americano
Kim Vranceanu came from Boston to Bucharest, where she founded the Bucharest Properties REIT company. She is enchanted with the opportunities provided by the Capital City, a good place for business, where life is of very good quality. “The living cost in Romania is affordable. The rent, the food, the costs with the private health institutions, trips and entertainment are much less costly that in the biggest US cities. Although most things are much smaller here, VAT in Romania and the fuel price are much higher than in the United States. Nonetheless, the money an expat needs to live in Romania depends on their lifestyle and salary,” she explains.