About Romania and the Romanians, from Sweden
Many things have been written or said about Romania and the Romanians. A few are positive, others are negative. Some are driven by specific political views or personal interests. Others highlight only negative aspects. Only few are favourably promoting the country. Some of the shared thoughts are true and others are not. Our mission is not to act as a judge and point fingers or punish. But to help foreigners discover the current Romania and its inhabitants.
We could write hundreds, thousands of articles in order to share our views and positive sides of the country. But what better publicity than the one made by a foreigner having visited Romania several times and having met the people living there and having shared several moments with them?
We invite you to meet Yvette Larsson, a Swedish lovely lady who discovered Romania and the Romanians years ago. Since then, she not only takes pleasure in spending her holidays in our country, but she also promotes Romania through a personal blog, The Bucharest Lounge.
Could you please tell me a little bit more about yourself?
I am a 43 year old Swedish woman, mother of two wonderful children. Swedish teacher at an international school. Taurus – strong-willed and focused, nature-lover, reader, writer, love music. Wanna-be chef and bed and breakfast owner. Passionate about education and leadership, traveler, admirer of all that is handmade, Romanian by passion. I am drawn to photography, design, architecture and clothes.
I used to need to have a lot of structure and control in my life. But Romania made me a bit more spontaneous and flexible. I work and function best with clear set goals. I also work well with honest, hard – working people who are kind and fun-loving! My everyday life is very hectic and I hope that one day I will be able to do Bucharest Lounge full time. I feel the heartbeat of Romania every day, even though I live in Sweden.
How and when did you discovered Romania for the first time?
1985, Mamaia, with my grandparents and parents. We were there as charter tourists. I was 13 years old at the time. Those days were different, with shops only for tourists (apartheid), limited light outside in the evening, limitation of food, traffic. Everything was different and came in limitations. Most of all, the limitation of freedom of speech. Teenagers wanted to talk to me but were not allowed to.
What motivated you to come back and visit the country again?
I got a penpal from Constanța and we wrote letters to each other for nearly 20 years. Then I came back again in 2011 to see a different country.
Have you noticed any changes or recent evolutions?
Yes, quite a few actually. Big and small things.
Take traffic as an example. In 2011 there were hardly any cycle paths in Bucharest. Now there is a whole movement of cyclists in the capital and also more and more cycle paths.
There is more hope amongst youth. At least I meet more of hopeful, driven, action focused youth, through the Bucharest Lounge. I see lots of things changing for the better. However, I also see how corruption is still throwing its black shadow on everyday life. And I think this is something that people should fight against and not accept anymore. People have power, if united.
You say on your blog that “Romania is like a hidden gem”. How come?
Hidden : during communism very few people traveled to Romania because it was behind the iron curtain. After communism fell, Romania came to have a bad image. People are not even curious to come and see with their own eyes how beautiful this country is. And how wonderful the soul of the Romanians is. There is a vast cultural heritage that is here to be experienced and felt. I can’t explain with words how rich the Romanian culture is.
Gem : the people and the country side, the traditions, the villages are all amazing and life-embracing. In the west we talk about sustainability. Go to a Romanian village and re-learn. There is sustainability and care for nature and oneself when growing one’s vegetables and fruits, keeping cows and sheep for milk and cheese, keeping hens for eggs and so forth.
Proverbs, music, literature, history, inventors, philosophers, contemporary creative artists of today… And so much more! They are all gems, treasures that I am exploring now and I feel so happy.
What did you discover that you particularly appreciate in the country and motivates you to promote it?
The richness of its people and the beauty of its places.
I think that Romania deserves to be promoted. The discrepancy of what is told in media is so huge to what Romania and the Romanians really are. My heart beats for Romania since 1985.
You say you perceive Romania as being “funky”… What is your definition of “funky” and how is Romania funky?
I have said that Bucharest is a funky town. What I mean is a dynamic, lively and sensual town. There is always something going on: a festival, a market, concerts, and other events.
How do you find the Romanians?
Friendly, warm, hospitable, humoristic, well-educated, love kids, food-lovers, talkative, beautiful, sense for aesthetics, live in the moment, enduring and strong.
What differentiates the Romanians from other European nations?
I think it is very difficult to generalize like this. I don’t know all European nations. And I would say that what stands out for me, about the Romanians, is the endurance and strength that many Romanians I met show. But that is also true about people from other countries that experienced communism. It’s another mind set. People respect things, food, each other in a caring way in Romania. People waste less. What also stands out is the hospitality.
What common values with all European people do the Romanians have in your opinion?
We are all human beings and we have a common history. That is what we unite in. Humanity. What it means to be a human being. We all need love, family, roof over our head, natural food, to educate and develop, to be able to speak our mind, to strive for democracy. Not to be judged by prejudice. To be happy!
Your favorite places in the country?
I like all the places I have been to and I have a long list of places I wish to go to. A memorable place is always connected with the people I met and how I was received. Or the place I went to and the feelings I had staying there.
The Romanian people/artists you admire, if any?
Mihai Eminescu. I can’t wait until I can read him in Romanian.
Thank you, Yvette, for sharing your thoughts and views with us and good luck with The Bucharest Lounge and learning to speak Romanian 😉 !