Interview with the Family that Moved from the US to Brasov, Romania

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In December 2015, I told you the story of a family that moved from the US to Brasov, Romania and I promised that I’ll come back with some answers to a few of my questions regarding their move. Here is my very short interview with Kevin, who moved together with his wife, son and dog to Romania, leaving the US behind and having no regrets, so far.

Kevin’s family has been living in Brasov for a bit over one month now: they found, in less than a week, a great house to live in and got a nice discount for paying the whole year upfront, they submitted their application for the long stay visa with a help of a lawyer who proved extremely useful to guide them on how to do things right – apparently, even if retired, you still need to open up a business in Romania, one that has no real activity, but one that offers a strong enough reason to get the visa.

It costs around $1,500 per year, which adds $125 to the monthly living expenses, unfortunately. But right now that’s the only (or easiest) way to do it!

Kevin’s family, even though here for one month, was always busy trying to deal with their visa, buying stuff for their home and exploring the city (and all the great restaurants and foods in Brasov), so they’re still not 100% in Romanian mode, but I’ll have more questions for them in a few months.

Until then, here’s what Kevin was kind enough to answer and it’s a nice read – find out why did he choose Romania as the place to move to with his family and what’s their opinion on the country so far!

Q: First things first: Why did you decide to leave the US, the country where all Romanians I know would love to actually move to?
A: We had lived many places in the US and only liked a few. Those few were expensive compared to our income. So we tried to find a place that was similar, but cheaper. We did not want to continue the life we had been taught about. As Americans you are taught to work, work, work and get more money and buy more, bigger, better things. We find no joy in that lifestyle so we sought out alternatives.

Q: What made you choose Romania as the country to live in and not more popular destinations like Brazil or countries in South East Asia?
A: I have lived in mountains and I have lived on beaches. I don’t like beaches as much as mountains. I prefer cold to heat. Having a beach near enough to visit easily is nice, but I don’t want to be surrounded by it. I want to be surrounded by mountains and found it easy to do that in Romania.

Q: Did you check out multiple cities before choosing Brasov? What made it stand out from the rest?
A: I did look at quite a few cities after I settled on Romania. Brasov was the second that I really looked into and whenever I looked at other cities and compared them to Brasov, there was no comparison for me. The best skiing in the country is just up the hill in Poiana. You can live in a medieval town tucked in between mountains. It’s big enough that you have all the resources you need close by. It’s also a short train ride to Bucharest if we need to go to the embassy for anything.

Q: How difficult it was (paperwork- and organizing everything-wise) to actually make the move?
A: It wasn’t that difficult. It was just a little time consuming. Also planning for potential pitfalls I had heard from other expats made me do some extra things that most people wouldn’t take care of ahead of time. I just figured it would be easier to handle while in the US, so may as well go ahead and get all the bases I could covered. Moving our dog was the biggest hurdle because there are requirements for stamped documents within certain timeframes for the US to allow her to leave and the EU to admit her.

Q: Could you describe how you felt when you finally set foot in Romania?
A: Overwhelmed. We had been looking at making the move for a quite a while and knew we would do it one day. When it finally happened it was just overwhelming. I was thrilled that we had made it. I was scared of how it would actually be. I wanted to cry, but there was no time for that 🙂

Q: What’s your first impression of Brasov?
A: Brasov is a beautiful city. It’s even nicer and more beautiful in person than it is in pictures and videos. The people are extremely helpful and nice. It has proven to be amazing so far.

Q: Family and friends aside, is there anything else that you already miss from the US and you think you might never get in Romania?
A: Nonstop coffee at restaurants. You get one cup and that’s it. I want the constant refills.

Q: What’s the thing you dislike the most in Romania/Brasov so far?
A: Gypsies and stray dogs. Both are annoying and persistent, haha. However if you’re firm with both they will leave you alone and they also learn to not bother you when they recognize you.

Q: And the question everybody wants to know the answer to: compared to the US, is everything as cheap as it’s said to be?
A: Not everything, but almost everything is actually even cheaper than I expected. Over-the-counter medicines from the pharmacy are quite a bit more expensive here than in the US. Housing is cheap, food is cheap both in stores and at restaurants. We take cabs nearly everywhere, and they’re cheap. Once we get some utility bills I’ll let you know how they are too. I’m guessing cheap though 🙂

Preparing your move well in advance is the key to success. When I met Kevin, he already had a great knowledge of Brasov (having explored it over and over again thanks to Google Street View), he knew the prices for housing, the areas where he wanted to live. He also knew what he had to do to get the long stay visa, he had a monthly budget that he’s planning to stick to and thought about everything both inside and outside the box.

The culture shock didn’t seem to be so big, even though there were things that are completely different than what you expect even after reading a lot about the country and doing all your homework. But the most important thing is that they’re still feeling great and they can’t wait to continue the Romanian adventure. Snow finally came to Brasov (they love snow and it does look beautiful) and since answering my questions, their first Romanian bill came: cable & internet for 61 lei ($15). Apparently, even if that was 61 USD, not Lei, it would’ve still been cheaper than in the US.

23 COMMENTS

  1. OMG!!! $15 for cab,e and Internet sounds like a real steal. You’re right, even 61 dollars would still be cheap. Amazing how much cheaper it is compared to here even. We pay €34 for Internet and cell phone. The same for our cable bill since we cut the super top of the line football package (they stopped showing the Italian serie A..boy was he furious ☺️. I am glad they are settling in well. Brasov seems to be universally liked by expats. I can’t wait to experience it myself. I hope they keep feeling this way in the future. It sounds like they are settling in well. Prep work goes a long way.

    • Sorry to hear about the Serie A problem. In Romania, they transmit the Serie A matches on our basic package so he’ll be able to catch up a bit if you come here when his favorite team plays. Was it Lazio or I’m completely making things up?

      But yes, Romania is indeed cheap and nice and they are settling in well. They are learning a lot of things every day and experience new things as well. Since the interview was taken, they had to pay a bit more bills and found the process a bit more complicated than in the US because in Romania you can’t automate or pay by online banking all bills and instead you have to visit different places to pay them. But walks are not bad for your health :))

  2. Hello Calin:
    It is nice of the family to share their new Romanian life. I will be interested to see what their utility bills will be.
    I understand how pesky Roma beggars (I’ve heard in Cluj they are really persistant), flea-ridden curs, no free coffee refills, and expensive OTC medications can be annoyances. I wonder if not knowing the language is a downside to experiencing everyday living. Will they go to a language school, or will they just pick up the language through day-to-day interactions with the people they meet?
    Have they opened up a Romanian bank account? Do they have all their money in a Romanian bank, or do they use their American account and use ATMs for cash withdrawals?
    Is there OTA TV channels for viewing, or is cable TV the only way to watch.
    Are the TV ads as annoying as those in the US–hard to believe if they are! (Every other ad here is for a new prescription or OTC drug–sheesh!)
    I wonder what they think about their safety and their security. Do they feel danger–especially as they can’t carry guns, as so many here in the US feel it necessary to do. (Just the fact that guns are rare in Romania would make me fear a lot more safer than I do here I the US!)
    I am curious as what sort of medical and dental insurance they have.
    That “retirement visa” and having to open up a bogus business seems dicey to me. What’s to prevent the authorities from then bothering you about employees, business taxes, property taxes, business bank accounts, etc.–especially when the business is not really a business. What exactly is the $1,500 for? Does it go to someone who really shouldn’t be getting it? What guarantee do you have that after you pay the $1,500 you aren’t then fined for visa violation–or just booted out of the country? What does the lawyer get–or is the $1,500 for the lawyer? Who says the next year the visa fee isn’t doubled, trebled, or quadrupled. I guess I am too cynical.
    Thanks for posting updates for this family. They seem like very nice people.
    Take care,
    ~Teil

    • Hello Teil,

      I can’t answer many of the questions unfortunately, but if they can, I am sure that they will answer. What I do know is the following:

      1. They are generally not having any problems with the lack of Romanian language as most people speak English. They do know some very basic Romanian though and can understand a bit, but they are planning to take some Romanian classes in the near future.

      2. They have opened a Romanian bank account and are already using it to pay some of the bills. I don’t know about the other part, though.

      3. Cable is the only way to watch as far as I know and I can’t say about the commercials. However, the number of OTC drug commercials is on the rise here as well…

      4. I have never heard them say anything about feeling insecure and I am pretty sure that they weren’t carrying guns in the US either…

      5. I know that they signed up for private health insurance which is really cheap. We don’t have dental insurance in Romania, but a visit to the dentist is also really cheap, starting from around 20 lei for an investigation (consultation or whatever you call it), to 50-150 lei for an extraction and so on.

      6. The business itself is not a bogus business. It is a legally opened one and it is managed by the family (so no need for employees). The $1,500 represent the taxes and fees they have to pay on an yearly basis for the company to legally exist. It’s just that the business has no activity – a business in Romania doesn’t have to sell or do anything in order to exist and there are a ton of Romanian-owned companies without any actual activity and they are legal as well. I am not sure how much they payed for the lawyer, but she also helped them with other things and they were satisfied with the prices she asked.

      The “visa fee” can’t be doubled or tripled because the fee is, as I said, actually tax money paid to the Romanian government. So unless they really double or triple tax (which is unlikely since it would affect all companies in Romania), they will still have to pay just the $1,500 to legally keep their business open and running smoothly.

      • For U.S. citizens there’s USTVNOW, a service used by the Armed Forces and expats over the Intenet. You can get the 30 most popular cable channels, including networks, for $29 a month, $39 if you want the DVR capability. They have a premium 200 channel package including all the HBO’s and Showtime’s for $200 a month if you’re richer than me. :). Another option is having a cable or satellite service set up at a relative’s house in the States that you can access with a Sling device. Dish Network has the Sling built into their Hopper DVR and we were going to set it up over at my stepdaughter’s home. All of this is doable with Romania’s excellent internet. We had USTVNOW in Mexico but had quite a bit of buffering with the 5 meg service.

        • I think it’s really important for the sake of my wife’s happiness that we have access to American TV. I have an attachment for my iPad that can connect it to a television to show what’s playing on the iPad. Works great!

  3. Hi Calin:
    Thanks for your responses! What can I say? There’s no business like “show” business;-)
    I minored in business (a long time ago, granted) and in the US these so-called business entities or dummy corporations are created usually to evade taxes or to hide true identities, or to otherwise avoid “the law.” Obviously, in your country this is not so. So, “When in Rome (or in Romania), do as the Romans do….”
    Definitely seems a good Romanian lawyer is needed to make this visa work. I’d hate to try to do this solo, unless I spoke and understood Romanian.;-)
    This definitely would NOT work for everyday folks wanting to come into the US–just for the well-heeled Chinese, Russians, or other mega-rich who want to buy into America.
    (I was speaking with tongue in cheek about your American friends carrying guns in the US–unless they were from Texas!;-)
    Hopefully the weather in your area hasn’t froze up your pipes, again! It’s just crazy all over!
    Re TV, maybe there is over-the air-broadcast TV stations out of Bucharest, for those who don’t want to pay cable bills. That’s where the commercials usually come from, isn’t it?
    Thanks again for the informative post!
    ~Teil (USA–not in Texas;-)

    • Ah, you really had me at the gun thing :)) I thought you were from Texas is people walk around carrying guns all the time 😛 I’m reading right now a Joe Haldeman novel (Eternal War would be the translation of the… translated Romanian title) where his view of the future is that all people end up carrying guns and shooting each other down :))

      Regarding the businesses, there are some that are created to evade taxes and the government is trying to kill those – mostly used for this purpose where the so called PFA (Authorized Entity or something like that) and they raised the taxes a lot on them just because most were bogus businesses… unfortunately, my form of organization was also a PFA (because it happened that it was also the easiest to manage bureaucracy and paperwork wise), so I had to close it down and find something else. So I was just caught in the middle, just like many other honest citizens who had this form. But the government wants to deal with the bad guys and apparently they were more than the honest ones. In other words, everywhere, including Rome, there will be people trying to cheat the system 🙂 However, this is not the case of the “business for residency” thing 🙂

  4. Your Americans don’t sound like retirees. Still too young for that! This was really interesting. I always wondered why Romania and other up-and-coming countries didn’t encourage more expat retirement like Costa Rica does (did?). Retirees bring employment for locals and lots of money into the economy. I saw a documentary where Western Europeans were sending their old people to nursing/retirement homes in Poland, The Czech Republic, etc., where the costs were significantly less than in their own countries. Romania might be missing out on this trend. And in the USA I read about Romanian-Americans offering nursing home services in their private homes as a low cost alternative to expensive institutionalization. I admit some of the articles spoke about worries these private homes were not suitable for elder care. However, many customers spoke highly of the care they were getting. If these Romanians can offer such services in America, think how much cheaper they would be in Romania.

    • I have the same questions, Stuart. Sometimes, you wonder why people who can really decide don’t think and don’t see the obvious… Maybe it’s just the complex of the bullied kid: you’re not letting us in and you’re treating us badly, then we can do anything we can to make your life miserable as well… just it doesn’t make any sense!

  5. Great read. It is good to see they are enjoying their life in Romania. I have no doubt I would/and will. I did have an experience with Gypsies on the bus in Brasov but only because I was not paying attention and went and sat with them. I think they thought this meant I wanted to purchase some pants and other items. I’m sure it was amusing to watch for the people on the bus and I learned something.

  6. Great, I am glade to hear that the good news about kiven’s family settlement, however I realy want to know under what conditions the long staying Visa would be granted.

  7. Hello, I spoke with Kevin in late November regarding his move, we wish to do the same thing (and we’re both veterans).
    We spoke on another site and I tried to message him a couple weeks ago but he must be too busy to respond. The next time you speak with him would you please let him know Ron from the U.S. would like to e-mail.
    Thank you, and hopefully we will meet also.

  8. Hi C

    Great website you have built, love the articles.
    M wife and i (she is Romanian and i am English) will be moving to Romania next year, we have a house in Moieciu de jos near Bran which we bought about 2 years ago.
    We are regular visitors to Brasov and cant wait to move, for us the UK has lost its appeal.
    I was wondering if the American family has found any employment opportunities yet?
    Kind regards,
    Scott

    • Hello Scott,

      I hope you’ll have a great stay here! The family in this article doesn’t need employment, so they haven’t looked into this. I personally believe that it won’t be easy unless you speak Romanian, and even so the wage will be on par with Romanian wages (which is very low).

      • Hi C. !

        I just wanted to let you know that I did read your interviews with Kevin about his family’s move to Romania, and I’m very interested to read the follow up in a few months also. So far, so good as they say. This provides some comfort to those of us researching our own moves to Romania in general, and to Brasov in particular. I can relate to the desire for real seasons, with cold weather too, and proximity to mountains. Let me say one thing about living in the U.S. as you mentioned many Romanians believe they’d like to move here. The U.S. has a lot to offer, especially for young people in their early twenties to early forties, providing you’re well educated, and/or have a skill set or abilities/knowledge that is in demand, and marketable. Life can be good in the U.S., but a lifestyle that you can truly enjoy, costs a lot of money, and many spend so much time chasing that dream and working all the time, they can’t afford to take the time and enjoy it. I lived in South Beach, a section of Miami Beach in South Florida for just over four years, Unfortunately, I worked all the time, and made just enough money to afford eating out everyday, my luxury car and an apartment overlooking the Bay. But there was no time to enjoy all the activities and lifestyle those around me were able to because of having a lot more money and resources. I saw this pattern other places I lived across the U.S., including a short stint in Seattle, Washington too. I have come to the conclusion, that no matter what your priorities regarding your lifestyle, there are so many better places to live in the world than the United States, unless you are wealthy or make a lot of money, and even then, I think there are other places that provide more of the things that are truly important. In the end, many ultimately stay for family and/or friends. OK, that’s just my two cents. Again, thanks for everything you contribute here C. ! JC

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