Moving from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Timisoara, Romania: Ana’s Story

Back in November 2016, I received an email from Ana. She was living in Sao Paulo, Brazil back then and was planning a big move to Romania. Timisoara, to be precise (you can find out more about the city here). Ana is an engineer and works in IT – and she had a job offering in her field from a company based in Timisoara.

We ended up exchanging many emails in which I mostly managed to be completely useless in terms of advice or suggestions. 🙂 But we kept talking as she was planning her big move together with her family over to Timisoara and sooner rather than later, it became reality.

The move itself didn’t go as smooth as possible – for her husband actually, who only holds a Brazilian passport. Moving to Romania, even if you have a job offering, seems a bit more difficult if you are a non-EU citizen. But Ana and her family always managed to put these setbacks behind and focused only on the future – this was one of the things that I really liked about her. She was always optimistic and positive and managed to bravely tackle all problems that arose before or after making the move here.

Meet Ana

She was kind enough to share with us her story and some interesting things about making the move here to Romania. The thing I like the most about interviews is that they offer 100% genuine, recent experiences about moving to Romania and the obstacles that you might have to get past – some of them impossible to anticipate. There’s a bit of culture shock involved as well, so it’s extremely useful to have some outside experiences to share on the blog.

Even more, her older son, Luigi – who is 16 – shares a few thoughts about Timisoara and it’s always useful to find out what the younger generation has to say about Romania and the new city they’re living in. Here are his thoughts:

Well, I’d like to start by saying that Romania surprised me in ways I really didn’t expect. Since I got here, people were super nice to me, always trying to help even if they didn’t speak English at all and it really makes me glad that you know you can count on everyone to help you if you need, because even though they may not speak English or they may not understand you, people will always try to help you.

At first, I was really nervous to move from Brazil to Romania, because I thought that things would be completely different, that I would have problems, but I’m glad I came here, because I see that things work in a different way and this country is really lovely! As a matter of fact, I now see Romania as a place you need to visit if you want to discover a new culture and people that will gladly help you, either by showing you around or helping you find what you need.

Ana’s two sons in Timisoara.

Now, without further ado, here’s the story of Ana’s move from Brazil to Timisoara, Romania!

1. Could you tell me a little about how and why you decided to make Romania your new home?

Although I had a very nice life in São Paulo, in the last years the economic situation in Brazil became quite complicated with several political decisions that took the country from one of the fastest growing countries on the planet to facing the biggest corruption scandal in the world’s history, which degraded the job market very quickly. Safety, which was never a positive point in Brazil, became even worse.

Being a dual national as I am (Brazilian and Italian as I am from a family of Italian immigrants), I started looking for job opportunities in Europe and I was offered my current position in Timisoara.

2. Did you have any problems settling in? What were the biggest adjustments since you moved in?

I arrived in Timisoara in March 2017 and initially I was at an Airbnb, which was very centrally located and allowed me to get to know the city center very easily, the city does not have a tube system but the buses are easy to use and also the taxis are very very cheap.

In 10 days I was able to rent my apartment with no further complications, I only had to present my Italian passport and pay the fees (which was 1 month rent in advance + 1 month of deposit).

Ana and her beautiful family in Timisoara

3. What are things that you dislike the most about living in Romania or the country itself?

By far there is one aspect of the Romanian culture which bothers me a lot and hits me deeply in my core: you are not “allowed” to complain or to put too much pressure on someone or else this person may not like your complaints and even retaliate (and this is something I heard here in an IT company, from young graduated people who live in a big city and not an elderly person from a village).

I have faced by now maybe 4 situations in which I had problems and I wanted to file for a complaint or put pressure on people to resolve my problem and I was solely ignored and people started to look at me in a different way.

I am very aware of all the problems my home country has, but if there is one thing in Brazil that works, that is customer service. I can complain about anything in Brazil, there are always channels in which you can register your complaints and one way or the other you will always get an answer and if you know how and where to push, your problems are always resolved.

So in this sense, at times, I feel like I am from a different planet while living in Romania. And funny enough, I am not loving the fact that the weather by now is basically the same as in Brazil with temperatures above 35C 🙂 🙂 🙂 I was expecting to experience a more cooler weather for once! I’m positive the upcoming winter will take care of it though 🙂

4. How is the cost and quality of living compared to Brazil?

Some things are cheaper, some things are more expensive.

From what I pay in my rent for instance (which was agreed in Euros) I could rent basically the same type of apartment in São Paulo (probably a newer apartment in São Paulo).

A tiny bit of Sao Paulo. It’s impossible to compare the two cities…

But this is not an issue of Romania, generally in Europe buildings are older, for obvious reasons.

Utilities (internet, gas, water, power, etc) are cheaper in Romania, including here that fast internet (as high as 500mb or 1gb) are easily available and very very cheap, 4G is also very good and cheap compared to Brazil.

Food is a little cheaper here but most of what I buy is imported (I am vegetarian, so I highly depend on fresh vegetables and fruits), so this is news for me to eat a tomato from Turkey or bananas from Dominican Republic.

In Brazil we pretty much produce everything we eat and very rarely I would buy anything imported, so I think that is why food in Romania is not as cheaper as I thought it would be compared to Brazil, and sorry (for the Romanians) to say but the taste of our vegetables and fruits in Brazil are also better.. they are much more tasty there 🙂

5. Since you’ve been here for a while now, do you think a single person can live on $1,000 per month in a city like Timisoara?

I think that 1000 USD for 1 person would be tight, specially taking into consideration the accommodation but that is highly dependable on the standard of living one is used to, if the answer is to be – is it possible: yes or no, then yes, it is possible.

Of course if you have more than 1 income in a family, this gradually gets better given the bills are split.
Definitely harder to live in Brazil with that amount of money than it is in Romania.

6. What would your recommended budget be for a person moving to Romania, wishing to live a decent life here?

This is probably the hardest question to answer ever because it depends on so many factors, how many people in the family, what is the standard of living this family is used to and what is the family willing to give up (or not), considering that no matter where you go there are always trade-offs to be made.

For instance, I have 2 kids, I like travelling as much as I can (and this is one of the biggest reasons that brought me to Europe, the possibility to travel very easily across several different countries), so I would say that in the range of 1500-2000 euros a month to have a more comfortable life at least, but definitely possible to live with less if one is willing to make the move.

7. You moved here with your two sons and they’re going to school in Romania. Can you tell me a bit about the process of enrolling them and how difficult it was to get everything sorted out?

This is one of the situations in which I wanted to file a complaint.

I went to a school everybody told me was a bilingual school (Romanian and English) to try enrolling my kids and not only nobody there spoke English (really, only the English teacher spoke English and by far less than I do) but also we were not very well welcomed there.

On the other hand, I was referred to another school by a work colleague and in this new school (which is Romanian-Italian instead) we were treated very well and the principal was kind and supporting.

I already had the school history with me + the Romanian translation, so that was pretty much it, school history legalized and translated + their Italian passports.

They attended school for 2 months as viewers only and will start the actual studies in September.

The school colleagues were very welcoming as my kids told me. My kids are now attending private Romanian lessons so they can keep up when the school year starts although we know they will not be fluent in the short term.

8. You also have Italian citizenship, while your husband doesn’t. As a result, getting his permit was extremely complicated even though he already had a job offer and the company was trying its best to solve the situation as soon as possible. Was it just the bureaucracy and paperwork that made things more difficult or you got the feeling that non-EU citizens were somehow not wanted?

I believe in processes (I am an engineer after all). I think that everything in life should be done in the proper way, so by no means I think that non-EU citizens are unwanted here but instead I rather think that there has to be a stablished process for doing things right.

The problem with his case was clearly a lack of knowledge on the process by the HR staff since it was the first time the HR ladies were doing it, so they learned on the fly and made mistakes on the way that had to be fixed one by one so it took time until the appropriate process was really clear.

In fact when everything was finally clear, they reset all the process and started it in the first week of April 2017, on 06/06/2017 his work permit was issued, on 27/06/2017 he went to the Romanian Embassy in Brazil to get the actual visa stamp in his passport, on 30/06/2017 he received his passport back with the visa stamp and he is finally flying here 10/07/2017.

So you could say that the process took less than 3 months, which I don’t think it is a lot, but when you take into perspective that he was approved for the job in October 2016 and only now he is coming, you have an idea on how hiring non-EU people is kind of news around here, but I am sure that from now on, if the company decides to hire more non-EU people, their processes should go a lot faster.

And by the way, along with my husband, another 2 Brazilian guys are also coming to Timisoara to work in the same company (and also a Serbian guy, who even though lives 2h from Timisoara had to go through the same process as the Brazilian citizens).

9. Did you have any problems communicating with people in English? What about other languages?

I had almost no problems finding English speakers around here, which is very helpful. Basically in every store you go or any other place there is always someone who can speak at least a little, usually only when you find someone older you might face issues with that but so far it has been possible to live a decent life here without learning Romanian.

It was funny to find out that many Romanians have watched Brazilian soap operas, so people here knew several Brazilian actors and stuff, some of them learned a little Portuguese because of this, I found also other Spanish speakers and a few Italian speakers as well.

10. Overall, are you satisfied with life in Timisoara? Do you see yourself living here several years from now or you might want to move to a different city or even a different country?

I have no regrets coming here, I expected my adaptation to be a lot harder because I was not planning on leaving my country, I had to, so it is completely different.

I left my city, which I love very much, with that feeling of failure (not mine but anyway) for having to leave and for my country not allowing me to live a happy and productive life there as I would of wished.

I have no idea how long I am staying here but I feel like this is not the end for me, I might make another move or maybe moves, all I know is that I am not going back to Brazil any time soon.

I will not lie and say that Romania was my dream country or that I was targeting Romania to live, but this was the country that provided me with the opportunity I was looking for so I am grateful.

There are things here that I will never EVER get used to, like I mentioned earlier, there are problems here that are much like the ones we have in Brazil (but then one do not expect to see some of them in Europe when you are from the so-called “third world”, I HATE this expression but anyway), the city of São Paulo is a lot more developed than Timisoara, well, it is one of the biggest cities of the world, bigger than New York or London, but at the same time, I could not do there some of the things that I enjoy doing here, such as going out for a walk in the park at 10pm if I feel like.

Every place has its positive and negative sides and if I could give an advice to anyone wishing to move it would be: just get your expectations right, do not expect too much of any place, because then there is room to be surprised by the good things, get as much information as you can, so you are ready for the problems when they come, because they will most certainly come, that is part of life anywhere and we just have to be open and ready to face and overcome them.

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8 thoughts on “Moving from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Timisoara, Romania: Ana’s Story”

  1. Calin:
    A great interview with an obviously very intelligent lady.
    (I must say, she looks young enough to be 16, herself.;-)
    I wish her and her family the best of luck in their adopted city and country.
    ~Teil (USA)

  2. Absolutely great interview. I agree with Teil, she looks really, really young. Good genes. I know it must have been tough to leave her home but it’s a good thing that she is close enough to Italy to discover her other set of roots. It sounds as if they are settling in as best as can be expected. Customer service as a whole sucks in Europe. My husband still can’t get used to it after 4 years and seems to have a fight on a daily basis? while l take it in stride. I wish them the best of luck in their new home. Romania sounds slightly pricier than Spain which is what we had thought a while back with the comparisons..

    • I do believe that housing is cheaper in Romania than in Spain and much of Europe. But yes, we reached the conclusion that overall Spain is a bit cheaper after making product-to-product comparisons.

      However, if you can learn to live like a local and go to local markets, you can find products way cheaper. She told me that she can’t because of her schedule – these local markets are usually open when everybody else is at their job – while the real bargains are only available during the morning.

      I am happy that you enjoyed the interview.

  3. I can identify with Ana. I’ve been in Bucharest for two weeks now and while there hasn’t really been any culture shock, there has been more of a heightened cultural awareness. People here are different, more of a fast paced vibe than the laid back Californians I’m used to and customer service here is a whole different animal. I haven’t seen it as bad, just different. The young woman at the store that sold us our phones was amazingly helpful… and spoke English. Others, not as helpful. My wife and I are in the process of completing the documentation process in order to marry here. So far, so good, but hope we don’t run into any snags like Ana’s husband experienced.

    • Marriage should be pretty straightforward, Jim, so I’m sure you won’t have any real problems there. I am also happy to hear that things are at least not bad. In most other cities the pace is well lower than it is in Bucharest and definitely not as crowded 🙂 But each place with its own pros and cons.

  4. Hei, Ana. Check-out Beyond Dracula agency, which is based in Timisoara. The founder Raluca lived in Sao Paulo as well. Maybe you can catch up 🙂

  5. Really interesting article. I will be moving to Timisoara in June of this year with my family to start a new job. I would be very interested to know how things are going now and if Ana has any tips or advice having been there for a while now.


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