Moving from the US to Brasov, Romania: The Experience so Far

51

Back in June, I received an e-mail from Kevin. Kevin was living at that time in the US and told me that he’s planning to move, together with his family, in Romania. I must admit that I receive a few e-mails similar to his, but none materialize. Sometimes, after I answer, I get no reply, other times people seem to lose interest after a few e-mails. Maybe there are better options out there than Romania. Maybe I’m not at all charming or helpful.

But this time, things were different. I kept exchanging e-mails with Kevin and we seemed to connect immediately. Also, he did seem determined to make the move: he chose Brasov (after also considering Sibiu or Craiova), since they were winter people. Funny thing coming from people living in Miami, Florida. And part of the reason why they have decided to move here. Yup, that’s right: at the moment of writing this, they are living their Romanian dream in Brasov. They did it and I was a small part of it as well! And this is their story – or just a bit of its beginning!

The biggest challenge – and also the biggest risk in my opinion – is that neither Kevin, nor his wife Katie or son Brandon had ever visited Romania before. They did watch a lot of Romanian TV, read a lot about Romania, explored every street of the cities they were interested in with Google Maps / Street View and watched hours of YouTube videos. But they had never actually set foot here, so I was a bit worried. I would never recommend choosing a new place to live without actually being there and getting to feel everything. But in their case, it seems that they really knew what they were doing.

The main square in Brasov, Piata Sfatului
The main square in Brasov, Piata Sfatului

Preparing the actual move seemed a lot easier than it might have been: there are a ton of things that you need to take into account, a lot of paperwork and unexpected things will always pop up. The family has a fourth member – the Labrador Precious – and bringing her into Romania seemed to be the most difficult part as not all airplanes handle large dogs, there is extra paperwork that needs to be done… but in the end they made it. They sold their house and most of their belongings, hopped into the plane and half a day later I was getting a short text: “We’re here!”

I first met Kevin and Brandon at the Bucharest train station: we were coming there to help them a bit with their new life as personal translators and partial guides (I say “partial” because I don’t really know Brasov – Kevin proved that Google Street View is an amazing tool and he actually knew the place way better than I did!). They had only been in Romania for a few hours, and they decided to surprise us by waiting at the train station. You couldn’t have missed them: Kevin was the only person in the train station wearing shorts and a t-shirt (he was that excited to be in Romania that he didn’t feel the relatively low temperatures there), while Brandon was, in my opinion, the classic US college student: long blond hair, the constitution of an (American) football player, wearing the cap of his favorite team… It was obvious to me and everybody else that they were the Americans in Gara de Nord. But nobody but me knew that they were soon going to become Romanians!

The American and the Romanian family enjoying dinner in Brasov
The American and the Romanian family enjoying dinner in Brasov

We got to know them better during the short train ride to Brasov: their family is absolutely amazing and I think that we managed to bond instantly. They are all great, amazing people and I can only be happy to see that such beautiful people come to Romania. And, best of all, they seemed to like it and were not having second thoughts about the move.

We spent 5 nights with them in Brasov and I was really happy to see that they loved the city, but also the people there and the fact that nobody was lying when talking about the prices: everything’s cheaper than the US. Apparently, you can’t buy a bread in the US for 14 cents. Apparently, all food is a lot cheaper. And everything else. Restaurants? Twice as cheap. The food? Mostly delicious. I was really happy to notice that Romania was not failing them.

The traditional soup-in-bread is touristy priced at $2.70. Still cheaper than many other countries out there.
The traditional soup-in-bread is touristy priced at $2.70. Still cheaper than many other countries out there.

But they were not there just to enjoy the views and taste the food. They really wanted to move there, so the next thing on the agenda was finding a place to live. They had already booked an AirBnb rental that they loved – and the owner even made them an offer to move there permanently for 500 Euros per month (we’re talking about a two bedroom house with a small yard included), but they had to see other places as well.

I always said and will keep saying that housing is extremely cheap in Romania, and a bit more expensive in larger cities. Brasov is one of the larger cities and if you look online, many expats claim that you can’t find anything decent for less than $1,000 or maybe $2,000 per month. Of course, that is not true. You can still find good apartments for an entire family for as little as $300 per month, but Kevin, Katie and Brandon were looking for a house: they really needed a yard for Precious and it would’ve helped make the transition a bit easier. The problem? Houses are a bit more expensive than apartments. And for some strange reason, it seems that winter is not the best time to move as many decide to pull their houses off the market and wait for better weather.

Saint Nicolae Church, a beautiful place in Brasov and the place we met the owner of the first house they checked out.
Saint Nicolae Church, a beautiful place in Brasov and the place we met the owner of the first house they checked out.

Still, we did visit a few places that can be considered cheap: we started with a 4 bedroom house that was available for 400 Euros per month. It was mostly unfurnished (there wasn’t even a kitchen) and in a loud neighborhood, with mad dogs barking from every yard. When I saw that place, I started to get a bit worried that they might not actually find something for around 500 Euros per month. The next house we visited proved that I might’ve been wrong: I don’t remember the price they were asking, but the place was horrible. Extremely old furniture, even though the rooms were all large and beautiful. A 250 fixer upper followed, which was in an even worse state. Everything that looked nice was already rented or way over budget.

So finding a place to live in is not that easy – especially if you can’t go for an apartment. But in the end, it proved that it wasn’t that difficult either and they did sign the contract before we left – which means that they did manage to find a place to call home in the first week of being in Romania. I would consider that reasonably fast. Tip: do just like they did and start looking at online ads before getting here, know the market and the areas you want to live in. Also contact a few agencies because they can really help out and their commission is usually low by Western standards (at most half of the first month’s rent).

The place they rented is absolutely beautiful, it is fully equipped and furnished and even has more rooms than they wanted (3 bedrooms if I’m not mistaken, 2 bathrooms, a small living room, plus a dining/eating area). It was great and the price was around what they expected to pay for their new home. I personally believe that they did get a nice value for their money. Here’s how the place looks like (a few photos from the agency, but the real thing looks just like that):

brasov house 01
The kitchen / eating area
brasov house 03
The living room
brasov house 04
One of the bedrooms – it’s actually really, really large!
brasov house 05
Two of the rooms on the second floor
brasov house 07
One of the bathrooms
brasov house 09
The small yard and impressive barbecue

Now that they had the contract signed, they decided to open an Romanian bank account. It was as easy as going into the bank, telling one of the nice ladies there that they want an account with debit cards attached and signing a few papers. It was that easy! However, for people coming from the US, it seems that the banks in the US need some sort of special instructions to allow transfers to Romania, which is something that should be done before living the US. Otherwise, you will have to make a trip to the US Embassy in Bucharest to solve this problem. However, US cards work in Romanian ATMs, so you don’t risk running out of money even if you forget to do this step.

All in all, it seems like moving from the US to Romania is not that difficult and I am sure that it will be just as easy as it was until now (they also need to get the long stay visa and are working on it). The people are extremely friendly and the family managed to make new friends and meet new people almost on a daily basis, they had almost no trouble speaking English with the people in Brasov – and the same would happen in all Romanian cities – and the cultural differences didn’t seem to bother them or surprise them.

Piata Sfatului at nigh.
Piata Sfatului at nigh.

They did notice a few things, some of which I didn’t: people in Brasov never clean the poop their pets leave behind. In my opinion, it was a bit worse than in Bucharest and none of us escaped stepping in it during our stay. It’s sad for a nice city to be forced to look down instead of checking out the nice things around. Also, people seem to have a different way of clothing compared to the US and apparently the way we interact (in a restaurant for example) seems more like fighting than actually politely exchanging information with the waiters. People are also not afraid to stare at you – which for non-Romanians might be a bit of a shock – and it’s not uncommon for people to start praising dogs or trying to pet them. And I am sure that there’s even more, however nothing deal breaking so far.

It does make a lot of sense to consider Romania completely different to the US – and even different from other European countries, but Kevin’s family is so far satisfied with the move they made and are still sure that it was the perfect choice. They have also been here for just a couple of weeks and they will need more time to have a better opinion. But as far as the beginning of their adventure goes, things are looking good.

The Black Church in Brasov, during a foggy night.
The Black Church in Brasov, during a foggy night.

They were also incredibly nice to answer a few questions I have for them – which will follow up in a new article where they will talk a bit about their move and we’ll also hear from them after a few months, when they’re really settled here and can share their own set of Pros and Cons regarding their move to Brasov, Romania and more of their experiences.

So if you dream of moving to Romania, just do it. Just do it, because it’s possible and if you think you’ll love it, you will most likely do! Kevin, Katie and Brandon proved that and show us all that all you need to do is dream, then act quickly to make it happen.

51 COMMENTS

  1. This is a fantastic post! What an adventurous family. People are always so surprised that it is not to super difficult to move countries when you do your homework. Google view really is fantastic. You can get to know the area and it really does ease your mind to see how the sorroundings are. I can’t wait to see how they adjust and look forward to hearing their views after a bit of time has passed and the honeymoon phase is over. Welcome to Romania folks!!!! Hopefully we will see you in 2016 for a little visit!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi Calin:
    Glad you’re back! Great article and pictures, for sure! (I’d be interested to know why they wanted to leave the USA (mass shootings, crazy politicians, high taxes, high crime, etc.) and how they justify to Romanian authorities their reasons for wanting to live in Romania. Are they not needing to find a job, and will they do internet or some other work at home independent of the Romanian job market? It’s great they aren’t the all-too-typical “Ugly Americans,” who embarrass themselves and their home country.
    I am glad they could bring their pet with them! Yeah, trying to avoid doggie doo is hard. Years ago when I was in Germany that was a nasty problem there, too. (I guess the “newbie Romanians” will be the rare ones who clean up after their dog;-)
    It will be interesting to hear of their continuing Romanian adventures. I trust they will end up remaining in Romania as long as they are happy. (I hope what happened to “Wandering Earl” won’t happen to them. Also, when Romania goes to the Euro, the cost of living won’t soar too much and price them out!)
    Again, great to have a new post to pore over!;-)
    Thanks!
    ~Teil (USA)

    • Glad you liked the article, Teil! They are self sustained, but are planning to start a business in Romania in order to make sure that they get the long stay permit. As far as I could tell, they were loved by every person they interacted with and I am sure that will keep happening. They are great – and more stories about this will come in the following weeks and months, with updates whenever necessary ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Nevaste mea este Romanca. If she would agree to move back I would. When she left in 1978 it was a much different time and those are her memories. Still I keep pushing….you never know.

        • Hello. I am romanian and my husband from AZ. WE ARE IN USA now and Soon we are moving back there. We love it ..my husband love to retire there as he is an ex cop and took his retirement earlier. We love mountains and there for we chose Brasov. With a child of 5 year old i could not choose a better place of raising her… Brasov.
          Starting from food,cleaner air and less stressy life..i guess your wife will reconsider. My husband know that i want it to go back there since the day we arrive to USA. Lol.CAME HEREjust to finalize everything my husband have ..thats all. To be with him. Never want it to leave from Ro as i was working 20 years outside the country…i was kind of tired .
          So now.. we are flying back. Such an excitement for all of us.
          Maybe we could meet one day there …all the best and Happy New Year!

  3. Excellent article, the kind I need to convince my wife, LOL! How much is the rent on their home if it’s ok to ask? Would it be safe to say that Brasov is the most expensive city after Bucharest? We’re leaning towards Cluj because of it’s good airport but we’ll definitely visit a number of cities first before deciding. Glad to see you back Calin!

    • Thank you! It seems that Google Street View and the YouTube videos show exactly how Romania is – not the perfect photos you usually find online – so those are a must watch as well, in my opinion.

      Regarding the rent price, I will ask them if I can share that info and get back with it if possible.

      I can’t really say that Brasov is the most expensive after Bucharest – the prices in Brasov did seem to me similar to those in my small home city (Drobeta Turnu Severin) or Bucharest. You would indeed pay a bit more for rent but otherwise you can find similarly priced things everywhere, especially in supermarkets and other stores.

      • Also good to know you offer assistance getting settled. I was looking at a Cluj rental website and the prices seemed a bit higher than I expected. If you are able to locate apartments that we can look at after we arrive, that would make our move so much easier.

        • Hello, Wade. I asked them about sharing the rent costs and all I can say is that the original cost was 700 Euros per month, but they got a nice discount for paying it upfront for one year. Try looking at OLX in order to get a good feel on the real prices in Cluj. If the website you were looking at was aimed at foreigners, the prices were higher than usual.

        • Thanks, you’re right, the website was in English, should’ve been my first clue. It’s interesting the similarities between Romania and various Latin American cities. Prices jacked up for foreigners, dogs running loose and poop everywhere, loud neighborhoods. After our time in Mexico I miss all that, life in the States seems sterile sometimes. Merry Christmas everyone!

      • You are right. Brasov is not very exoensive …but the location of the city is everything. Everywhere you go the view is breathtaking . Thank you for this article. And the mountain air can treat rewpiratory sensitivities, stress,obesity etc,
        The rent is not so much..well more then in my city but if you know where to look…you will find many sites. For sell and rent..IMOBILIARE .RO AND PUT THE NAME OF THE CITY AT THE END OR SIMPLY TIPE IN ROMANIAN …APARTAMENTE ,CASE DE INCHIRIAT BRASOV. PRICES CAN BE FROM 200โ‚ฌ to 800 or more. But i found nice appt with 300โ‚ฌ ,is what we are looking for now as we are returning there,
        You will love it there. Its a touristic city and there will be something to do in all seasons,winter or summer …all is amazing.

  4. Finally bagged one C. Good to see this successful move. Will be much easier for my family I suspect as my wife is Romanian and we already have a house. That 700 euro a month rent is perhaps 20% less than u.s. prices as we can rent a pretty nice place for $1000 a month here. I recently asked my wife how common it is to see an American in Romania. She said NOBODY in her family had ever actually met an American until I visited. This shocked the L out of me. As she has a large family and they have traveled some. I believe as word gets out like this article, more will follow. Keep up the great articles we will join you soon. HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Iowa!!!!

    • Yes, people from the US are not at all common in Romania and I was really happy to see that Romanians, as expected, were very friendly towards them and I can say that everything went great, sometimes even better than expected.

      Regarding the rent, if one would agree living in an apartment (they preferred not to especially because of the dog), you could still find something nice for half that price. Renting a house is expensive in Romania too, even though clearly cheaper than other places.

      • Speaking of apartments, just read that Romania has recently outlawed smoking indoors. I’ve read that something like 60% of Romanian adults smoke, and was wondering if the new law applies to apartments too. We aren’t smokers and are glad to hear about the new law.

        • The law has just been voted, I doubt it really started to be implemented, especially in bars and restaurants, especially since Christmas is coming and more people are going out ๐Ÿ™‚ It will happen eventually, but this unfortunately does not apply to apartments. However, it should not be difficult to find apartments that have no traces of people smoking, as most who smoke either smoke outside (on the balcony, for example) or in just a single room (usually, the kitchen).

        • Good to know, thanks. We rented an apartment awhile back that had neighbors smoking so much that our clothes smelled like cigarettes. People can smoke if they like but we’d like to avoid that kind of situation again.

  5. Hey Calin, I’m glad to see that I am not the only one interested in Romania, I am certain that if people knew how the quality of life, nature, food and PRICES are excellent in Romania, much more people would definitely start to moving there!

  6. I thought I’d chime in to Teil’s questions about American’s moving to Romania, and specifically to Brasov. I’ve done the same thing and moved to Brasov in early 2014 and currently live there.

    As far as reasons to live outside of the US, I have several reasons why I chose to do so:
    – I enjoy the “cafe culture” lifestyle that Europe offers;
    – When living in a city center, I’m forced to do more walking and no need to have the hassle or the expense of owning a car;
    – It’s something new and different, especially since I’m interested in learning a new language;
    – My children will grow up with unique multi-cultural experiences vs staying back in the US.

    Regarding the ability to support a life abroad, many companies now allow telecommuting. Some places (such as Upwork) provide a marketplace for business looking to hire people for skills, regardless of their physical location. I know several people who make their living by working “virtually” for other companies, and they enjoy traveling to different countries.

    One good tip that I have for banking abroad is to get a Charles Schwab personal banking and brokerage account. It’s free and offers free international ATM fees. I’ve rarely had problems using their debit card for international transactions and I depend on it a lot for ATM withdrawals in the local currency.

  7. This is a really creepy article. I’ve been to Romania, and it’s nice, but how do these people just move there? Do they speak Romanian? Have jobs? All seems strange to me. A long vacation would be more apt.

    • Thanks to the fact that English is spoken everywhere on Earth and the fact that it is widely spoken in Romania, people don’t really have a problem if they just come here. Also, they are retired so they don’t need to worry about finding jobs here (which could indeed be a problem). In the end, what is more appropriate for some might not be for others.

      • As you say Calin, the biggest deterrent for most would be whether they needed a job or income there. If the answer is no, then most of the other things can be decided by advance research, just like Kevin and his family did. I’m not the least bit surprised that they had no serious concerns or second thoughts during or after the period while they were getting settled into their new home. While it’s great that one can get by with English initially, I also think it’s arrogant for anyone to actually move to another country and not learn the language eventually. I lived in Miami for four years, and many people had moved there from Spanish speaking countries could easily survive there for a while without English. But eventually, everyone does (or should) learn the language of their new home. Also, what you did for Kevin and his family was amazing and I’m sure they appreciated it very much. Thanks for the service & info that you provide everyone visiting this site! Best Regards, JC

  8. I loved reading this, my husband is Romanian and we are going to be moving to Brasov soon. we’ve visited a lot and know we will happily settle. there. Thanks

  9. Hi there,

    My husband and I are currently residing the the U.S with our 2 small children. My husband is from Romania and we are considering moving back to his home country so that our kids can grow up with family and experience a culture/nature not offered in the U.S. Could you offer any advice on schools or other aspects of living in Romania? It is a huge decision and we would appreciate any opinions.

    • Hello Kiley,

      You can check out the previous articles on this website, there’s a lot of information available about living in Romania, even though I haven’t talked about schools too much in the past. To put it short, regarding schools, there are both private and state schooling options available, the price of private ones is really low compared to the US and the rest of Europe and, depending on the city you choose to relocate to, there might be even schools where they teach using the English language.

  10. Thank you so much for the response!! Is there a way I could contact Kevin regarding the kids? It’s a huge decision for us and I want to make sure I have the most info. Thanks!!!

  11. Also, we are looking at Timisoara as we have friends and family residing there. I am a teacher and my husband works in manufacturing. I would love to have a conversation over the phone.

    • Hello Kiley, I will try and contact Kevin and see if he can help. However, since you already have friends and family in Timisoara, I am sure that they could be more helpful, especially since Kevin’s boy is following online classes and not a school in Romania.

  12. Ok great! I would love to hear more about the online learning aspect and why he chose online curriculum as opposed to a traditional school.

    Thanks!

  13. Hi Calin! I’ve read this article several times and always find it newly informative. Next May, my wife and I will be leaving our Southern California mountain home and moving to Brasov. She left Romania during the bad old days and has chosen to return with me as I retire. We won’t be left on our own as we relocate – her world-traveling parents live much of their life in Bucharest. Even with this safety net, I’m on a frenzied search to learn everything I can to make the transition smooth. Your blog, and this article specifically, have been very helpful. Lately, I’ve been concerned regarding transferring and managing money between our two countries. Banking, ATMs, credit cards, wire transfers, exchange rates and all other financial matters can be overwhelming. We are not rich people. In fact, we have chosen Romania in an effort to get the most out of life with our meager funds. Reading the article this time, I am relieved to hear that it may be easier than I anticipate. It seems most of the difficulties come from US bureaucracy and their fear of tax evasion or money laundering. If you or any of your readers have advice for our financial transition, I’d love to hear it. Thank you, C, for this fantastic and informative site.

    • Hello Jim,

      As far as I know, transferring money to Romania isn’t too difficult, at least for the family that moved here. The bank account was created immediately and all that was needed was the passports and address in Romania and transfers to the bank accounts could be made instantly. They give you Romanian debit cards in about a week, but the family I wrote about used their US cards as they had banks that covered the ATM fees. So US cards work in Romanian ATMs.

      There are indeed all sort of fees that apply when it comes to transfers and probably the best thing you could do is to set up both a Romanian (LEI) bank account and one in US dollars, then make the transfers yourself from US dollars to Romanian lei in order to get the best rates, rather than rely on the exchange rates of the ATMs which are most likely not that good.

      We should have a new interview with the Brasov family in the near future and they’ll cover this topic for a bit as well.

    • Hi there! We are also residing in Southern California and planning on moving to Romania in the near future. Could we get in contact so we can hear about your experience…perhaps we could al meet for coffee? My phone number is 8323818244..fee free to call or text!

  14. Hello C,
    I have messaged you a few times and never received a reply, hope this message gets to you.
    I was in touch with โ€œkevinโ€ before the move and hoped to stay in touch afterward, but unfortunately lost touch.
    My family plans on re-locating to Brasov after my sonโ€™s next school term. I would like to find an upscale apartment (I like Alphaville, but canโ€™t find a 2br) in a decent neighborhood.
    Do you have any information on Romanian private schools ?
    The only school we could get information on is Greater Grace International School, which fits our needs, but we would like something to compare it to.
    Lastly my wife and I are retired and our income is fixed (around $6200 USD monthly), in your opinion will that be enough to send our son to private school, live a decent lifestyle (we donโ€™t โ€œpartyโ€ and only go out occasionally) and still save a few dollars monthly ??
    Would love to hear from you soon, any information will help, thank you.

    Ron

    • Hello Ron,

      I have not received any of your e-mails indeed. Try sending them to the e-mail address mentioned in the Contact page on this website.

      Regarding your questions, here are the private schools I heard about in Brasov. I didn’t do any research on them and see if they would be a good fit though, it’s just the list:

      – Scoala Jules Verne din Brasov
      – Scoala Prems din Brasov
      – Scoala Primara Libera Waldorf Sophia
      – Scoala postliceala FEG
      – Scoala postliceala Henri Coanda

      Regarding your monthly income, even if the school would be 1,000 Euros per month (but I think it would be a bit cheaper), you would still have more than enough to live a great life in Brasov or anywhere in Romania. Just have in mind that the AVERAGE wage in Romania is under 500 Euros per month, so with you’re amount you should have no worries at all.

      • Thank you for the info, we are looking into a couple of the schools you listed.
        We have a property agent we have been in contact with, we are now looking for an immigration attorney and an accountant (to set up a business as Kevin did).
        We would prefer professionals willing to do ALL of the leg work as we would like our involvement to be minimal, even if we have to pay a little more. This has been a dream of ours since 2014, now we have resolved ourselves to do this, we will be showing up in May 2017 with our suitcases, a shipped auto, and NOTHING else, we will be starting our grand adventure from scratch, whether we fall on our faces or not !!!!
        We have fallen for Brasov and at this point in life feel we have to give this our best effort succeed or fail.
        As May approaches any more assistance you would be willing to extend would be greatly appreciated.

        Ron

      • Hi Kiley, sorry it took so long to respond to this site, I’m on like 4 expat sites.
        I would love to communicate via email, we have booked our flight and our vehicle will be picked up by the transport company in a couple of weeks so it’s too late to turn back now lol
        Feel free to drop a line at hclair226@gmail.com if you get this message, looking forward to it.

  15. So, theoretically, if a single man of 34 with 20 years in construction, machining, woodwork, a penchant for language (French, Spanish, German), a BA in Philosophy, a published book, and some fuzzy mammals (two cats and a Lab) wanted to Expat to Romania from Colorado in, say, October of 2018….. what should he be doing now?

    Would like to buy some land (the heck is a hectare?) and build a little farm…

    Also, does it help that I know a Romanian PhD at the university? He certainly thinks I’d find a sweet girl there.

    • Hello Spencer,

      There is a bit of research that you should be doing, but it’s clear that you are on the right path. So do your research regarding requirements and everything that’s needed (there’s a lot of stuff on this blog as well) and you will easily make the move.

      Regarding the hectare, it’s 10,000 square meters or 2,471 acres. When looking for land, make sure that it’s land you can actually build on and you have access to infrastructure and running water – you don’t want to end up in the middle of a corn field with no way to get there ๐Ÿ™‚

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