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.
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!
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.