Impressions of a new country

Tag Archives: England

The Chip and Pin payment system is prevalent all over the UK, it has revolutionised the way we pay and become a staple for most retailers to provide.

From what I’ve seen in Romania, the same revolution is happening…just at a much slower pace; lots of shops still do not offer this service. It is mostly large supermarkets and other big retail outlets that have a Chip and Pin payment option…but even here, the speed of these card systems is extremely slow in comparison to the lightening fast “I didn’t even put my card in yet” machines across the UK.

I recently came across a strange sight at the checkout of a big electronics shop. A huge collection of Chip and Pin card machines, all with different card/bank names on them. It seemed that all were in use, and, depending on the type of card used by the customer, a specific machine was chosen for that transaction. I’m not sure about the reasons for doing this, or its productivity (if you know more…please let me know!) – nevertheless it was quite amusing to see so many at the same checkout.

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In Oradea, a lot of shops are up a small flight of steps. During my first visit here I recall being very surprised by this; it isn’t very often that you see a shop with its own entrance steps in the UK. I’m not sure about other Romanian cities…but Oradea is absolutely brimming with shops like this. What really caught my eye regarding these steps was the fact that most retailers use this extra space to showcase their goods. It is a good idea to attract potential buyers, but in a country where theft is a primary concern to shop owners, it seems quite a daring advertising tactic. Concerns aside though, it does add a lot of colour and diversity to your average stroll down the high street.

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Romania – home to one of the most famous legends of all time…Dracula. With such spooky tales and macabre folk stories surrounding its landscape and embellishing its history, it was quite a shock to discover that “Halloween” does not exist in Romania. You would think it was the perfect place to go mad with halloween celebrations and really embrace all that is scary – but it simply isn’t part of the tradition here.

Walking through the high streets of England during the Halloween period is very interesting. Everything you can possibly imagine has been adapted to have a spooky theme in order to cash in on this popular, and seemingly very western, celebration. From fake cobwebs in windows, to cakes with black bat icing – it is hard to miss references to Halloween everywhere you look.

In Romania, it is very different. October 31st is just an ordinary day – no decorations, no trick or treaters, no carved pumpkins or costume parties. This seemed so odd to me having grown up in the UK; where Halloween is slowly becoming just as big of a deal as it is in America.

Although there is not a Halloween celebration, on 1st-2nd November in Romania, ‘The day of the dead’ is celebrated. People gather in cemeteries, with flowers, candles and gifts, to appreciate the lost people in their lives and to share memories with family and friends. This is quite a big occasion for Romanian people, and in the days leading up to the day of the dead, family members will attend to the graves of their relatives – making the areas look really beautiful in preparation for the day itself. It is a much more meaningful celebration in a lot of ways than our typical Halloween and it is refreshing to experience a place that is still mostly untouched by a lot of ‘western’ and commercial ideas.

“We are in Transylvania, and Transylvania is not England. Our ways are not your ways, and there shall be to you many strange things.” – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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The only orange-ish pumpkin I could find in the entire city of Oradea


Cheese is incredibly different here in Romania in comparison to the UK. Fresh cheese here is known as brânză – it’s white in colour and its texture is soft and crumbly (not unlike Greek Feta). Brânză can be sweet or salty and is used in many ways for lots of different dishes. It is usually made in the countryside by people who own farms, then brought to cities to be sold at markets. The smell of the ‘cheese section’ of the market always surprises me. It isn’t the normal cheese smell that you experience if you were stood by a cheese counter in an English shop – it is an incredibly sour and pungent smell that really hits you. For cheese that makes such a pong, the flavour is actually quite mild – it is very creamy and doesn’t have a typically cheesy taste but more of a gentle sour taste. Also, when you heat it, it does not melt as readily as you would expect a cheese to melt.

Most blocks of cheese that you find in supermarkets here are not considered to be real cheese by locals. It is known as cașcaval – yellow in colour, hard or rubbery in texture and very similar in appearance to what you see in English shops. The taste is very mild and not intense at all – in fact, the flavour is almost non existent.

So cheese is quite interesting here, I am yet to discover one that has a truly strong cheesy taste like that of a good old block of English Cheddar. 

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Brânză


Flea markets are very common all around the world, they are a great way to sell your unwanted items, or even some new products.

From my past experiences at Flea or Thrift markets in other countries, they all tend to look quite chaotic. Lots and lots of items spread across tables or on blankets on the floor.

My experience at a flea market here in Romania was fairly similar to in other countries, but one thing I did notice, was the way in which some things were put on display. There were huge piles of clothes, leather scraps and shoes all around the market. Clothes were not hung on rails, were rarely even separated into groups of similar items and shoes were not paired together; which made it quite difficult to find anything! It seemed even more chaotic than in previous markets I’ve seen.

People in the UK tend not to sell broken things, or things that aren’t in an acceptable condition. It is different here – nothing is thrown away. I came across numerous stalls which were full of broken things – it seemed as though people were selling absolutely everything and anything they have.

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My first few experiences with veterinary practices here were not particularly good ones. The first thing you will notice about most vets here, is how small the building is, and that there is usually only one veterinarian running the practice.

In England a veterinary practice is usually a substantial size, with a reception area, at least 2 or 3 private consultation rooms with separate rooms for performing operations and for holding pets over night. The veterinarians themselves are almost always dressed in smart lab coats or special uniforms that keep hygiene under control and look very professional. From what I’ve seen of a few veterinary practices here in Oradea, things are done differently.

The veterinarians do not always wear such professional clothing. The very first vet we saw here was a young man wearing a sports tracksuit, dirty trainers and a lot of jewellery.  The consultation room was not private – so as you talked to the vet, the people waiting for their turn could watch and listen to your conversation. This struck me as quite unprofessional, especially because people would come up to the door and interrupt to ask the vet questions (which he would more than willingly answer in depth) whilst he was supposed to be giving his attention to us and our pet. With regards to cleanliness and treatment – it wasn’t too bad. The building was very clean and all treatments were carried out just as they would be in England, however, we were given a lot of bizarre advice here and subsequently decided that this was a vet to forget.

Our current vet is a lovely lady running her own small practice. On appearances she looks just like an English vet does – dressed professionally in clean vet style clothing (the little things do matter!), but it’s the appearance of the building inside that is very different. Incredibly small and very simple, it consists of just one main room with a waiting area, that must be less than 2 metres in width, attached to it. The examination room is used for everything, consultations, check ups and operations too. The glass door cabinets look like they’ve been transported from a doctor’s office in the 1800s and contain some very old fashioned looking instruments. Due to their such small scale, the majority of veterinary practices here all run on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and (unless booking for operations) they do not take bookings for appointments – you simply turn up. I think this system tends to work quite well, but only due to the sheer amount of different vet practises here. There seems to be one on every street, so you don’t tend to get a huge queue of people waiting to be seen by one single vet – which is just as well considering the size of the waiting areas.

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In supermarkets here, it is common to ‘snap apart’ 4 or 6 packs of yoghurts and just take how many you need.

When I first saw people doing this, I was amazed that staff members weren’t intervening to stop this sheer act of yoghurt vandalism (as it appeared to me). However, you’re perfectly allowed to do that here. The same goes for many products that are ‘attached’ in similar ways. You do not have to buy the whole packet, just take however many you want! The prices shown for yoghurts and ‘grouped’ items – are shown per 1 item, and not the price for an entire pack (I learnt that the hard way)

I’m not sure if other countries across Europe have this practise or not…but we definitely don’t in the UK! There, you buy the entire 6 pack of yoghurts or you choose individually packed ones. Heaven forbid you start ‘yoghurt snapping’ in the aisles of Sainsbury’s – all hell would probably break loose.

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