Impressions of a new country

Tag Archives: UK

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


I mentioned in a very early blog post about having to store your shopping bags in lockers when you enter a different shop. This is very common in most grocery stores and some supermarkets. It is a way to deter thieves from being able to slip an item into their shopping bag which they might have from another store. This concept is rarely seen in the UK and you can take your shopping bags in all kinds of shops without it being a problem.

Recently, in Romania, I have experienced this idea on a much larger scale at a very large supermarket. On entering the shop, if you have shopping from another shop, you are asked by a member of security staff to join a queue to have your bags, and even larger personal bags (rucksacks/large bags), wrapped in plastic. Your bag is put onto a machine that encases your items in a brightly coloured plastic wrap and is then heat-sealed. You are allowed to carry small to medium sized handbags without having to wrap them up – but anything bigger must be wrapped. Once your items/bags have been wrapped, you can then go about your normal shopping routine. It seems strange that such large measures must be taken to prevent stealing. With CCTV and security tags/alarm systems, you would think that such an extreme measure of wrapping peoples’ bags wouldn’t be necessary.

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