My Takeaways from Visiting Romania
Most Americans could agree that the lifestyle of our country is trending more and more towards being sedentary and dependent on technology. I’m not going to rant about it because who am I to judge how people spend their free time, but it heightens my respect for the Romanians that I met during my study abroad trip a couple summers ago. Romania is a country full of castles, beautifully untouched countryside, and authentic restaurants. What I find myself admiring the most, though, is not the castles, but the lifestyle.
During one evening of our trip, we were sitting at our table in the patio area of an amazing restaurant with Mediterranean style architecture. When I looked around our table, I noticed something that was basically the perfect picture of my study abroad group’s experience so far; all of the Americans were staring at their cell phones, and all of the Romanians were looking at the Americans with confusion.
One of my good friends in the class asked the waitress, “What is the Wi-Fi password?” The waitress, in the best English she could, said that there isn’t one. “Are you kidding me?” he said under his breath, and then proceeded to search for hot spots in the area. One of our older Romanian counterparts sitting beside him, who looked like a bad-ass if I ever saw one with his old-school Adidas sweatshirt and cigarette, laughed quietly and made a comment to one of the other Romanians. I realized how dumb we must look to our counterparts. Here we are, in a setting that most of us will never experience again, and all we can think about is connecting to Facebook.
The majority of our days were spent in the classroom learning about each other’s culture, which obviously made sense for a study abroad program and was worth our time, but I tended to direct my attention out the window wishing that I could explore the countryside that I mentioned before. When we finished all of the tasks that the instructor wanted to accomplish, we usually went out and played soccer. This was the highlight of the trip for me being that I’m a big sports and fitness guy. The field we played on was perfect; outlined by trees with a nearby mountain range in the background. I don’t have any experience with soccer except for button-mashing on FIFA and playing in elementary school, but I have good endurance so I was able to compete a little with the Romanians and have a great time doing so.
Over time, I noticed that when the Romanians talked about what they were going to do after class, the answer was always meeting up to play soccer. The guys in there 40’s, the teenagers, pretty much all of them committed to meeting up and playing soccer again during the evening. That’s something that I’ve begun to admire more and more recently because of how many people I know religiously respond with Netflix when they are asked about their evening and weekend plans.
On a related note, I didn’t see ANY overweight people in Romania. Everyone walked and rode their bikes, which didn’t surprise me since I remembered seeing that when I lived in Italy and Germany as a kid. Most of them weren’t sporting six pack abs or anything, but they were reasonably fit and healthy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I can’t remember seeing any buff guys conducting “swole-patrol” around town either like I always do at my local gym. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any gyms. It’s so refreshing to think back on because it seemed so much more natural and real.
At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to everything. A lot of our counterparts spoke about how envious they were of the opportunities that America offers, and I could tell in their eyes that the envy was very real. Therefore, I’m grateful and proud to be an American, but I think we could all learn a thing or two from other cultures about re-engaging in the realness of life.