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Showing posts from September, 2012

Romanian Customer Service: An Oxymoron

I thought I'd write a post about Romania and customer service. I don't even know where to start, so I'll write a story.

A little over a year ago I opened a bank account with Banca Transilvania. It's not a blood bank, by the way. The process took over an hour with all kinds of forms to fill out and was somewhat confusing in that the PIN is sent by mail, I had to go back and get the card the following week, and I had to make a special request for internet banking. Overall it was more of an ordeal than a run of the mill administrative affair. This is the norm with most banks in Romania, possibly in the rest of Europe, I can't say for sure, but what's clear is that it tends to constitute a lot of lost time and more anxiety than something that should be relatively simple and stress free.

Long story short, as time went by I became less and less satisfied with the services at BT. The customer service experience depends largely on the person you get (as with almost ev…

The Cluj Guide To Nightlife

If you've been reading the blog, you'd swear that my favourite activity is criticizing Romania. That's actually my second favourite. My favourite thing to do is to take part in that night time ritual that's been perfected in our country. It's the one activity in which all Romanians are united par excelence, one that we can boast at doing better than any other nation on earth; partying. Luckily for us citizens of Cluj, we live in a city where a good time is served on a platter, especially during what I like to call, 'Party Season', when the city's 100,000 temporary citizens, who are studying at one of the city's fine universities, come back to town.

After a nice dinner at any of those fine establishments I mentioned in a previous post, you're going to need to move a little, dance it off, or at least bar hop it off. You may want to keep track of the time - or not - either way, don't expect the night to end when you're kicked out of any cl…

Romania Is Like a Poorly Run Restaurant

If we keep it this simple, we got ourselves an analogy: The restaurant and all of its amenities represents the country. The management and staff are the government and functionaries, while the patrons are the ordinary citizens -who keep coming back (therefore contributing in its success), or who leave and never return (leading to failure).

Admittedly, making the comparison between restaurant and country isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But then I happened upon an episode of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (stream by pressing 'close ad' and ignore the popups) and the more I watched, the more the comparison made perfect sense. The premise of the show basically revolves around Gordon Ramsay's attempts to make failing restaurants turn over a new leaf. Often, there is a dysfunctional family involved and that makes for the meat of the entertainment, but at the bottom of it there is always the bottom line that's being affected by unsound business decisions…

The Cluj Guide to Dining Out

Note: This is a 2016 update to the post originally written in 2012. 

Back in 2012, Toulouse was the only place in town to serve a halfway decent hamburger. How things have changed. There's been a veritable burger revolution and you'll be hard pressed to find bistro-style restaurants that don't offer the king of sandwiches. There are also several new, and very good, additions to the city's fine dining roster. But maybe the most positive change is in the market itself. Patrons have become more discerning about their options, there is a deeper appreciation for consistency, and, as a result, restaurants have responded with an elevated level of service and quality overall.
But there's still no authentic Mexican...


So, with no particular order in mind, let's get into it, shall we?

Via- The simple name denotes understated excellence. At least that's how I look at it now. Over the past couple of years, Via has cemented itself as one of my favourite Cluj …

The Secret To Happiness Is Not A Secret

There's something I just can't seem to get over; that Romanians are the most unhappy people on earth. I know it's just a stupid survey, but nevertheless, this country came out with negative points and 'beat' out places like Afghanistan where more respondents considered themselves 'happy' rather than 'unhappy'. The term is pretty subjective, and there are plenty of reasons for unhappiness, life isn't fair after all. Still, we don't live in a place that's ever known suicide attacks, cave-dwelling, and successive foreign invasions over the past fifty years. So although we're safe, that doesn't seem to matter much. Alright, the GDP could also be better, but again, compared to Afghanistan we can light our cigars with dollar bills. Right, so what is it?

The survey indicates that "status and not money buys  happiness". This would explain a lot. Here are a couple of examples.

A friend told me about a former work colleague of hi…

Vladimir Ghika International Airport (CLJ)

In Romania we have no role models.

Oh, we have our national icons. You don't need to travel too far into any Romanian town to come across statues of Eminescu, Coanda, Enescu, or the like. But the reverence we have for these people is closer to deification than simple admiration. When you admire somebody, you can aspire to be like them, but when they are deified, that task becomes nearly impossible. We, Romanians, have placed our cultural icons on a pedestal and instead of wanting to equal or to outdo their achievements, we are merely content that 'they are ours'. That leaves footballers, pop-stars, and Kardashian type celebs to step into the shoes of role models.

It's not looking good, but that can change. And it can start with one event and one person. That event is the current initiative from the Cluj County Council to come up with a name for the city's international airport with the help of the city's inhabitants. The stipulation is that the said personalit…

In A Country Like Romania...

A few days ago I came across an older Observer article that attempted to recap the twenty years following the fall of Communism in Romania. It said that "it was impossible to have a revolution in Romania. So it had to be staged." The revolution was staged by the people who took power immediately afterwards, namely Ion Iliescu and the 'National Salvation Front' party, the predecessor to today's PSD (now one half of the PSD-PNL coalition called USL). This is the truth. But it makes a lot more sense when we look at the quote in its original form, as spoken by Iliescu himself, "In a country like Romania it was impossible to have a revolution. So it had to be staged."

This is what I want to focus on today. Ed Vulliamy, the Observer journalist who wrote that article in 2009, may not have realized the importance of the syntax in that particular sentence, but I do. It's not just semantics that the sentence started with, "in a country like Romania"…