Vineri, August 10, 2007, 02:07 AM 

FAQ - Romania
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Wow, you are the first Romanian I have ever met! Well, this is usually the first reaction of everybody on the island when I introduce myself. It is quite normal as the Romanian exodus does exceed neither the western coast of Ireland nor the eastern coast of Canada. I guess that nobody would have thought that a heartless girl would determine a broken-hearted to move on a small island surrounded by ocean.

Well, I am the first Romanian here, but I am certainly not the first non-local. In fact, all the guys (both boys and girls) are not from the island. They are from Jamaica, Pakistan, Australia, Germany, Sweden and UK. Of course, they are all curios about things going on in Romania. Sometimes even I am :) I will list below the most frequently questions I was asked together with my answers. This will be quite a good starting point for both foreigners but also for some Romanians. PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG

Q: Where is Romania? It is somewhere in Asia, isn’t it?
A: No. Actually it is in Europe, on the eastern border of Hungary, which is on the eastern border with Austria, which is on the eastern border with Germany, which is on the eastern border with Belgium, which is a few km east to UK.

Q: Is Romania a EU country?
A:Yes, Romania is an EU member starting with 1 January 2007. However, Romanian citizens still do not have the same rights to work as other EU citizens. Very often, a work permit and even housing license are required in order to work in other EU countries.

Q: Is the official currency EUR?
A: The official currency is still RON, the Romanian Leu (plural Lei), with a FX rate of 3.2 RON for 1 EUR. Romania is expected to adopt EUR as its currency in the next 5 years.
There are no other currencies accepted for payment beside RON. However, some small stores use the Orbit pill or aspirins as 0.20 lei equivalents :)

Q: What is the official language? Is your language similar with any other languages?
A: The official language is Romanian. This is a Latin language that is very similar with Italian and it has some similarities with French. It is a quite difficult language with many rules but it is not mandatory to speak it accurately if you are football club owner, a district mayor or a political party leader :)

Q: What other languages are spoken? Is it Russian one of them?
A: If you are not amongst the three categories mentioned above, you are expected to speak very well English and to be able to make a conversation in French, German or Spanish. Foreign languages are mandatory in schools for the children aged 8 to 19. Russian is not studied in schools since the 70s.

Q: I had a client with current accounts opened with Romanian Banks. However, I could not obtain Bank’s confirmations because nobody from the Bank speaks English. Why?
A:Well, I guess you were pretty lucky that the Customers Support lady did not yell at you. There are indeed, in all entities that were privatized at a certain point in time, some crazy, old, fat vipers and shrews whose main target is to make you run away and leave them alone to drink their coffee. I guess that all we can do is to wait for their retirement.
(In fact, I tried to help the lad to obtain the confirmation. Unfortunately, there were many other extremely-familiar habits I noticed that couldn’t guide the poor Island’s inhabitant to the right person not in a million years: The Bank’s branch phone number was not the correct one, the Bank’s internet site was not updated with the contacts for all the branches, the contact person usually moves from one department to another in a very short time, the contact person is not aware of the confirmation request that we sent (which reminds me of ‘ California Dreamin ’ scene with the fax from the Ministry) etc.

Q: Was Romania one of the Soviet Republics?
A: Yes, it was. Hopefully, this happened only in Stalin’s dreams However, after the WW II, Romania was under the Soviet influence following the Yalta’s agreement. This meant communism, loss of properties, brainwashing, lack of liberty and democracy, connections lost with the outside world.

Q: Who was Ceausescu? Was he Romanian?
A: Ceausescu was a crazy old man that proclaimed himself as the first President of Romania. At the beginning, his intentions were good, trying to make Romania a totally independent country from the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, this meant diverting almost the entire domestic production to Far East countries and limiting at a maximum any importation. This meant consuming only poor quality food, waiting for years on long lists in order to buy a TV set, waiting for more than 24 hours at kilometric queues for changing the gas cylinder etc.

Q: Was there also a king there?
A: Well, Romania is a republic and technically speaking it cannot have one king also. However, the last King of Romania is still alive. He was two times the King, and the first time he was just a kid, under the custody of his mother. Unfortunately, my history teacher from the highschool was an idiot and his stupidity made me hating history. Therefore, if you’re interested, you may google “Mihai de Hohenzollern”

Q: What are the places to visit in Romania? Can you visit Dracula castle?
A: In Bucharest, you will enjoy the out-door pubs with that unique music called “manea” (plural: “manele”) broadcasted as loud as possible. You will enjoy driving so fast, slaloming through cars, horning and hitting the break within 10 meters before the traffic light. You will impress your friends by shouting at a young female crossing the street on the zebra in front of your car Faa, asta calca nu fute! (EN: Hey, the car will strike you, but it won’t fuck you!)
However, (this is for real) you can spend a good holiday on the beautiful landscapes of the northern part of Moldova region, you can visit Bran Castle (aka Dracula Castle which is not at all what you might think) and the beautiful resorts nearby, or you can enjoy the annual medieval festival from Sighisoara.
You will have good roaming wherever you go, so you won’t lose the contact with dear ones from home. However, if you have a number ending in 5290 and if your nose won’t grow for the lies told, you may experience some signal problems in Branesti, a village located 5 km east from Bucharest

Q: You mentioned something about Moldova, as a region of Romania. I have a client from Moldova, but I know that this is a different country from Romania. Is it something similar with Macedonia?
A:Yes, it seems it is. In the past, Moldova used to be a sovereign princedom for centuries including the actual Romanian region, the actual Republic of Moldova and a part of the actual Ukraine. In 1859, Moldova unified with Walachia, forming Romania, which gained its independence in 1877. After the Ribentrop-Molotov Treaty from 1939 (or later, I hate history, remember?) the county between Nistru and Prut rivers was incorporated in USSR and became a Soviet Republic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova proclaimed its independence on 27 August 1991.
Keep in mind that I wrote the text above without searching the internet or opening an encyclopedia. It is what I know from the secondary school and from my friends from Moldova.

Q: Are the girls pretty in Romania?
A: Yes, they are amongst the most beautiful girls in Europe. However, they are quite unpredictable. You may meet someone like Spotless Girl or The Love from Tei Neighborhood that will continuously play games with your heart before striking you from the back.

Q: After all, why did you leave?
A: I had a good “impresario” (HR counselor) from an UK recruitment agency. Should I tell what he trained me to say? Ok, I will.
1. I really want to achieve international experience
2. I need to improve my English and this is the best way.
It may be true, but is it all?
If you are a non-Romanian language speaker you could study the English section of this blog.
If you know Romanian and you are familiar with my blog, I should perhaps tell only some tags (which represent kind the same things like the oligarchs to the President Basescu): Neprihanita, Dragostea din Tei , Hitler fixistul, K-telu, Gigi etc.

Vineri, Iunie 22, 2007, 01:58 AM 

My (corporate?) crusade
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Just like old times... Very old times...Centuries ago...I started my own crusade....Even if I am not a conqueror but rather a victim. I am not running an empire trying to conquer new lands. I am rather alone in a Romanian corporation, fighting with the shadows from the country communist past and suffering. I am injured in this crusade, but it is not a sword that started my bleeding. It is rather a heartless girl met in my former corporation that broke my heart.

I am not coherent. It does not make sense what I say. I know it. A long time ago, it did. Sometimes, things happened just like it should. Sometimes, people were people, trying to help each other and to live better. Sometimes, fate was something not unreachable. Sometimes, the years of love were not something that can be denied in just one day.

My crusade began two months ago. The pain was already overwhelming. I couldn’t stand anymore. I couldn’t stand anything. Everything began being confused. I couldn’t stand the evilness, the excessive pride, the richness of deception, the grey surrounding me from everywhere.

Two months ago I realized that things are completely beyond my control. It was Easter and memories with “the Spotless Mind” justifying her absence with a Maslu were all over. I had realized that I am useless even for my job. I was being surrounded by idiots. It was quite odd, considering that my previous jobs offered me mainly shrews, evil and cruel people, but not stupid people.

The sad thing was that I did not care. I couldn’t find the strength to get over and to humiliate them by obvious surplus of knowledge and deficit of age. I was looking to a fixed spot waiting for a white fairy to bring my inspiration back. My mind was empty. My mind was just like their minds, even if they had been like this since they were born.

Everything started when I tried to obtain something from the most communist and stupid person in all the corporations I had been: the bookkeeper that called herself accountant. She replied that she does not want to give me anything unless I address the issues to her Manager. That annoyed me. It was not my intention to become a spammer. Why should I return into the past and address any issue to all the organization to obtain something immaterial? I did my job independently but I promised myself to get revenge. She should go away. I promised to myself that I’d make her leave.

Soon after this, a new challenge appeared. On a rainy day when all my thoughts were with the Spotless Mind, who celebrated her birthday, someone showed me that a day can be worse than a nightmare. The “smarty” from IT tried to make his point, in his usual rude and dirty manner. He had a lot of guts, he accused me of non-implying and he blame me for all his incapacity to hire good people. I added him on the top of black list.

Later, a tragedy happened. It was Sunday and I was lying in the bad trying to explain the unexplainable. Suddenly the Messenger began blinking. It was one friend announcing me that the only one person that helped me in the last period has died. I could not believe it. Life was playing games. More than this, Raluca was not yet buried when all the idiots began to yell on the radio, TV and newspapers, saying all kind of evil and untrue things meant to put them into the light.

I was trying to kid myself that my life has a little sense....that I need to start this crusade against agony. I committed to destroy the bookkeeper and to throw the “smarty” out of corporation. I committed to remove the bad things that kidnaped Raluca away from us and that splashed her memory. I was decided to find a way to forget the Spotless Mind. I established even a deadline: 1st of July.

It had no sense. It was clear that I could not do anything. Everyone was against me. I do not overreact. Ok, I re-phrase it. I replace “everyone” with “only one person”. I replace “against me” with “not with me”. Does it change the meaning? No. Because she is ALL...because being against me or not with me IS THE SAME. I have nothing. Would I have satisfaction if the bookkeeper will be deported to (let’s say) Saudi Arabia? Would I be happy if the “smarty” is fired with no compensatory rights? Maybe I would....for a minute. Will the happiness exist without her? No way.

There is only one sure thing. I cannot live without her..... This means that either I live with her...either... I don’t live anymore.... in this environment. It seems that she refuses to explain her attitude, her unexplainable actions. Even if it is a little hard to move away from family and friends (do I have some?), I will pack my luggage and leave on a small island, as I said. In fact, this is the place where all failed crusades end.

This was my faith. Maybe there is a chance to take everything from the start in a completely different environment. I will miss this blog for sure. I don’t know if I will write again. I hope that everything will be ok and that I will have no reasons to attack again on this blog. Maybe I will begin a new and positive blog. Maybe I will still be overwhelmed by pain. Whatever, my ship was destroyed in this crusade. Maybe the time will be the wind blowing my ship to a new shore or to the bottom of the ocean.

Marti, Iunie 5, 2007, 12:03 AM 

Corporate culture - Romania vs EU
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This post is dedicated to all those who think that Romania is fully integrated in EU at least on the corporate grounds. They may argue that there are the same definitions and characters both in EU and in Romania. Maybe we should review these terms. Step by step.

8:00 PM in the week-days – It should be the hour when you are at home/in town for 2 or 3 hours. However, what happens if you are still in the office?

EU: This action will be very risky. After you’ll open the door the next sound you’ll hear will be of the alarm system. I remember the story of one of my colleagues’ sister who works for a multinational Company in Germany. She worked until 9:00 PM when she called for a cab to go home. Unfortunately, she could not find the way to the taxi as all the doors were locked. Finally, she called again the taxi Company, which called back the cab driver, who went to the office’s security guard, who finally released her from the corporation.

Romania: In the so-called busy-season, leaving at this hour will be also dangerous. You’ll always find a manager that will call you asking why you’re not at the office. Usually, there are only two situations when you can leave so early: when you have an urgent medical situation or when you have a job interview at another Company (in which case you tell your boss that you have an appointment to a doctor).

IT Staff – meaning the staff that by its nature of support staff is supposed to help the business

EU: They really do their job, meaning helping people when they have problems. If there are many IT requirements, they are able to predict them and to hire people in due time. As a last resource solution, they outsource some of their tasks to specialized IT Companies. The large multinationals have even some organizational staff whose main task is to prioritize the IT’s tasks.

Romania: You will always find a “smarty” whose only purpose in life is to prove you how smart he is and how poor your IT knowledge is. His feeling is that the corporation will not survive without him and that he is the heart of it. He will always tell you that they have no time to implement anything. Their in-house developed applications will always have bugs. Anyway, they will continue to attack the products of the main soft producers (like Oracle, Microsoft, SAP) saying that these are not suitable to the Company’s needs.

Accounting and Controlling Staff – meaning also support staff whose role is to help the organization to understand better its financial performance and position

EU: Here you will find accountants. When they join a new Company, they will first try to understand the business, not to judge the debit-credit accounting records. Their main concern will be that the accounts should reflect in the best way the business and the substance of its transactions.

Romania: Here you will find bookkeepers. Romania is the country where the bookkeepers speed on the debit – credit highway. Their greatest fear is that they will be fined by the authorities for using a different analytical account that the one suggested by the Ministry of Finance. Their universe is limited to figures and tables imposed by the Government, they never heard of IFRS and narrative disclosures.

Assessment – including both self-assessment and assessment of the people you’re working with

EU: Assessment and feedback are common terms in all the organizations. They are used to measure the employees’ satisfaction with their current workplace. They are also used to objectively assess the performance of an individual and to determine if he is ready to perform higher-level task and to face a promotion. In EU, you can assess both the individuals under your supervision but also your supervisors.

Romania: Usually, the ones that are assessed are the big bosses and the Heads of the organization. Of course, there is no formal assessment, this happens only in the backyard where the regular employees spread rumors at a cigarette. The main assessment criteria here are how many sex affairs the big bosses had, how many cars the new boss has and how many strange habits the expats have. In the very rare cases, where multinationals from Romania implemented the outside procedures of assessment, the whole process is treated as a copy-paste procedure from the examples given (and from one to another).

Recruitment – meaning the process of ensuring the adequacy of the staff

EU: The purpose of recruitment is to match the organization’s needs with the recruits’ aspirations and goals. The interviews focus on the candidates’ background and on the experience in the field. The recruits’ interest in the Company is limited to a couple of questions. They are not terrorized by the recruiters with the overwhelming importance of the employer. The recruiters are also trying hard to convince the potential employees that their Company is the best choice for their career.

Romania: Where do you see yourself in five years? seems to be the most addressed question. Usually, the recruit is perceived as an offender whose purpose is to kid the employer about his CV. You will rarely find a recruiter concerned about attracting the candidate to the offered workplace.

Retention – meaning the complementary process of recruitment

EU: It is a crucial process whose purpose is not to waste suddenly all the efforts and resources spent with an employee during the recruitment process. Here, the employers ask periodically the hired people about their level of content. They are interested in the professional development of the individual, offering him trainings and free courses.

Romania: If you are Romanian, you probably never heard of this term. This process is obviously the MISSING link in the chain of the corporate culture. They begin being concerned of your existence only when you mention about your leaving. Here, the employees are perceived like any other resource, no differentiation being made between them and raw materials.

Company’s values – I mean not only communicating them to employees, but also ensuring they are applied through organization.

EU: Here, the management’s job is to ensure these are known, understood and applied. These should be applied by all employees, regardless their level of seniority. Company’s values are not part of a legend, they make a benchmark.

Romania: Usually, you may find about them only one time in your life there: from the brochures that you pick on the Career Days. You may also hear about them from the PR’s mail to all employees on the Company’s birthday. Anyway, your interest will be captured by the cup of champagne for free. You may also hear these words at the Christmas Party, being whispered by the Big Boss in a big hurry in his way to the well deserved glass of scotch or whisky.

I could speak more about it, but I don’t want you to get bored. There are obviously many areas where big differences exist between Romanian and EU corporations. I feel more and more tired, helpless and bored about this system. My desire to escape from here and to join the western side of EU is stronger each day goes by. Maybe someday I will.

Marti, Mai 1, 2007, 11:27 AM 

The Day of Labor that did not kill anybody
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In the last decades, 1st of May is not perceived anymore as the International Labor Day. Now, Labor Day seems something old, obsolete and not in accordance with the modern trends. Now, it is more common to go out to a beer or to a barbeque, throwing out the litter in the forest or to go the seaside and sleep on the beach.

The 1st of May is now just an ordinary day assimilated to a Sunday, a day off. If elections are coming, it is the best way to grab some free beers and some stakes from each candidate. Everyone’s happy for the spring arrival, everybody is happy for a day of not going to the office.

Twenty years ago things were different here. There were big parades celebrating Labor Day. Most of the people were there because they were forced to. They were forced to hold posters to express their attachment to a Communist Party based on workers’ labor.

Now it is quite normal to reject anything related to that gray era. Anything related to Labor is associated with communism. I don’t know why many people associate this former Labor Day celebration with the unemployment and the right to work stipulated in the National codes. Maybe this was inoculated by the communist propaganda in their continuous fight against western economies.

In fact, the origins of this celebration are in... United States. In 1884 a convention of The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada set May 1, 1886 as the date by which the eight hour day work would become law. The celebration of Labor Day has its origins in the eight hour day work movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

Talking about the 8-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement (even if the communists imposed 48 hours per week) this had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions unregulated, the health, welfare and morale of working people suffered. The exploitation of child labor was common. The working day could range from 10 hours up to 16 hours for six days a week.

Nowadays, the situation is not different, both in Eastern Europe and in UK and US. It is true, we all have now a paper stipulating 8 working hours per day, 40 hours per week. The same paper stipulates no more than 8 hours overtime that should be paid by employer. Unfortunately, it is just a paper called employment contract. That’s all.

Nothing has changed from the situation as 200 years ago. We still work effectively up to 16 hours per day, even 7 days a week. The employment contract and the Labor Code were drafted just to be breached by the employers. The community outside multinational Companies does not care about us. We are often told we do this only for money and that the Labor did not kill anyone.

Unfortunately, this is not a valid statement anymore. Nine days ago, Raluca, a young manager from a multinational Company in Romania has died after physical exhaustion. This is not a singular case. There were also cases in Greece and US. Everybody started to blame the employers, but nobody searched for the interdependencies of the corporatist system. The case is perceived like a singular Company exploiting its employees that should be punished. Things are not like this. The entire system is overloaded, you depend also on customers and suppliers time which are also as busy as you are. There is a chain of overdue tasks propagating each other with an uncontrollable speed.

For the corporate guys, the 1st of May will remain as the end of busy season, the day when we celebrate the survival after a long busy period (usually from November to April in the Finance and Audit field). For Raluca, it is too late. In Chicago, several people died 130 years ago for an 8 hours day work on paper. Maybe we all wonder how many people should die for a more human working day. And this time, not only on paper.

Vineri, Aprilie 13, 2007, 12:10 AM 

The story of the man that saved Yahoo Messenger from restrictions
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Once upon a time there was a bad, bad world full of prisons. All of them were big, with glass walls, with big names on them being known as MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES. Thousands of poor fellows were imprisoned by evil people called HR MANAGERS. Their life in prison was hard, working as slaves from 8 AM in the morning until midnight.

These prisons were run by cold blooded heartless ogres, namely GENERAL MANAGERS or CEOs. Their purpose in life was ruining people’s lives by assigning hard and impossible tasks to poor prisoners, namely the EMPLOYEES. They felt joy and pleasure by removing any piece of personal life from the life of their slaves.

The cruelness of the ogres had no limits. They were mean and insensible. Some of them decided even to take away the only joy in the live of the poor slaves: the pleasure to exchange instant messages with other slaves. They gave orders to their griffins, namely the IT MANAGERS to block the output port of Yahoo Messenger from their prisoners' computers.

The poor prisoners were hopeless. They had to use their mobile phones and to spend their small wages to cover the bills of thecalls to the beloved ones outside the walls. The ogres running the mobile careers were insatiable; they had huge rates especially for the calls from one career to another, reducing thus the prisoners’ wages.

Everything was dark until a Robin Hood appeared. His name was MEEBO. He invented a beautiful website allowing prisoners to connect to Yahoo Messenger via web. Their life improved significantly. Everything was fine until the griffins found out. They betrayed their colleagues and told the fact to the ogres. Later they were empowered by the ogres to reject the prisoners’ access to this site. Everyone’s life turned back to darkness again.

Later, new Robin Hoods appear. Their names were e-messenger.net, ebuddy.net and many others. They succeeded to reduce the slaves’ pain but only for a short time. The griffins were continuously hunting the prisoners, adding new web-sites to their black list, namely RESTRICTED SITES LIST. The prisoners were desperate.

Somewhere in Romania, a young Prince Charming lived. His name was CORPORATISTU. He managed to survive to the ogres and griffins rage, but a young witch had stolen his heart. Her name was THE SPOTLESS MIND (Neprihanita). She took it for good and locked it in another prison, three subway stations to the South of the county they lived in.

Prince Charming was sad and desperate. He tried to call her to take his heart back but the witch was evil. She denied the Prince the right to call her on her personal mobile and this happened even on the Prince’s name day. His only chance of communicating with the cruel witch was Yahoo Messenger. However, the ogre from the Prince’s prison did not care about his pain and restricted his access to all instant messaging web-sites.

Prince Charming did not discourage himself. He thought of alternative channels to use Yahoo Messenger and he bought a subscription for wap services from his GSM career. However, the GSM carrier was also managed by an avid ogre woman. Her name was not Fiona, like in Shrek, but Liliana. She restricted also somehow the Yahoo Messenger mobile application access to web because it reduces the value of voice services, meaning less money in the corporate account and automatically in the ogre’s personal account.

Anyhow, Prince Charming did not loose his optimism. He googled a lot and discovered after all another mobile phone application called MIG33. He opened an account with mig33 and logged in to his Yahoo account. He had finally had access to his friends list. Of course, some of them weren’t there after their ogres cut the access to Messenger.

He did not stop here. He discovered that the account created on mobile can also be accessed from his computer. The griffins did not discover this intelligent move because they did not know that this site allows access to instant messaging. Prince Charming was extremely unselfish. He opened an account from his phone to all his cell mates, so that they can enjoy the pleasure to chat with other prisoners from other fortresses. And they lived and shared instant messages happily ever after, without being discovered by the evil griffins and ogres.

Unfortunately, the story does not end here. Poor Prince Charming was glad that his cell mates and the readers of his blog can benefit from his researches but his heart was still at the bad witch. He did not manage to communicate again with her. He is still sad and he is determined to fight for his heart. He is grateful to all those that helped him to pass through this drama including cell mates, Yahoo pals and even bloggers that he befriended with recently. Let’s hope that this story would also have a happy-end.

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