Archives December 2013

Understanding a place through popular proverbs

by Ximena Reyes, Partner & Intercultural Manager

Proverbs are known for being a concrete saying, popularly known, that expresses a truth for the local ways.

Well known “cut to the chase“ or “time is money” are nutshells of a wider mind set encapsulated on these phrases. They are clearly pointing us that you should spare unnecessary introductions or explanations and go directly to the core part of the message or go directly to the relevant part.

While this is highly viewed and appreciated in western oriented cultures, it may be a turn off in more circular thinking cultures. The same way will be perceived as weak for being expressed without anything relevant around it, or it will be perceived as desperate or rude, by using relevance of time but forgeting about timing.

One of the phrases that caught my attention in Romania is “Graba strica treaba” (English version: Better safe than sorry), which means that things done in a hurry won’t be well done. In many cases I have noticed that people is being meticulous while performing a “simple” to me task. My reaction used to be to proceed an explain on a very lineal, logical way, to me, how they could speed up the process, but in 90% of the cases I still had to wait.

So if things are going to take some time it is better to lay back, and use the time you feel it’s being wasted to learn or to think how many of the proverbs back home, can explain the way you are and your own mindset.



Pay road taxes online

Scala Assistance company sells online rovignettes (road tax) for Romania by website and for Hungary on All certificates purchased through these websites are delivered electronically with no postage taxes.

The website also provides information on taxes for using Romanian national road network, legislation and other daily updated information.

The system is easy to use and is the same for individuals or businesses. For legal entities, however, is easier if you sign a cooperation agreement. Thus, the ordering part as well as the payment is easier.

Regarding any police controls, drivers who own electronic rovignettes can sit calmly, as the only thing they need to have on them is a document that certifies the payment.

The price is legally regulated and is the same as if you buy it from gas stations or post office, with no commission and no hidden extra costs. Electronic vignettes can be purchased by debit or credit cards, and by bank transfer or internet banking. Issuing and sending the electronic vignette happens after online payment is confirmed by e-mail.

The invoice along with the electronic vignette will be received on e-mail. If it’s not issued in a timely manner, Scala Assistance will assume responsibility and pay any fines.

More information can be found here. The website is available in more languages.


The paradox of Romanian cinema


Mihai Chirilov

Half of 2013 has passed and one thing’s for sure: with a Golden Bear in its pocket, for Calin Netzer’s Child’s Pose, Romanian Cinema is still “in”. Then why is it still regarded as Cinderella?
How many international successes are needed for the Romanian cinema to be finally taken seriously at home? One might expect the doors should be opened and comfortable conditions granted for Romanian cinema, yet there is less and less money for one of the best cultural products the country has to offer abroad and has done for some years.
Despite the constant reputation of the New Wave directors, their films have a hard time getting financed.
This has something to do, of course, with the economic crisis, but more with corruption – since there are several questionable films and film events (non-events, to be precise) that were generously financed by state institutions and no one could do anything about it.
Take, for instance, last year’s big hit, Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills, that was shortlisted in the Foreign Film category at the Oscars.
Nobody seemed to care that, in order to stand a chance at the awards, a solid budget for promoting was essential.
Once again, Romania missed a big opportunity.
Most of the Romanian films that win awards abroad don’t find their audience at home, though, and perform poorly at the box-office – which is a shame.
It’s true there aren’t that many theaters in Romania, which is a major handicap.
There are big cities with not a single theater.
There’s no consistent or systemic strategy designed to optimize the impact and the presence of the Romanian films on the local market.
There is no law to protect the visibility of the Romanian films in the cinemas, especially in the multiplexes.
The National Film Center is a compromised and archaic institution, marked every year by scandals, anomalies and corruption.
If you’re a young and emerging filmmaker you have to stay in line for years if you want to make your first feature benefiting from state money or simply give up waiting and turn to guerilla film making, private sponsorships and alternative solutions.
If there’s one positive outcome, albeit a small and debatable one, it’s that this major frustration that Romanian cinema doesn’t deliver at the local box-office has given space to a bunch of genre films, mostly comedies of dubious quality that hit the jack pot.
At least people are back in theaters to watch Romanian films and one could say that this is a sign of normality if we really want to pretend that we have a decent film industry, rather than just having some great films that don’t quite make money.
However, this year’s biggest festival hit, the Berlinale winner Child’s Pose, took the Romanian box-office by storm.
The future looks bright – though maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. Two upcoming major festivals, Locarno and Sarajevo, feature an impressive line-up of Romanian films.
Corneliu Porumboiu’s new opus, the highly anticipated Metabolism, leads the pack, by competing in both festivals, while Sarajevo has invited, and will feature a full retrospective of work by, Cristi Puiu, the most important Romanian filmmaker.
San Sebastian and Rome festivals are also likely to screen new Romanian films in their competitions this autumn while the most important Romanian film festival abroad, Making Waves, will return en fanfare to New York’s Lincoln Center this December, fully financed by private donors, American companies and through a successful Kickstarter campaign.
But despite making front lines last year in The New York Times, Village Voice and The Wall Street Journal, no state institutions in Romania supported this year’s edition with a single penny – Cinderella, anyone?
No problem, the Romanian cinema moves forward, like it always has. Maybe one day, people in important positions will take note. One could only hope that Luminita Gheorghiu, the magnificent star of Child’s Pose, will enter the tough competition for an Oscar next year, if given solid support, like she should. Great films alone are not enough. To maximize their existing potential, they need great care.

Discovering Romania through art: painting, sculpture & cinema


Alexandru Bâldea

Romanian art has been enjoying great reviews lately, not just because of the many films which have won international awards in recent years and the many talented artists, but also thanks to the higher sums paid in art auctions for works by famous Romanian painters and sculptors. Romanians are very creative people and those who do not have a direct contribution to art will express their creativity in other ways. Sometimes this is in small ways such as coming up with out-of-the-box solutions for every day problems or with a different perspective to solve an issue at work. In recent years, many young Romanians, finding themselves out of jobs or with low prospects of finding jobs, became entrepreneurs and started hand crafting bracelets, earrings, clothes and shoes, among other items. The frequent artisan fairs in Bucharest will mirror the high level of creativity in Romania.
But going beyond the art of everyday life, and since you could never know a nation without knowing its culture, let’s have a look at three faces of art in Romania: painting, sculpture and cinema, and point out some of the main works on art in these areas that one should check out when trying to discover Romania.

Precipitously  developed  in  only  5  years,  the Romanian art market has increased ten times since its emergence in the late 2000s. From a small turnover, of about 2.5 million euros in 2008, it reached a turnover of 20–25 million euros from public and private sales. This  happened  in  a  delicate  time, characterized by the lack of cash and by confusion regarding the future plans of the capitalists and financiers, the main buyers and supporters of the market’s development. Certainly, the starting point of the Romanian  art  market  did  not  coincide  with  the Romanian economy’s deregulation, but came only 20 years after the change of the political regime.
The cultural need is a strong enough presence to carry an art market debut not necessarily because in 2009 someone suddenly had this brilliant idea of creating a national art market system but mainly as a natural consequence following the foundation of the first steps towards economic welfare, social structure and inward comfort.


Alexandru Bâldea is founder of Artmark Galleries and ArtSociety Cultural Centre in 2008, Managing Partner of Artmark Auction House, art collector since 1998, investor in national heritage art since 2003, author of the Romanian Art Market Index and associated Professor at Art History Department – Faculty of History, University of Bucharest, since 2010.

The master of sculpture

His name is equated with genius in sculpture almost everywhere in the world. He has been called “The Father of Modern Sculpture” and his works can fetch tens of millions of dollars at auction. He was born near Târgu Jiu in 1876. He studied in Bucharest initially and later in Munich and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Brâncuși worked in France and was an important part of the art scene in the early part of the 20th Century. He worked briefly in Rodin’s studio, before developing his own hugely influential abstract style. He did not gain favor with the communist regime in Romania, which criticized his works for being “bourgeois”. After gaining French citizenship, Brâncuși lived out his later years as something of an exile in France. He died in 1957 and was buried in Montparnasse Cemetery, where some of his friends’ graves were already adorned with his sculptures. Romanian authorities have been trying to repatriate his remains, with proceedings still ongoing. Brâncuși is now considered one of the most important sculptors of the last century.

His works are spread throughout the world, but the famous trio, made of the Endless Column, the Table of Silence, and the Gate of the Kiss, are to be found in the main park in Târgu Jiu and which are considered to be some of the greatest works of 20th century outdoor sculpture. The monument was commissioned by the National League of Gorj Women to honor those soldiers who had defended Târgu Jiu in 1916. Brâncuși was at the time living in Paris, but accepted the work in 1935, however refused to receive payment for it. The Endless Column stacks 17 rhomboidal modules, with a half-unit at the top, which symbolises the concept of the infinite. It was not Brâncuși’s first such work of art, an earlier version made of wood is now found in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Pundits believe Brâncuși got his inspiration for this work from the traditional grave symbols for men from his home village of Hobița.
Among his other famous works are Mmelle Pogany, Bird in Space and Sleeping Muse – the latter now found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Intercultural communication, more than words

Language is vital when communicating but it is just one of layers of culture an values.

Each language has in its DNA the core values and expectations of a society.

On a hierarchal society it is common to have different words to address people according to their position in the scale of hierarchy. In countries like Japan it is also relevant to consider in which position is the speaker or even its gender.

In Romania, hierarchy is also related to status, and when addressing someone it is important to consider not only the term which you are addressing them with, ‘Doamna’, ‘Domnul’, or if possible include the university degree, but also to consider the context.

In high context cultures, the message is as important as the context. Even when using the respectful terms from above it is also relevant to consider where are you, who else is in the room and why you are addressing this person.

In Romania, there is a difference when you say things in public, in person, by email or in private, even if what has been discussed is the same, the actions and reactions will be different according to the layers of context.


Skiing and Snowboarding in Romania

If you are looking for a ski destination which combines great affordable beginner and intermediate skiing set against a sparkling tree lined backdrop together with good facilities and bags of culture, then a ski getaway in Romania should really be at the top of your list.

The main ski resort in Romania is Prahova Valley. It is the place most Romanians – and foreigners – choose for their winter holidays. If you plan to go there, choose one of the resorts on the valley and book in advance. Make sure you check the holidays offers as prices usually go up during this period, depending on what you want to include in your stay.

Other ski slopes can be found in Azuga, Sinaia and Straja Resorts, but for a weekend getaway Poiana Brasov in the best choice.


Bio Fresh vegan restaurant

Since August 2013 Bucharest’s gastronomic landscape has been enriched with this Bio Fresh Vegan Restaurant. Located in Leon Voda 19, BioFresh is a vegetarian and raw vegan restaurant, with a diverse menu, that serves made-in-house- to-order dishes with all fresh ingredients and organic spices, without additives or preservatives, all to support a healthy lifestyle.


The restaurant features three menus: daily, regular and evening. Almost all desserts contain honey, besides that, no other animal ingredients. Jazz nights are organized on Saturdays, while free wi-fi and outdoor seating are available. It is also and wheelchair accessible and accepts credit cards.


Saint Nicholas and Christmas fairs in Bucharest

This year, the city will switch on its Christmas lights on the day of Saint Nicholas. So, on December 6, starting 18.00 the main avenues and streets of downtown will be lit in a fairy tale atmosphere and will remain like this until January 6.

Also, at Universitate Square, at the statues venue, the holiday season will begin with a Christmas fair where visitors can find the perfect present for loved ones. Activities for children, and folk performances will enliven the area for a month.


It’s true that the Christmas Gifts Fair from Dalles Hall usually begins on December 24, but these days the exhibitors are prepared specifically for Saint Nicholas day. Gingerbread, candy and wooden toys will be on offer for its visitors (free entrance).

And yet another unique surprise awaits people on December 6 at George Enescu Square in Bucharest. The first grocery ice store in the world will be launched on Saint Nicholas day at 16:00, staying open between December 6 and December 4. The store is supported by the Bucharest City Hall and Polish Embassy.


Christmas trees in installments

This season, Silva Group Romania (SGR) offers the opportunity to buy Christmas trees in installments. Winter trees can be purchased directly from trade shows organized in eleven places in Bucharest, Brasov and Ploiesti, as well as from the online trading platform company, In addition, customers will benefit from an SGR discount on trees for Christmas.


Starting December 5, 2013, Silva Group Romania customers can opt to pay for Christmas trees in six monthly installments. The installment payment option is available this year for holders of credit cards issued by Credit Europe Bank. In their exhibitions, the company will put on sale around 45,000 trees cut natural or root. The trees can also be ordered online via the site, which includes free delivery in Bucharest and the rest of the country. Silva Group Romania enables both payment card at the point of sale and online.

Also, offers discounts up to 50 percent on winter trees to clients who order on Friday, December 6, the Green Friday (Friday Green). More details here.

Photo source: Real Christmas Trees Direct (