Archives February 2014

Restaurant review: Alioli, the Spanish restaurant in Bucharest

By Roxana Baicu, guest writer

If you’re into Spanish traditional cuisine, Alioli is your place!

You’ll find it on Popa Tatu Street close to Stirbei crossroads near one of the most beautifully landscaped gardens in Bucharest – Cismigiu. The restaurant is the first choice among the Spanish community in Bucharest offering a great variety of good food, very nice Spanish and Romanian wines, a relaxed atmosphere, a passionate owner trying to ‘put on the plate’ to his customers a great experience at decent prices.

This time we went there for lunch and were unintentionally inspired to park the car 3 minutes by walk from the restaurant. This way we entered a bit into the atmosphere of that old part of the city while admiring beautiful details of the old houses on our way.

We’ve been several times to Alioli with friends or for farewell parties and have always had a great time.

For today’s lunch we were looking for very fresh seafood, savourous traditional Spanish dishes, a smiley staff and efficient service. We realized once more that this place is a must-go if you’re looking for an intimate, family run place.


As you enter the restaurant, you notice the friendly set-up, the walls decorated with photos with some of Alioli’s happy customers. Many times you are welcomed by the owner himself, Sorin. The music is either low or off when it’s crowded and you really feel you’ve entered a cozy, vivid restaurant in Spain.

Despite other places with inconsistencies in client experiences, this restaurant continues to serve delicious, authentic Spanish food time and time again. Portions are more than generous and of very good quality.

On this occasion, for example, each of us ordered a different appetizer and entree and we were all thoroughly pleased to share. It seems that sharing dishes is actually a custom in Spain. Wait staff could not have been more accommodating to us throughout our meal. First thing upon arrival we were served the Alioli sauce and toasted bread. After that, we imbibed everything from fruity sangria to icy gins, while devouring crunchy-tender shrimps and the Gazpacho Andaluz to start, continuing with the Mejillones picantes, Mejillones a la Marinera and much more seafood.

Many times we shared the paella for two and it was as good as the one I had in Spain. This time we had the Fideuá de Marisco. Everything else on the menu is great too: Meloso de Mariscos, Paella de Mariscos, Almejas a la plancha, Pimientos de Padrón (from Padrón, Galicia).


Much of what is served there was grown or reared in the vast and beautiful Spain. Try the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota- it is prized for its unique taste, created in part by the aroma of sweet acorns that the pigs feed on. When the slaughtering time approaches, the pigs are only fed with acorns and olives, for the best quality of jamón Ibérico. The jamón is cured from 12 months up to 4 years before it is ready to be sliced and served. I find the Jamón Ibérico de Bellota very rich and intensely flavored. It is very well paired with a traditional Rioja wine.

All in all, the atmosphere was fun and we truly enjoyed our time in Alioli. We found out that Alioli stands for „oil and garlic”, being a Catalan word.

Despite feeling way too full from so many dishes, I indulged a “Tarta de manzana con helado de vanilla” and at the owner’s advice, I tried the ‘Bombon’, the Spanish ladies’ coffee. Quite a treat!

I think every single one of us left impressed with both the service and the food. Sorin is a great host and most of his staff speak very good Spanish and English.

Be sure to reserve in time especially in the weekends..or you can try your luck, anyway!

Alioli: 4 Popa Tatu St., +4021 311 80 27, +40721 38 49 83

The relevance of providing Ongoing Post-Arrival Support

By Ximena Reyes

International assignees are expected to perform upon arrival to bring their skills and expertise from the first day, to contribute with their added value to the company.

Companies have understood the importance to speed up the process of adaptation by facilitating support with Settling-in assistance, an invaluable platform for families and spouses. This is usually an orientation to the city, available schools, residential areas, basics of daily living (shopping, healthcare, transportation, etc.)

However though this first platform is covered few is done on the long term, once the urgency of the initial few weeks has passed.

Initial chaos of an international relocation is usually concentrated on the basic needs. Routines have to be created, the brain is constantly making sense of the new place, but once this is done, most spouses are left to fend for themselves. Once the initial overwhelming part of setting up has passed comes a new stage when expats have to redefine their identities, reroute or prelaunch their careers.

HR support in this new stage is vital since it will help them to consolidate their experience on a new location. The more savvy expats that have managed multiple locations are resourceful enough to tackle challenges as they come.

Ongoing support on the forms of expat specialized coaching and psychological support are now considered a second stage into smooth running and facilitating a more successful international relocation.

If you would like to know more about this contact Ximena Reyes Partner and Director at City Compass intercultural consulting [email protected]


Martisor, Romania’s spring celebration

On March 1, Romanians celebrate the coming of spring in their own unique way – through the symbolic martisor (or trinket). The tradition is said to have originated in Roman times.

Martisorul are small objects that women receive on this day from men, as a symbol of their respect and admiration. Initially made just from two twisted threads of wool, one colored red and one white, the trinket has evolved, incorporating a small piece of jewelry or something hand crafted attached to the red-white lace. The red is said to represent the summer, and the heat, while the white represents the winter, and the cold. Some people say that the two colors represent love and honesty.

Men offer martisoare to women between March 1 and 8 as gifts, and most Romanian women expect to receive something – either a trinket or its more expensive version, jewellery with a red-white thread, or a flower, during this period from the most important men in their lives, as well as from colleagues and business partners.

Women wear the martisor all March, as it is believed to bring strength and health for the year to come. Some women pin one or more ‘martisoare’ on their blouse, while others just wear a red-white lace on their wrist. At the end of March, the red-white threads are tied to a branch of a fruit tree, said to bring wealth.

Women too can exchange flowers and trinkets during this period, but it is not a must, some choose to do it, others not. Some decide to give trinkets only to some close friends and family, rather than to every woman they know and happen to meet during that period.

On March 8, Romanians have another celebration – Women’s Day. It’s the day when, as a sign of respect and gratitude, all women should receive flowers and gifts. Women’s Day ends a cycle of celebrations, which begins on February 14.


Effective HR support help families to adjust better

By Ximena Reyes

For over the last 20 years, research has shown that a key factor for international assignment’s failure is generated by spouse’s dissatisfaction. In this specific point it is extremely relevant that attention and support is given to the accompanying partner, mainly because during an international relocation the success is reached by working as a team where each part tackles the different challenges and things to get done.

Most trainings and workshops are considered for the person with the international assignment as this is clear and most times the accompanying partner is perceived as a passive almost ornamental element in the equation. While one side can have clear goals and achievements the other part is left with the sensation that time just passes by and that their time is spent on irrelevant daily tasks.

As Yvonne Mc Nulty mentions in her book “The Trailing spouse survey” expatriation is “a gain and losses event for the trailing spouse” mainly because this part of the process has been less documented and it has been given less attention.

However with coaching and training it is possible to understand that resilience and ability to manage complexity are key skills for a successful international assignment.

The objective of these workshops is to gain awareness of the skills gained, of the real process behind the daily life routines and to develop a clear understanding of the process of cultural shock and how this will impact the relations and roles within a family.

More and more Human Resources are investing in providing adequate expat spouse support beyond the logistics of house hunting, the ongoing Post – Arrival support, coaching sessions, psychology and support groups are now giving an extended frame in order to cope with the balancing act of moving, adapting, accepting, integrating and most of all to have a successful, meaningful international relocation.

If you want to know more about this, contact [email protected]

Ximena Reyes is the Partner and Director for Intercultural Consulting

Dragobete – Romania’s traditional celebration of love

Western Europeans and Americans may have St Valentine’s day, but traditionally Romania has its own special day for lovers, celebrated on February 24, so 10 days after Valentine’s. It’s called Dragobete, and people familiar with Romania might have heard of it, because it has became quite popular again in recent years. The youth in large cities are celebrating it again, maybe to rebel against the Western ways?

But only the name and the symbol seem to have stayed, as Dragobetele used to be a complex celebration – perhaps it can still be found in more traditional, remote villages.

Dragobete was the son of the old lady called Baba Dochia, who marks the return of spring. Dragobete’s other name is the bird’s fiance or ‘head of the spring’, because it too marks the beginning of spring.

On Dragobete, girls and boys dressed in holiday suits usually meet in front of the church and go searching for spring flowers. Then, they sit and talk around the fires lit on the hills in the village. At noon, the girls go back to the village running, each followed by the boy who fell in love with her. If the boy catches the girl he chose, and if the girl likes him, they will kiss in front of everybody. This kiss signals their engagement for one year, and Dragobete is an opportunity to show an attachment in front of the community. The traditional saying is that Dragobetele kisses the girls (Dragobetele saruta fetele in Romanian).

Dragobete traditions vary from region to region. There are a number of Dragobete customs in rural areas, many of which are not kept up by modern Romanians. The tradition also says that those who take part in Dragobete customs are supposed to be protected from illness, for the rest of the year. Region to region, even the date of the holidays varies, on the Wallachian plains, including Bucharest, it is celebrated on February 24, but in other areas, on 28 and 29 the same month.

In some areas of Romania, married women have to wash their faces with snow so that spring finds them joyful and healthy. Another custom is for a young girl to eat a salty bread baked by the eldest woman in the household, then place some basil under their pillow. During the night, if they are to get married withing 12 months, they’ll dream their future husband. The explanation is that the salty bread would make them thirsty and they’d dream of a man who brings them water.


Personal income tax

By Claudia Sofianu

Individuals domiciled in Romania are considered tax residents and are taxed on their worldwide income (with certain exceptions). During the first year of meeting certain residency criteria, individuals who are not domiciled in Romania are subject to tax on their Romanian-source income, regardless of where the income is earned. In the absence of a tax residency certificate issued by another state based on a double tax treaty, a foreign individual or someone who carries out independent activities through a permanent establishment in Romania becomes subject to tax on worldwide income starting with January 1 of the year following the one year when the tax residency criteria were met. Foreign individuals who are working in Romania are taxable from their first day of presence. However, if they are tax residents in another country and they meet the criteria from the applicable Double Tax Treaty, they may be exempt from Romanian tax liabilities, provided that a tax residency certificate is made available to the authorities within 15 days of the beginning of activities.


Most types of income are subject to tax at a flat rate of 16 percent, applied to salary income, income from freelance activities, rental income, pension income, prizes, investment income and other sources. Special tax rates apply to income from gambling and transfer of property ownership. The taxation of various types of income is summarized below.
Employment income includes: salaries, benefits in cash or kind, salary premiums, other income received by an individual based on an employment agreement, fees and compensation paid to directors and managers of private enterprises and to members of the board of directors, general shareholders, administration council and audit committee.
Income from independent activities includes income from commercial activities, freelance activities and transfer of intellectual property rights. The net taxable income from freelance activities is computed as gross income less specified deductible expenses. Individuals engaged in freelance activities must make advance tax payments on a quarterly basis by the 25th day of the last month of each quarter.
Taxpayers who earn income from independent activities from which a 10 percent advance income tax is withheld at source, can opt for a final withholding tax at a rate of 16 percent.
Taxable income from intellectual property rights is computed by deducting from gross income expenses representing 20 percent of gross income and compulsory social charges. A 10 percent advance income tax must be withheld at source by payers of income from intellectual property rights by the 25th day of the following month. Taxpayers who earn income from intellectual property rights can opt for a final withholding tax at a rate of 16 percent.

Rental income. Gross rental income consists of amounts stipulated in rental agreements, as well as certain expenses borne by the tenant that are the landlord’s liability according to the law. It is also assessed as rental income, the income derived by owners from rental of rooms located in their own homes, with a capacity of tourist accommodation ranging from 1 to 5 rooms inclusively. The rental income is taxable in the tax year to which the rent relates. It is reduced by a flat 25 percent and the difference is taxed by 16 percent. As an exception, taxpayers may opt for the determination of the net rental income based on single entry accounting.
Investment income includes: dividends, interests, gains from transfers of securities, etc. Any amount paid in excess of the market price by a legal entity for goods or services provided by a shareholder is treated as a dividend if the beneficiary of such amount was not subject to income tax or profits tax on the amount. Amounts received from holding participation titles in closed investment funds are treated similarly to dividends. A 16 percent final withholding tax is imposed on dividends.
Taxable income from interest is considered to be any income in the form of interest other than state bonds.
A 16 percent final withholding tax is imposed on interest income. The tax must be remitted by the 25th day of the following month. Capital gains are subject to a 16 percent final tax. A 16 percent advance tax is imposed on gains derived from sale and purchase transactions in foreign currencies with subsequent term settlement, as well as similar operations.
Income whose source was not identified should be subject to 16 percent income tax applied to the taxable base adjusted according to the procedures and indirect methods of the reconstitution of the revenues or expenses. The income tax and late payment penalties will be calculated by the tax authorities.


No taxes are levied on inheritances or gifts, except for revenue subsequently derived from these items.

Social charges
Employees are required to make the following monthly contributions:
Type/Contribution — Amount (monthly gross salary earnings)
• Social security — 10.5% (taxable base is capped at 5 times national average gross salary earnings)
• Health — 5.5%
• Unemployment — 0.5%

Employers are required to make the following monthly contributions:
Type/Contribution — Amount (normal work conditions, of the total gross salary earnings)
• Social security — 20.8% (taxable base is capped at 5 times national average gross earnings multiplied by the number of employees)
• Health — 5.2%
• Unemployment — 0.5%
• Insurance against work accidents and work related sickness — 0.15% to 0.85%
• Medical leave — 0.85% (taxable base is capped at 12 times national minimum gross salary earnings multiplied by the number of insured persons)
• Salary Guarantee Fund — 0.25%

For 2013, the average gross national salary earning is RON 2,223 per month and the minimum gross salary was RON 700 per month during January 2013, RON 750 per month up to June 2013 and RON 800 staring at the start of with July 2013. Foreign nationals working in Romania fall under the Romanian social security system and are liable to pay social security charges due as per Romanian regulations. EU citizens may be exempt from social charges if relevant European certificates are obtained.


Foreign nationals assigned to Romania must register for tax purposes within 15 days after beginning their activities and pay income tax on a monthly basis. If the individual is on a local payroll, the local employer must calculate, withhold, declare and pay the income tax. Expatriates employed abroad but working in Romania must file monthly individual tax returns and pay monthly tax and, if applicable, social charges, by the 25th day of the following month.


Romania has entered into double tax treaties with several countries.


Romania has entered into Totalization Agreements with several countries for the purpose of avoiding double taxation of income with respect to social charges:
Non-EU Member States Status
• Albania In force
• Algeria In force
• Armenia In force
• Canada In force
• South Korea In force
• Libya In force
• Macedonia In force
• Moldavia In force
• Peru In force
• Russian Federation In force
• Turkey In force
• Canada In force
• Israel In Force

Claudia Sofianu is the leader of the Human Capital team of EY Romania and senior tax manager. She has an extensive experience in expatriate services, covering individual taxation, domestic and international social security, immigration formalities, individual tax planning and compensation structuring.

A short guide to banking

By Mariana Ganea
The banking system in Romania is made up of the National Bank and credit institutions, banks and financial non-banking institutions. Most of the banks in Romania are controlled by foreign lenders. A list of banks that are active in Romania can be found at the end of this article. Credit institutions from Romania are generally universal banks which offer a wide range of products and services.

The largest banks in Romania by volume of assets are BCR, with about 20 percent of the local banking market, followed by BRD Societe Generale, with 13 percent, and Banca Transilvania, with 8 percent, according to data from the end of 2012. CEC Bank, UniCredit Țiriac Bank, Raiffesen Bank, Volksbank, ING Bank come next, followed by Alpha Bank and Bancpost. After the 2013 takeover of RBS’ retail portfolio by UniCredit Țiriac Bank, the rankings are set to change before the end of 2013 and following the print date of this guide.

Most banks in Romania offer savings and/or current accounts in lei, Euro, USD and other currencies on various maturities with fixed and/or variable interest (including negotiated interest), escrow accounts, term deposits, mainly in lei, Euro, USD and other currencies, from overnight to 18 months, as well as Certificates of Deposits. They also offer loans, refinancing loans, loans for personal needs, mortgage loans, restructured loans, credit lines, housing loans, as well as the first house loan, which is backed up by state guarantees for first time home owners.

The most common credit cards issued by Romanian banks are Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron, American Express. The current bank operations provided are bill payments, transfer of funds in foreign currencies and lei, direct debit and standing orders, payments in local and foreign currency, buying and selling currency, money wires, payment orders, cheques (in lei and foreign currency), travel cheques, invoice payments, custody and/or depositary services. The majority of Romanian banks offer remote banking services, including Internet banking, phone banking and banking by text message.

Banking in Romania is quite easy. To open a current/checking account, you’ll need only an ID card if you are an EU resident or passport if you are from outside of EU. Usually, the current account comes with the debit card. Most of the banks issue MasterCard or Visa cards but if you want you can find also American Express.

Most of the banks operating in Romania (domestic or foreign bank offices) offer internet, mobile and phone banking services. Most packages offered by banks usually contain the remote banking products and services. You could look first at one of the biggest players on the market and their fees and offers (BCR, BRD, Transilvania, Raiffeissen, CEC, ING Bank) before making a decision.

Coming to savings, banks operating on the Romanian market offer a lot of term deposits at various maturities for lei, Euro, USD and other currencies, some investment products (pension funds, bonds), treasury products (trade and FX transactions), asset management products (mutual funds) and, in two or three cases, gold-investment (BCR, Pireus Bank). To open savings or investment products you may need to prove the source of your income.

During your stay in Romania you may face some cash flow challenges or you may find something to buy for which you need some cash. Most of the banks offer credit cards or cash loans if you are Romanian resident and you can prove a regular income. If you want to buy properties in Romania, firstly you should consult a lawyer to make sure you have all the legal knowledge necessary about property transactions.

If you don’t have enough time to spend at the bank counter you can appoint an authorized person to represent you. However, you must make sure you specify for which banking transaction/s you give the authorized person permission to represent you because, if you don’t, he/she could have rights for all type of transactions and you could lose control of your funds.

Several banks have packages aimed at expats, which usually combine the most sought after services. For example, Credit Agricole Bank launched a package mid-2013 which offers certain discounts to foreigners, such as a 75 percent discount on international payments, multicurrency facilities, free internet banking and a free extra debit card, among others.

Banks active in Romania: Alpha Bank, Carpatica, Creditcoop, Banca Comercială Feroviară, Italo Romena Bank, Banca Românească, Banca Transilvania, Bancpost, Leumi Bank, Bank of Cyprus, Banca Comercială Română (BCR), Bloom Bank, BNP Paribas, BRD Societe Generale, CEC Bank, Citibank, Credit Agricole Bank, Credit Europe Bank, Eximbank, Garanti Bank, ING Bank, Intesa San Paolo Bank, La Caixa, Libra Bank, Marfin Bank, Millennium Bank, Nextebank, OTP Bank, Piraeus Bank, Porsche Bank, ProCredit Bank, Raiffeisen Housing Bank, Raiffeisen Bank, Romanian International Bank, UniCredit Țiriac Bank, Volksbank.

Mariana Ganea holds a PhD in Economics and she has worked in banking and financial training for 15 years. She is currently a freelancer, an authorized trainer in soft skills & financials, an evaluator and communication consultant. She was a senior training consultant, banking researcher and associate professor. She studied economics, finance and banking, communication, sales, NPL, coaching and transactional analysis. She is passionate about education, writing and reading, travel, history, politics, cultural events and photography.

Landing a job in Romania

By Adina Bigaș


With the global economical constraints, some foreigners have increased their interest for changing their country and Romania is one of the destinations: an EU member, just a couple of hours by plane to most of the other European capitals, with one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and still with a relevant economical growth potential.

Besides, Romania is a beautiful country, has a very affordable cost of living compared to mature markets – rent, utilities, daily basket cost, dinners out, touristic attractions – all which allow a better quality of life under recession times and make Romania even more attractive for foreigners. While many western EU cities dominate the world’s most costly places for foreigners, Bucharest ranks among the cheapest in Europe. The flat income tax rate of 16% makes Romania even more appealing for executives and highly paid professionals, whose purchase power is worthy compared to their peers in Europe.

Therefore, for several good reasons, Romania is the right place to be.

Tips for foreign job-seekers:


Most of the employers update regularly their career section or post their openings on portals like,, and Candidates for managerial positions should enlarge their search and contact specialized agencies like Aims, Alexander Hughes, Hill International, Lugera & Makler, Pederesen and Partners, Rinf and Stanton Chase, among others. People interested in less qualified jobs can search through regional bureaus of the National Agency for Employment


Join groups like Internations, Meet up, attend City Compass events, or Junion Chamber International events – depending on your qualifications and interests – connect to professional communities such as HR Club and European Professional Women Network. Make relationships that can open doors, give you a hint or refer you for a position!


Identify your professional strengths that can set you apart from other applicants. It’s more difficult to compete with a local professional for a job in sales, which usually requires Romanian but, if you fluently speak a second language besides English, you should know that the BPOs, Shared Services Centers or call centers are actively looking for, and pay extra to, people with multi-language skills.
As per the last Mercer survey, the best-paid languages are the Nordic (Dutch, Danish or Swedish), continuing with Polish, German and Portuguese. The value of monthly allowances granted for a second foreign language can reach up to 20% of a monthly base salary.


The big cities are offering the best employment opportunities: first is Bucharest, followed by Timișoara, Cluj, Brașov, Iași and Sibiu. According to top job portals, Bestjobs and Ejobs, most of the job openings are in sales, customer support, IT&C, engineering and the financial sector.
You can also find employment through non-governmental organizations, while teaching English, French or German is another option for foreigners.


Dress code for interviews varies depending on the company and industry from smart casual for something like engineering to a more strict business etiquette in financial institutions for example. Neatly styled hair is recommended.
Otherwise, we don’t have a particular “protocol” for the selection process – so keeping the general rules of interviewing in mind would be appropriate.


The salaries need to be related to the market conditions and correlated to the overall cost of life. The best salaries are paid in Bucharest, followed by Cluj and Timisoara, the latter two being about 10%-15% less than the capital. In other cities the differences are even more significant and salaries can decrease up to 40%.
Depending on the industry, function and seniority, the salary range for a manager is between 2,000 and 5,000 euros a month, but can also reach 5 digits, although this happens rarely. Expats’ packages are considerably higher compared to local managers and in addition they include benefits such as relocation, accommodation, children’s education etc.
In Bucharest, the specialists that might reach a net of 1,400-2,000 euros after only 3-5 years of experience are software developers. The IT&C industry has a big advantage in the labour market also due to the tax-free legislation for several types of jobs in that sector.

The employees in call centers and customer support earn between 500 and 1,300 euros net, but sometimes they can go higher depending on seniority and supported technologies. Some other well-paid industries for qualified professionals are oil and gas, aviation transportation, finance and banking, tobacco and pharmaceuticals.The salaries for blue collar workers are significantly lower. The minimum salary in Romania is 900 RON gross, which corresponds to about 150 euros net per month. The average net salary in Bucharest is 500 euros while the monthly expenses per person are evaluated at 180 euros by the National Institute of Statistics.In terms of forecast, the average salary increase for 2014 is 5%, the same as in 2013, according to Mercer. A slightly higher increase is expected in some industries such as services, IT&telecom, life science and durable.


Adina Bigaș works as external consultant, running her own business in HR services. With more than 10 years of strong expertise in HR management, she holds a master degree in HR and Organizational Psychology from the University of Bucharest and a Diploma in Management from the Codecs Open University. Email: [email protected].

2013 Overview – The lowdown on 2013

By Corina Chirileasa

Looking back at the year 2013, with its privatizations, street protests, gold medals and politicians sent to jail. A regular year in the life of a developing country.

The state-owned railway freight company CFR Marfa found its new owner mid-2013, after a previously failed bid. For EUR 202 million and with a promise to invest a further EUR 204 million in the company, Romanian Grup Feroviar Român (GFR), owned by Gruia Sandu, took over the majority of shares in CFR Marfă. The company is the largest railway freight carrier in Romania with a turnover of EUR 261 million in 2011 and a loss of EUR 22 million. GFR is CFR Marfă’s main competitor in Romania and the two companies together control 70 percent of the railway freight market in Romania.

Sometime mid September, the first stock exchange listing of the year took place. Electricity producer Nuclearelectrica raised EUR 63 million in funding by selling 10 percent of its shares. Nuclearelectrica runs the Cernavodă nuclear power unit, which produces 20 percent of Romania’s electricity. These listings came several months after the successful secondary public offering of Transgaz. The state raised EUR 72 million via the sale of 15 percent in the state-owned gas provider.

Elsewhere in banking, it was a good year for lenders UniCredit Bank and Raiffeisen Bank, which took over the retail portfolios of two competitors: Royal Bank of Scotland Romania and Citi, respectively.
It was, however, not the best year for American road builder Bechtel, whose highway contract with the Romanian state was canceled but, fortunately for the company, things were not all bad. The Romanian state, left with an unfinished Transylvania highway, and having already paid EUR 1.4 billion for around 50 kilometers of highway, agreed to pay additional penalties for canceling the contract. And, unfortunately for Romanians, 10 years after the contract was signed, the 412-kilometer Transylvania highway remains unfinished.

Russian steel company Mechel, which had entered Romania in 2002, sold its factories in the country to a company called Invest Nikarom, for a symbolic amount of around USD 70. Four factories, Ductil Steel S.A., Câmpia Turzii S.A., Mechel Târgoviște S.A. and Laminorul S.A were temporarily closed down however production was gradually restarted.

Mid-2013, Romania agreed with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission on a new EUR 4 billion preventive financial deal over the next two years. The deal was to be discussed by the IMF board in fall. This will be Romania’s third agreement with the IMF since 2009. The first package was worth EUR 20 billion, out of which some EUR 13 billion came from the IMF, and helped Romania weather the financial storms. The second was signed in 2011 and was worth some EUR 5 billion, out of which EUR 3.6 billion came from the IMF, and was meant to be a precautionary credit line.

In late May, the justice system in Romania reported yet another victory: football boss and real estate mogul Gigi Becali, a former MEP, and also an MP in the Romanian Parliament was sentenced to three years in jail. The ruling came in a case involving a land exchange from the late 90s. Just before being convicted, Becali, known for his eccentric media appearances and for his fervent Orthodox belief, tried to flee the country, heading to Israel to pray.

While Becali was being jailed, former Prime Minister Adrian Năstase, who served most of his prison sentence, was enjoying the first months of freedom after his early release in March. Given a two-year jail sentence in June 2012, Năstase managed to be released on parole after displaying good behavior while serving time.

Jail time is most likely what the Romanians behind the art heist of the century face. In a scenario which has already inspired movie directors, a group of Romanians stole EUR 18 million worth of famous paintings from a Rotterdam Museum. Following the heist last year, the gang now faces a trial in Romania as well as an ongoing investigation in the Netherlands. Receiving much attention from the foreign media, the story took a twist when the mum of one of the alleged thieves declared she’d burned the paintings in her stove. Although she later retracted the statement, the paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Gaugain are still nowhere to be found, despite the alleged thieves being in Police custody.

Creating almost as much of a stir as the art heist was the opposition to Romanians aspiring to work in the UK with Brits fearing an “invasion” of Romanians and Bulgarians to the country once the labor ban is lifted from the beginning of 2014. Countless media reports both in UK and in Romania have discussed and debated the topic, arguing on the number of expected migrant workers and their impact on the UK’s social welfare systems. The debate triggered some humorous reactions as well, including a cheeky ad campaign by Romanian newspaper Gândul, which invited Britons to visit Romania, a country much enjoyed by Prince Charles.

At home, thousands of Romanians took to the streets in Bucharest and other regional cities, protesting against the planned gold exploitation at Roșia Montană. The protests began in September, following the Government’s approval of a law allowing Canadian company Gabriel Resources to dig for gold at Roșia Montană. For weeks in a row, Romanians staged daily protests calling on Parliament to vote against the proposed project, especially its use of cyanide and its impact on the area’s environment.

Almost at the same time as these protests, another group of supporters took on the streets: stray dogs lovers. After the death of a four-year old attacked by stray dogs near a Bucharest park, the Parliament decided to permit euthanasia for stray dogs which were not adopted after 14 days in municipality shelters.

But it was not all gloomy and doomy in Romania in 2013. Saving the best for last: Romania’s brains again proved to be among the best in the world, with numerous medals won at different Olympiads across the world. Romanians ranked among the first in the world for math, chemistry, physics, informatics and environmental research. There were medals all year in sports competitions too: athletics, para-cycling (Carol Novak), fencing, judo, rowing and gymnastics, to name a few. In most European and world sports competitions in 2013, Romanians got their place on the podium.

And if these did not fix Romania’s slightly tarnished image abroad, then the new episodes of the Travel Channels’ Wild Carpathia series will surely help in promoting the country as a tourist destination. After a first successful episode featuring Prince Charles in 2012 and with financing now provided by the Romanian state, the series is set to continue with a second episode aired in the fall of 2013, and a third in 2014. The second and third episodes of the documentary will feature interviews with Romania’s Princess Margareta II and rower Ivan Patzaichin, who will promote Romania.

As well as taking pride in all the amazing places presented in the documentary, Romanians can now include their Bigăr waterfall, officially, among the most amazing waterfals in the world as of 2013. The Bigăr Falls are in western Romania, on the Bigăr Reservation, which lies between the Cheile Nerei–Beușnița and the Semenic–Cheile Carașului National Parks in the Semenic Mountains.

Last but not least, Romania proved to be the home of numerous recently discovered archeological treasures unique in the world. Several bone fragments of some rare mammals that lived 10 million years ago were discovered in the village of Crețești, in Romania’s Vaslui county, during work on a local road. The important discovery showed a savanna with tropical area features once existed on what is now the region of Moldova in Northern Romania. The paleontological site, which covers some 30 sqm, is unique in Eastern Europe, as it hosts bone fragments of rare mammals. Skulls of sword fang tigers, mandibles of tridactyl horses, a hyena mandible, mandibles of antelopes and gazelles, as well as a Chalicotherium skull were all found on a hill crest after digging two and a half meters into the earth.

Another discovery turned all eyes on Romania. Archeologists investigating the site of a former Dominican monastery in Cluj uncovered a remarkable tale of love, preserved in the bones of a medieval grave. Two skeletons, of a young man and a woman, were found clearly buried together with their hands clasped for eternity. Dubbed Romeo and Juliet by the archeological team, the couple are thought to have lived between 1450 and 1550, as the grave’s position and proximity to the monastery is typical of this period.

Another discovery was more accidental. A Romanian man playing with his recently bought metal detector unearthed 47,000 15th century silver Turkish coins buried in a forest. In a gesture commended and rewarded by the Prime Minister, the man donated his discovery, the largest find of its type in Romania, to a museum. The 54-kilo treasury, which was buried 30 centimeters in the ground, is worth some EUR 0.5 million at current market prices.

Corina Chirileasa is the founder & editor-in-chief of, the most read English-language news and features website in Romania. A business journalist and entrepreneur, Corina has also been the editor of this guide for the last three years.

The Town of Knowledge

The Town of Knowledge (Oraselul Cunoasterii) will be opened on February 15 in Bucharest and aims to be an interactive museum for children, an environment where children’s creativity is stimulated and are actively engaged in learning.

The concept is new in Romania, but exists in other countries like England, France, Japan, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, etc.

Objects are displayed in the museum without posing a threat for children, and they are allowed to interact with objects, to experiment, to follow their curiosity and give free rein to ther imagination.

The museum will have various theme rooms such as: the aquatic laboratory, IQ room, air games room, mirror zone, the senses area, and many more.

The program is as follows: Monday-Friday: 9:30 to 6:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday: 9:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Prices: children between 2 and 18 years, RON 32, adults: RON 18, family pack: 60-85 RON.

More information can be found here.


Going out on Valentine’s Day

Either in love or not, single or in a relationship, the Western tradition of Valentine’s day has taken over Romania. As every year, pubs, clubs and restaurants come up with themes events on Valentine’s day. Expect the whole package: flower prices up, hotels and chalets in the mountains booked, restaurants full.

We prepared a list of places where one may find perfect for a romantic evening with the love one.

Athenee Palace Hilton Hotel – a romantic dinner at Roberto’s restaurant. Italian menu, live jazz music and a special package accommodation starting with 375 RON. More info here.

Radisson Hotel – candlelight dinner on Valentine’s Day at Sharkia restaurant. 240 Ron/ couple. Find more info here.

At Intercontinental Hotel the offer includes a dinner for two in one of the two restaurants and accommodation for 295 RON/ couple. More details here.

Also, in our online guide you will find a list of restaurants, pubs and clubs where you might choose going.


Building relationships part of the job description?

By Ximena Reyes

In some countries there is a clear and rigid separation of personal and professional, these two areas are not supposed to be blurred since it would imply that someone is unable to be objective and rational when having to make decisions. Any decisions that have included a gut feeling or an emotional based starting point are not supposed to be trusted.

Trust, what people trust changes across cultures, if there is a culture that is relationship oriented, like Romania the trust will be put on the person that leads a project not on the project itself. Knowing people becomes an important factor when wanting to get things done. Because if you know people it means you are good, you can be trusted.

So to aghast of many professionals coming from other parts of the world, work is about doing the work and not about getting to know people.

However, their missing an opportunity to create pillars that will later on become useful when needing something. When needing your team to go the extra mile, and this is how the two worlds meet.

If you haven’t done your job of dedicating time to build those relationships then you won’t have anyone running with you the extra mile. Because you may be thinking task, they are thinking trust.

So if you include the building relationships as part of your planning and job description, then it will be easier to get things done and lead your team.

Most of the time people reject this idea because it just conflict with everything that they have learned and considered valuable, but don’t forget that every place has a different set of rules and that it does pay to invest time knowing and sharing, including time to build those relationships.

If you want to know more about this, contact [email protected]

Ximena Reyes is the Partner and Director for Intercultural Consulting


How Michael Dell missed his chance to enter the Russian market

by Ximena Reyes

When doing business the first wrong assumption is that it is all about money, it is but how you become a trusted partner or provider requires of Intercultural awareness in order to understand the mindset of your counterpart.

On January 2009, Michael Dell from Dell computers, shared the panel with Vladimir Putin, in the World Economic Forum in Davos, as his turn to speak came, he started by prizing the Russian accomplishments like providing internet to remote areas and the talent in the IT sector, then he closed by saying: ” So my questions to you (Mr. Putin) is how we as the IT sector can help you broaden the economy as you move out the crisis.”

Nothing wrong with this question as it had follow the structure of complimenting, describing a situation and then taking a step forward to become part of a solution, with a very well intended offer.

Mr. Putin’s answer started with ” you see, we don’t need help, invalids need help, people with limited capacities need help” and then he spoke for 10 more minutes.

To many of the people who attended the forum, the reaction and answer by Mr. Putin was odd and difficult to understand, and this is exactly why, intercultural business understanding and intercultural communication training is required for anyone doing business internationally.

If we look at the words used by Mr Dell, the all well known and used, “How can I help you” as a business opener, as a gesture that shows good will, they are not offensive by themselves. However, if one looks it from another perspective It does put one of the parts on a superior position while the other part has to reach out for help.

In this case it was not just about the use of the word help, it was the context, the place , the people surrounding, the exposure and loosing face.

If you want to know more about how to do business internationally, contact [email protected].


Dealu Mare – Romania´s top wine region

The wine region Dealu Mare (“Big hill”) is one of the most famous and oldest wine-growing districts in Romania and said to be the “Tuscany” of Romania. Indeed it is situated on the same latitude as Northern Italy, but tourism is still at the very beginning. Dealu Mare has an extension of about 90 km between Valea Calugareasca (near Ploiesti) and Merei/Vernesti (near Buzau), covering the two counties Buzau and Prahova. Dealu Mare offers more than 3.000 years of history, a Mediterranean climate from April to October and excellent wines from sunny southward hills.

Traditional wineries as well as new built wineries with (mostly) foreign investment started to develop several tourism offers (winery visits, wine tasting, accommodation in the vineyards).

Further information about Dealu Mare:

Romania rising as new world of wine in ´old` Europe (AFP)

TravelBuzau – Tourism development  association of Buzau county

Romania Insider: 15 wine cellar and vineyards you should visit in Romania


City Compass tour offer for the Dealu Mare wine region:

Muddy Volcanoes & Dealu Mare wine tasting tour (1 Day)

Wine tasting tour Romania (3-5 days)

Dealu Mare wine brunch (offer for larger tourist groups &  corporate events)

VIP Tour: Bucharest & wine trip

Premium wineries in the Dealu Mare area:

Crama SERVE, Crama LacertA, Domeniile Sahateni, Crama Basilescu, Crama Rotenberg, Crama Davino, Crama Vitis Metamorfosis, Vinarte, Crama Budureasca.
You want to buy wine from Dealu Mare? Please check also our overview of wine shops in Bucharest.

Places to visit:

Bellu Mansion, Stone church and archaeological sites of Naeni, sculpture camp made by children, archaeological sites of Pietroasele, salt water pools of Sarata Monteoru


Please contact us if you plan a trip/ tour to the Dealu Mare region and you need more information about accommodation options, wine tasting or sightseeing.

Muddy Volcanoes & Buzau Mountains

The Muddy Volcanoes, 12 kilometers from Berca, are a unique natural phenomenon. Gas from 3,000 meters underground pushes water and clay to the surface. The area is full of small cones of mud which look like volcanoes. This area, a spectacular moon-like landscape, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Buzau county.

Follow the signs to “Muddyland” instead of going where the vast majority of tourists go. There you will find much bigger volcanoes without any entrance fee.

The future geo-park ‘Ținutul Buzăului’ (Land of Buzău), covers a area of more than 100,000 hectares, 18 municipalities and around 50,000 inhabitants. It will be located in the Northwest of Buzău exactly at the crossroads of three historical regions of Romania: Transylvania, Moldova and Wallachia. The Southern entrance point will be 130 km from Bucharest and the Northern entrance point 80 km from Brașov, which will make the park attractive for foreign tourists visiting both Bucharest and Transylvania, or passing from Transylvania to the Danube Delta direct via Buzău valley.

Besides the geological phenomena like the Muddy Volcanoes and the Living Fires, the Geopark offers a wide biodiversity and several world-class cultural sites. The triangle created by the Vrancea, Buzău and Covasna counties is one of the wildest regions in both Romania and Europe. An area of more than 3,000 km² without public roads or settlements and with butterflies, bears and wolves as denizens.

Check also our tour program for tours to the Muddy Volcanoes & the future Gepark Buzau