Youth Culture in Romania

Edited by Alastair Curtis

What was it like to grow up in Romania after 1989? What is it like growing up in Romania

today? These are the questions we asked a number of friends and academic tutors, students at

UCL and elsewhere. We received a diverse array of responses from as diverse array of

locations across Romania.


BUCHAREST, Southern Romania

by Andrei Sorescu, PHD student at SSEES, UCL 

“Growing up in Bucharest in the 1990s was quite an ambiguous experience. As a child, I could

hardly begin to understand why the city around me was either half-built, or half-demolished,

or why packs of stray dogs ruled the streets. It simply was the way it was, and by the time

change seemed to come at an ever-quicker rate, I was already halfway through my teens. Now

they’re tearing it down house by house, whereas before my time they tore it down one

neighbourhood at a time. But that makes for a different kind of fractured landscape, and when

I do go home for archival research, this or that tiny change in some well-known street-front

makes me feel more wistful than angry. Other than that, being a teenager meant high-school

contests, convincing parents old before their time that the post-Communist world was not

such a dangerous place for a youngster, and being culturally open to Western ideas, music and

culture even as I hardly got to travel abroad.”


BUCHAREST, Southern Romania

by Diana Dobrin, BA French and Dutch at UCL

“I believe that growing up in Bucharest for me represented a good platform to be closer to

opportunities I wouldn’t probably have had if I had lived in another part of Romania. Above all, I

can say I am grateful for the educational I received, even with schools being pretty old and not

adapted to the actual needs of students, they have managed to offer me good knowledge. The

volunteering activities, which have increasingly developed in the recent years, helped me improve

my skills and abilities. All in all, I would say that Bucharest was a good city for my upbringing,

which allowed me to define my personality through both the Balkanic and occidental influences.”


GALATI, Eastern Romania

by Florin Gheorghiu, Bsc Psychology at UCL

“Being a teenager in Romania is fascinating. Growing up in the industrial city of Galati, I was faced

with an interesting combination between the ghost of Communism, the reminiscences of a

prosperous port, and the endeavours to create a unique culture. I could say that my childhood

and then my teenage  were not spent particularly in Galati, as summer camps, trips and travelling

always filled up my time. Nevertheless, my home city was the place of the first cigarette, the first

party and the first happy moments of being a teenager. Nights spent in the parks, playing basketball

at local courts, barbecues or theatre plays are all common universal activities, though in Romania,

like anywhere else, they obtain specific particularities that you cannot experience in some other

place. I definitely didn’t have the same experiences as the guys in Dazed and Confused had, but I

had the chance of living in 2 separate cultures that merged into one: the eastern european Balkanic

setting, which influenced us through a history of many peoples, and the Neo-Western virtual culture

that was continuously emerging in Romania through the means of the Internet and of foreigners

coming to Galati. The result is probably a cosmopolite person, who is interested in various cultures

around the earth and understands himself better by understanding others.”


TIMISOARA, Western Romania

by Horatiu Dumitru, LLB Law at UCL

“Growing up in Romania is a unique experience, one which harmoniously fuses together two

seemingly antagonistic elements: a strong eastern European culture and a more recent

Western influence. I was born in Timisoara: “The city of flowers”, as it is proudly called by

autochthons; and have lived here for the most of my life. Timisoara proposes a remarkable

setting, as it is a historical capital of the region, acquiring deeply rooted Balkanic traditions,

while at the same time being the place where the anti-Communist revolution began,

suggesting the strong aspiration to adopt more liberal views and ideals. Growing up in such a

culturally kaleidoscopic environment may seem daunting at first, but is actually an edifying

experience which shaped me into a more global person, who is able to understand different

cultures better – which is ever more important in today’s globalised society – because I have

been subject to two polar opposites for so long. Apart from the school routine and the regular

activities such as practising sports, meeting up with friends, or reading in parks, living here

has offered so much more in empowering me to attend classic plays honouring eastern

European folklore and, two blocks away, the latest western artistic exposition. If I were to

choose one aspect of growing up in Romania which I loved most, this would be it: the

concordant mixture of different cultures, which is bound to broaden the perspectives of its



ARAD, Western Romania

by Emily Newsome, visiting and working with the Roma People on her Gap Year

“I work in a community called Siria with a Roma gypsy community not accepted by the Romanian

people here. The families live in desperate situations with basic homes, no clean water and a serious

lack of food. Many of the children don’t go to the local school and there isn’t really the money for

medication and basic needs. NetWorks does a huge range of work in this community including

garden and greenhouse projects and a homework club for the children that they manage to

encourage into the local school. I am involved in leading a girls group for the 12 to 16 year old girls

here. The girls have to leave education at 11 because they are expected to marry and take over the

housework from 12 onwards. This group tries to teach the girls about their worth and value and also

bring them closer together as friends in order to build relationships between them as they go into

marriage and the responsibilities of working so hard at such an age. I spend a lot of time on the

streets where the children play, trying to encourage them into schools, helping them with education,

removing head lice so that they are allowed into school and hopefully introducing some music into

their lives! The children can be very rough with one another and violence isn’t looked down upon,

while discipline between the parents and their children is also violent and very physical.

After lunch one day a girl from the poorest family in the village came knocking on the office door.

She had come to ask us to help wash clothes with her so that she might be able to go to school. The

girl’s parents are alcoholics and often beg in the city. The fireplace which doubles as the family’s

stove had been completely smashed to pieces by someone in the village. The father had cut his leg

open to attract more money when he begs but this then got infected and now needs treatment; the

mother has shaved the kids heads as she can’t afford treatment for the head lice which was out of

control and the family still live in a very cold, dark and damp house. The room in which they lived

was a complete mess and the children were wearing just jeans, sandals and thin, ragged coats. It

took so much willpower to not just stand and cry as the whole thing felt so unjust and we were

helpless. But if the children were taken into care there is not a guarantee that they would be well

looked after and they would certainly be separated.

Recently, and with very little warning, two girls from Girls Club left Romania to live in Scotland

and two new girls came along to the group. I had been warned about the difficulties of working with

teenage girls in this culture as they often get moved around, married or divorced. It’s been strange

having to get used to the fact that suddenly, at any point, a girl can be married into another family

and leave the village. The two new girls are both fourteen and both previously married. I struggle to

get my head around the fact that these girls are younger than me and have already been through so

much more than I potentially ever will. Each week at the beginning of Girls Club we all share

something for which we are thankful and one of the new girls recently said that she was grateful

that she no longer had to be married. That definitely put some things into perspective for me!”

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