By Felix Jatko Staalnake

Living and working with people from all over Europe is a challenge to start with. Doing this while living in a country far different from your own culture makes it even more of a challenge. A challenge we all gladly accept, something we all have grown from in numerous ways.

To start with, I don’t think any of this would be possible if it wasn’t for all the great people living here. At the moment there are 7 of us living together in a “dormitory” sharing everything except our own rooms. The seven of us come from France, England, Sweden, Holland, Germany, Romania and Turkey, with different minds on how things should be. This making our small kitchen a challenge, it’s much more suited to a smaller group of people but somehow, we handle it really well, with little or no discussion. Having our own rooms is probably what has saved us from tearing each other apart. Even if the doors are made of plastic and the walls are super thin.

The seven of us work in 3 different projects. The biggest one right now is creativity for sociability (our project) which consists of four people. Adjusting to each other took a while, our meetings could take hours in order to get our activities completed. With the passing of time our meetings became shorter, and sometimes not even necessary.

One of the things we all could agree on was having our activities organized and prepared before facilitating them. We quickly realized this mindset was not shared with the people we worked with. The phrase, “go with the flow” defines most of our working environment, which means we often just jump into an activity with little or no preparation. This can be frustrating at times but once adjusted to it, you start to realize everything doesn’t have to be under so much control. Sometimes things work out perfectly fine other times it ends in chaos. The point is that it doesn’t always matter, sometimes it’s all up to your mindset. In order to stay calm, letting things unfold naturally might be the best option.

Moreover, I can’t give you the perspective of the others in our project but I can point out some cultural differences between Sweden and Romania. As mentioned above, “go with the flow” is one of the first differences. In Sweden, it tends to be more organized, tidy and planned while in Romania it’s more random, less controlled and messy. One of the most stressful moments I had when we first arrived was shopping for groceries. The store was packed with people and due to their ideas of personal space being smaller here people get real close, almost blocking you. On top of this, everything is written in Romanian and the personnel barely lift a finger to help you out. Although, as mentioned in previous posts the randomness brings a lot of excitement.

Coming from the North of Sweden, where our ideas of personal space are on the other extreme, I have found myself in some awkward situations.
Here in Romania, it’s a lot of hugging and kissing whereas in Sweden, a more formal handshake is used even among friends, One of the things I love about Romania, the physical contact automatically brings you so much closer to each other. It creates stronger bonds and more empathy for one another. Although, just as in every country there is a difference between genders. Men keep more distance from each other than the women.

To end things, one of the questions we always recieve here is “Why Romania and why Constanta?” Romania doesn’t have the best reputation in the rest of Europe and in being here I’ve learned how only the worst is shown by media. When we respond with our positive answers we mostly recieve strong reactions in return. I think our answer is one the reasons why we work and live so well together. Being able to see past the stereotypes and prejudices gives us the chance to meet the people behind them. And, the people are in alot of ways so alike ourselves.


Felix is a volunteer in Creativity 4 Sociability project, founded by  Erasmus+ program of European Union.

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