Conventional wisdom tells us that you can stop any bad habit if you can avoid it for 28 days. It’s been 28 days since we arrived to Bucharest, and we’ve adopted some new healthy habits but are hanging on dearly to some of our bad American habits.
Healthy habits we’ve adopted:
1. We bike all over the city now. It’s wonderful! It’s been weeks since I was in a car. Isaac loves the bike, too. If we’re not biking, we walk. Everywhere. The heat has eased some, so walking is much more pleasant now. When we first arrived it was over 100 every day AND humid. Lately it’s been in the upper 80’s with low humidity, so it’s been nice to go out for a stroll. Learning the bike routes is taking some time, but we’re getting there… slowly but surely.
2. Fresh food for lunch and dinner. We go to the butcher for our meat and the market for our veggies. And on the weekends, we get fresh croissants from the local bakery. Fresh food is very inexpensive here. We bought some cherry tomatoes the other day that at home would have cost $3-$4, but here were vine ripened and only cost ~$.25. The butcher will also cut our meat however we like. I had to figure out how to get some ground pork for soup. They will take the some scrap pieces of pork (goulac– sounds like goulash) and then grind it. Working with the butcher was intimidating, since the ladies behind the counter often make fun of us for not understanding. I had to force a smile as the lady mocked me for not knowing the process, but nonetheless, now I know how to do it and can order like a pro next time.
3. Limited alcohol consumption. Romania has a very large wine region. In fact, some of the wines are absolutely amazing, but on the other hand, some are absolutely vile. The wine industry is still (relatively) young and is getting used to standardizing its practice. That is why only certain wineries can be trusted for consistently good wine. Any wine or beer that actually tastes good is very expensive. All prices are relative, of course. It’s between $25-$30 for a great bottle of wine and about $10 for a good bottle. And about $2 a can for good beer. Way less for garbage beer. However, when your whole dinner costs about $5-$10 out at a restaurant, it’s weird to spend $30+ on wine. Kinda kills the food budget. Also, when you go to a restaurant, you more or less have to order a whole bottle of wine! Many restaurants don’t want to keep leftover bottles open and sitting around since they have no idea when the next person will order more. Committing to a whole bottle also decreases the amount we’re drinking since it’s a much bigger price difference and a bigger commitment.
4. Making friends. We’re both starting to make friends and it feels nice. We’ve met our friends on facebook groups and we also met another American family at the playground the other day. The American couple live about 2 minutes from us and and have kids around Isaac’s age. Also, when we start working we’ll have the opportunity to meet more Romanians. We’re excited to get to know some more folks around here and start to have a social life again!
5. Committing to date nights. We found a babysitter and we’re going out on our first official Bucharest date night tonight! We’re excited to explore Bucharest without Isaac around. We sure do love that kid, but he’s 15 months. The only thing he wants to do is run around and identify all dangerous objects in a room and then touch them. Repeatedly 😦 Our first date will be low key… probably dinner and bowling, but it’ll be nice to get out of the house without Isaac.
6. Drying our clothes in the sun. I do miss a clothing dryer, but this is for sure a way more economical way of doing things. And way better for Isaac’s cloth diapers.
7. Less time online during working hours. That’s one benefit of being 7-8 hours ahead of y’all. My email and social media accounts are quiet while I’m working because you’re sleeping.
Habits we just can’t drop:
1. Buying food at the grocery store every day. Sorry to disappoint. I know I’m in Europe and this is the way people do things here, but…. to be honest… I really hate it. I buy way more than I’m supposed to when I go every day. What can I say, I’m in impulse shopper! I’m much more regimented and disciplined if I go in with a list and purchase several days worth of food. We looks like goofballs (go Philly slang!) at the checkout counter because we always have the cart filled up to the brim, but whatevs.
2. English words in everyday conversations. It’s really hard to habitually say a new word in a new language. For instance, when I bump into someone, I automatically say, “Sorry!” I need to start saying, “Pardon.” I do the same for “Thanks” and “You’re welcome!” It’ll come in time, but it’s the automatic reflex that’s getting to me. Fortunately, most Romanians understand some English so they respond back in English. We are taking online Romanian classes and will most likely sign up for in-person classes in the fall.
3. Watching American TV. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice breaking out of the Trump 24/7 circuit, but so many American tv channels are available here that it’s hard not to watch some TV when I want to veg. Also, for years now, Carl has asked me to jump on the GoT bandwagon. I am finally making my way through each episode. Each night we watch one or two episodes. So far we’re up to the beginning of Season 3. I assume by winter (“Winter is coming…” haha) I’ll finally be able to log back into facebook to avoid the spoiler alerts.
The other night as we were getting ready for bed, I asked Carl what he misses most. Yep, we’re at that point. The new sparkle is starting to fade and we’re yearning for the familiarity of days past. I wouldn’t classify our feelings as homesick, it’s more that we are still adjusting and are seeking more comfort than anything else. Because thinking is tiring!
We both miss things that are easy and don’t require much thinking. Each day we have to get something accomplished here in Bucharest, we come home completely drained from all of the navigation in a city we’re unfamiliar with, negotiations, translation/communication issues, and decisions, decisions, decisions. So much new all at once is very draining. Grocery store shopping takes about twice as long as it used to because we often have to improvise our recipe, convert the units from imperial to metric, and spend a long time looking for each ingredient.
Marketers know how hard it is to get consumers to start purchasing their brand by habit; spoiler alert: it’s difficult. If you recall the piece on Target’s data mining in the New York Times a few years ago, Target likes to identify pregnant ladies. Moms are a sought after target market because (in most households) mom does the most shopping. And when she’s shopping for a family? $$$Cha Ching$$$ Consumers are rather habitual until a big life event occurs- baby (for sure…the most colossal of changes), divorce, marriage/co-habitation, job change, move, etc. After a big change in our lives, our brand choices are up for grabs. This is the most likely time that we’ll switch brands and/or start new habits. Why? Because we want easy and convenient; new is scary AND tiring. And that’s also one of the reasons why big retailers like Target like to keep an eye on us, because they can start sending us coupons that are customized to our new lifestyle needs.
With no help from Target over here, we’re on our own. It would be nice to have a little help from Target, despite the weird privacy issues. We do receive ads in email and on our phones from local retailers, but they are all in Romanian. We can google translate, but the quick message they were intending to send us was already lost in translation. Given all of the EU privacy laws anyway, I doubt our ads are very targeted. The reason why they would be nice is because we don’t always know the word to use that requires translation. For instance, Romanians refer to a “crib” as a “cot” instead. We have weird searches in our browser history because of this.
Despite the challenges we’re experiencing, I’m learning so much more than I EVER could have imagined. I can’t even imagine what the next year will bring. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to live and work in a new country. I have already gained a much greater appreciation for the ease of business operations in the States and how silly customers look when they get mad at CSR’s for not exceeding their unrealistic expectations. It’s really rather humbling to be in a place where things just. take. longer. We ordered something from Amazon Germany almost a month ago…. it still hasn’t arrived. We have no idea if we’re ever going to receive it. A month. For an Amazon Prime order!
Hope you’re all doing well.
Please share your wisdom of how you broke your bad habits in the comments below. I could use some tips!