Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Romanians make good immigrants


Admitting a million Poles, even though in good manners, industry, church attendance and many other ways they put many of the British to shame, was certainly a mistake on the part 
of the UK. We know this because ministers said they expected tens of thousands to come. Still, if Britain and other Western European countries have decided that they need immigrants, and they have, they should be very grateful that the EU has a supply on hand of Romanian immigrants who share a European culture and will fit in easily. 

Probably no immigrants in the world assimilate as quickly as Romanians who seem not to stay together in clusters like other immigrant groups. There are various explanations for this. A cynical one was supplied to me by a Romanian friend who had lived in Paris in the 1980s.

'We are individualists but not like the Irish are individualists - the Irish are a race of geniuses - we just can't stand one another.'
Bearing in mind the numbers of immigrants who have settled in the UK recently (one million in 2011 and 2012) it is understandable that the British press worry about an influx of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants after January 1 2014. What is odd is that, a couple of days after David Cameron said he wanted to persuade the EU to change the rules, he said on a visit to India that:
"There is no limit on the number of students who can come from India to study at British universities, no limit at all. All you need is a basic English qualification and a place at a British university. What’s more, after you've left a British university, if you can get a graduate-level job there is no limit to the amount of people who can stay and work, or the time that they can stay at work."
This dichotomy does seem hard to explain. I suspect that one reason why British journalists are complaining about an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians next month is because they are white. If they were Asian the papers might be much more worried about being accused of racism. And yet the fact that Romanians are Europeans is a reason why they make good immigrants.

Romanians were disappointed, but not in the least surprised, by the noisy British reluctance to let them settle in the UK without restrictions before 2014. As far as Romanians are concerned, they blame this reluctance on confusion abroad between Romanians and Roma. (Roma is the modish term for gypsies.) It is no use saying to Romanians that Romanian gypsies are both Romanian and Roma. ‘Romanian’ is understood here as an ethnicity not a citizenship.

Romanians come from a Balkan, Orthodox and Latin culture, unlike the Poles, who are Catholics and Central Europeans, but like the Poles they bring with them so many qualities that the British used to have. Like all people from post-Communist countries, and this is what makes them most different from the British, they come from a part of the world where the 1960's social revolution never happened. When I moved here in 1998 the Romanian standard of living was that of Britain in 1959 and many of the ways of thinking were late 1950's too.

Things have changed a lot since then, but by no means out of recognition.

Romanians have virtues that some in Great Britain have lost. Romanian women are womanly (and very often beautiful), Romanian men are virile even if they seem quite otherwise at first sight. Romanians are family minded and esteem education. They are old-fashioned, clean-cut, self-reliant, sceptical of authority and they believe in freedom. I might have expected Romanians to be disappointed by the reality of violent crime, binge drinking, feminism and innumerable rules. Romania, where people smoke in bars and say whatever they like about most things, is a much freer country these days. But no, Romanians usually love England and so they should. Things work in England and people are kind and honest, though the trusting nature of the English provokes wonder and seems naive. Britain is still a wonderful country and London is the only big city in Europe which is not a museum. 

The Romanians who return to Romania after working abroad will create the Romania of the future. They are the candidates I most value as a recruiter. On the other hand, inevitably, the great majority will not return and this is a huge, irreparable loss to Romania. 


  1. Living and working in Romania alongside Romanians for three years really taught me a lot about them. They are hardworking, religious, reliable, traditional and open. Paul, you are right in that many will probably not return home as they seek work in Western Europe in Italy, Spain or England. As a teacher and friend to so many Romanians, I always had conversations, with younger people, where we discussed their futures. Many times, I repeated: "Yes, go away if you can gain an education, further your career,learn about other cultures, still, come back, make your life better here, here where your home is." I hope some listened. Sadly, I think that many will just find a better way elsewhere

    1. just my 2 cents, Anonymous, that was a nice comment.

  2. Let me tell you another story. It is a real one. It will tell you more about the people you can still find here.
    I was camping in a great caving area called Padis, with my friends cavers from Switzerland. We just had breakfast. Behind the bushes a bunch of kids from the nearby village were watching us. Their job was to care about the cows.
    Chantal, one swiss lady from our group invited them to join us and offered them chocolate and candies. Once they grabbed the gifts, they ran away, barefoot across the field without a word. The scene had something so primitive in it that I felt a little disappointed. We talked about that and we continued on our activities.
    It was some two or three hours later when we saw the same kids coming .... barefoot across the field.
    Their arms were full of jars with berries and they offered them with a big smile on their faces. We were speechless for a while.
    I was once again ashamed about my previous thoughts.
    Gilbert broke the magic telling us a story:
    In his village, the postman always has candies in his pocket for the kids he encounters on their way to school.
    One morning the postman stopped one kid who just got his candy and asked him: What do you say?
    The kid turned to him and with the same big smile answered: See you tomorrow!

    I think this is one good argument to answer your question: Why romanians make good immigrants.

    Best wishes for the new year,