On-Going Bureaucrazy in Romania

Romania is a country full of controversies. We have one of the highest numbers of medals when it comes to international Math, Physics and Chemistry contests, but at the same time, one of the highest percentages of illiteracy in the EU.

We are known worldwide for the beautiful nature that still exists as it did hundreds of years ago, but at the same time, we are first in Europe when it comes to deforestation in Romania. However, one of the things that we excel at most definitely, without a doubt, is bureaucracy.

A Model of the Bureaucracy in Romania

In order to make you understand how much of a pain bureaucracy is in Romania, take the following example.

I was in the twelfth grade in high school, studying Tourism, when one of my teachers came up to my class and told my colleagues and I that we had to start a fictional Tourism agency and run it for a few several weeks. We would be instated in various positions and essentially make a dossier with all the activities that are involved in a Tourism agency. I thought it would be fun.

Thought being the key word here.

What the whole thing amounted to was us downloading like 40 documents from a website and writing all the information on them, then placing them in a dossier and sending them to the teacher. That was it. We had no actual practice, we never role played, we never made up touristic vacation packs for clients, nothing. All we did was write a bunch of names, fictional addresses and signing a bunch of documents.

Since high school then, we have been taught what bureaucracy in Romania is like, and what we should expect when we would be adults.

The Adult Kind of Bureaucracy in Romania

Romania is also notorious for the frustrating way in which bureaucracy takes place. It’s not that you need a ton of useless papers for an authorization or a permit of some kind or even to just pay your taxes – it’s the frustration that accompanies it.

The typical day for a Romanian who goes to pay his taxes starts like this: he wakes up and goes to the institution where he has to pay his taxes. He waits in a queue – because there is almost always a queue – until one worker takes a look at his papers and gives him the green light to go to the next worker. He does the same thing again, waits in a line, checks his phone, his watch, sighs, annoyed. More people arrived in the institution. Soon it will fill up.

He finally reaches the second worker, who takes his papers, checks them again, then puts a stamp on one of them and sends him to yet another worker. The cycle repeats until eventually, in the afternoon, the man reaches the third and final worker. This one takes a look at his papers, but before placing the stamp on one of his papers, he notices something. Something is missing.

He hands the papers back to the man and asks him to go back to the X institution and get the Y signature. The man leaves the institution, frustrated, angry and upset because he lost an entire day, again, and he didn’t get anything.

Bureaucrazy – Why, just WHY?

The cases I presented above are real and they take place on a daily basis here. You don’t want to know what it’s like when you have to change your driver’s license or apply for a scholarship, trust me.

Despite the fact that the internet access is quite cheap here and we have a better connection than even some countries in Western Europe, many things are still done manually, like in the old days. Internet Banking was only introduced a couple of years ago and only a few banks use this kind of system of online payment, so you still have to put up with situations like those presented above.

In my opinion, bureaucracy in Romania exists here so people can get money off of the backs of regular citizens. Usually, but not all the time, whenever you go and take out a certain document from an institution, you either have to pay an official tax or… an unofficial one (a pack of coffee, a sum of money or a chocolate. Don’t question it, just do it). Even if you don’t have to pay such a tax, some budget money go to paying the people working in those useless institutions. Another reason would be that it’s harder to track down irregularities if you have to check hundreds of papers and make sense of a gigantic paper trail. Corruption is still very deeply embedded in our culture and it goes hand in hand with bureaucracy.

Either way, keep in mind the following thing: if you do happen to come to Romania, check a hundred times and make sure you have all the papers you need. God forbid you need a certain document from an institution. It’s never just one document; you always need that other one too.