Papahagi: “30 years ago we were the poor of Europe. Now, many Romanians are more prosperous than many Italians”

The essayist and philosopher Adrian Papahagi found that many Romanians in Italy no longer do menial jobs and have integrated into Italian society. He believes that soon the Romanians will live at least as well as the Italians.

Paphagi claims that the public transport in Bucharest is better than that in Rome. PHOTO: Shutterstock

“Romanians manage everywhere brilliantly. We like to whine and self-deprecate, but in reality we are a smart and tenacious nation”, wrote the philologist and essayist Adrian Papahagi on his Facebook page.

The man from Cluj made “a few apparently trivial or anecdotal observations from Italy”:

1. A few years ago you saw many cars with Romanian number plates. I think I saw about two more, although I drove all the way to Rome and a lot around the city and its surroundings. It seems that the Romanians from Italy have integrated, bought their cars here. There are no longer Romanians who come to work in Italy, but Italians who return on holidays through Romania.

2. Before the pandemic, wherever you entered you would hear Romanian: saleswomen, waiters, etc. Now, much less. Probably many Romanians have become bourgeois and no longer do menial jobs. I discovered one evening that two restaurants in the most touristic area of ​​Rome are managed by a Romanian. Ten years ago he was carrying plates, now he's a boss.

3. My Romanian friends who stayed abroad became university professors, researchers, etc. Not only in Italy, but everywhere: USA, UK, France, Ireland, Germany…

“30 years ago we were the poor of Europe”

Papahagi recounted his personal experience in Italy: in 1992 he arrived in Rome for the first time, with the Oltcit led by his father.

“All four of us lived on the 1,000,000 lira/month scholarship (€500 today, but probably about €1,200 in purchasing power) that my father got. We couldn't afford anything anymore. We drink water from wells. The transport ticket or an ice cream seemed expensive to us. I didn't eat at the restaurant even once; mother cooked us Barilla pasta“, said Papahagi.

His father had free entry to museums, as a scholarship holder of the Italian state, which allowed the family to visit the most important cultural sites.

“Needless to say that today I can afford everything in Rome that I can afford in Cluj. This is the road traveled by many Romanians: 30 years ago we were the poor of Europe. All Romanians, with the exception of a few Securists and Bisnitarians, were poor in the 90s. Now, many Romanians are more prosperous than many Italians“, he also said.

Cluj, better utilities than any Italian city

“Cluj now has better streets, sanitation or transport than any Italian city I've stopped at. Public transport in Bucharest, itself mediocre, is much better than the Romanian ones. Not only that: in Rome I see a regression compared to four years ago, in us there are many improvements“, the Cluj resident also showed.

Papahagi believes that soon the Romanians will have a standard of living comparable or even superior to the Italians.

Even though we will never have the sea, the museums, the culture (ah, the libraries!), the hundreds of gorgeous cities, the industry, or the sophistication of Italy, I think we will soon have a comparable or even higher standard of living. How, how, did we do well in the three decades of freedom. Let's hope it continues!“, concluded the essayist.