First off, let us unequivocally state that we are – all things considered – super happy with the bloke who recently renovated a couple of rooms Chez Bucharest Life. He turned up when he said he would, worked 12 hour days with barely a break and did a terrific job. What’s more he is one of those blokes who can do it all: painting, decorating, plumbing, electrics etc. He is a one-stop shop. If you need a reliable handy man/decorator let us know: we can put you in touch with him.
And yet it’s not all good news (no fault of the workman in question we hasten to add: research suggests this is far more a cultural thing).
Just before Christmas we wanted to do up a couple of rooms at our mum’s place in the UK. We got in touch with a decorator who came round to have a look, told us a price and asked us to choose colours from a book of swatches he had. Mum chose a rather ghastly lilac (she is 77) and that was that. The next we heard from him was four days later when he told us he had finished and wanted paying.
That’s not how things work in Bucharest.
The first signs that all that was not well came the day before our decorator was due to start work. He phoned up and said ‘I’ll come round later so we can go and buy all the materials.’ Alarm bells were triggered: Why on earth would we be involved in buying the materials? He knows what we want – colour, finish etc. – and we made it clear that the price he gave us was for labour only. We would reimburse him the cost of all materials on production of receipts.
A couple of days later it got worse: we were at a swimming pool when we got another phone call from the decorator telling us that he had run out of cement, and needed another sack. Our first reaction was, quite literally: ‘What the fuck has that got to do with me?’
Honestly, why do we need to go and buy the materials?
Because that’s the way it is in Bucharest apparently. We have spoken to a few people over the past week or so and all have confirmed that is how things are done. Indeed, we were told that we got lucky, in that our man actually took the time out to come and get the materials with us the day before he was due to start. Common practice is for workmen to turn up on the first morning with no materials, no tools, nothing.
Then there’s the question of preparation. Our decorator made it clear that he expected the rooms he was going to be working in to be readied by us. That meant shifting furniture, taping up skirting boards and laying dust sheets. As we were moving one particularly heavy cupboard we did begin to wonder what exactly we were paying for.