Renovating an apartment in Bucharest

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.


23 thoughts on “Renovating an apartment in Bucharest

  1. You live in a different country to where you were raised, sometimes different cultures cause frustrations – I’d have thought you’d have realised that by now?

    That being said, not every experience is bad, you’ve just got to face facts that this is life!

    On a side note and based on your liberal stance, I trust you’ll be opening up your home to take in some of these economical migrants? Maybe even house some ISIS types too? As you’re all for removing borders and letting the world be a free for all, good or bad!


      1. Next time do what I do. Hire a guy over from the UK to do the job. End of drama, end of aggro. And also, after a hard days graft, you’ve got yourself a decent drinking partner. You know it makes sense son.


      2. I’ve read some liberal guff before Craig but this snippet takes the biscuit “Europe has an ageing workforce” hence the need for millions of asylum seekers!

        What are these people saying?

        We have no younger generation of Europeans!

        Genuine asylum seekers would return home after the problems in their country were resolved – the vast majority of these economic migrants won’t set foot back home again.

        Of course there is some genuine asylum seekers in the world – but hundreds of thousands aren’t … These aren’t just from Syria, and some are known to be ISIS (albeit a very very small number) up until now.

        How many more millions can the most desirable Western European countries take ???

        Give your head a wobble Craig.


      3. LOL Roger demonstrating again that he’s an idiot and has no understanding of the issue he has such strong opinions on.
        Economic migrants and asylum seekers are not the same thing, and asylum seekers are legally not allowed to work.
        At least you’ve figured out how ellipsis work…took you long enough.


      4. Anon

        No, you’re wrong yet again… I never said an asylum seeker was the same as an economic migrant – so as you so often are, you’re wrong again.

        Try and read my posts in a calm manner, it may help you get something right 🙂

        The reports have suggested amongst genuine asylum seekers are various nationalities of countries with very little political unrest, if they were so genuine, why not seek asylum in the first safe haven?

        Why do they all want to come to Western Europe mainly UK and Germany?

        To suggest some of these people aren’t motivated economically is delusional and shows the likes of you are just plain thick.


      5. Anon

        Why can you only resort to abuse?

        Clearly you’re not intelligent enough to have a counter argument with salient points, rather than angry rants.

        Calm down in this heat, you’ll have a stroke.


      6. 4 furiously typed posts in only a few minutes. Roger mad.

        LOL at Roger talking about intelligence HAHAHAHHAHAHA


      7. Craig

        Don’t go all childish like Anon, it just makes you appear lacking in intelligence if you do, and I know you’re not as lacking as he is.

        Of course not all of these millions of non EU citizens ISIS, of course not – but a very very small fraction have been, and conversely a large fraction have been economic migrants and not returned back.

        Can the liberal ones please explain how opening the borders and letting millions move counties – how does the social and housing of that country cope? Who pays for it? Should the UK have no limit on population or social security and Health Service bill?

        The UK is under austerity and yet some loons just think adding millions to the population is going to help?

        Given the liberal stance by you and Anon, I look forward to seeing pictures posted of migrants living in your house? Anon could give them one of his luxury cars or donate his pet linx.

        But you’re hypocrites like most liberals are, you’ll do nothing of the sort and just cry from afar that we should be helping and letting them go where they like —– just as long as YOU don’t have to be the ones helping 😉


      1. Anon

        When you take your own personal time to rant on about a typo by a complete stranger … I know I have you rattled 🙂

        Keep taking the bait our homophobic impersonating luxury car owning but neve angry … Man in his prime fpmsl 🙂

        Impersonated Geronimo lately Anon?


  2. It could be a matter of trust (clients generally don’t trust decorators with the purchase of materials) and asymmetric information (only the old lady in the house knows the real value of the china AND the fact that the “vitrina cu bibelouri” is hopelessly broken).


  3. I remember in a different part of Romania, in the mid-nineties, how people would save up the building material (wood beams, bricks, cement) before actually contracting construction workers. It had to do with the uncertainties of the price and availability of these materials, the smaller contractors having little cash reserves themselves, the absence of any partial advance payments for large work… There was a logic to it, but it seemed odd and impractical nonetheless.


  4. Oh, but emptying the room is, in my view, entirely the task of the proprietor – even the clean-up afterwards usually is. That’s because things can break, it’s timeconsuming and requires more personal judgement than technical skills.

    If contractors do to move and cover up furniture beforehand and sweep the floor afterwards, they’re being super-nice. Anywhere.


  5. “Things about Romania I will never understand No. 1,765: Ruining perfectly good cake by smothering it in rum.”………….Here’s No. 1,766 for you. Offer a Romanian a homemade jar of pickled onions and they will point blank refuse to even try one, just one! If their Gran never made it, they simply won’t try it.


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