Most times I wonder what it is that makes me Romanian other than my passport. The Romanian language is not my first mother tongue, I can’t prepare any Romanian dish, and the day I left Romania I didn’t go to look for a better life in wealthier countries, as most of my fellow citizens. Instead, I went to live, study and work in poorer countries, in Romania’s South-Western neighborhood.
I should have had it easier than the Romanians who went to France, Belgium or the UK, and who were on occasions frowned upon, stigmatized or discriminated for originating from the poor East and for adding themselves to the wave of immigrants in those countries.
But being a young Romanian female expat in Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo or Macedonia didn’t bring me in a privileged position. Several times has the border police in the above-mentioned countries double-checked whether I was a spy or a prostitute and many times was I questioned by police, neighbors and landlords who wanted me to justify my presence in their country. ”Why do you want to live here when everyone else wants to leave?”, they asked me with suspicion. I have heard statements such as ‘All the prostitutes we had here during the war were Romanian’ and ‘All the Romanians I’ve met before were the mafia in Italy’. These did not surprise me in any way.
Ultimately the police apologized for harassing me upon finding that I was working in the offices of an important institution, and my landlords were persuaded that the only thing I have in common with Romanian prostitutes and mafia leaders is the passport cover. But will Romanians ultimately get the second chance to make a better first impression, free from stereotypes?
About this article:
All Spaniards are lazy, all Greeks are corrupt and Romanians work for the mafia: Everywhere in Europe stereotypes are in full bloom. For the German newspaper www.sueddeutsche.de, six FutureLab Europe participants describe the impact of prejudices about their home country on their everyday life. This article is part a part of a series of reflections by young Europeans, prepared in cooperation between FutureLab and Süddeutsche Zeitung Online.