What brought you to the Netherlands?
27 years ago, in 1990, I came with my parents, on holiday, to visit my mother’s sister. My mother didn’t tell me that we were going to stay here. I was 18, I was supposed to start university in Bucharest. When we got here, my mother told me we were going to stay, we weren’t going to return. I didn’t speak to her for several months. I was angry and rebellious. Then, I realised it wasn’t a joke, I had to do something. I started learning Dutch in Delft, it was a special course for students, so I could attend school in Dutch. I learned the language in about half a year, then I applied for University, and when I started all my courses were taught in English. I didn’t speak English, so I started learning it by watching TV.
I started studying IT, that was the job of the future, that’s what my parents had told me. But I only liked math, so I studied math for two years. Math alone seemed too boring, so I added tourism. That’s how I discovered that I liked foreign languages,travelling, and marketing. At the University, I did a degree in international marketing management taught in English, I studied for half a year in Spain, in Madrid, where I learned Spanish. I even went to Tenerife, where I had an internship in a hotel.
When I turned 40, my husband told me: “We saved money for your birthday from friends and family, as of tomorrow you’re going to do a wine course.” It was a gift, I couldn’t say no. When I got home after the first class, I had a smile from ear to ear. When you’ve caught the wine bug, you’re done: you want to taste, to discover the world. And, of course, I started to wonder where the Romanian wines were. My dream has always been to do something that involved Romania and the Netherlands, something meaningful for my heart, but also to promote Romania in a positive light. I went to Bucharest on an agricultural scholarship. There, I met Livia, from a winery that had wines that I liked. I visited their winery and this is how I slowly started my own wine business, three years ago.
Because you’re but one of the many suppliers on the market and the Romanian wine is unknown, you need a special approach. Romanian wine should be sold only through events. I open the bottle, I tell the story, I explain, you taste the wine, you like it. There’s more work involved, but the relation with the client is much more intense and the satisfaction is equally so!
Is this your soul-project?
Of course! Wine and the fact that I can earn my living as a freelance marketing professional.
How do you look on the 27 years since you’re here?
Oh! This is a tough question. I’m sorry my mother is no longer around. This is my only pain. She died young, at only 45. She’s always with me, in my heart. I’m sorry I was angry with her in the beginning. I owe her all these beautiful years. My brother studied computer science, he is now working for ING as a software engineer.
I wouldn’t return to Romania. I like my life as it is now. I’m happy that I can do what I like and that I keep my contact with Romania.
What’s success to you?
When I was in school, success meant to come home with high grades and to see my grandmother happy. When you grow up and develop, there are several phases in life when you shape up. It took me a while until I discovered what I liked. Initially, I followed my parents’ decisions. I’m happy I’ve managed to discover what I like. It gave me great momentum! When you feel you’re where you should be, you fly! I’m very happy now!
Why are you happy here?
It’s possible to do anything, as long as you want to. I live in the Hague, in the city, I like it that I’m very close to the sea. You can study whatever you want, I don’t get judged by anyone, nor blamed. I’ve never had negative comments. My family is here, I have my wines, I like to travel, this is my window to the world. I don’t like it that it’s raining and it’s cold, but I’ve come to terms with the weather as well, after so many years.
Do you remember any cultural shock?
Yes! Several. For instance, my mother thought we should earn some pocket money. We delivered newspapers by bike. It was a tremendous shock, it was raining, you could see the Dutch inside, while we were outside in the rain and the cold. I cried and told myself that you’ll never see me again delivering newspapers! Another shock: going to school by bike. Then the language, not speaking it.
My mother’s death made this experience more challenging, but after three-four years I started to feel OK again. I realised this when I was walking on the street and I looked into the window of a shop. I saw myself and thought in Dutch: “Wow, what a lovely dress!” Then I realised it was over, I am home!
What’s your relationship with the Romanian community in the Netherlands?
I feel things have been moving for the past two-three years and I like that. For a long time, I hadn’t seen the Romanian community at all. There was just my family. I went to the Romanian Business Club [Romanian Business Community, ed.], a project of the Romanians for Romanians in the Netherlands Foundation. Throughwines I meet other Romanians! I like this, I’m open to it! I’d love to have more Romanian female friends.
What’s your advice to those who would like to relocate to the Netherlands?
Learn the language, right away! The first thing you need to do here is to integrate. Don’t be alone and talk only in English. Without the language, you can’t feel the people. And do what you say you do. Be honest. Have fun. The Netherlands is a beautiful country! Here, you have the top ten biggest companies in the world, you can learn so much from the Dutch. I love it here!
An interview by Claudia Marcu
translation Alina Marginean; proofreading Mihaela Niţă
Photo-portrait by Cristian Călin – www.cristiancalin.video
photos from the personal archive, edited by Alexandru Matei