"I've never had someone above me in hierarchy who is technically better than me" Bogdan is happy with how things worked out for him and is strongly confident he is in the perfect place to offer a great future to his 1-year old son. An objective and relaxed dialogue about good and bad things in our country, future plans and optimism towards improving our negative sides.
Name: Bogdan Balamat
Abroad since: 2010
Living in: Brussels, BEL
Current position & company: System & Application Engineer, Sopra Belgium
TGR: What's your main responsibility at the job?
BB: I'm part of Sopra's technical team of IT guys who work as a subcontractor for the European Commission. Our team is responsible for the configuration, deployment and maintenance of applications, servers and databases used around the world. All in all we maintain over 200 Servers and 900 services.
Can you tell me something only you can do in your company?
Only I can speak Romanian in the team which means I am the one put forward when we need to be talking to the many Romanian colleagues in other departments. As a consequence many requests for services are fast-forwarded due to this common root. Something I also find myself doing when other colleagues come for a request. This is very important since I recently learned we are among the 5 biggest expat communities in Brussels.
How many peers/direct reports do you have?
I have a team leader and a head of unit which I report to, but the relationship is indirect. We cannot have a direct subordination due to the rules of the European Commission.
Is your team mainly made of locals or expats?
It's exactly 50/50 in my team, not counting the team leader. There are other teams where the expats have an overwhelming majority.
What about your free time - do you usually spend it with locals or other expats?
Brussels is so expat friendly and the community is so large that you can find yourself at a table with 6 people and 5 different nationalities. Most of our free time is spent among expats.
Do you feel integrated in the Belgium society? Do you feel respected, appreciated?
It's a very tricky question, especially in Belgium where they are so separated between themselves. You have the French and Flemish regions, and like a special guest you have Brussels. Somehow the great divide doesn't include the expats. I feel both respected and appreciated, and at the same time I return the favor. One example is my team leader which I respect a lot for his knowledge and the way he manages the team. I've never had someone above me in hierarchy that is technically better than me. It's a unique situation with him that made me stay more than the regular 1.5-2 years in this position. I had to say it since I really believe in the saying of "what goes around comes around".
Why is Brussels so attractive for you? What makes you stay?
Not the weather that's for sure! It's that feeling you have when you're in a place that makes you comfortable. I cannot explain it. There are several advantages: medical services, cleaner air, connectivity (3 major European capitals reachable in less than 4 hours by car) and of course the job.
How often do you travel to Romania?
At least 3 to 4 times per year. Now with the little guy coming into our lives a bit less - maybe 2-3 times but we tend to stay longer.
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
The overall atmosphere of belonging there. Family and the university, high-school and school friends are there. People that you can trust directly and with whom when you meet is like you never left. I miss them greatly, but I guess it's just the nostalgia that settles in. I keep on remembering the time when I could go for a beer with my friends at 11 PM, but now that I think about it, even the guys back in Bucharest stopped doing this kind of activities. We all grew up, but when we left Romania, it was during this period. I still call them when we visit and of course we do have some of these nightly escapes
What I don't miss starts with poverty, stray dogs, dust on the streets, the way some people talk between themselves even at a local supermarket. I am always amazed how angry and mean some people tend to be. When I said "thank you and have a good day" to the woman at the counter she looked at me, smiled and then with a numb figure, didn't know how to react. Something that I find really sad.
It's something you cannot find in Brussels, isn't it?
No, not at all. It's in Brussels where I found that you can greet colleagues with a smile and you will get smiled back. Also, people tend to be more relaxed. Maybe too relaxed at some point
Despite this generation which is slowly moving towards the back of our society, do you see yourself moving back?
I do see myself / us retiring somewhere in Romania. I think it's every expat's dream to do it. There aren't many that accomplish it, but many I talked to have this in mind: buy something at the countryside or in the mountains and host friends in their own Bed and Breakfast. I think we always forget the state of our roads are and the lack of infrastructure, but eh, you need to have something to dream about, right? Worst case scenario we do like the Belgians do: move to Spain
Well, I can only hope you'll do it the Romanian way! Probably the latest development of our country could convince you!
It's true, I see a lot of bureaucratic changes and I have a lot of faith in Ciolos. I don't know much more but it seems he is doing a good job. He has a long way to go, but someone has to do it. Unfortunately many people aren't educated or just gave up! Latest elections showed the great divide of the Romanian society..
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
Beautiful countryside; hospitable people; you need to know how to say "Noroc"; Bucharest is a lot of fun at night, and last but very important: we are proud of our women which posses the best traits in the world: brain and beauty.
What is your biggest dream?
Travel a lot and have fun with my wife and kid in whatever we do. Simple but not simple enough...
Any final remarks regarding our home country?
I never realized that the Romanian community in Brussels can be so open. I find it very easy to talk to Romanians that I haven't met before, and we all tend to want to help each other. Of course we have our black sheep, who want to screw you over, but we're used to that, so we kind of pay attention, but in general It's a good vibe.
This good vibe is exactly why I've embraced this quest. I believe we have a great generation that needs to be promoted more often, and I hope you can all find a way to somehow contribute to the future development of our country. Thanks, Bogdan, for your time!
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