No Big Mac for Romanians

I wanted to check my home country’s index in The Big Max Index but, as in case of many other subjects, Romania was left outside.
At the beginning of March I was in Krakow, the second biggest city of Poland. I arrived on a cloudy, grey and cold morning. After a long walk discovering the Old Town, I was looking for a place to warm up and eat something other a whole night of traveling by train. On one of those nice, old streets I spotted a McDonald’s and I went in.
The prices are similar in Poland to those in Romania, as the exchange rate from Polish Zloty (PLN) to Romanian Leu (RON) is 1 to 1,05. A Big Mac burger is Krakow was sold at 3 $, while in Romania it is around 2,80 $.
But there is a big difference between the incomes in the two East European countries: while the minimal wage in Poland in January 2014 was 6,184 $ per year, in Romania the lowest salary a worker could earn was only 3,032 UD dollars.  
Romania joined the European Union on the 1st of January 2007 with big expectations and hopes, more than eight of ten of it citizens declaring to have faith in the union. Since then, the number dropped to 46% in 2013, the most confident in the future of the country as part of the union being those between the age of 15 and 30 (with 57%).
The main cause of the loss of hope is that Romanian politicians blamed the EU for some unpopular decisions they took the past few years, they were unable to simplify the procedures for the structural funds absorption and a lot of corruption cases were discovered involving the use of these funds.
This is why, according to an analysis by Mediafax press agency, Romania absorbed between 2007 and 2013 about 5.7 billion of structural funds and cohesion, failing to finish any of the EU-funded highways, while Poland received about 6 billion just for highways. With this performance, the country is the last in the EU, with an absorption rate of 26,2%.
Given this bigger trust in the European Union than in their own home country, many young Romanians are looking for a better future abroad.
A popular local saying states that Romania is a “beautiful country, too bad it’s inhabited”. Foreign tourists who come here are delighted by the natural beauty which became a rarity in modern Europe. Still, they have a problem visiting many of them because of poor infrastructure.
Travel Channel made a trilogy about “the priceless majesty of the forests and mountains of Romania” called Wild Carpathia, but for many young Romanians the country tend to be too wild because of small paychecks, high prices and a political class that is too concerned about its own fights to care about the real problems the average citizens face every day.
Macroeconomic figures show Romania is on a stabile and growing path, but too many young natives of the country hear about the progress only at the foreign news as they chose to work and live in Italy, France, Germany, the UK or other countries and come back only for holidays.
When I applied for college, nine years ago, I knew it won’t be easy to find a job. I would not have imagined though that I will be able to count on the fingers from one hand how many of my fellow graduates will work in our field of study.
None of us ever imagined the hard situation Romanian press is facing now: one of the best newspapers in my county, where I got the chance to learn a lot, was closed and the others are facing difficulties too.
No one prepared us at college for the situation press is facing, but I still think there is hope, thanks to independent and unconventional initiatives.
As a journalist these days, you have to be always prepared for the next move, always learning something new and useful for this job that is more than an occupation: it’s a lifestyle.