Expat Magazine

Expat in Moldova: Deceived by First Impressions?

By Miss Footloose @missfootloose

I trust you’ve taken careful notes and know that my man and I moved to Moldova a few weeks ago to start a new expat life adventure.  Moldova is a small country in Eastern Europe and the capital is Chisinau (KEE-see-now)

Expat in Moldova: Deceived by First Impressions?

“Look at the trolley buses!  Look at the pavement tiles!  Look at the underground shops!”  I said to my husband as we walked around Chisinau for the first time.  “It looks just like Armenia!  (You know, of course, that we lived there for a number of years.)

“There’s a reason for that,” my mate said, rolling his eyes.

Of course there is.  Moldova and Armenia, although far apart, share a common history and were once sister Soviet republics enjoying the benefits of Communism.

But the traditional cultures are not the same, and neither are the people, which became clear one day when I stood waiting to cross the street and a car stopped to give me the chance to do so.  Really.  I was so flabbergasted, it took me a moment to actually make my legs move, keeping a wary eye on the vehicle in case it was going to come for me. But no.

Although I know this is a different country, I cannot help noticing similarities.  Men wearing black, old men on park benches playing chess or backgammon, Russian everywhere on signs and billboards.

Expat in Moldova: Deceived by First Impressions?

Soon enough I will learn this is not Armenia, so I beg forgiveness if I have offended any of my new Moldovan acquaintances.

One of the first things I did was walk into a phone shop and buy a cell phone.  I did this by asking if anybody spoke English, which was the only way this was going to happen.  And yes, there was such a person, a nice young techie type who didn’t at all make me feel stupid, which I am.  Technically speaking.  (I do have my brilliant moments, but they occur in other realms of the human experience.)

He set the thing up for me, put in my husband’s number to show me how it is done, went to the internet and printed out an English language manual.  The one it came with had seven languages in a variety of alphabets, none of which I could do a thing with.

And more good news:  We’ve found us a dwelling place!  Since we cannot move in until May 20, we’ve vacated the hotel and are temporarily ensconced in a furnished apartment set up for short-termers like us.  It’s comfortable and convenient with a kitchenette and a cute baby washing machine the size of a box of cornflakes.  Unfortunately the color scheme is a sorry symphony in shades of sludge, but am I complaining?  Certainly not: The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the buds are popping.

Expat in Moldova: Deceived by First Impressions?

And our shipment has arrived!  Fast and undamaged.  The boxes are now decorating the apartment living room, the color of the cardboard boxes fitting nicely into the color scheme.

Needless to say, as the chef in the family, I have scouted out the supermarkets, camera in hand, until I noticed a big sign with a graphic indicating cameras were not welcome.  I don’t know why.  Just have a look at this photo:

Expat in Moldova: Deceived by First Impressions?

What is wrong with that picture, I ask you? Fortunately, no one arrested me, which really would not have been an auspicious beginning for  my life here.

A couple of days ago I went to the International Women’s Club meeting in the hotel where we stayed earlier (the one with the decadent painting of the half-naked dancers) and met an international tribe of expat women as well as some Moldovan women.  This is what I do when I first move to a new country: Find the other girls. I had a nice cup of Earl Gray tea with the young British wife of the Turkish manager of the mentioned hotel.  I met the fun Romanian wife of the American consul, and a Norwegian lawyer with whom I shared the worry of where to get one’s hair done.

And what will my mate and I be doing on Saturday?  We’ve been invited to a Cinco de Mayo party!

So you see, things are coming together just fine.  Stay tuned for more missives from Moldova.

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