I've spent a couple of days in Romania to participate to the NetCamp.ro event in Bucharest. Every time that I visit a place for Mozilla, the conference I go to is just the thing that decides of the date, but is completed with press meetings and community gathering. This time, Irina Sandu took the lead on organizing my trip - from finding a reasonably priced hotel, knowing how to get ripped off by so-called "taxi-drivers" at the airport to finding my way to the conference and setting up press meetings. A keynote, 5 press meetings and a great community dinner made this a very long but great day. Conferences are exciting, talking to the press and finding the right angle to convey the Mozilla message is something I love doing, but the highlight of the day is spending some time with the community. Even if the previous night was too short and the day pretty exhausting, I always feel super engaged and re-energized when talking to community members, discussing of their issues, their opinions, giving updates about Mozilla and finding ways to empower them.[1]. Irina has written a post on this. The following day, there was an presentation by Mozilla volunteers at the Politehnica university around the Open Web, localization and contributing to Mozilla, but I could not attend, as I was already on my way back.

Mozilla community dinner

Mozilla community dinner

But luckily, this time – thanks to flight schedules – I had the opportunity to walk in Bucharest and discover the city and the life of Romanians, with Irina decrypting for me the recent history of the country. I have to say that it's striking to see the Romanians crave the Western way of life after 4 decades of dictatorship and poverty. The state and recent history of the country produce some interesting artifacts as the country is catching up quickly thanks to a strong economy. For example:

  • because there is significant inflation, some prices (typically mobile operators' fee) are expressed in Euros instead of the local Lei currency, and some wages are expressed in Euros too, because it's more stable as a currency.
  • history of the the 1947 to 1989 communist era is rejected because it's associated with the lack of Freedom typical of the era. This causes the Romanian society to turn to the Western world for inspiration
  • English is seen as the language of the future and Romanian looks neglected. Roughly 70% of the Romanian users of Firefox use an English version, even if a Romanian version is available for quite some time
  • advertising is everywhere, covering entire buildings, and the average income is increasing fast over the years
  • infrastructure (roads, power and telecom grids, public transportation) has been neglected for a long time, which leads to a crowded city with terrible traffic jams and slightly overloaded poles.
  • dogs without owners are everywhere in the city and its suburbs and they may attack people at night. Their pervasiveness makes it almost impossible to ride a bicycle in Bucharest (they attack bikes).
  • On a more positive side, business is blooming and the state of the country is improving quickly as Investors are bringing funds from abroad to invest in Romania. The country has around 8% growth per year, the highest in Europe.
  • there is quite a lot of work going on, from new buildings to renovation of the infrastructure (the metro I took is much nicer than most Parisian metros, for example).

I must admit that I have loved my stay in Romania. I have sensed a lot of energy from people who were looking for a better future, particularly from the younger generation. Some of them think that Open Source is a great way to get a say in the invention of the future, an opportunity to participate and own the tools of our digital future rather than using tools produced by other countries, by different cultures.


[1] By the way, we missed Alexandru Szasz, a key contributor from Romania, who could not make it to the event, because 18 hours of travel by train just for a dinner is a bit too long ;-)