The terms and conditions they don’t tell you about

Outsourcing has become the hallmark of most former communist countries in Europe.

Corporate districts with Starbucks and dry cleaners have taken countries by storm and are shaping present and future generations of young people.

What nobody told these people was how to survive in this American-inspired, Balkan business world. But some have figured it out. Below are a few guidelines:

  • Rarely do as much as you really can and never do more than you should

During you induction week in ANY multinational you will be told how important it is to go the extra mile. Do NO do that. The extra mile will not mean a raise, a gold watch or a bigger parking space (as if you could ever afford a car!). That just happens in movies or fairy tales. You are not Cinderella and you team lead is not Prince Charming. It will only mean going another extra mile and another one and another one…on a road paved with anything but gold.

It’s simple math: if W (amount of work executed) grows, then also W1 (ammount of new assignments) will grow.  At the same time T (time) is constant and Y (your youth) is dropping.

  • Be with the IN crowd

A company is more like high school than you could imagine. Maybe you’ve noticed the same nerdy people – always working and completely antisocial, the cool ones (probably management) smoking, or the rebels ( ‚This corporate job is just a phase! I’m go do stuff and go places!’ )

Choose your place wisely. Once branded, it will be insanely hard to change your social milieu.

  • The receptionist is your friend.

A lot of my friends make it a habit of being friends with the receptionist. Even when they go for their first interview it is insanely helpful to have someone on the inside within the first hour of entering the building. Not only can you find out who is doing what when with whom for how long and why, but also they are nice by nature. If both of you smoke, that much better.

 

More to follow.

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The terms and conditions they don’t tell you about

A load of Athens

I usually don’t tell people about my future travel plans until they see the check-ins on Facebook. Athens is a case where I am particularly happy I acted this way.

After coming back and discussing Athens and Greece, I received a lot of surprising reactions such as why would you go there? or how many refugees did you count or do they still have shops open? OR is there anytihng going on there apart from the tourists on the island?

My answer is simply YES. There is a lot going on in Athens and Greece and they are doing very well. Better than Romania in a large number or ways actually.

I will start off with the most obvious: the airport. People speak English better than expected, everything is straightforward and the train will pick you up (on time!) and drop you off in a number of central places.

We went in February so the weather was obviously cold, but still surprisingly warm compared to Romania. So that you understand, they have orange trees with actual ripe oranges on the main streets. In February. Yes.  I could enjoy a 360 view at the Acropolis while the sun was blinding me harder than an accidental load received a night before in a local club in my eyes.  I really love the greeks for their weather. And not only.

Accomodation and entry prices were really low. I’m not sure if this is a general thing or if it varies during the year, but compared to Rome it really was nothing. Not to mention the lack of neverending lines full of people with babies (guys why do you do this? That child will never remember seeing Athena’s temple when it was 3 y.o.!).

I love eastern European cuisine, and I particulary love greek yoghurt, gyros and any kind of milk-based product you shove into my mouth. I’m happy to say that the tradition of small Greek taverns is not limited to the islands. The streets of Athens have planty to offer.

When I came back home and I mentioned staying in Omonia, many of my friends were shocked as apparently this is the bad side of town. To be honest, I didn’t really feel it. Either that or I am too used to living together with shady people. Anyway, I would recommend Omonia as it is pretty close to the center, OK prices, good places to eat and if you’re lucky you can even catch a strike or altercation of sorts. One really must take in all the local flavor.

Regarding night life, the greeks do not disappoint. From bar streets to dungeons, you have it all. It is in good taste and it is clean. It is as much fun as it is decadent. One of the main bar streets is close to the Acropolis and if you go a bit further, you will find a lovely little sauna set up on 5 floors with EVERY major kink you can think of.

If I have a regret, that would be not spending more time in this city with good food, decent prices, great views, relatex people and alltogether fell-good attitude. I promised myself I would go back. Fingers crossed!

A load of Athens

Serbia: the love-hate relationship II

Episode 2: The EXIT saga

 

Moving on, the country is a mix of communist architecture, we do not accept cards  attitude, inexpensive food and drinks and gorgeous people.

I can honestly say that Serbians are some of the most f*ckable people I have ever met. Kudos to you! Now leave from there! Or at least move to Belgrade as it seemed somewhat bearable.

Going into details, I was there for EXIT in Novi Sad. I was told this is the kind of city which lives only a couple of weeks a year during the world famous festival. I’m inclined to believe that, but I am a bit saddened as this place really did have a lot to offer: a fortress, good, clean, cheap eats, a nice beach on the Danube , tons of cheap alcohol and cigarettes (the good kind) and (unlike at the border) an attitude defined by openness towards foreigners.

Regarding hooking up, well since you’re going for a festival, the solution is pretty straightforward: puff, trial and error. It is way more simple that in other places, particularly because of the mix of people from everywhere looking for all kinds of fun.  Things get out of hand and then things start coming into your hand. Just be careful what you squeeze.

EXIT was awesome in every way: well organized, good music, affordable drinks and ok food. It was edgy and fun without being dangerous and it was uplifting and meaningful without being cliche or corny. Also is was deliciously depraved without  everything ending up posted all over Facebook the next day. *sigh*

If you happen to be in Serbia, but there is no festival going on, then you’re stuck with the apps. Don’t worry, they work (i.e. are not blocked) and this is one of those countries where you can hook up easily by means of apps, based on my theory.

Sidenote: my theory is a complicated one, but basically means that there are two types of countries:  where there are few people and they are more willing to hook up via apps since there aren’t many options as opposed to larger places where hooking up can be done in a number of ways, with tons of people, so apps are not essential.

As opposed to Germany for example, I can say that Serbia is not very diverse. The people tend to follow a steady, one-direction line of behaviour and traditional views on life are favoured. You will see no over-the-top fashion or mind blowing alternative places to satisfy your depraved soul.

Would I recommend it for a weekend? Yes, but either during a festival or to visit Belgrade.

Would I advise on moving there? Only for a huge salary and good airplane connections to majour European cities.

Would I recommend the food and drinks/prices? Yes, definitely. As a middle-class Romanian, I felt like a king there due to the prices and quality of services. For this I am grateful.

Do i regret anything? Yes! Not knowing their regulations regarding cell phones and paying 150 Euros for half an hour of mobile data.

Overal, go see it once. You might like or hate this country. Either way, an impression will be made and it will be a long lasting one!

Serbia: the love-hate relationship II

Serbia: the love-hate relationship

My time in Serbia has most definitely been out of this world, but I’m still not quite sure if in the good way.

There have been those night without sleep, late, late, late breakfast( which I might as well call lunches with alcohol), a lot of scenery, music, sex and a hours of exercising self-restraint and zen attitude towards idiots.

 

Episode 1 – Going in

I would start off with the actual road towards Novi Sad. First thing I need to point out before proceeding is that I seem to have a stoner/pimp face. It might be because of my slender, junkie-like build, or my beard or my tattoos or my shaved head or my affinity for stuffed animals. I don’t know what it is, but I always get extra checks in the airports. It’s happened in Berlin, Rome, Frankfurt, Prague and Athens. I always get to take my boots off and have my hands and luggage scraped for drug checks. They don’t even bother telling me that I was randomly selected. It’s so obvious that I was not. Anyway, NO OTHER checks I went through on any airport come event close to what I went through at the Serbian border.

From my experience, it is very important to choose your entry point very well. Definetly do NOT enter it via Bulgaria, through the South-East customs post. We had a trio of women custom officers  with a lot of time on their hands and willing to check absolutely everything on our car and us. No condom was missed, no STD antibiotic pill was ignored and even my stuffed toy got a good body search.  It was trully shocking for them to see Armani  T-shirts and a sedan car produced after 2010 in that rural corner.

‚Serbia is a country where we are very careful to check what enters the land’ was the explanation we were provided for the semi-porno strip search we got at the fronteer.  My thought on this was something like ‚well, probably progress was denied entry judging by what I can see so far so maybe you need to chill on the prejudice!’

I’m all into a good strip search and role play, but only in select venues in central or western European cities. I can honestly say that the Serbian frontier check was not my happiest moment.

When we left we took another route more to the north and far more circulated by people from western Europe. Needless to say, the check only took about ten minutes and my dignity was intact.

Serbia: the love-hate relationship

The Berlin Manifesto

If the word paradox could be put into connection with a place, that would be Berlin. Maybe nothing can portray in a better manner the mentality of a Volk than what you see here.

The homeless of Ostbahnhof and the wealthy of Mitte, the party animals of Kreuzberg and the corporations of Potsdammer Platz, the queers of Schoenberg and the skins of…well also Schoenberg made me not want to close my eyes a minute.

I was impressed by the service in Fersehturm and delighted by the gazes I got on the streets. And more than anything, those people that were just happy to be there and then. And I can understand their happiness: they do their job, they care for their houses/loved ones, they party hard and do it all over again. And all this time, they know they are safe and will be OK. That is the Berlin lifestyle.

I hated the rain, I hated the wind, I hated being covered in winter clothes and not being able to show my tattoos through my plunging V neck or endowment through my skinny jeans, but it didn’t really matter. I loved drinking a coffee and having a cookie on a terrace in Schonefeld or riding a boat down the river until not even vodka could save me from freezing and I adored the ludicrous, eclectic, promiscuous and ever so  drunk party scene.

It is however a jungle, and in order to survive a jungle,  one would need a survival kit. This is what I would like to have in mine:

Friends

You need at least one good friend in Berlin. From showing you the city to holding your hair over the toilet or just asking if you woke up this morning with your house intact. The people in your circle will be tested by the lack of time you have for them, the disagreements regarding parties, shared space or even places to eat. But it’s all OK. You will be lucky enough to end up with one or two. And it’s all you need.

Sex

This is probably the easiest thing to find. Along with ‘party snacks’ to match the occasion. It comes in all shapes and sizes and at all times. It seemed to me that no matter the time or the working hours, people were willing to have a quickie. I was not. This time.

Job

The motto regarding getting/having a job in Berlin is simple: Jobs are like busses: I’ll be in a lot of them and another one is always around the corner. That’s just how Berlin seems to be: thing always work out.

A home

I wouldn’t call an apartment a home there. It’s like a microcosms definition. Apartments are more like places where you crash and the city is your home.

That special someone

Well, you will have plenty of people to pick from. And you should look and try and be picky. But it seemed to me like the good ones are truly hard to find, or come along just as you leave. In Berlin you make a priority out of living your life and having a blast. You don’t look for a person it the traditional ways/places. That special someone will be a person who wants to come along for the ride.

Looking forward to my next ride there!

The Berlin Manifesto

Why be good?

Evil and being bad have always been seen as the forbidden fruit – something juicy, tempting, but which must be avoided. We have been taught again and again to aim towards respect, sobriety and being a typical good guy – but no fun. Is it just me, or is there a paradox here: we are forced to drift away from what we love (but is bad) and are pushed towards reason and control (which are good).

Is it maybe because we are afraid of how good being bad might feel? Is it maybe because we’ve been raised – over centuries – to fear, hide and suffocate our primal, sensual, evil side?

And in that case, hasn’t the world just become the perfect place for our inner bad boys/girls to come out and play, chains and all?

The back story behind every (apparent) functional  social structure is that we have a set of common rules and beliefs that guide us throughout our lives. However, these are nothing more than social norms set up by a majority – NOT UNANIMOUSLY. So, isn’t it about time that fighting the system became something cool again?

Your income is a fixed thing, you schedule is a fixed thing, your career is a fixed thing, your shopping list is a fixed thing, even the way you have sex is a fixed thing (most of you have sex with the same person, in the same places using the same positions for long periods of time).

People are starting to break the mold and the cracks are visible.

Relationships are not closed, jobs are not for life, income is not subject(always) to tax and IKEA bags are stilish.

So in this world of variables and changing information, how relevant is it to be humble, abstinent and esentially good? Not really relevant. The bad guy cuts lines, does better at interviews, has more money, goes to nicer places and lives a longer life. Why? Because he takes all that from you. He takes your job, your crush, your money and the best versions of your future. Why? Because you are good and kind and courteos and soft.

I have sacrifices tons for ideals of a nice, traditionally fufilling life (giving up on scholarships or sponsors for relationships or dissing that one hot person for the one waiting at home) and in the end, the result was the same. I lost on all accounts and the only thing I had to show for it was that I did ‘the good thing’. Well is it really good if you feel bad? Since when has GOOD become an external value rather than an internal feeling? Is good no longer defined by my feelings and mood but rather by society’s approval for doing ‘the right thing’? In that case I think we have a serious mismatch regarding expectations.

I’m not saying anything new here. Bad boys always came out on top.  The only probably new thing I’m saying is that if ever there was a time to let your dark side out, this moment in time, this present world would most likely be the best time.

Why be good?

Minor action. Major impact – the little things management does that drive people away

Romania is one of the decent players on the outsourcing market. We take in a lot business, we drive costs down and we generate income better than a five star escort during the holidays. What happens behind the scenes is rarely discussed and the fact that the numbers could be at least 50% higher in most companies is often ignored from the start.  Management’s attitude is to blame for most of these losses.

 

As a client who is having certain inhouse services outsourced, you will rarely hear of what goes on backstage despite the fact that it literally is your business. This is because management will go to the moon and back to save face – an age old Romanian tradition.

 

Here’s a list of what some friends of mine, employees for multinationals, put up with from middle and upper mgmt. so that you, the client, can get income and pay them, the employees:

(Not so subtle) remarks about too long lunch breaks (they’re really not that long and even if they are, why not investigate the reason behind this?)

How often has it happened that  you (as an EE) get an email or an IM or even a short chat with your manager about the fact that your lunch break was too long and your colleagues’ workload increased as a result – mind you, guilt is often used in companies. Actually business does not suffer and your colleagues are just an excuse to appeal to the soft side in you (while you still have it, so approximately in your first 2 to 5 years in a company).

Free time Russian roulette

In the case of many managers, asking for a day off is like a visit to the dentist – filled with anxiety, pain and walking away with a bitter taste. If an employee is asking for a day off, he is in 8 out of 10 cases really needing it, so just agree. No emotional blackmail, no negotiating hours instead of a full day, no asking to work on Saturday etc.

Getting ahead – harder than you might think

From a manager’s point of view, an EE’s desire to change jobs(within the same company) means looking for a new EE, tedious HR processed, a drop in productivity while the new guy learns the tricks and the risk of having a good EE evolve poorly on a new, unsuitable position. So inside job-hopping is frowned upon. The EE feels unhappy, rejected and unfulfilled (much like a guy who doesn’t get any action on a Saturday night). Of course, these people (most of whom are good employees looking for new horizons) will leave.

Ignorance is bliss

No, it isn’t. Almost never. However, it is a sad reality in many companies. I’ve been told that the people in OPS, who are actually the engine of any firm, are mostly ignored, despite the fact that their input would be time life saving.

Inputs regarding systems, flows, workloads or schedules are almost never implemented despite the fact that many companies brag with their ‘open doors’ policy.

So, dear clients, these are only a few things the average employee puts up with for your business.  You’re welcome.

 

Minor action. Major impact – the little things management does that drive people away