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Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  333 ratings  ·  57 reviews
58 short stories set in Romania, written by former BBC journalist/World Service trainer, Mike Ormsby, AKA 'the British Caragiale'. "Makes you die laughing" (Raluca Ion, Cotidianul)
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published June 1st 2008 (first published January 1st 2008)
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May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to say that it's brutally funny, but not because it's funny in a superlative term, but because it's brutally honest and that makes it funny, but it also makes it sad for us Romanians - the way he sees us, which is how we see us as a nation, when we are truthful about how we really are. There's good and there's quirky, you might say, but then there's bad and very bad and, sadly, we make fun of the bad instead of trying to correct it. But how would the foreigners make fun of us otherwise? ...more
Sejla Dizdarevic
Excellent read, if you can stand the truth and lough about it!
I was intrigued by the title, coming from a Balkan country, and somebody compared the writer to Bill Bryson (whose books I love), so I had to read it. And I wasnt disappointed, I laughed a lot and could place each of the stories in my own country, Bosnia. Particularly amusing are the stories describing old-fashioned services, like in the post office, with which we are all stuck (as long as its happening to someone else).
These are not
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has a strong personality. The author has a fresh and interesting way to see and to present those details of the everyday life of a country that make it unique, but are often difficult to see from inside. Is it funny? Is it sad? Both. And we certainly need to see both, if we want to cure. Great style, i have enjoyed the reading.
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Here's what the media / literary critics say about 'Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania', and its author

He's likeable, lucid, with a big soul and a lot of humour. The English journalist offers neither a façade, nor caricature, but reality - today's Romania.

Mike Ormsby has not the slightest intention of flattering us, nor of treating us with the superiority of those coming from the civilised world to the backward East. He insists on writing exactly what he sees, lives and feels in today's
funny and interesting short stories of a brit living in Romania
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely book about a lovely place.

In the Romanian version of the creation myth God creates the earth and starts assigning different people to different lands, but realizes suddenly that one land has every natural resource and would dominate the world. "I know", says God, "I will give it to the Romanians, because they would never manage to conquer the world."

"Never mind the Balkans, here's Romania" is a wonderful book that brought back many happy memories of the two years that I and my family
Roxana Chirilă
The book's best asset is its awesome, occasionally hilarious writing style. You can feel the journalist behind the writer: Mike Ormsby is attentive to details, straightforward yet still able to convey the atmosphere, capable of conveying his point of view without losing himself in rants or considerations.

However, the stories wander a bit aimlessly, sometimes going back to the same themes over and over without necessarily saying new things about them: reckless drivers, stray dogs, that sort of
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved it! You will enjoy this different point of view and will laugh and maybe cry a little, if you have a fine sense of irony. I recommend it both for romanian people and for tourists in the land of Dracula. I am looking forward to the next book Mike Ormsby will write :)
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I find "Never mind the Balkans..." such a captivating book. Once I started, I couldn't stop reading it. Easy to read, obviously, but what really impressed me were the realistic stories. Written in a simple manner, with a picaresque touch, the short stories reveal the Romania a confused, wondering but kind-hearted foreigner had to deal with. And mind you all: he did not come to Romania planning to write this! The book is the outcome of his exposure to the country and the people. I like the style, ...more
Robert Negut
Having some curiosity about this ever since release, I jumped at the chance when I saw this edition given away for free and I'm not sorry I did. Of course, it's a collection of very realistic short stories and my main focus are high fantasy series, followed a long distance behind by a few other forms of literary escapism, so it's not anything I'd particularly like, as the rating shows, but that doesn't mean it didn't meet my expectations. At times, it even exceeded them.
As for the stories
Carol Smith
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started this a month ago as preparatory reading for a hiking trip in Romania. Life intervened, my trip was canceled, and nearly a full month passed before I could pick it again. I had no trouble falling back into it, though, as it consists of short, breezy, episodic glimpses into the experience of both being Romanian and being an ex-pat living in Romania. They're presented, as far as I can tell, in no particular order.

It strikes me that this is the perfect way to attempt to capture the psyche of
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mike Ormsby revealed to me so much more than I could have hoped to discover during my short trip to Romania earlier this year. There were times I was shaking my head in disbelief; at the same time I often found myself chuckling as the pages flipped furiously in my palms. Alas, some things did not sound peculiarly Romanian. Many times you will come across stories which you could or would have already experienced in your own backyard. Therein lies the basis of the appeal of this book: it speaks of ...more
Ananie Olga
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An easy to read book,  with short, sensible stories about life in Romania after the 90s, from the perspective of a Western. Mike Ormsby captures with a keen eye various everyday funny situation in a changing Romania.  In the same time,  reading this book I could visualize the beauty of the Carpathian Mountains in which the autor fell in love and learn different things I didn't know about Romania. In my opinion, present-day Romania had changed in a good way and some of the presented situations ...more
Radu Vasilache
Sep 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the stories annoyed me a lot - but that's a good thing, because it simply means I did recognise the things that irritate me as well about some of my fellow countrymen and the administration of my country.
The things have changed quite a bit since the book was first published - some for the best, some for the worst, some remained the same. But reading the book I can remember the '90s, the early 2000s and compare to what is now: there is hope, even if things do not evolve as quick as we
Fred Garnett
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terrific book by scouse journalist and fellow Beatles fan Mike Ormsby. I love it as I discovered Romania this year and it tells me lots of things about life in Bucharest that I can relate to. I'm not sure how people who haven't visited Bucharest will find it but Mike is a journalist and this reads like, funny, Letters from Romania with a real sense of place, characters, timing; every chapter ends with a punch-line.
Laura Baciu
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun and true! I would really recommend it to my foreign friends before arriving to Romania.
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous read. Funny, enlightening about a country I don't know well at all. Highly enjoyable.
Kelly Marcu
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book - so funny & very keen in his perception.... anytime I got frustrated as being the American in Romania, I read a chapter, laughed, & felt much better!
Fat Climber
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So true and cringeworthy!
Ray Melville
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Satisfying collection of articles/blogs on Romania seen over some 20 years. Fascinating insight to a foreign culture.
Jonathan Lipman
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A cracking tableau of the good, bad and ugly in modern day Romania. Ormsby clearly lost his heart to Romania (and a Romanian woman) but impressively doesnt shy away from telling the truth about his adopted country. Hes also funny, and observant, and has a good knack of ending each chapter without fuss, which intrigues. Read this book to get closer to the heart of the country - just what a good travel writer would hope to provide his readers... ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-my-library, eng
Mike Ormsby scrie despre viata cotidiana din Romania, observand micile (mari) chestiuni care unui occidental I se par pur si simplu absurde, nedrepte sau incorecte. Este agrenat, ca orice alt "vestic", intr-o alta paradigma decat cea balcanica.
Scurtele povestiri sunt tragi-comice pentru un roman care le priveste din prisma aceleasi paradigme ca a autorului.

Mike Ormsby writes about the daily adventures of life in Romania, observing the smallish things which only a westerner believe to be simply
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seeing your country through the eyes of a foreigner can be truly revealing. At first I was set back by the fact that he was only recounting unfortunate events. They were accurate, but not giving a good credit to Romania.

By the end of the book I really started to appreciate Ormsby's candor and sense of observation. We, Romanians, do have all those bad characteristics that actually make each story more interesting.

And if those arguments were not enough, it is important to say that the author
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's an interesting new perspective on Romania, a view from the outside. However the writing lacks the fun element, the stories become a drag.

Can't say I'm impressed, but it's an OK book. For a Romanian it's an interesting read, for a foreigner it's an incomplete view. In the end, it's all for themselves.
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is a very realistic portrayal of Romania.I am a Romanian and I think no foreigner has ever spoken so true about Romania.I do not find it negative, it is the pure truth and it is written with love for the country.Well done!
Enda Hackett
The flows from story to story and is enjoyable in places. However some of the stories are only views from individuals which of course everyone is entitled too but that does not make them true. Abit more history and facts would of made thia an excellent book.
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book made me laugh 'til I cried...
Cabinet Veterinar
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
These bittersweet stories are all too true, unfortunately. They will make you laugh and cry. If we Romanians can take some of the credit, we must also take some of the responsibility!

Olly Kaye
I was looking for a book to recommend to my family who are all going to Romania for my wedding (like Ormsby I'm a Brit from near Liverpool marrying a Romanian). Unfortunately this wasn't it.

I've seen a lot of his stories in real life myself after 4 years of regular travel to Bucharest and the countryside, and don't doubt that they all happened as he told them. For me what lacks are the sympathetic characters, and the reason that Ormsby clearly loves the country enough to live there himself. With
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Mike is a British writer/musician based in Transylvania, where he has lived for five hundred years. He is the author of:

'Never Mind the Vampires, Here's Transylvania' (2017)
'Palincashire, Tales of Transylvania' (2017)
'Child Witch London' (2014)
'Child Witch Kinshasa' (2013)
'Spinner the Winner' (2012);
'Never Mind the Balkans, Here's Romania' (2008)
See also:

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