My brain was still buzzing from the education of IMEX
when the Carlson Rezidor
-hosted planners boarded the shuttle bus at Frankfurt Airport
. Next stop: Bucharest
, following my stops in England and Germany and now Romania. Although my meeting management career included travel to more than 30 countries and five continents, I had never been to Eastern Europe. From high school history class, I had a vague perception of a “cold” culture. Could it have something to do with Communism and a Soviet influence that lasted through the 1980s?
Our group was delayed getting to the airport in Frankfurt and we were in danger of missing our flight. We scrambled to make the bus that would take us onto the tarmac. There were about 15 people in our group and our Carlson Rezidor host—a native Romanian—told us the airline would hold the plane for us. This wasn’t a charter flight and I couldn’t imagine that any airline would wait, no matter how many passengers were delayed. “Don’t worry,” our host assured us. “The airline is late all the time.”
This was my first indication that the Romanian culture would be different from the fast-paced German sense of efficiency we had just encountered at IMEX. On the plane I picked up the airline’s magazine, which was written in Romanian and English. I glanced at the Romanian side of an article and some words were recognizable to me. Odd. I didn’t know Romanian, but I could pick out words that resembled Spanish, a language I can read better than I speak.
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The Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, Romania[/caption]
Upon arriving in Bucharest, we transferred to the hotel and our host asked the group if we wanted to refresh prior to dinner. It was nearly 10 p.m. Eastern European Time, and although that was only an hour later than Frankfurt, we felt weary and drained from travel. The planner in all of us said not to refresh or we would never make it back down from our rooms. More importantly, we didn’t want to offend our hosts who had closed the restaurant for an extravagant meal complete with antipasti and a variety of wines.
Then it hit me. The word rung through the cultural milieu of my mind: Latin. These were the telltale signs: The relaxed atmosphere of the airline; the late meal with multiple courses delivered at a slow pace, allowing time for conversation around the table; the warm greetings of the hotel staff and the approachable nature of our hosts. Of all the countries I’ve traveled to, Latin cultures make up the greatest number. These people were familiar to me.
“We are the only Eastern European country that speaks a Romance language,” our host said.
From that moment on and throughout the trip as we visited castles, the Palace of Parliament
—the second largest government administrative building after the Pentagon—churches, shops and restaurants, I felt the warmth of Romania. Although some buildings still have a facade reminiscent of the Cold War, and the Memorial of Rebirth in Revolution Square where Communism was overthrown in 1989 commemorates the struggles of the Romanian people, Bucharest is a city filled with positive energy, a thriving tourism trade and a growing economy.
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Clubbing in Bucharest.[/caption]
At the famed nightclubs of Bucharest, I experienced a people who dance and smile with a natural freedom similar to the U.S. “The Americans are very similar to us,” said our other host, the Romanian destination management company who had planned the tours. “We have difficulty with other groups such as the French who only want mushroom and salad for their meals.”
She smiled at that and I felt a greater kinship with this culture.
There was one more connection: Prince Charles. His lineage goes back to Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian nobleman who became the basis for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. “Transylvania is in my blood,” Prince Charles joked in a satellite interview that the Romanian Tourist Board now uses to promote travel from the U.K.
As descendants of the British, I guess Americans are a bit Romanian too. My trip had come full circle. From Manchester, England, to Frankfurt, Germany, to Bucharest, Romania, we are all one.
Monica Compton, CMP, is a travel writer and event marketing consultant with Pinnacle Productions Inc. She has 23 years of experience managing domestic and international meetings and events. This blog reflects her experience attending the 2015 IMEX Frankfurt conference.
The Multicultural Milieu of IMEX, Part 1: Manchester, England
The Multicultural Milieu of IMEX, Part 2: Discovering Cuba