The missionary adventures of the Stimpson family

An Entirely Uneventful Trip to Posta Vitan

We’d heard a number of horror stories about the difficulty foreigners in Bucharest have when they make trips to the Romanian post office,  so we’ve been trying to stay away at all costs.  People complain about long lines, crabby workers, lack of signs, bribes, mysterious bonus fees, etc.  We read blog posts talking about waiting in line for hours, only to get to the front and be told, “You’re in the wrong line,” so then they have to repeat the process all over again.  So we’ve been less than excited to visit the post office.  I mean, if I wanted to wait in long lines, I’d go pick up bread from the bakery during rush hour.  And then at least I’d have fresh bread.

Finally, after living here for 7 months, we got a notice saying our presence was required at the post office in order to pick up a package.  A few people have promised Christmas packages in the mail, so we were excited to go see what it was.

We got the notice on Friday, so we figured the best time to go would be early Saturday morning, when everyone else would be staying inside away from the cold.  It’s freezing in Bucharest right now.  We got about a foot of snow the other day, and while the temperature isn’t so cold in itself (maybe 20s-30s F), there’s been this drizzly, snowy fog clinging to everything ever since.  It sneaks down your collar to suck the warmth out of you, wrapping itself around your face like a giant leach from the North Pole.  It’s not so cold that the snow cracks and snaps when you step on it, it’s just a clinging, leaching cold that won’t let you go.

So, with the sudden cold snap, we figured this would be an ideal time to head to the post office and pick up our package.

So Saturday morning, we got ready.  We made sure we both had our IDs, grabbed the slip from the post office and some extra cash in case it was needed, practiced a few Romanian phrases that would help us out, bundled up for the cold, said a quick prayer, and headed out, ready to spend a couple hours and a lot of frustration at the post office.

Well, after all that, let me just say it was a major letdown.  Nothing eventful whatsoever happened.  We walked to the post office, which was completely empty except for workers.  When we went inside, we found the small, easy-to-miss signs that showed which line we were to stand in, but we couldn’t figure the Romanian out, so someone grabbed our slip, pointed to “Ghiseul Patru” (window four), and told us to stand there.  At window four, a cheerful young woman behind the counter smiled at us and talked sweetly to Isaac, handed us a paper to sign, found our package, and joyfully told us to have a nice day

I’ve been to a lot of post offices in the States, but I don’t think I remember anyone smiling or talking sweetly to me or  my kids.  So to balance out all the negative experiences people have had with the post offices in Bucharest, our experience was perfect.  The only way our trip could have been better is if the package we picked up wasn’t a box of bacon-flavored candy canes my dad sent.

In retrospect, I can see how a lot of things lined up perfectly for us:

  • We have our Romanian IDs, with our correct address, which is necessary to get packages through the national mail service
  • We went early Saturday morning, when most people want to stay home
  • We went on a cold day, when even more people want to stay home
  • We stared at the signs long enough for someone to realize we didn’t know what we were doing.
  • We brought kids, which is always a good thing in Romania.  If you have kids, people will give you their seats on the bus, they’ll smile and laugh more, they’ll let you go in the front of the line, etc.

So, despite the horror stories we’d heard from foreigners in Bucharest, our visit couldn’t have been less eventful.  If you want some more entertaining stories of less successful trips to the post office, check out Bucharest Life here and here.  It’s worth a good laugh.

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