Expat in Moldova: Deceived by First Impressions?

by Miss Footloose

I trust you’ve taken careful notes and know that my man and I moved to Moldova a few weeks ago to start a new expat life adventure.  Moldova is a small country in Eastern Europe and the capital is Chisinau (KEE-see-now KEE she now).

“Look at the trolley buses!  Look at the pavement tiles!  Look at the underground shops!”  I said to my husband as we walked around Chisinau for the first time.  “It looks just like Armenia!”  (You know, of course, that we lived there for a number of years.)

“There’s a reason for that,” my mate said, rolling his eyes.

Of course there is.  Moldova and Armenia, although far apart, share a common history and were once sister Soviet republics enjoying the benefits of Communism.

But the traditional cultures are not the same, and neither are the people, which became clear one day when I stood waiting to cross the street and a car stopped to give me the chance to do so.  Really.  I was so flabbergasted, it took me a moment to actually make my legs move, keeping a wary eye on the vehicle in case it was going to come for me. But no.

Although I know this is a different country, I cannot help noticing similarities.  Men wearing black, old men on park benches playing chess or backgammon, Russian everywhere on signs and billboards.

Soon enough I will learn this is not Armenia, so I beg forgiveness if I have offended any of my new Moldovan acquaintances.

One of the first things I did was walk into a phone shop and buy a cell phone.  I did this by asking if anybody spoke English, which was the only way this was going to happen.  And yes, there was such a person, a nice young techie type who didn’t at all make me feel stupid, which I am.  Technically speaking.  (I do have my brilliant moments, but they occur in other realms of the human experience.)

He set the thing up for me, put in my husband’s number to show me how it is done, went to the internet and printed out an English language manual.  The one it came with had seven languages in a variety of alphabets, none of which I could do a thing with.

And more good news:  We’ve found us a dwelling place!  Since we cannot move in until May 20, we’ve vacated the hotel and are temporarily ensconced in a furnished apartment set up for short-termers like us.  It’s comfortable and convenient with a kitchenette and a cute baby washing machine the size of a box of cornflakes.  Unfortunately the color scheme is a sorry symphony in shades of sludge, but am I complaining?  Certainly not: The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the buds are popping.

And our shipment has arrived!  Fast and undamaged.  The boxes are now decorating the apartment living room, the color of the cardboard boxes fitting nicely into the color scheme.

Needless to say, as the chef in the family, I have scouted out the supermarkets, camera in hand, until I noticed a big sign with a graphic indicating cameras were not welcome.  I don’t know why.  Just have a look at this photo:

What is wrong with that picture, I ask you? Fortunately, no one arrested me, which really would not have been an auspicious beginning for  my life here.

A couple of days ago I went to the International Women’s Club meeting in the hotel where we stayed earlier (the one with the decadent painting of the half-naked dancers) and met an international tribe of expat women as well as some Moldovan women.  This is what I do when I first move to a new country: Find the other girls. I had a nice cup of Earl Grey tea with the young British wife of the Turkish manager of the mentioned hotel.  I met the fun Bulgarian wife of the American consul, and a Norwegian lawyer with whom I shared the worry of where to get one’s hair done.

And what will my mate and I be doing on Saturday?  We’ve been invited to a Cinco de Mayo party!

So you see, things are coming together just fine.  Stay tuned for more missives from Moldova.

* * *

What do you do first when moving to a new country?  Or, if you have any questions, ask me and I’ll see if I can answer them in another post.

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sorry about repeating myself I thought that it was another person who wrote this article 🙂


How long are you willing to stay in Moldova? 🙂 and why Moldova? 🙂

if you need help with romanian you can write me :p

I remember visiting Chisinau a few years ago. It was early June and the city looked quite pretty. Have you been to that odd “country within the country” Transdniestr yet? So interesting.

About the no-photo issue: I think it’s mostly an individual store (or chain) policy. I’ve been stopped from photographing in shops in Singapore, the Middle East, New Zealand and even California.


Hi Miss Footloose, nice blog. But I have to correct the pronounciation of Chisinau it is Kee-she(!!)-now. Supermarket: nice picture and I have to agree that I don´t know why they are shy with the photo taking. They have usually a great offer and display the food nicely. About the hair doing. My opinion is: try out! Sometimes it works good for several times and than the hairdresser thinks to know your style and becomes creative in a way you could n´t stand. Than you try anonther one and it happens again sooner or later. I changed several times even… Read more »

Hi! Loving finding out about the new life in Moldova, fish eyeballs, banned photography and everything! Blogger’s nightmare, not being able to take photos of random things in supermarkets, too!

In a way I’m envious of all the new experiences you’re having. As you know life in the U.S. is very exciting: Target, Ralphs, library, Peets coffee, gym. I enjoy change, learning about new cultures and exchanging views with others. It makes life rich and exciting. I am surprised how “civilized” everything seems. For some reason I expected drab and dreary. Keep the stories coming. Sonia.

Looking forward to hearing more about Moldova. One of those places that sounds like Anthony Hope wrote about it.

I like the way you adjust so quickly to changes, it’s wonderful. I hope you have lots of fun there.

Heehee I have to admit, Moldova still sounds like a ‘made-up’ name. Still Tintin-ish, if you know what I mean.

So glad your things have safely arrived, and so soon too! What we usually do in a new country is go out and buy whatever piddling but essential thing somebody managed to forget: a sewing kit, fingernail clippers, eye drops. But making friends, especially good women friends, is high on my list of priorities, as is meeting the local food and getting on a first name basis with it as quickly as possible. It’s funny how sinister the idea of a sign prohibiting photography (or guns!) is. In San Francisco, I used to work in a school with a huge… Read more »

Glad things are going so well and that you have found a nice place to live. The first thing I do when I move to a new country is find a friendly bar [assuming it’s somewhere with a café tradition] where I can make myself known, become a regular and start making some contacts.


Wow…already a place of your own and your stuff arrived! You are off to an auspicious beginning! Best of luck with feeling settled soon.
I laughed at your reluctance to cross the street–that happened to us too. Now I’m getting used to things, and am to the point where I get annoyed when I am all set to weave my way between cars without inconviencing anyone and they all insist on stopping for me! Most annoying!

Hi! Glad to hear that everything is going fine in your new place in the world!
Those pastries and desserts look just …. delish!! Yammmm! How weird that they would not allow cameras inside the supermarket?
Remarkable that men should all dress in black… why is that, is there any reason in particular?
Wishing all the best and I hope you can move to your new place soon!

I will stay tuned! Curious detail, indeed. Maybe women feel more content with the new state of things and men don’t and that’s why they keep wearing black?


You know, we had the same thing happen here in Peru. My sister was visiting and wanted to take some pictures of the different brands (they found a chocolate candy called “Crack” to be hilarious!) and an employee stopped them. It wasn’t as serious as threatening to take the camera, he just asked that we not take pics inside the store. Seems odd to me – what are they afraid of?

Now, it may be the fact that I am still feverish, or perhaps I am just stupid, but you have a washing machine specifically for cute babies? I can’t see them fitting into a cornflakes box though, unless you squash them in, which apparently is not what you should do with babies, cute or otherwise.

I feel better now. And I understand!

Did you also see the sign that no guns are allowed in supermarkets? I’m still mulling over that one…


Sounds as though you’re settling in just fine, to me. I wonder why they don’t allow cameras in the supermarkets?
I’m not sure how I’d go about settling into a completely new country (we already knew Turkey quite well when we came here) but going to meetings like you do is a great suggestion.

Hi Glad to hear the transition is going smoothly. As for cameras, we just had a similar experience here in Atyrau… I was taking a new couple around to the grocery stores, showing them around, and the wife had a camera. She wanted to take pictures to take back to her daughter that they had to leave behind for their look-see visit. Well, a man in a suit (black of course) came up to us, speaking quite quickly in Russian, and from what I got…wanted either the camera or the card. Well, I made good of what little Russina I… Read more »

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