Where should you live in Romania?
You probably have to travel and decide for yourself, but here is my take. Bucharest itself is quite frankly an ugly city; a mix of Istanbul, wannabe Paris, and Soviet Realism. Winters can be grim and the summers will be hot. It is home to more than two million people and it is a crowded and busy city. If you want to work in Romania, this may be your only realistic choice as most major/international businesses operate here and the rest of the country is comparatively underdeveloped economically (with the exception of Timisoara, in the west of Romania). The people of Bucharest also have a reputation of being more “rough” than other Romanians, although I do not entirely agree with that assessment.
If you do not absolutely need to reside in Bucharest, you have a number of options and they will depend on your taste. In order to have any semblance of cosmopolitan life, you should limit yourself to the larger cities. University cities such as Iasi or Cluj will have a youthful vibe and an attractive cultural life. If you want the mountains and medieval buildings, choose Brasov or Sibiu. For the seaside, Constanta. Also be aware that each region of the country will be different depending on the influence it was subject to: Western Romania will be almost German, South-Eastern Romania will have a definite Turkish/Balkan flair, and North-Eastern Romania will have some Russian influence: you will see the differences in architecture, food, customs.
No city other than Bucharest is really big or crowded (by Western standards). You can live a stress-free life in any of the cities I mentioned.
Cost of housing
The costs of living will be quite low compared to the West, although certain items such as property have gone through the roof in the last few years. Romanians usually live in apartment buildings where they rent or buy individual flats. Not all of those will be suitable for someone used to Western comforts. Expect to pay between $60,000-$100,000 for a nice 3-4 bedroom flat in a good part of any large town. This is not really cheap, but 3-4 years ago the same flat could be purchased for a third of the price.
A house will be $80,000-$200,000 or more depending on size, location, etc. The houses are usually made out of stone (not wood). Foreign property ownership laws are changing so you may want to talk to a local lawyer if you are interested in buying.
The weather in Romania is quite typical for continental Europe, with four seasons. Usually spring and autumn are pleasant, while the winters can be unpleasant (in the cities especially). Winter holidays cause the country to practically shut down before Christmas, and things only get back to normal a week or so after the New Year.
A few last words…
In conclusion, what are some of the reasons to live in Romania? It is a somewhat “exotic” country, with a cultural mix that is unique; Romanian people are nice, fun-loving, and not completely “corrupted” by consumerism; it is affordable and likely to remain so, even as it continues to develop. It is an affordable (on a Western income), lively and relaxed place with few restrictions where clubs and bars close only in the early hours and are always packed, and where you can ski in the winter and go to the beach in the summer. Give it a try and see what you think, and you may rub elbows with other frequent visitors such as Prince Charles, Wesley Snipes, Armand Assante and Steven Seagal.