The clues of a Bucharest diversified from a cultural point of view are everywhere, from Pantelimon to the Centrul Vechi (Old Town) and from Gemeni Square to Voluntari. The project research team “The new minorities in Bucharest municipality” formed of anthropology MA students within the SNSPA and under the coordination of the anthropologists Monica Stroe, Bogdan Iancu and Vintilă Mihăilescu went in the field in search of places where new minorities have left their imprint on. On this page you will find a series of detailed stories on there incursions amongst Chinese, Moldavian, Turk, Indian, Lebanese, British, French and Italian communities.
Andreea Agache is research assistant of the Chinese community in Bucharest. Exploring the community entailed a stoll through the Dobroiești neighborhood, one of the places where Chinese people in Bucharest have mostly set their imprint on.
Dobroieşti commune is practically attached to Bucharest, specifically Fundeni neighborhood. Having a large surface, we started exploring the part where we already knew that Chinese people were living in, and namely the area between Fundeni bridge and Dragonul Rosu, on the right side of the road Dragonul Rosu.
The area explored on this occasion is a kind of “small neighborhood” of Dobroieşti, located on the exit to the Dragonul Roşu. There is a Chinatown in the sense that only Chinese people live there. There live both Romanian and Chinese people, but the Chinese community is mostly present there, and in the perimeter there are only apartment buildings where only Chinese people live (as Romanian employees in that area have told me, security guards and salesmen).
It is a walk-in place, there is nobody that might block or restrict your access (e.g. security guards), but it’s pretty deserted. There aren’t many people on the streets, one barely meets a man or two, the shops are pretty empty and those who do go there, generally reach the area by car. Most of those who drove by were Chinese people (about eight out of ten). All the cars had Bucharest or Ilfov license plates and numbers consisted mostly of the letter “Y” and the letters “LI” (although, so far, “Li” is the most common name encountered).
In the Dobroieşti commune, in the “new” area only of apartment buildings and new villas (there are no old houses, and some roads are not yet paved, this area used to be a vacant land). On the ground there were different ads for “Fundeni Residence”. Although on the developer’s website, which I concurrently looked on, the neighborhood was described as being located in Bucharest, on almost every street there were plates that read “Area under video surveillance. Dobroieşti Commune CityHall”.
The space is not a confined one, further there are apartment buildings and villas under construction, in various stages of completion. Also, up to the Dragonul Roşu there is a fairly large vacant land which is fenced, and seems to be waiting to be allotted for construction. Also, at the “edge of the area” are a kind of building material warehouses.
Practically, in this area, the access is done only by private car or on foot. I walked, coming from the Dragonul Roşu, passing by the remaining land still vacant and straight towards the area inhabited by the Chinese community. Generally, one comes from the opposite side, namely from the Fundeni road, as landmark (for the return) from the Fundeni bridge on the Dragonul Roşu road, or before the bridge, entering other adjacent streets and passing through the old houses area.
Everywhere there are billboards and ads advertising the Dragonul Rosu. There are also inscriptions with street names. There is no plate displaying anything like “ChinaTown”.
Entering the streets, there are billboards and ads “Fundeni Residence” (instead there is no clear delineation of this area, from what I could see, there still are apartment buildings under construction, open projects, in progress). On almost every street, there is a plate that read “Area under video surveillance for crime prevention. Dobroieşti Commune City Hall”.
Being a residential area (still under construction) here there are housing units: small apartment buildings, villas of one or two floors, all having fenced yards, a larger apartment building of six floors, exclusively inhabited by Chinese people, information received from three different people; on the site, at the balconies there were really only Chinese people, on the ground floor there is a shop with Chinese products named “Oriental Market” and a recreation area from what I could see (it was closed, had opaque windows and inside one could only hear male voices speaking very fast in Chinese and seemed to play tennis or ping-pong, judging from the noise). Also, one can find a few shops (very few) – some with inscriptions in both Romanian and Chinese, a pharmacy, a car service – also with inscriptions in both Romanian and Chinese.
On the streets and in the shops there were very few people. Judging by the fact that there are a lot of cars parked near the apartment buildings, I would say that most people are inside. In the six floors apartment building, but also in other smaller apartment buildings, people appear from time to time on the balconies: two men talk and smoke, a man repairs something sheltered by an umbrella, a mother with a small child is hanging clothes to dry (on many balconies are otherwise laundry out to dry, some balconies are furnished, with tables, chairs, umbrellas, and plants; also on some balconies and on the windows are some solar protection blinds with Chinese inscriptions and / or drawings ). All inhabitants that can be seen are Chinese. On the ground floor of the apartment building there is a closed recreation area, where men can be heard talking in Chinese and playing a sport (judging from the noise and their gear).
In the shops, the employees are all Romanian people, young and quite reserved. They’ve told me they do not live in the area, just come here for work and they’ve all confirmed that this is the “Chinese neighborhood where they live.” There are two mini-stands as well, namely two stands with various fruits and vegetables, especially melons. They are located at a considerable distance from each other (one on the main road and the second on the streets). All prices are expressed in Ron.
At the “Oriental Market” shop, a kind of supermarket selling Chinese products, although I could not take snapshots, I could walk quietly through the shelves (it’s a store bigger than the other ones I’ve seen). While I was there, two different Chinese customers came in, men around the age of 30-40 years old. Among others, I bought a few products and talked a bit about them with the sales woman there (e.g. about one of their specific juices, very sweet, and about some instant soups etc.). Upon entering the store, there were a few shelves where, among Chinese home furnishings there were many leaflets, all ads on other Chinese shops and restaurants, all printed in Romanian, of which I took a few.
From what I could see, it is clear to me that those currently living here, and in the small apartment buildings/villas where apartments are bought, it appears that habitation is permanent, judging from what their windows, balconies or yards display. Also, as I’ve said before, there are still many uninhabited or uncommissioned apartment buildings. The streets in this part are unpaved, there is cobblestone on most of them. Towards the “center” of the neighborhood, things are more settled and cozy and all streets are paved. Almost everywhere are surveillance cameras are installed.
On the street, while walking, I have seen only a few Chinese people: a couple who bought melons from the fruit stand, a young man who was smoking and walking in a rush, and a man, about 60 years old, who was standing at an intersection, in front of a Chinese shop, waiting for someone. He had a huge black cowboy hat, sunglasses, and was dressed in black jeans and a shirt. He kept moving back and forth, in the sun. At one point, a Romanian man came out of the store, talked a little, and from what I could perceive from their discussion, they were neighbors.
As here there is no local public means of transportation (there is no car or maxi taxi station), the persons in the neighborhood mostly go from place to place in their cars (it seemed to me that there is a preference for Volkswagen, Audi, BMW). The vast majority of drivers were men, but two cars driven by women passed by, a mother with her child in the front seat, as well as a car with a few very chic and cheerful young women who gave me the impression that they were going out.
The light was very strong, as the space is open and it was noon. In the areas “finished” there is a sensation of cleanliness and well maintained gardens as “display windows”. In the areas still under construction, there is rubbish and it is quite ugly, especially as the road are not yet paved (instead the small inhabited apartment buildings are clean and well maintained). I did not catch any strong sensory sensation near the establishments (smell of cooked food, music) probably because one practically cannot get too close to the windows.
In some apartment buildings, one can perceive that Chinese people live there from the cars parked next to them (after some things the Chinese have on the board of the car or combinations of letters as “LI”). On the balconies and inside of some cars there are Chinese objects and inscriptions. Apart from the Oriental Market supermarket (food and products imported from China), there also is a kind of grocery store partially commissioned (still under construction), that displayed a billboard in Romanian, English and Chinese: meat products, dairy, fruits and vegetables. The car service in the neighborhood also has bilingual inscriptions.
It’s very hot, there are no trees in the area, and there is no greenery or shade. The room is very different from that on the other side of the Dragonul Rosu road, where the “old” homes and greenery are, there are playgrounds for children, surrounded by trees etc. It is also very quiet, “intense” traffic is only done through the Dragonul Rosu road, and on the street only one car passes by on occasion and people hardly ever.
The impression of “new” is very strong, absolutely all the apartment buildings are recently built, the streets are new, also the electricity poles, plates with street names, flowers and trees planted on the rare and small “green spaces” (in one place, trees were tagged for sale, a little faded , but one could see them). From the discussions I had with the Romanian employees I’ve learned that the infrastructure was funded only with “Chinese money” (which comes in addition to what I’d read on the internet, namely that the Dragonul Roşu public road was in fact a Chinese investment, specifically of the Niro Group, who owns the commercial complex Dragonul Roşu). Also, one is left with the impression that the entire area is “under construction” as many areas are still under construction. One can already see what in a few years will look like a functional neighborhood.