1. Please tell us about who you are and what you do.
I’m a teacher and a writer/journalist/editor/publisher/businessman. I teach English language at the British School of Bucharest and I run OZB Media.
2. Share your backstory with us. How did your business or organisation come about and what was it that switched you on to this area in the first place?
I’m originally a journalist, I trained in my native Scotland and I’ve worked in the UK, East Asia and now here in Bucharest. I’m also a teacher, trained in London, I teach EAL. When I arrived in Bucharest I noticed that there weren’t any magazines targeting the international community so in the summer of 2017 I launched OZB with the aim of “celebrating the best of Romania”. OZB was a monthly lifestyle magazine all about Romania in English until the crisis struck in March. Then almost all of the outlets where we were distributing the magazine closed so since then we’ve been focusing on our site www.ozb.ro. I’d like to thank all of those who have been involved with OZB in anyway and at any point over the past three years, I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people, that’s for sure.
3. What do you think or hope the future has in store for you and your business? Where do you see yourself or your organisation five years from now?
I just hope that we can survive for now – media is tough, print media is very tough and print media in times of covid are nigh on impossible but I really hope that in the autumn we can return to printing OZB. In 5 years time I hope that we can have a bigger, thicker magazine, produced by a bigger team of talented professionals and I hope it can be distributed more widely across Romania. I also hope that our site can become the go-to site for Romanians and the international community looking to find out more about this fascinating country.
4. How has lockdown been for you and for your business and what have you done that has helped you personally and professionally?
On the one hand it’s been tough because my two daughters relocated to Scotland at the beginning of lockdown and not seeing them has been difficult. On the other I found the whole thing an interesting experience. Teaching online was initially a challenge but we managed and my students learned. OZB had to go online and we started our OZB People series where people answer these questions. The response from those participating has been great and we’ve had a lot of positive responses from our readers. Personally it was a time to work on myself and I discovered yoga, I dieted and we spent our one hour of exercise cycling in Baneasa forest which was a balm for the soul. It felt very strange when lockdown was lifted and I went back out into the world again.
5. What’s your take on Bucharest and Romania. What are the highs and the lows in your opinion?
I really like Bucharest and Romania, obviously but not without reservations. There’s a lack of pretence here that I enjoy, people are by-and-large decent, straightforward, smart and helpful. I think the rural connection is never far away and, as a country boy myself, I think that’s healthy. I appreciate the relative lack of crime. Of course I love the mountains and the forests, Romania is drop dead gorgeous as are a disproportionate amount of Romanians! Bucharest is an interesting city, great parks, but I’d like to see a more progressive approach that prioritises pedestrians, bicycles (the city is as flat as a clatite) and public transport, where these are encouraged. The traffic situation really detracts. The government should do more to promote the train to Brasov to ease congestion on the DN1 especially at the weekends. I think Romania has huge potential and in particular in the green, eco field and in eco-tourism but it needs to be done right.
6. What is your must do/must visit/favourite thing to do or show off to visitors here in Bucharest and Romania at large?
In Bucharest I take visitors to the Village Museum then through to Beraria H to eat and if the guests have small children there’s a great play park just beyond H. Bucegi Park is nearby and beautiful as is Magura and Piatra Craiului and the Delta is simply sublime.
7. What is your number 1 recommendation now for a book/film/series/app/ or gadget?
Book: “We, the Survivors” by Tash Aw, film: “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”, series: “Zero, Zero, Zero” and apps: “Book”, “Moovit”, “AirBnB”, “Leafsnap”.
8. If you could eat in any restaurant in all of Romania and have dinner with anyone in the world (not a husband/wife/relative) which restaurant would that be and with which person?
I would dine with Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, in Casa Doina.
9. Sum up your business in one sentence, what it is and why should people engage with it.
OZB aims to celebrate the best of Romania with first class writing, photography and design showing people how wonderful it is and I always welcome input and participation from those who wish to share their passion for this country.
10. Describe your Romania in one word.