Four things that may take you by surprise if you decide to run research in Romania:
Don’t let yourself be fooled by geography.
While Romania is usually considered part of the Balkans, we speak Romanian (which, by the way, is also the 2nd most spoken language in Microsoft offices around the world!), a Romance language, and we claim a Roman heritage. This means part of the Romanian spirit is considered to be Latin – for example, we tend to be quite emotional and exaggerate both enthusiasm and disappointment.
Traditionally, Romania is split into 3 main geographic regions that are supposed to differ in historic and cultural background: Transylvania, Moldova and Muntenia. Depending on the category you are researching, you may discover however that in big cities across the country you will encounter the same more progressive attitudes, while in smaller cities and rural areas (we still have one of the largest rural societies in Europe), irrespective of the geographic region, more conservative and traditionalistic. The differences between the major regions tend to become more and more about the economy (with Moldova being the poorest), which reflects into everything else. Of course, there are also finer differences, this is why when planning research design, you should enlist the help of a local expert (just like with any kind of international research).
Bucharest is huge compared to the other big cities – 2.5 million inhabitants (vs. ~400K for the next biggest city – Lasi), which means it is the main market for most advertisers and many times, in qual, just running some research in Bucharest is reassuring enough.
Romanian Internet is FAST
Romania is actually 5th (!!!) in a worldwide top of countries with the fastest broadband download rates (for reference, UK is 35th: https://www.cable.co.uk/broadband/speed/worldwide-speed-league/). This means that if you are planning to run a mobile ethnography research heavy in evidence, you don’t have to worry about respondents being able to upload videos and larger files (it has always been refreshing news to the platform providers I had worked with).
You must worry, however about the general population being digitally illiterate (remember, 46% of Romania is still rural). So, choose your method wisely depending on demographic (just like anywhere, younger, more educated, urban targets are more computer literate), and keep the digital tools as simple and intuitive as possible.
Yet, according to ESOMAR, almost 30% of qual and quant research spend in Romania is represented by online methods while – for reference, in UK it is 32%. So … do what you would do in UK … or, not? (Have I mentioned already about asking a local expert?)
If your brief asks for 6 respondents, you will get 12
This is best explained by turning it on its head: how I was taken by surprise, with my first project in the UK (a very tightly scheduled one, with an international team flying from all over the world). I learnt then, halfway through the recruitment stage, that me asking for 6 in-home visits meant 6 people had been quoted for (and recruited), no over-quota/ extra-recruitments having been factored in.
In Romania, the recruitment agency would have automatically included stand-bys in the price for the 6 in-homes (50-100% over-quota, depending on agency and target) – the briefs we write here mention only the final number of respondents expected to show up, and it is up to the recruitment agency ensure they do (and include the appropriate number of over-recruits).
The research market is a market of agencies, not of freelancers.
These agencies have everything in-house (fieldwork, facility, qual, quant services) and the consequence of that the industry lacks in service providers: very few fieldwork only providers (not including here major online panels providers who operate a global business from Romania), no independent focus group facilities. So, if you need only a focus group facility, you will most likely have to rent from one of the full-service agencies (yes, focus groups typically run in dedicated facilities in Bucharest and in hotel apartments outside Bucharest). However, if you should decide to work via one of the (few) freelancers, they have their networks set up, and can help with all the referrals a project might need.
Oana Rengle is one of the few freelance qualitative research expert based in Bucharest, Romania.