Steven van Groningen has been the president of Raiffeisen Bank Romania since 2002
Steven van Groningen is a former professional athlete, a rower in the Netherlands’ Olympic team. He is a representative of the 5th generation of bankers in his family and is married to Valeria Răcilă, an Olympic champion and a member of Romania’s rowing team. He met her in Los Angeles at the 1984 Olympic Games. Since 2002 Steven van Groningen has been the president of Raiffeisen Bank Romania and he has been living in Romania for more than 15 years.
Listen to him now as he shares with us his first impressions about Romania: “I first came to Romania in November 1985, but not as an expat, I was visiting the parents of my fiancée. It was in 1993 that I first came to Romania to work. At the time I worked for one year at the National Bank of Romania and then I worked in a Dutch bank. Ever since I have been living in Romania as an expat. People in Romania are very friendly, openhearted, they speak many foreign languages, they are not reticent to foreigners and this is the most pleasant thing to discover here as an expat. I have lived in other countries too, but the situation was not always as here”.
Steven van Groningen confesses that he learnt the Romanian language easily, being helped by the fact that he studied Romance languages in school and that he is married to a Romanian woman: “I studied Latin in school but back then I never thought I would ever need it in life. I started to learn Romanian on my own in 1984 when I fell in love with a Romanian woman to whom I am married today. This year we will celebrate 30 years of marriage, so I had quite a long time to learn the language, which is not very complicated. What helped me a lot is that the Romanian language is a phonetically spelled language.”
The big passion of Steven van Groningen is photography. He likes to travel a lot and Romania boasts a lot of beautiful places: “I love to travel around the country, as Romania has many beautiful places to visit. I am trying to go to the Danube Delta once a year and to Transylvania several times a year. My wife was born in Bukovina, which is a very, very beautiful region. I would like to travel more but I do not always manage to do that. Bucharest also has many interesting places to visit, from a cultural or an athletic point of view. Expats cannot complain that they don’t have anything to do here in Romania. If we talk about food, I find the local products or the organic products interesting, the good quality foods that are produced locally. I do prefer to cook at home, but if you want to eat out, Bucharest has lots of nice restaurants, like many other cities across Romania. I don’t eat much meat, but here in Romania most dishes have meat, so, if I do eat meat, I prefer to know how the animal was raised, fed and cooked. The region of Bukovina boasts a lot of good food, so I guess it’s better to eat regional dishes than to buy from a Bucharest supermarket.”
Steven van Groningen cannot imagine life without sports, running or competitions: “I run a lot, especially in Herastrau Park, and I also cycle a lot. I have recently covered 110 kms on my bike, but I decided to put the bike in my car and drive up to the outskirts of the city. The roads around Bucharest are good, but drivers are not used to having cyclists in traffic, but that will change in time. I can see that more and more sports events are being held, which is a great thing”.
In 2010 Raiffeisen Bank decided to promote and support the bicycle as a means of transport by launching the program “I love Velo” in partnership with the Green Revolution Association. The program allows the free rental of bicycles by the big corporations in Romania.
(translated by Lacramioara Simion)