The ancient Latin proverb “Mens sana in corpore sano” that is, a healthy mind in a healthy body, is nowadays gaining new meanings around the world, and Romania is no exception. From unprocessed foods, cooked at home and eaten slowly, to plant-based cosmetics, and from promoting open-air exercise to hand-made clothes and jewellery, there are many forms of a lifestyle as close to nature as possible. They are all part of a trend militating for a return to nature and for simplicity in all its forms.
Time will tell whether this is only a short-lived craze or a long-term, science-based approach to life. The fact is that a growing number of Romanians embrace this “organic” fashion, and a proof in this respect is the large number of fairs with this topic, organised frequently in Bucharest and many other Romanian cities. Andreea Stroe, the organiser of one such fair, says this trend is also a form of return to oneself, to strictly individual joys that the people of today’s world, constrained by various obligations, can no longer experience.
Here is Andreea Stroe, organiser of the “Agenda BIO” fair: “This fair is our contribution to the proper development of society, and our way of encouraging a healthier lifestyle and healthier eating habits. We live at a time when people focus too much on work and other obligations, and lose touch with themselves. So, we wanted to bring them closer to products and to information regarding a different lifestyle. All these are intended to create a general sense of wellbeing.”
What types of products are generally to be found at these so-called organic or bio fairs? Andreea Stroe tell us more: “It’s not just foodstuffs, there is a variety of products. But as far as food goes, generally there are vegan products. Clothing items are made of natural fibres. Jewels are made of semi-precious stones because they are regarded as having therapeutic properties, and there are designers who make only silver and semi-precious gem jewels, because they want their jewels to be more than just an ornament. Other participants in the fair sell dishes made of special materials, which do not alter the food and damage the health of those who eat them. The personal development part is represented by books for kids and adults. We believe education is just as important as the physical part.”
All these go hand in hand with a new type of individualism that Romanians have discovered since the fall of communism and their reconnection with the Western lifestyle.
This form of individualism focuses on self-determination, according to the psychologist Daniel David, pro-rector of Babes-Bolyai University: “The point is for this autonomous individual to be as healthy as possible and live as long as possible. So, all these concerns have appeared. One of them is this so-called cult of our bodies, which is not necessarily a bad thing, because, from a sociological perspective, in order to have strong communities you need to have strong individuals. So, people have begun to pay more attention to what they eat and how they live. This is how this organic-focused trend has emerged, which, truly enough, is not yet supported by firm scientific evidence that the foodstuffs we buy from stores, for instance, are not good for our health or that the organic products really help prolong our lives or cure any health problems.”
Although this trend is not yet embraced by a majority of the population, the number of its supporters has increased over the years. And organic products are increasingly accessible, as Andreea Stroe notes: “A few years ago, when they heard about organic products, people used to say that they were very expensive and would not even look for them in stores. But they have recently noticed that organic products are not necessarily expensive. There are more and more producers who channel their resources so as to make their products as accessible as possible. Often, those who come to these theme fairs find that they spend the same amounts but are able to buy healthier products than those from classical stores, perhaps in somewhat smaller quantities.”
Although the organic fashion comes hand in hand with this newfound individualism in the Romanian society, paradoxically it overlaps the old agricultural practices in rural communities, psychologist Daniel David says: “This pattern is evident only among the young and middle-aged generations. The older generations know that this lifestyle somehow matches the traditional, peasant way of living. So this fashion, overlapping a potential that exists in Romania and that can be brought back to the forefront, has led to a phenomenon which is visible in Romania and is set to become even more visible.”
Today, the Western pattern of natural living, fuelled by individualism and by the traditional, environment-friendly agriculture, might eventually turn this trend from Cinderella into the prom queen.