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Otto Life Stories #1: Augustin

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To celebrate the diversity of the Otto family, we will shine a spotlight on the cultural background of one experienced PCO driver in this occasional new series of interviews. 

Augustin, 38, has been a PCO driver in London for six years and currently lives in Morden but is originally from Transylvania in Romania. He reveals the best way to avoid losing money when you take on an Uber job and where to find the tastiest meatballs in town. 

Transylvania, isn’t that where the vampire, Count Dracula, comes from? 

Yes, that’s correct. It’s actually a whole region in central Romania with villages, mountains, and beautiful nature. I’m from a city called Brasov. 

How does living in London compare to Romania? 

I love that London is such a 24/7 city, with so many things to do, day or night. I also enjoy the freedom of speech here and that people are open-minded. There are also far more options for work or study, to develop yourself. Just like I have done. 

Tell us about how you got into PCO driving? 

In Romania, I studied food tech and graduated from university but that wasn’t the career for me. You see, I’ve always liked driving. When I first came to this country, I worked as a van courier and then I became a dispatcher. But I always wanted to do what I like – and that’s driving cars. My father said if you do what you like, half of your problems go away. 

PCO driver Augustin with his Kia Niro at the Otto Car Hammersmith Hub

And has this career made you happier? 

Yes, I’m happy. What I like about being a PCO driver is that it’s so flexible and gives you the freedom to deal with family issues. For example, if I need to sort out a personal matter on a different side of London, I don’t need to take the train. I can work until I get there, stop briefly to solve my problem, and then log back into the platform to begin work immediately. 

Does the job work well for you financially? 

What I do now pays the bills and I can put away money as well. I pay the taxes over here and everything else that needs to be done. The money that is left after that, I send back home to invest for the future in renting properties. 

It sounds like you have a long-term plan? 

At some point in my life, I want to go back home and live in Romania but we have a 4-year old son that was born in England. If my son wants to stay over here, that is another story. 

What do you like best about working in London?

The variety of the cultures really opens your mind and because this city is so multicultural, my passengers are the same. If a passenger is from Brazil, for example, I love being able to say “hello, good morning” in their own language. It’s only a small thing but important. 

PCO driver Augustin with his Kia Niro at the Otto Car Hammersmith Hub

So you see this job as a way to get new skills? 

That is correct. I have studied English since I came over here and being on the road is a more practical way to do so than learning from a book. If you know how to communicate with people, it leads to wider life opportunities. If you don’t, you close yourself in a box. 

What else have you learned while working as a PCO driver? 

I knew from the beginning that I needed to learn stuff. To know more about people, about English law, and this city. Being a driver offered me a way to learn the geography and to discover places. I also learned what business means by driving and having experiences. 

What advice would you give new drivers? 

Try to understand the areas where you work. For example, Hammersmith bridge is closed for five years but Uber will often pay a fixed fare, based on you crossing this bridge – and if you need to go around it for five miles, you will earn less. You shouldn’t be picky about jobs but always check if a fixed-price fare includes extra costs before you take it. I once accepted a fare for £5.75 at an airport and then had to pay £7 just to exit the car park. 

Finally, where is the best Romanian food in London?

There are a couple of great Romanian restaurants in Colindale. If you go, try the Sarmale. These are meatballs mixed with rice and garlic that are rolled inside cabbage leaves with tomato sauce. You put them in the oven to bake and then they’re really good to be served.

Want to learn more?

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