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Bulgaria - looking at the bright side of things

Date: 29.04.2009

ONCE you have lived in Bulgaria for a few years the permanent holiday mood has long since gone, you become accustomed to the Bulgarian way of life. Some expats continue to spend their time moaning about the anomalies of the country rather than trying to learn and enjoy what it teaches us from its many good points. Most expats however, have never looked and enjoy their lie here seeing that there are far more benefits to a Bulgarian life than one in their home country. Bulgarian expats from the UK share their feelings on the positive side of a Bulgarian life.

Chill Out and Relax

The pace of life is much slower in Bulgaria. The Bulgarians are not lazy people, but they do not stress and rush in the way that Westerners do. If a problem arises with their work or home life they do not run round and panic or worry too much; they work on the basis that every problem has a solution. They seem secure about themselves and their home environment because they are surrounded by their extended family who always sticks by them. Family time, time with friends and relaxing is very important here and it is far better for your mental health too.

Low Cost of Living

Despite the increase in some food stuffs, life in Bulgaria is still so much cheaper than most other countries in Europe. The volume of bills in Bulgaria seems to be far less than in the UK and far lower. Food, Internet, satellite TV, phone and utility bills, meals out, bottles of wine or beer, cigarettes and the cost of entertaining children are far lower and for 1,000 Euros a month you can live like a king. Even annual costs like car and house insurance, tax bills and council tax are so low that they do not make a heavy dent in your monthly income. Many people entertain at home, dining al fresco with friends and neighbours.

Eating out is also popular particularly among expats who have a higher standard of living than the local population. The increase of other forms of entertainment like the multiplex cinemas that have sprung up in the large shopping malls has also become a popular night out with expats and for the younger generation nightclubs and beach bars are also incredibly cheap.

Losing the Competitive Edge

One refreshing aspect of a Bulgarian life is that your standard of living is not measured by money, how big your house is, or how successful you are at work - it's measured by the quality of your life. For parents too, you are not in a competition on how well your child is doing in school compared to the rest despite the fact that Bulgarian children are very motivated to learn. When lessons finish, its coffee and cake with other school mums and relaxed conversations and jokes. In the West society is too money with easy borrowing, taking now and working on the ‘pay later’ attitude, it's where most of our problems, both financial and social have stemmed from. Some expat communities still hang on to the old British way of comparing and competing, but most expats shed this curse as soon as they get here and it provokes a greater sense of freedom.

A Perfect Upbringing

Imagine your child roaming free with their Bulgarian friends whilst you get on with your chores safe in the knowledge that they are not going to be knocked down by a car, abducted by strangers or bullied by ‘bigger kids.’ That is what life is like for expat children in Bulgaria. Young and older kids play and interact side by side. When the weather is fine they are outdoors until it goes dark turning up with a gang of friends when they want feeding. At school, they are treated as individuals. They are not pressured or treated with so much political correctness that they become unaware of what is good work and bad work. They are taught to think for themselves and make their own decisions from the age of 7. Their school life is actually more akin to college life with no uniforms and lining up, just a ‘work to the best of your ability’ approach in class and then enjoy the rest of the day. School days finish at midday leaving plenty of time for play. The summer holidays last for three months in which time the child can take advantage of the good weather and swim and run outside.

Waste Not Want Not

Living on a tight budget, which is the way Bulgarian households have lived for many years has taught them not to be wasteful and it certainly rubs off when you live here and you learn of the amazing things that they do when recycling their unwanted products. Generally there is less waste generated because people buy what they need and make it last. In areas like Kotel where there is a natural mountain spring, every household is piped with this fresh mineral water. In the capital apartments are heated with steam heating, which is incredibly cheap at around 20 lv. a month for a large two bedroom apartment. Plastic bottles are cut down and used to cover plants to protect them from the frost. Yoghurt cartons are used to grown seedlings, discarded wood, branches from pruned trees and cardboard is stored and burnt in wood stoves in winter, which are also used for cooking on. The list of recycling miracles is endless and commendable.

Patience is a Virtue

Our Western lives have made us demanding and expectant of rapid service wherever we go and if you ever need to learn the art of patience then Bulgaria is the country where you will learn this. During the six months of residency here you will spend your life on a never-ending paper trail as you obtain residency permits, register your car, open bank accounts, enroll with the utility companies and so on. Nothing happens with the sped that it does in the West and you soon learn that no amount of moaning or stressing over this will make things happen any faster. Very soon you find that you have adapted to the ‘let it happen’ approach and all of a sudden you are no longer ‘sweating the small stuff.’

Living According to the Seasons

Coming from a dull Northern European climate, you may wish for endless years of hot sunshine, but the Bulgarian climate is made up of four distinct seasons. Each one brings something different in terms of weather, food and celebrations and you find yourself looking forward to the change in the seasons rather than dreading it. Spring warms up the land and things start to grow and you make the gentle transition to meals outside ready for the burning hot summers where you really do have to learn to relax because the heat is too much to run around. After endless days enjoying the sun, autumn brings cooler weather again helping you to make the transition into the snowy winters where you can actually enjoy holing up by the fire and cooking tasty hot meals. You never tire of the weather in Bulgaria and it seldom depresses, because for most of the year, regardless of the season the skies are blue.

Accept, Adapt, Enjoy

Many expats came to the conclusion when life’s little Bulgarian anomalies got them down, they would often remember the reasons they came to live here in the first place as well as the fact that they chose to live here and were free to go if they didn’t like it – a way of thinking that people who have not emigrated don’t believe they have. Others said they took ‘strength’ from looking at their beautiful surroundings including the dream house they had built or renovated and thanked their lucky stars that they had made the move. Whatever your thinking, it’s no good dwelling on the idea of "they don't do this", it's not better or worse than your home country, it's just different, so just enjoy the difference, after all it's what you left for!

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