Should Look Out For
|By Simeon Mitropolitski
with the Bulgarians over one of the following topics: their history,
medical care in Bulgaria, soccer and international politics. Bulgarians
are sure that they are born with some intrinsic skills in the field of
history, and also in medicine. They believe that they are specialists in
everything regarding soccer and above all they are experts in what concerns
If you are
foolish enough to argue with them over one of the above-mentioned topics,
Bulgarians will look at you like an extraterrestrial, which has tried in
vain to question their territory.
|As a little
compensation, Bulgarians adore foreigners who express some admiration towards
the natural beauty of their homeland. Tell them that the rolling hills
in Bulgaria look much better than in some far remote country, and they
will immediately trust you and also will think highly of you.
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of the Bulgarian women can also delicately impress you; people in Bulgaria
truly believe that their women are the most amazing female creatures on
Earth. The third element of this Saint Trinity is of course Bulgarian cuisine.
Never say anything that could be taken as a complaint againist Bulgarian
how fresh the vegetables are in the meals compared with vegtables in the
West. The Bulgarians truly believe that the nations in Western Europe and
North America eat only canned and tasteless food.
remember well? No talk about politics and always a couple of good words
about nature, the ladies and the food! After these introductory lessons
you are almost ready to go to Bulgaria.
to describe one nation in brief is doomed. Any opinion always will be biased,
reflecting just one moment, just one place and some people, who by chance
crossed the eyes of the observer. Bulgaria looks very different depending
on your legal status (tourist, expatriate businessman, permanent resident),
your financial situation, and the political power you're entitled with.
So here you'll find not Bulgaria as it is, but only Bulgaria as it looks
through my eyes after having lived there for 32 years.
thought in my mind about Bulgaria when I look back is the air. If you're
living in cities with thousands of old and heavily polluting cars you'll
certainly understand what I mean. The air in Bulgaria, not everywhere but
in many places, isn't for breathing. In the big cities it's full of gas
and smoke, in the province it's full with fine dust, taken away by the
wind over the dry soil. Many Bulgarians don't even know how dirty the air
is that they are obliged to breathe every 3-4 seconds.
of them can't afford to travel so for them this is the only variety of
air they are accustomed to. Tell them that in Manhattan the air is
cleaner than in Sofia and they just won't believe you. Dust has always
been part of Bulgarian life, but gas emissions are linked with the industrial
revolution of the last 50 years or so. A trip around the country may look
like a travel across the Mendeleev's periodic table of elements. The wind
takes away the smaller particles and drops them over the arable soil, over
the rivers and the forests and then finally the air reaches people's lungs.
tourists, who choose Bulgaria for their summer vacation, are saved from
this air. They choose to rest on the Black Sea coast, gently touched by
|Some of them
prefer to use the so-called all-inclusive packages, helping to isolate
them from the local population and to enjoy their vacation. With several
hundred US dollars or Euros, Germans and other western tourist can enjoy
a week in some renowned seacoast resort such as "Albena", "Golden
Sands" and "Sunny Beach".
In the last
few years summer tourism and organized tourism have become the main source
of revenue for the Bulgarian economy and for the state budget. To attract
foreign tourists in the inner areas of the country, the Bulgarian government
is trying to fix up the ecological situation. I hope this will be done
soon because the most interesting parts of Bulgaria aren't alongside its
coasts, but within and around the small mountain villages. Only an hour
or two driving from "Golden Sands" or "Sunny Beach" will lead you to an
urban architecture from the middle to the end of the 19th century.
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environment you will remember for the rest of your life; it was created
to please ordinary people, an environment that reflects both charm and
Bulgarian towns and above all Sofia are situated on the other pole. They
have no tranquility. The majority of their populations live in areas far
from any aesthetic urban design. Ugly, similar and gray concrete structures,
made only to depress the human mentality. In Sofia the only joy for the
eyes is made by God. This is the mountain Vitosha, standing 2 km tall,
looking like a volcano just 10 km from the city center. The last communist
dictator believed that this mountain could hide the ugliness of the city
and applied twice to host the winter Olympic games. The city didn't receive
this honor and many mountain areas were saved from deforestation.
are an important part of Bulgarian legacy and national spirit. Throughout
the centuries Bulgarians used these natural fortresses to hide from the
persecution of foreigners. If Bulgaria didn't have mountains, maybe today
there wouldn't be people calling themselves Bulgarians. Bulgarians now
live in the valleys; these people enjoy looking up but prefer living in
the cities. For Bulgarians a normal vacation means renting a room or booking
a hotel near the seacoast, looking at the sea and walking with a girlfriend,
drinking a beer and reading the sports or political section of some daily
paper. This is considered as a typical way of passing 2-3 week summer vacation.
Bulgarians are very conservative by nature.
conservatism, Bulgarians fear public opinion, they also fear being isolated
by society and above all they fear feeling responsible for their acts.
Public opinion is very strong and you will see this in the uniform dress
code depending on the generation and financial situation. Bulgarians think
that westerners are dressed very unstylishly, because they can't understand
that every individual has a right to wear what individually suits him or
her. In fact Bulgarians want very much to hide their individuality under
a certain uniform just because their society doesn't accept individuality.
The same applies
to the houses in Bulgaria. Look at the high society properties, situated
south of Sofia going towards Vitosha. Almost without exception tall walls
surround these villas. These walls probably consume more building materials
than an average house in the West. To remain out of reach to the eyes and
hands of others, this is the main idea behind these walls. This thought
remains constantly vivid in the mind of every Bulgarian. For the majority
in Bulgaria it's an indisputable truth that if you want to hide from public
interest you have to submerge yourself in the crowd or be surrounded by
a tall wall.
whether or not people should live outside the crowd is fundamental to those
who plan to settle down in Bulgaria. The Romans had a magnificent proverb:
When you go to Rome, do as Romans do! A tourist usually doesn't have enough
time to find out how a normal citizen lives in Bulgaria; that is why anyone
who wants to settle in Bulgaria should follow some golden rules, which
characterize some specific components of the Bulgarian way of life.
Anytime you're asked, "How are you?" the politically correct answer in
Bulgaria should be "Bad" or "So-so". Answers like "Fine, thank you" or
"Very well, and you?" will suddenly make you a target for unhealthy curiosity
concerning your financial situation and may even inflict unsolicited night
visits inside your property by some unpleasant people.
You should always be in the company of fellow foreigners instead of Bulgarians.
Just accept the fact that till the end of your days you'll remain a foreigner
in the eyes of the local population, your broken Bulgarian will reveal
that you're not one of them. For them you'll be a source of extra cash.
Every conversation for them will represent a kind of bargain. So use your
power to bargain and fine a cheap merchant with whom to spend your money
Bulgarian society is strictly delimitated by financial criterion, i.e.
every man, woman and child are worth exactly what they have in their pockets
or pretend to have inside the pockets of their friends. Just accept that
entering Bulgarian society you will also have to play the same game. A
number of adventurous foreigners tried abusing this system by accumulating
illegal capital on the backs of local people, using financial schemes etc.
They now live behind bars; this is a lesson for anyone eager to follow
The rule that
anyone costs exactly the content of his pocket has one particular consequence
for those who want to settle down in Bulgaria. Your income and only your
incomes should determine your way of life in the years to come, so be very
prudent with what you buy and at what price. I imagine that if you're interested
in countries such as Bulgaria most probably you expect a monthly rent of
$1,000 for a single or $2,000 for a couple + up to $100,000 for buying
a house. If this is the case then you have alot of room for shopping in
Bulgaria, looking for the exact region, type of property and even the criminal
rate in the area. Remember, $100,000 is lot of money in Bulgaria if you're
looking for a house to live in and not a palace. If you look at Bulgarian
real estate sites, you'll perhaps find properties above this price level,
but don't be fooled, they are not for you. As a foreigner you should know
that the prices for you must be preferentially higher. In general $100,000
can buy up to 300 sq. meters (appr. 3,000 sq. ft) in a good area in Sofia
or on the seacoast. Do you need so much room for a single or a couple?
In the rest of the country the purchasing power of your money will double
or triple. Recently my friends told me that they bought a small apartment
(in Bulgaria a small apt. is 50-60 sq. meters) So if you play the game
prudently you could save $50,000 to $60,000 or even $80,000 on your housing
Right now the
prices in Bulgaria are very low and besides some areas in Sofia and the
Black Sea coast, the supply greatly surpasses the demand. Where your monthly
rent is concerned, this $1,000 is also big money in Bulgaria. In general
a family of 4 living in Sofia tries to live within $500-600 a month. The
most expensive cities in the country are Sofia and Varna. The food there
costs around $100 per person if you stay away from the restaurants. In
the cheapest areas of the country the food is twice as cheap. The clothes
and shoes are also not very expensive. The main problem here is that with
some exceptions you can't return the goods.
If you're a
foreigner wanting to settle in Bulgaria, don't expect that everything there
is cheaper than in your home country in North America or Western Europe.
Take for example phone calls. In the United States and Canada local calls
are included in a flat monthly tax. In Bulgaria you will have to pay for
any call, the local as well as long-distance. If you're accustomed to being
24 hours on the Net, then you'll have to budget several hundreds of dollars
to cover your local calls to the Internet provider. Bulgaria could have
some very unpleasant surprises for those who are accustomed to running
water 24 hours a day. It's true that almost every town and village has
their W&S systems but in some parts of the country there are so called
water regimes. If you plan to settle down in some particular area, ask
how many hours a day you could enjoy running water.
Also you should
ask if there are power cuts during winter. In Bulgaria the winters are
colder than in Western Europe or many parts of the United States, so any
power cut could disturb your normal way of life. Remember that in Bulgaria
heating is expensive not because the fuel is expensive but because the
houses aren't well insulated. If you want to live in a house with good
insulation then you'll have to be prepared to pay a higher price for it.
So before paying it's better to make some simple calculations, which are
cheaper - to pay more for the house and less for the heating (5-6 month
per year) or vice versa. According to Bulgarian laws a foreigner can buy
a house or land for residential use. So the legislation is liberal and
is expected to become even more liberalized after the country enters the
Index ~ Balkans