Life in Bulgaria through the eyes of a foreigner
Stories from European citizens who moved to Bulgaria, part 1
Edited by Claudia Pecoraro and Andrea Vushkova, photo by Unsplash
Moving to a foreign country can be a challenge. Most of the time, it implies leaving your family and friends and stepping into an unknown place with no knowledge at all of the new country’s culture and lifestyle. Trying to settle in a foreign country, with its own set of rules, language, cuisine, and codes of conduct can be frustrating. That’s why it is important to connect with people who have already taken this step: their experience can give you the inspiration you need. Who knows, maybe you can relate to their stories and find someone who’s been through the same hardship.
We’ve already shared stories from foreigners who settled in Bulgaria and fell in love with the country. Now we’re going to add a few more, with a focus on European citizens who moved to Bulgaria for work. What advice can they give to newcomers? Let’s dive in and find out.
Konstantinos Kalaras, from Greece, IT Project Manager
I came to Bulgaria in 2003 as a General Manager for a Greek Company, and I'm currently working as a Senior IT Project Manager. I'm a Greek citizen but since the beginning of the year, I have had the chance to get Bulgarian citizenship too.
When I first came here, everything was very different as Bulgaria was not yet part of the European Union. Since then, many things have been improving very fast. To be honest, at the very beginning I was afraid to even go out after sunset, as I had been told it might be dangerous.
Very quickly I realized that reality was completely different. So my first piece of advice to every newcomer is, do not try to bring with you the ideas or the mentality from your country, but try to discover the local way of life by yourself. My second piece of advice is to learn Bulgarian if you're planning to settle for a long time. You can't imagine how much people's behavior changes when you speak – or try to speak – their language. Also, get all the documents you need as soon as possible: permanent residence, local driving license, etc.
After leaving the first company which I worked for, I decided to stay here. It was difficult to find a job as a foreigner, so I tried to establish a consultancy company for Greek customers. But the financial crisis in Greece obliged me to become an employee again. I found a job on specialized employment websites, there are many of them (like zaplata.bg, dev.bg, jobs.bg), but you can also use social networks like LinkedIn. I am not saying it is always easy: it depends on your age, expertise, and other factors.
Life in Bulgaria is very nice and calm, you can find everything you need, and the transportation is quite good. I'm grateful to Bulgarian healthcare: I was in Bulgaria when I had to go through a very serious heart operation. I couldn't do it in Greece because I would have had to pay an enormous amount of money that I couldn't find. Here, because I had coverage from the National Health Insurance, I didn't pay anything. Also, the level of support by the doctors was amazing, and I'm grateful for that. One flipside is that, unfortunately, prices are becoming more and more similar to the European ones while salaries remain stable.
I'm glad to give some advice to newcomers; I've been living in this beautiful country for more than 19 years and I’d recommend everyone to come here without thinking twice.
Anna Thevenin, from France, co-founder of “You Are”
I arrived in Bulgaria seven years ago. I wanted to get out of France and start working abroad like I had done in the past when I was feeling the need to move on. Getting a job in a call center in Sofia was the perfect option for me. At that time, I had planned to stay in Bulgaria for six months and then see where the wind would take me.
Indeed, six months became one year; then two, three, and so on. Seven years later, I am still here. I have a great position in human resources, recently co-founded my own NGO to support victims of violence called "You Are" and decided to run for the election of French council (for the French people, more info at this link)
Who would have thought seven years ago that I would have grown up so much in this place? The truth is that, if you do good to Bulgaria, it will give back to you. But what about the cracked and disjointed sidewalk, the corruption, the pollution, the rude service, and so on? Again, if you do good, it will give back to you.
Surely, I had to say goodbye to my high heels, run away from Sofia any chance I got, and learn not to take things personally – but this is all for the best. The food (especially the veggies) is tasty and cheap, you can easily go out for the weekend with 50 euro in your pocket. Not to mention that I never had issues traveling on my own or walking back from pubs in the middle of the night. The most important thing for me is that cultural events are easily accessible. Who has never wished to be able to see The Nutcracker at Christmas time without selling a liver?
If you stay patient and build up your path step by step, this is a country full of opportunities where everything becomes possible.
François de Neuville, from Belgium, CEO of Chasing Excellence Ltd.
My wife and I were building our house in the mountains of Nepal, following a dream. I was working in an adventure school as a paragliding pilot and my wife was volunteering in a local school. Unfortunately, COVID-19 came and we had to leave the country.
We decided to go to Europe for a few months discovering the eastern part and after some research, it was clear: beautiful nature, mountains, and coast, nice food, vibrant cities, safe, low cost of living, advantageous tax rate,... the dream picture, right?! Bulgaria!
We arrived with the intention to stay for a few months, but half a year later we are still here and not planning to leave anytime soon!
I am working as a Certified High-Performance CoachTM and WildFit Coach in my own company. I am the co-founder and CEO of Chasing Excellence Ltd. My wife and I always had the ambition of opening our own company; even though the situation with COVID-19 was challenging, being in Bulgaria was a great opportunity.
The cost of living is definitely cheaper than in Western Europe, allowing us to have a nicer quality of life. We enjoy the city of Sofia a lot with all the parks, the easy transportation system, the general feeling of security, and the ambiance in the city, despite the COVID-19 measures.
Living in Sofia allows you to be in a vibrant city while literally minutes away from nature! If you love being outdoors, this is the ideal capital to live in! The lower cost of living makes it possible to still have the budget to go explore this wonderful country, and there is something to satisfy everybody! Skiing, hiking, climbing, culture, folklore, sea... It’s all there!
If you want to know more about life in Bulgaria:
How does it feel to live in Bulgaria as a foreigner? What are the pros and cons, what are the main challenges? We’ve tried to share different points of view and stories from people with diverse backgrounds.
Of course, there’s much more about life in Bulgaria, and you can fully discover it just by living here. That’s one of Open Bulgaria’s main missions, and you can find plenty of targeted information on our website.
If you’re willing to move to Bulgaria or are a newcomer, you might consider joining Facebook groups, like the Foreigners in Sofia & Friends, where you can find plenty of useful advice shared by international people like you.