Meet Marta, founder of "Mamá española en Bulgaria"
How one Spanish mom started a new life in Sofia
Written by Marta a.k.a. Mamá española en Bulgaria, edited by Lindsay Martin, photo by Ani Petrova.
I am from Barcelona and I came to Bulgaria 11 years ago. My husband is Bulgarian and we chose Sofia to be closer to his parents since they don’t have any close relatives. I spend my time working on national radio, taking care of my two children, writing posts for my blog Mamá española en Bulgaria, and traveling around the country with my family whenever we can.
The most surprising thing I guess was the food in Bulgaria. After all, we eat every day and enjoying local food is important when it comes to adapting to a country. I love yogurt and white cheese, lyutenitsa, moussaka, tarator, banitsa, shopska salad. I like Bulgarian cuisine a lot because it's very tasty but simple. And one can prepare most of the dishes at home.
The only negative thing I find hard to cope with is the weather in winter. I come from a very sunny country and I hardly struggle with the cold between December and March. My first month in Bulgaria I was unpleasantly surprised because I had just left Barcelona at 15ºC and Sofia was around -20ºC. But hey, I can't control the weather, I am not Baba Marta (just Marta).
It would have been nice to know the language beforehand. I started studying on my own as soon as I arrived and later I did some Bulgarian courses. That was when I started to enjoy living here. I could talk to people, read the signs, watch TV, and make friends.
I started my blog Mamá española en Bulgaria 7 years ago, mainly because back then as a newcomer I could barely find any information about Bulgaria in Spanish. I wanted to help other people by making all that info accessible online and it became an interesting personal project. In its second year, it started to grow a lot and all of a sudden I found myself surrounded by a very active community of readers. Amazingly, it turned out many of them are Bulgarians living in Spanish-speaking countries who use my posts to proudly share things about Bulgaria with their friends. There are also Spanish speakers with Bulgarian family or friends, tourists and people who plan to move here. I love how they constantly send me feedback, leave comments, and tell me if I make mistakes. Even though keeping a blog active is a very tough job, I think it's worth it. Mine has given me a lot, a job, awards, a project to hold on to and quite a lot of friends.
I have several funny stories to tell about Bulgaria. Almost 20 years ago I had just met my in-laws and I was having a chat with my mother-in-law. I didn't know Bulgarian back then and she barely spoke English, so it was not easy for us to communicate. I was trying to tell her something and all of a sudden she started nodding her head no as I spoke. I was suddenly terrified, thinking, "Oh no, she disapproves of me!". It turned out that Bulgarians affirm and deny the other way round, a very interesting local habit that I was not familiar with back then. It was not funny at that moment, but it became funny afterward when I understood what it was about. How has my life changed once I've settled here? I came here with a newborn baby, knowing barely anything about Bulgaria, no job, no local friends... Now I have two kids, I speak the language, I have friends and a nice job. So pretty much everything has changed for me, except maybe for my husband, who is still the same one. I have no wish to leave Bulgaria whatsoever. After a lot of effort, I feel settled in and I can call this country my home. Things are okay for me, I am happy and I see no reason to move anywhere else, at least for now. Even moving back to my own country would be difficult, I guess, after all this time abroad.
I always recommend newcomers to learn the Cyrillic alphabet as soon as possible. That makes a big difference because even if you don't know the language, you can at least read written signs (traffic road, magazines, restaurant menus), use a dictionary, and feel a bit more relaxed and integrated.