Meet Bozhidar - Open Sofia’s writer and marketeer
Find out how spending five years in the UK has changed his perspective of life in Bulgaria
Written and photos by Bozhidar Ivanov, edited by Lindsay Martin
Hello! I’m Bozhidar, and I’m originally from the lovely town of Vratsa, Bulgaria. After finishing school in 2015, I moved to the UK to pursue a degree in English at Coventry University, which was followed by a master's in Marketing. After graduating I have helped a few small publishers develop their marketing strategy, all while navigating the scary world of adulthood and running my book blog.
I joined Open Sofia by chance, as I came across a call for contributors and I decided to get in touch. I was introduced to the team and eventually became involved with the marketing side of the project, which played to my strengths and let me learn and apply new knowledge.
As I joined when the project was relatively young, it was a joy to participate in the process of developing the platform and building the community. There are always fresh faces in the team and new ideas being introduced, and it’s exciting to see what lies in the future.
The thing that surprised me most about the UK compared to Bulgaria was just how digitalized everything was. All the information and resources about documents are on websites like Gov.uk and the city council’s website. Transport, food, even university assignments – everything is just a click away, and it makes you feel empowered to do things. Even something like starting a business can feel like a breeze. I’ve definitely seen improvements in Bulgaria in the five years since I moved away, as a lot of the popular services and apps are now fully functional in Sofia and the other big cities, but there are still so many levels of bureaucracy and local administration that feel painfully slow and outdated that it can drive you nuts!
There is a positive side to this though – it often encourages communication and socializing, and may lead to some funny situations. This is a welcome change from the UK, where interactions can often feel cold and detached.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and that’s definitely the case for me. Being away for over five years has certainly changed my perspective of Bulgaria and life there. The UK definitely offers more work opportunities and a more fertile ground to start a business or network with big companies, but as remote work and social media have grown rapidly, it’s not impossible to connect with employers or complete a project from a distance.
I’ve seen Sofia steadily improve over the time I’ve been away and it has now become a real business and culture hub. A lot of amazing things are happening there at the moment, and even more will take place after the Covid restrictions ease, and they are worth visiting and supporting. Also, I’d love to visit some of the amazing places I’ve missed like the Buzludzha monument or the Seven Rila lakes – the UK can’t really compete with the beauty of those places. But it’s a big decision and there are always a million other things to consider. I guess it’ll happen when the time is right.
My piece of advice to a newcomer in Bulgaria - Do your research!
While having a quick trip to Sofia or a tourist city should be simple enough, settling down can require much banging your head against the wall if you’re not prepared. As mentioned above, a lot of administrative processes are not as simplified as in other countries, and gathering as much information about the various documents and permits you’ll need will make your life much easier! I might be biased, but Opensofia.org is a good place to start!
On the bright side, as long as you’re open to socializing, you’ll find plenty of friendly faces who’ll be glad to help you with the more perplexing aspects of our country and explain to you some cultural peculiarities like the fact we nod in reverse! Social media and groups like Foreigners in Sofia and Friends can also be a great resource to get answers and advice!
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