Meet Marie Pietrzak, founder of “Madame Bulgaria”
Today we talk with Marie Pietrzak, the mastermind behind the successful lifestyle blog.
Written and photos by Marie Pietrzak, edited by Lindsay Martin.
What is your story - where are you from, what do you do in Bulgaria? Why have you chosen Sofia?
I am French, originally from Valenciennes in the North of France. A lawyer by training, I left the law in 2014 to start as an entrepreneur. I co-founded a company in human resources and recruitment. After a stay in the USA, my husband and I decided to settle in Sofia, which I first discovered in December 2012. We moved here because Bulgaria is a beautiful country. It is full of potential and the food is excellent. Last but not least, Bulgarians have been very welcoming to us. I am continuing my entrepreneurial adventure by collaborating not just with Bulgarian companies, but also with European and American.
In June 2016, out of love for my adopted country (par amour pour la Bulgarie en Français) of Bulgaria, I founded the blog Madamebulgaria.com. My wish is to share Bulgaria as it is and share all the wonderful things it has to offer. I try to erase a bit of the negative things that we first heard about Bulgaria before we moved here.
What was the most surprising - positive or negative - thing you learned when you arrived?
I was very pleasantly surprised because many Bulgarians speak several languages perfectly, including English, and sometimes even French. I find that, even in Paris, it is not so easy to find people who speak English fluently. In France, it depends on the activity sectors. I find Bulgarians to be very educated, which is an asset to the future of the country. On the negative side, I will cite the pessimism of some Bulgarians about their country. Bulgaria is a very beautiful country, with its good qualities and its faults. The development potential of this country is very important. You have to believe it for this to happen. I find the new generation more positive, which is reassuring.
What do you wish you'd known before moving here?
The Bulgarian administrations do not yet have bilingual English staff (rest assured, it is the same in France). I think the possibility of finding English-speaking staff to assist in the administrative procedures is essential for those who wish to settle and live in Bulgaria.
Tell us a funny story that has happened in Bulgaria because of the language barrier, cultural differences, or your expectations.
The language barrier has never been an issue. Because as I mentioned above, many Bulgarians I meet speak fluent English. It's even thanks to them that I have improved my English skills. I tried to learn Bulgarian, but even after 100 hours of suggestopedia (a method I highly recommend for learning a language), it was difficult to construct a sentence. Also, my husband, Alexandre, speaks fluent Bulgarian and helps me when needed. When he is not with me, I talk with my hands, but I avoid the administration.
When we moved from Sofia to Varna, our neighbors, who have now become friends, welcomed us with fruit and vegetables from their orchards and a bottle of homemade rakia. We were impressed by the quality of this welcome. We loved it!
How has your life changed now that you've settled here?
I changed my way of consuming, less in quantity, and more in quality. More often at the small merchant around the corner than at the large distribution chain. I’ve now experienced the simplified life accessibility of the people.
Would you consider moving abroad, or would you stay here? Why?
This year, I am traveling more often for professional reasons, especially to Paris. But my heart is in Sofia. I have absolutely no plans to settle elsewhere. In addition, I strongly believe in Bulgaria, which will continue to develop. I'm in one of those countries where you have to be today, with flights that connect you in 2-3 hours to any European country.
What would be your advice to a newcomer here?
My main advice would be not to compare Bulgaria with other countries. Her story has had a big impact on its people, but mentalities are starting to change. Also, with the affordable corporate tax rate in Bulgaria, don't be afraid to start a business here. In addition to being well-connected to the rest of Europe, you will find be surrounded by talented people ready to join your entrepreneurial adventure.