Why someone from the Canary Islands would want to stay in Bulgaria

Meet Marta Valverde Ríos, Open Bulgaria’s writer

Written and photos by Marta Valverde, edited by Andrea Vushkova

People I have met here often tell me that foreigners who visit Bulgaria usually stay either for work, or love. Well, in my case, I found both, and many other reasons too. I am originally from Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, and I arrived in Bulgaria in February 2020. I came to participate in a volunteer project under the European Solidarity Corps program for 10 months, but a year and a half later, I am still here. So as you can probably guess, I love this country. 

I like to say that I did not choose Bulgaria, Bulgaria chose me. Honestly, I was simply looking for a volunteer project in any place, since I was close to turning 30, and the program does not accept people over that age. I applied for a few vacancies and the Bulgarian organization was the first one to answer me. I am so grateful for that now!

The most surprising and positive thing I have found here is the people. Let me explain. I come from a place where people are known for being extremely warm and friendly, and I was expecting the locals here to be cold and distant. I really don’t know why, probably due to ignorance, considering that Bulgaria was a country so far from me. From the moment I set foot here, I could see how mistaken I was. Bulgarians are super nice, smiley, and always willing to help you. I really feel at home here. 

Apart from the people, I adore the country itself. From the seaside to the mountains, I love driving around Bulgaria when I have a few days off and enjoying the landscapes. I had no idea that it was such a green country with so many interesting places.

On the other hand, I have to say that I found a negative thing here, and that is the huge number of cats and dogs in the streets. I really love animals and I like to meet them around the city, but it is so sad and unfair that they do not have a safe place to stay. Luckily there are some organizations that are trying their best to help them, thanks to the kindness of amazing people. I hope that with some time, but above all with political will, the situation will improve.

About a funny story that has happened to me while here, it is related to cultural differences and the way Bulgarians motion to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’. During my first days here I went to eat at a restaurant and when I finished, I asked the waitress for the bill. She responded by shaking her head sideways, which to me means 'no'. I was puzzled, thinking, ok, if she does not want to bring me the bill, I will not pay. Then I remembered reading on the Internet that Bulgarians shake their heads when they want to say ‘yes’, unlike almost all the rest of humanity. Now I am used to it, and after spending a lot of time with locals, sometimes I find myself shaking my head like them. I actually think it is pretty cool. 

I definitely love living in Bulgaria. I have to say that I come from paradise. I was born in a place where many people from all over the world choose to spend their dream vacations. Despite that, I am planning to spend more time here. It can be a few months, a year, or a few of them. Only time will tell, but for now, I am determined to find my life here.

Thank you Bulgarians!