Meet Thomas Bea Dwianggono, a teacher at the Center for Eastern languages and cultures at Sofia University

On being open to new experiences and finding a home in a new country

Edited by Lindsay Martin.


My name is Thomas Bea Dwianggono, and I come from Indonesia. I have been teaching the Indonesian language and culture at the Centre for Eastern Languages and Cultures and the Indonesian Embassy in Sofia. 

To be honest, I had no plan to work and live in Sofia before. At the beginning of June 2019, the Indonesian government offered me a cultural and language collaboration program between them and Sofia University. I thought it was a very interesting opportunity. I had never been to Sofia before. I am always excited to go, live, and work in new places. Before, I have been assigned to several countries by this same program but not in Europe. This is my very first time living and working here.

At first, I was feeling different since I am Asian and I did not see many foreign people here, especially Asian or African. Now it is not an issue for me. 

The most surprising thing I learned once I've arrived is that everything is written in Cyrillic, and I don't understand it. I wish I could speak Bulgarian a little so that I can survive better here.

In the very first week of my stay, I went to Fantastico. At the cashier, the cashier asked," Торбичка?" I tried to answer in Bulgarian with a "Да," nodding my head (common gesture to say yes internationally, I think). She asked the same question two or three times, not getting what I meant. Then she asked me, "Angliski?" - "Yes" -" Plastic bag?" -"Yes." She said, "добре" and shook her head, the way people usually say "no," but not in Bulgaria, as I understood later. I realized that I confused her; I said "Yes" but with the opposite gesture to say "Yes" the Bulgarian way. 

I am very happy to be here; I feel at home. I can introduce my language and culture to Bulgarian people. I can also get acquainted with the local culture, which is amazing as well. I can make friends with locals and other people from various backgrounds and nationalities.

I want to extend my stay here. I fell in love with this country. I like everything here: nature, food, atmosphere, weather, and people. It is not so crowded compared to Indonesia, where I come from.

I'd advise a newcomer to enjoy every single moment in Bulgaria. Try to learn the Cyrillic alphabet and some basic Bulgarian language. It will help you a lot in your daily life!