30 warning signs that you are getting Bulgarianised
Issue 15-16, December 2007 – January 2008
by Richard Cherry; illustration by Ivan Kutuzov, Imeon-Balkani Foundation
Hey, expat! You've been here a while? Prefer your chips with white cheese on? Ever found your foot tapping along to a chalga song? Concerned about the Balkanisation of your brain? It's time for you to consider!
You remember what it was like when you first came here? In the beginning, you were afraid to stick your head outside your hotel room for fear of getting lost in Sofia's concrete jungle of crooked pavements and scary Cyrillic characters. But now you think nothing of walking down dark alleys at 4am, because you know every little place you can get a drink or a pack of cigarettes. You feel just a touch of sadness to see big shiny new shopping malls sprouting everywhere, because to you it just doesn't seem right to have a Marks and Spencer just down the street.
Buddy, you're a little bit Balkanised already. Take a look at these 30 warning symptoms, and judge the extent of your Bulgarianness!
1. In a restaurant, you resent being automatically given the English version of the menu. You hand it back and ask for the Bulgarian (even though the prices are the same on both versions nowadays).
2. You stop halfway through a meal to smoke. You resume your meal after finishing the cigarette.
3. You consider any meal incomplete without a slice of bread. Or without a rakiya as a starter.
4. You begin to suspect that there might be something to the myth that draughts can be hazardous.
5. You feel jealous of real Bulgarians who have grandmothers sending jars of peaches, homemade fig jam, and other yummy goodies from their villages.
6. You resent foreigners buying up real estate, because there'll be nothing left for the Bulgarians; while managing to forget the fact that you're also a foreigner trying to buy real estate here.
7. You start pretending that the local plonk is good.
8. Doing the housework, you find yourself humming the chorus of a chalga song. At parties, you can impress your Bulgarian friends by singing a few bars of Bulgaria's unofficial national anthem, Moya strana. And, on reflection, you are compelled to admit that Azis has a great voice.
9. You start writing the number seven with a little crossbar on it, so it looks less confusingly like the number one.
10. It takes you one hour to eat a salad. And if uou get a salad in which the red peppers are unpeeled, you send it back.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers