BULGARIA VERSUS IRELAND

BULGARIA VERSUS IRELAND

Wed, 11/01/2006 - 11:50

Creative driving is in, smirting is out. For the time being

A Bulgarian friend told me an interesting story about Ireland today. There is a well known poster "The Doors of Dublin", showing the city's Georgian doors in all their colourful splendour.

On the internet she had found the explanation for this profusion of colour. An Irish tour guide had told a party of visitors that on the death of the English queen (unspecified) the citizens of Dublin had been ordered to paint their doors black as a sign of mourning. The rebellious Irish decided instead to paint them anything but.

When you ask the average Irish person what they know about Bulgaria the answer will probably be "not much". Sunny Beach, skiing and low property prices, and perhaps some facts culled from the Internet equally as bizarre as the Dublin doors. This is a shame as, having lived in Sofia for more than a year, I find we have much in common.

The belief here that we spend all our time drinking large amounts of whiskey is up there with the colourful doors, but both the Irish and the Bulgarians do like to do their socialising over a few drinks. We don't drink to get drunk, we drink to talk. The difference is that we Irish do not always include food in the celebrations.

I think we could learn from the Bulgarian approach to eating and drinking, and to culinary timing. There is no need to hurry when you are eating out; take your time, enjoy a leisurely salad and rakiya and then think about what you might fancy for your main course.

Our insistence on ordering everything at the same time led to a meal last week that began with a plate of chips followed by the salad. Then came a solitary kebab, 15 minutes later the chicken shaslik arrived and last of all the homemade bread was delivered.

Then there is also our shared attitude to authority. I hesitate to use the word "anarchy", but there is a certain relaxed approach to the observance of rules that I have noted in both countries. I put this down to our shared history.

We were both invaded by a larger neighbour and several hundred years of occupation tends to instil in the populace a particular bloody-minded attitude towards regulations and those in power.

Take our attitude to road safety, for example. I think I have to award the Bulgarians first prize in Creative Driving Techniques, but we are not far behind. We too have miles of narrow twisting country lanes with few road markings, which afford ample opportunity for giving the oncoming driver a heart attack when you overtake on a blind corner. We too have sad headstones and fading bunches of flowers marking the spot where some poor soul miscalculated speed and distance.

In Ireland a new word has recently been coined. "Smirting" (smoking + flirting) describes the activity of chatting up strangers while having a cigarette outside the pub, nowthat smoking has been banned in all venues.

Somehow, I get the feeling that smirting is not going to catch on here and that smoke-free restaurants and bars is not something that we will have in common in the near future.

Issue 2 Living in Bulgaria

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