8 THINGS THAT WILL SHOCK AMERICANS IN BULGARIA

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Truth be told, there will a lot more than eight things that will probably put visiting Americans off their rocker here, but this is a good start. As usual, use as much of your common sense as you can, throw in a large pinch of salt, and treat with at least of modicum of humour. Remember: It ain't over till the fact lady sings!

PERSONAL RELATIONS

No matter whether you are here to explore an unknown land, visit a loved one or are equipped with a detailed business plan approved by a team of CFOs you will sooner or later end up at some table with some people where the real talk will begin. Lengthy and quite wet lunches and dinners will follow, and you will have to make your own deductions about who is who, who supports whom, who feels offended by whom, and who really has the final say. After the drinks, women will probably get involved, and you are likely to have a first-hand experience of what it feels like to be under the hot Balkan sun.

Everything in this country, from the very high levels of government to the very low levels of life in a village depends on personal likes and dislikes. You should at all times bear in mind that this is the way business is usually done. So read everyone else's lips and don't let the Rakiya get too far into your head.

SERVICE

What? Service?

The act of some people being nice to and doing things for other people against payment is novel in this neck of the woods. The quality of service roughly falls in two categories. Posher establishments' personnel will be obsequious, cheaper places will be at best nonchalant.

You should realise that tipping is not compulsory but is expected, at least in the more expensive places. You should also realise that the relationship between the quality of service you get and the amount of cash you are supposed to part with is rather vague. Finally, you should know that some service staff will automatically take what they think they have been worth to you.

POLITENESS

The people you meet through other people will be exuberantly nice to you. They will go out of their way to show you things and many will invite you into their homes where you will be expected to have an endless meal with plenty of Rakiya and wine. The idea the majority of Bulgarians have about the way their guests will feel attended to is... to attend to them all of the time. Do not expect any personal space whilst you are visiting a Bulgarian family.

After a day or two of treatment like this you will then find the usual interactions with ordinary Bulgarians, especially officials, at best brusque. No one will sir or madam you. No one will even say please. The standard form of greeting folks in Bulgarian offices has become a terse Kazhete!, meaning Speak Up!

When you hear it, do. Bulgarians are treated the same way as well, so don't expect the fact that you are American and don't perhaps speak the language to help.

RUSSIANS

This will be really shocking. Bulgaria is the only former East bloc country that preserves and in many cases actually maintains its Stalinist-era monuments. This is not Poland, Hungary or Lithuania where all Red Army monstrosities have been consigned to the dustbin of history. In fact, if you are in Sofia, Varna, Burgas or any other larger city, do make a point of visiting at least one such monument. Bear in mind that these are not war cemeteries, but displays of Stalinist power designed to remind the "small" Bulgarians that if they run afoul, Big Brother has the power to rectify.

Even more shockingly, pro-Russian sentiments are unusually high – again, nothing to compare to other former East bloc states. We may all be friends in NATO now, but remember that it was Russia, not America that liberated us from the Turkish yoke, you will hear many Bulgarians say.

The explanation of the complicated relationship Bulgarians have with Russia is not an easy one, but in most cases it comes down to the decades of pro-Soviet propaganda that rewrote history and in a characteristically omniscient way reframed everything to suit the purposes of the Communists at home. Friendship with the Soviet Union and the Russian was a top priority. It was thrust down the throats of millions of Bulgarians so hard and for so many years that its taste is still there, even a quarter of a century after the demise of the USSR.

HISTORY

Bulgarians are history buffs, as opposed to Americans and indeed many other West Europeans who will happily admit complete ignorance. Indeed, after the second or third drink, depending on who you are dining with, the issue of history will come up. Do not despair if you know nothing about the topics being spewed out. You will be told about the Turkish yoke and why it is so important not to use another word for it, you will learn about the magnificent feats committed by mediaeval Bulgarian kings, you will be told that the greatest human inventions and discoveries were made about 30 centuries ago in Bulgaria, and then you will probably be told that Bulgarians are the first Europeans. There are many books about that, some written by no one lesser than Bozhidar Dimitrov, the manager of the National Museum of History.

Listen politely and shake your head (remember not to nod, because a nod in fact means a "no" in Bulgaria).

MONEY AND COSTS

Liquor and cigarettes are dirt cheap. So are restaurants, bus and train tickets. You can buy a ticket to the opera for less than $15. You've read this correctly. Nothing to compare to anywhere in the United States or Europe outside the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

Anything unrelated to food, drink, entertainment and mass transit, especially if you expect Western quality, will be New York prices.

LIBERTINE WAYS

Bulgaria is the place in Europe where you can go out to a liquor store at 3am and buy a bottle of whisky and/or a case of beer.

Drinking alcoholic beverages outdoors is de rigueur, weather permitting.

In Bulgaria you can actually ask an uniformed policeman "What shall we do now?" – and walk away without handcuffs.

If that's not liberty, I don't know what is.

DRIVING

Like elsewhere in Europe, you will see too many signs. Like nowhere else in Europe, some of them wouldn't mean a thing.

No right turns on red, obviously.

Bulgarians forever whine about aggressive drivers. However, an hour on a Bulgarian road will prove a lot safer and perhaps pleasanter than an hour on a road in southern Italy.

The stop sign never really means you have to pull up to a full stop. In fact, if you do, you risk being hit at the back by the car behind. A stop sign means you have to slow down and look to the left more attentively than usual.
Drive defensively and you'll be OK in no time at all.

Read 22455 times Last modified on Tuesday, 15 March 2016 13:33

12 comments

  • Comment Link Taina Monday, 23 September 2019 09:17 posted by Taina

    I am Bulgarian, but honestly i don't like the way of life here. Some of you are right, most of the people in Bulgaria are shitty, that's why I don't like it aand because of our politics. And i feel bad when Bulgarians like that mister in the coments says bad thing about Amerika. Every country has its problems and there are shitty people everywhere in the world!!! But there are also good people everywhere, even here in Bulgaria! So don't judge just like that. :)

  • Comment Link Milan Sunday, 01 September 2019 23:17 posted by Milan

    Well i have been many times in Bulgaria and its pleasant during day light but at night not so kind. Big and small cities are ok, but too much beggars, gypsies.
    Yanks I don't like.

  • Comment Link RJ Weiche Wednesday, 14 August 2019 06:54 posted by RJ Weiche

    I am an American woman who traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria alone.

    I visited Sofia, Bulgaria June of 2018. I thought the city was interesting and beautiful. The architecture was so interesting. There was evidence of many political and cultural influences in the architectural designs. I read that architects from Vienna were commissioned to build some buildings so that Bulgaria would be more beautiful. And Sofia is definitely lovely. I walked all day just exploring and I found ancient Roman ruins and was surprised to find them in Bulgaria. (I should have learned more about Bulgaria and Sofia before going there.) I was only in Sofia for 48 hours. I found Bulgarians to be about 50% friendly, polite, kind and helpful and 50% really seemed to be unhappy that I tried to speak to them and I felt unwelcomed by them. In general my observation was that Bulgarians seemed serious and maybe unhappy, but perhaps just more serious than I am accustomed to in America. I believe that when I'm in a country other than my own, I shouldn't expect people to speak my language (English) I should do my best with theirs. Unfortunately, I don't know any Bulgarian. Google translate is not the best, but I relied on it to help me converse the very basic communication. I did have a few uncomfortable experiences and one scary experience with a security guard at a shopping mall. The shopping mall which had everything from food to furs was really awesome and interesting. I could have spent more time there, but I was afraid for my safety. So, I left. In general though, I felt as though I was safe walking day and night by myself. In many ways I felt safer in Sofia than I did in most U.S. cities. One funny experience: I was at a women's boutique and wanted to try on some clothes. Two young women who worked there were seemingly unhappy with me and were rude. But I was determined to change their mood. The clothes were too small so I couldn't buy them, but I used Google translate to learn how to say in Bulgarian, "They don't fit. My ass is too big." The two women laughed really big. We all laughed. I waved bye to them and that was that. They were instantly changed from being grumpy to having fun. I think Americans (myself included.) should educate ourselves more about other countries and cultures. And when we go to visit those countries respect the customs and language of the people in those countries. I try, but I'm not perfect.

    In addition to visiting 2 days in Sofia (not nearly enough to know the city or the country) I spent one week in Croatia, five days in Belgrade, Serbia, 4.5 days in Greece (Athens and Santorini) and 48 hours in London, England. I loved so much about all of the places I visited. In Greece I met two Bulgarians who were so friendly and kind. This was a trip of a lifetime, my first outside of the U.S. It was wonderful, but not without its difficulties.

    I hope Americans who visit Bulgaria will appreciate the differences in cultures and people. And I hope Bulgarians will realize not all Americans are stupid and without knowledge and without sincere appreciation for other countries and cultures than our own.

    The purpose of my trip to Sofia was to attend a swing dance weekend festival called Sofia Swing Dance Festival. It was one of my favorite memories. If you have read this far and are interested, here is a link: http://www.swinghopping.com/event/sofia-swing-dance-festival-2018_1565762550147066/

  • Comment Link Joseph Friday, 02 August 2019 12:23 posted by Joseph

    I live in Bulgaria. I am an American. I see some issues with the culture but a lot of the culture is also very lovely. I think the worst part about Bulgaria is its corruption, the residue in peoples minds that exist from painful history, and the lack of care generated for its citizens by its government. American's, not all of us, are ignorant of the world beyond America's borders but many (like myself) have lived and traveled abroad quite a lot. So, putting my "two cents" in, Bulgaria is not for everyone but ALL PEOPLE from EVERY WALK OF LIFE have good and bad points. Like with every country that exists. Bulgarians you are beautiful, worthy, and loved. I stand with you in your country and despite the peculiarities here and there it is a lovely country. Prayers and love.

  • Comment Link Filip Bratkov Sunday, 07 July 2019 00:36 posted by Filip Bratkov

    Stop writing bad comments you brainless Americans! You, Americans are nothing but a bunch of democratic dogs that live in your own "perfect" world! Our nation and people are not miserable or rude, and don't you dare say that again! You did absolutely nothing for our country foolish Americans, except for making it the poorest in the EU by bringing in your stupid democracy and you have NO RIGHT TO TALK TRASH ABOUT US!!!! We hate you Americans! We never liked you and we never will! Go away and leave our country to us! We don't want your idiotic tourists or your bad comments! Just leave and never come back!!! БЪЛГАРИЯ И РУСИЯ ЗАВИНАГИ!

  • Comment Link Hannah Saturday, 29 June 2019 07:46 posted by Hannah

    Bulgarian countryside is absolutely spectacular. The Bulgarian people...miserable, rude, and dry. I have travelled from the Romanian boarder to the south, along both coasts, stayed in villages and cities, the result is the same - miserable people. Sitting at dinner in any restaurant, you will be lucky to see anyone around you smiling. “Please” doesn’t seem to exist in their language. I honesty don’t think anyone here even enjoys life. I can hoping to explore a historic country filled with culture. This place is nothing but communist trash. I literally cried when my flight to leave was cancelled because the thought of staying there one more day made me that upset. Spend your money in a country where they actually appreciate it. I’ve travelled all over the world and never experienced such hostility.

  • Comment Link Jeday master Vas Levsi Tuesday, 23 April 2019 05:45 posted by Jeday master Vas Levsi

    I dont blame that person of what he or she sed about Bulgaria.i think he just spoke his mind.beeng senciare and honis whit the rest of us.The way he Express himself he dosent guge ,I mean who is him to guge Bulgarians? Right!!?....God bless it but the same time God forbite gugemental people.Americans have good movie directors like George Lucas,Quentine Tarantino..and staff and nice musicians like Mick Jager,Elvis and Ricky Walens .We dont have such a variety of superstars .We wish we the Bg.but we dont.But hey take it Easy in Bulgaria at least we have Publick Washrooms which is nice I think.

  • Comment Link Ina Peeva Tuesday, 29 January 2019 17:36 posted by Ina Peeva

    I am from Bulgaria but now I live in Chicago. My HONEST opinion is that Americans are so much dumber than Bulgarians.An if you never visited Bulgaria don't write hate comments for our country,because from my experience you Americans are so dumb,you dont know about anything else around you exept America.No insults,but most of you America's are fat and lazy people,and I didn't saw this on any movie this is the REALITY.

  • Comment Link Aleksandra Saturday, 12 January 2019 20:59 posted by Aleksandra

    Why you show Bulgaria like the worst country in the world? Im from Bulgaria and i dont like all the comments?! Bulgaria is one of the most beautiful countries! Because american students doesnt learn anything about my country is not okay to hate it! I mean i dont hate California or Australia or other country! This annoying me!

  • Comment Link Emil Simeonov Saturday, 27 October 2018 12:21 posted by Emil Simeonov

    A rather pathetic effort at putting a clickbait article together.

    Consider this: how exactly would point 8 ("an hour on a Bulgarian road will prove a lot safer and perhaps pleasanter [sic]...") SHOCK anybody?

    Then, service. Just a week ago I dined at a God-forsaken little diner far out in the Bulgarian country. I was greeted, served and seen out with a smile.

    The list drags on...

  • Comment Link Stephen Friday, 12 October 2018 06:38 posted by Stephen

    Best advise to all forigners don't visit Bulgaria and spend your tourist money where it's not appreciated.

  • Comment Link Petya Monday, 10 August 2015 13:20 posted by Petya

    very free of make-up this view on Bulgarian Society! But not false at all! I was so surprised to see that it has been written by a Bulgarian!

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