by Christopher Buxton

Your wife's mother is proverbial in Bulgaria – and the butt of many jokes

Whether you are a son-in-law like honey, or with money, or cute as a bunny, and equally funny, continuing to charm your newly acquired Bulgarian mother-in-law is a lifetime's challenge.

Bulgarians appreciate frankness, especially in families, and rows are great fun, provided foreign sons-in-law do not join in. It is absolutely vital that you understand the length and complexity of the relationship your wife has with her mother. Thus, while it is perfectly acceptable for your wife to square up, arms akimbo, to her mother and abuse her roundly and loudly, any mistimed effort of yours to join in on the fun will result in extreme tearful upset from all parties and a year's confinement to the doghouse.

You have a wife who likes to dress colourfully. She proudly wears the larger earrings, bracelets and necklaces you have bought her. Be aware that a mother's comments on her daughter's appearance will be unrestrained. Thus your wife will be compared to a Christmas tree and asked why she's dressed like a gypsy. Forget the romantic connotations. Your wife is not being compared to Carmen. The only time that your wife being dressed like a Gypsy may be of some advantage in your mother-in-law's eyes is when she returns to Bulgaria to vote.

Be careful about any medical information you share with your Bulgarian mother-in-law. Your health will become her prime concern. Admit to a snuffle in the spring and you will receive cuttings from medical journals by the Post Office vanload. Jars of pure honey, sacks of almonds and other wholesome produce will be kept for your visits with total disregard for your airline baggage allowance.

Bulgarian publishers have long been aware of the money to be made from having men photographed in white coats endorsing every mother-in-law's prejudices in innumerable books, newspapers and magazines. You will find that your every pleasure and habit is under attack.

Plane travel to anywhere but Bulgaria? – Dr Boshkov strongly advises against it. Dr Toshkov dismisses the idiotic idea that red wine could be good for you. Sitting on a beach, even under an umbrella, is not recommended by Dr Poshkov. Ten ways to boost your wife's sexual happiness by Dr Kinkova? Oops, you are reading the wrong side of the cutting. You should be looking at why sitting down in front of a computer causes prostate cancer by Dr Sploshkov.

When children are born, Bulgarian mothersin- law really take the bit between their teeth. You will soon be convinced that on the hottest days baby must be wrapped up warm, and in your flat only one window can be left open because draughts kill, kill, kill!

If your children have the misfortune to be brought up in a country far away from Bulgarian sun and vitamins, it will be entirely your fault if, on their visits to Bulgaria, they are unable to speak perfect Bulgarian and recite Vazov's "I'm a little Bulgar" to impress the neighbours. Of course it will be even more your wife's fault. But in the ensuing row, you would be well advised to remain silent.

Never forget that being a daughter is much more important than being a wife – at least in your mother-in-law's opinion. And it is a Bulgarian mother's duty to stay close to her daughter, especially as old age approaches. By whisking said daughter away to some foreign clime, you are depriving your wife of a mother's invaluable daily advice on how to live her life. Telephone calls are a poor substitute, although the bills may be eye-watering.

For your mother-in-law, who avidly reads the right newspapers and watches the right TV channels, Bulgaria is not the country it was. You may feel perfectly safe, walking with your children in the spacious parks, but for your mother-in-law, danger lurks round every corner. Don't speak a foreign language or your children will be kidnapped by wrestlers. Don't travel by train or Gypsies will jump on you and burn you alive. Don't ring the police if your car's being stolen because they're the ones doing the stealing. You can quote statistics on how safe Bulgaria is. Your mother-in-law knows the truth. It is all the fault of the Turks, the Mafia, the opposition, the Communists, the…

Do not expect your mother-in-law to be overly impressed by your own country, though. If she deigns to visit – for the sake of her neglected grandchildren of course – Bulgaria will suddenly seem a haven of peace compared with your litter strewn, noisy, cosmopolitan country. The worst thing is that cats and dogs will come into the garden and your children will stroke them. She won’t leave your house and will complain of boredom. She will, of course, miss the stimulation of everyday life in Bulgaria.

Cherish your Bulgarian mother-in-law! She brings an unexpected dimension to your life. And in all your travails you will never lack advice. At least you'll know ten ways to please your wife.

Mother-in-law's tongue

Q. What is the similarity between an icecream birthday cake and a mother-inlaw?

A. Both are best served cold and with lighted candles.


A girl's family gave the newly-weds a large flat as a wedding present. The new family enjoyed it very much, but one day the mother-in-law asked why they came to visit her so infrequently. The wife answered:"My husband likes the new flat very much and is constantly busy making improvements.""You see!" cried the mother-in-law. "He never really liked our place!"


A man is shaving in the bathroom. "Pesho, come here at once!" shouts his wife. "Why, what's up?" "My mother just fell out of the window!!" "Oh, come on! I've told you not to make me laugh while I'm shaving – I might cut myself."


"Help! Call the fire brigade!! The house is on fire!!!" "Quiet, dear, you'll wake your mother!"


The doctor: "The bad news is that after three hours in the operating theatre your mother..."

The man: "She's my mother-in-law!"

The doctor: "Oh sorry. The good news is that after three hours in the operating theatre..."


"No! I am not going to call the mother-in-law!" An advert for Kamenitza beer currently on billboards throughout Bulgaria.


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