Living in Bulgaria

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IS CUSTOMER SERVICE IN BULGARIA AN OXYMORON?

Bulgaria, a beautiful country with a friendly and hospitable population, fits most expats' description of their ideal host nation. Most of us have been welcomed into our neighbours' homes to be fed on local produce and plied with lashings of rakiya. The lack of a common language is no barrier to these people's generosity. Yet as Bulgaria competes for a larger percentage of foreign tourism, you wonder how many visitors actually leave this pleasant land with warm memories of a kind, generous nation always happy to help.

Sun, 06/01/2008 - 14:41
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A MATTER OF GENUFLECTION

"You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.” Some people actually can. They are not alchemists, they are Bulgarians. The years of Communist rule and frequent economic crises, when the expression “Sorry, we haven't” was used 1,000 times more often than “Marxist materialism,” cultivated the Bulgarian ability to make profit or gain even from thin air, in actual defiance of the Conservation of Energy Law. The klekshop is a remarkable example of this.

Sun, 06/01/2008 - 14:33
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RIGHT OF WAY

You don't have to live in Bulgaria for long to notice that unlike London, Berlin and Tokyo, people in business suits rarely use public transport. The reason? With the exception of a couple of privately-run lines, municipal buses, trams and trolleybuses are old and hence slow, particularly at rush hour - not to mention overcrowded and dirty. Unfortunately, the clean and efficient underground, already a decade old, still operates in a very limited area.

Sun, 06/01/2008 - 14:24
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GROWING UP ON THE BLACK SEA COAST

Our teenage years are those when we rebel against our parents, explore who we are and what we stand for, and take comfort in a close circle of friends to help us through life's trials and tribulations. Important examinations loom on the horizon, we start to date and think vaguely about the future. But what happens to those teens who are wrenched from British society by parents chasing their own dreams of life in the sun?

Thu, 05/01/2008 - 17:35
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BAND-AID BRITS

Remember that initial move to Bulgaria: the excitement of a new life in the sun, that fresh lease of life, the endless round of lounging on the beach, drinking rakiya, making friends and living in permanent holiday mode? Many expats claim their move to Bulgaria is to get away from the drab British climate or to escape rising prices, crime rates and increasing debt, yet few will admit that the underlying reason is the hope that a new start will resolve fundamental marital problems. Indeed, for many it is a last ditch attempt to avoid a break up.

Thu, 05/01/2008 - 17:33
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Comfort and security for pets are paramount for Dave

EXPAT BUSINESSES

Truck Driver Turned Kennel Owner Dave Smith, 68, moved to Bulgaria from Grimsby in May 2005. Although he had visited over 80 different countries as a continental truck driver, the lure of cheap property in Bulgaria was his deciding factor for settling in Klimentevo, a quiet village populated by pensioners. Dave's venture “Varna Kennels and Cattery” is relatively new, set up in December 2007 in the garden of his home. Living alone, he decided it would be an ideal way to supplement his UK pension and further his passion for animals.

Thu, 05/01/2008 - 17:19
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GET BORN, GET DEAD

In Bulgaria they hang dead people on trees, not to mention walls, doors and, in particular, on the gate of their former home. Not literally, you understand, although my five-year-old daughter is inclined to believe otherwise. These necrologs are sheets of paper each depicting the deceased and mostly set out in a standard format. The word is derived from the Greek necro meaning dead or death.

Thu, 05/01/2008 - 17:13
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WILL IT DO?

Passing comment on workmen as they botched things together or attempted to lift heavy loads used to be a light-hearted joke. Tongue firmly in cheek, I would turn to my companion and jibe; “How many workmen does it take to dig a hole?” The answer - eight: one to dig; three telling him how not to dig; three, with folded arms, watching him dig; and one to keep the barbeque/fire going.

Thu, 05/01/2008 - 14:04
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HEALTH AND SAFETY VS COMMON SENSE

Bulgaria's carefree environment provides expats like myself with a sense of freedom and safety rarely experienced in our home country. Especially in the countryside, life here is sometimes safer for children and teens, less complicated for adults, and harks back to Britain's admirable values of 50 years ago, where everyone “looked out” for each other. However, whilst life here is so much more straightforward and relaxed, Bulgaria trails way behind the rest of Europe in terms of health and safety.

Tue, 04/01/2008 - 16:59
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MILLIMETRE DEMOCRACY

Today someone tried to kill me. Three times. As I crossed the street at a zebra crossing, a sports car shot through a red light and miraculously missed me. A plumber saved me from falling into a gaping manhole by sticking his head out of it just before I was about to step in. A chunk of plaster the size of a small dog came crashing down off a building as I passed by. And this was on a good day - the pack of stray dogs that usually prowls the pavements on my way to work must have had the day off.

Tue, 04/01/2008 - 16:56
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THE EXPAT STRIKES BACK

Bulgarians are very conservative at heart. They crave the quiet life. They don't want fuss. They don't like hassle. This attitude has many positive sides. In Bulgaria, respectable folk don't have to put up with mouthy teenagers on public transport, as in Britain. You can walk around after dark in relative safety. There are no brawls in the street at pub closing time. The dominant philosophy is “live and let live”. Touch wood.

Tue, 04/01/2008 - 16:53
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LIFE AT SEA

A couple of years ago there were only a handful of relocators in Burgas and a few token British families in the surrounding villages. More recently, however, the expat community has mushroomed. Varna witnessed a flood of foreign sun-seekers when the country first came into the limelight, to the dismay of many Burgas natives - the two towns enjoy a longstanding love-hate relationship not unlike that between Glasgow and Auld Reekie.

Fri, 02/01/2008 - 12:33
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KILLERS ON THE ROAD

This horrific story involves a 26-year-old mayor, blood-thirsty domestic dogs and a British woman who was so immersed in Bulgarian culture that she spoke Bulgarian, lived in a traditional house and even owned a horse and cart. Ann and her husband had lived in the village of Nedyalsko for two years before a pack of dogs viciously attacked and killed her. This was not an isolated incident: scars on her legs testified to the ongoing problem that ultimately resulted in her death, yet her neighbours ignored her pleas to control their dogs.

Fri, 02/01/2008 - 12:09
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MAKIN' BACON

If you've just moved to a village in Bulgaria, some things may be a bit of a shock to your system. Houses with roofs on the verge of collapse, ancient women using homemade hoes on acres of land and mangy dogs on short chains with no water in sight are just a few examples. In the UK, buildings would be condemned, social services would be called and the Animal Protection Service would come running, yet all these things are normal here; local folk don't even bat an eye.

Sat, 12/01/2007 - 16:02
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Katherine Watt

ALMOST PARADISE, SLIGHTLY POSTPONED

In the way home to dreary Peterborough I didn't have the usual end-of-holiday-blues. Instead, I had a much anticipated goal. We set a moving date for the start of September to coincide with the end of Luke's current project. My research portfolio grew as I enquired about visas and transport: whether to drive or freight-and-fly, acquiring wheels in Bulgaria and, of course, how to ferry my 13-year-old cat there. We also had the inevitable cull of superfluous belongings. After much deliberation about cost, ease and availability, we decided to fly out with our very overweight suitcases.

Thu, 11/01/2007 - 12:51
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