Expat life Bulgaria

THE OTHER EXPATS

Imagine you have committed no crime yet you are imprisoned for weeks, months, even years – without a release date. There's no point tearing days off a calendar. If you protest you could be placed in isolation for an unspecified period.

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SEASIDE STORIES

I don't go out of my way to hang out with other expats in my free time. Of course, there are a couple of bars in Sofia you can go to if you really need a conversation about football, or to reminisce about good ol' stuff from the old country, like meat pies, or Eastenders.

But chances are you're going to end up copping an ear-bashing from some tedious old property developer, or casino manager, who is much more interested in your girlfriend than your views on TV soaps, British pastry dishes, or Liverpool FC.

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BEING TAKEN UP A COUNTRY ROAD

There's been a certain amount of excitement in our street of late and it all centres around one thing: a road. And no, I'm not referring to some earnest debate that we've all been having about better links with our new European neighbours, but a simple tarmac thoroughfare that will save us all a bit of time and inconvenience.

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MAKING THE WRONG MOVE

For those people embarking on a change of lifestyle in Bulgaria, whether they are ditching the conventional rat race in their thirties, or planning to retire, the reality of moving abroad is selling up lock, stock and barrel and heading off into the sunset with no plans to return.

No big deal if you've done your homework you might say. True, but if Bulgaria doesn't live up to their expectations for whatever reason, expats will soon find the Balkan grass is no greener than the one they couldn't wait to leave behind.

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AN ENGLISHMAN LOST IN MLADOST-YOUTH

I recently flew to Sofia to holiday with my Bulgarian wife and daughter. I'd spent a spell in London on business following a sojourn in Portugal where we had divided our time between Lisbon and the Algarve.

My night-time flight was diverted to Plovdiv because of fog. So I boarded a coach to Sofia, my irritability and fatigue lifted by cheery exchanges with skiers heading to Borovets.

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TEA WITH THE JOHNSONS

Going back a few months now, I was in TsUM. You know the place. Bulgarian Harrods.

I don't hang out there or anything. No, honestly. I was looking for a reassuringly expensive trinket for a lady friend's birthday, or something. Anyway there I was, rotating a plastic Swatch display cabinet and looking dubiously at the cheaper models, when I witnessed an unusual exchange in a nearby cafe.

There was a family there. Mum and Dad, and two kids. Pale and podgy they were, with father and son sporting matching ginger nut spiky hairstyles and Manchester United T-shirts.

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MIND YOUR LANGUAGE

"In Paris they simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language." American author Mark Twain's tongue-in-cheek assessment of his somewhat dubious linguistic skills in The Innocents Abroad serves to remind us even today that learning to speak a new language presents a cultural, as well as a guttural, learning curve.

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EXPAT ROLLERCOASTER

You know how it is. It's Monday morning. Your sleep has been shattered by the interminable bloody yapping of a street dog somewhere in the inky blackness beyond your window. Your alarm clock won't go off for another hour yet, but you know you'll never get back to sleep, so you drag your reluctant backside from between warm sheets and go make some coffee.

You think: Sigh.

Showered, dressed, and with sufficient caffeine in your system to approach the new day with a semblance of humanity, you step out onto the gritty Sofian street to walk to the taxi rank.

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