We recently bought a house in Bulgaria and are now renovating it and trying our best to learn the cyrllic alphabet and string a few words together. Don’t worry we’re planning our next travels too but in the mean time we’re attempting to get to grips with the culture by living in Bulgaria.
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Here are twenty things I didn’t know before living in Bulgaria
- It’s easier to buy vegan food in my local, semi-rural, Kaufland than it was in all of France. There’s an entire aisle dedicated to vegan dry food, jars, seeds, nuts, chickpea crisps, almond butter, rice cakes, quinoa, organic muesli and also vegan yoghurt + frozen vegan pizza. Maple syrup is only slightly more expensive than the UK but powders and nut flours are much cheaper. Way to go Kaufland!
- Scorpions are common and we’ve found two this week. Upon researching them I’ve realised they’re quite common in most places in Europe and there’s even a colony in the south of England. They are most likely to be males trying to seek out a female and apparently their stings are painful but not toxic to healthy people. We have disposed of ours back into the garden and we’re hoping they don’t make a re-appearance.
- Bulgarian electrics are terrible and it’s common to find three lights (in different rooms) on the same circuit. This means only one light at a time can be used. Many people we’ve spoken to have employed Bulgarian electricians only to have their plugs catch fire shortly after. The fuse boxes are the weirdest things I’ve ever seen and one thing we cannot figure is why ring circuits are banned. Yup, totally illegal to use a ring circuit. Bizarre.
- The Bulgarian language is almost the same as Macedonian, Bosnian, Croatian-Serbian & Slovenian, but other countries have adopted writing using the Latin alphabet rather than cyrllic.
- Don’t believe the stereotypical communist anti-propaganda that you’ll hear on social media forums and in the media. People are friendly and some even smile!
- Our annual council tax is roughly £15. We left the UK in 2011 and our council tax was over £1200.
- Renovating a house has made me realise that choice can still be limited. I am ordering a bath from the UK and having it delivered as baths here are expensive. Bath tiles seem to come in brown, cream, turquoise & cream with red flowers. If you want carpet it comes in a very fetching dark brown, mid brown, pale brown and cream.
- People don’t walk their dogs. It actually drives me mad because they tie them up outside their houses and leave them there barking day and night. It’s supposed to be a deterrent to burglars but it drives me potty.
- In order to apply for a residence card, we each need a bank account (no joint bank accounts in BG) with 525 Lev in them. Without a residence card we can’t get house insurance or data SIM cards.
- You cannot apply for a driver’s license without first passing the high school certificate. It’s not uncommon to see grown men re-sitting their high school exams in order to be able to drive.
- The roads are so hit and miss it’s difficult to predict how to drive. Some roads in the east are brilliant, especially the brand new motorway. However the roads in the north-west around Montana and vratsa are terrible and by terrible I mean, horrendous. Pot holes which are so big and frequent they could be given their own post codes.
- As you’re driving around you can frequently see the old, concrete & wooden check points by the side of the roads. I have yet to learn what these check points were for but they’re fairly common.
- We recently had a local holiday celebrating Unification Day. Many of the people in our local town that day chose to clean the streets, collect & sweep up the leaves and clean the rubbish away. It was great to see the community working together.
- Corruption at local levels, often with village and town mayors, is often seen & reported. It seems prevalent with the older generations.
- During the communist years people have told me that they were incredibly rich and didn’t have anything to spend their money on, other than houses. It is not uncommon for people to own three houses; an apartment in the city/town, a house on the outskirts of the city/town and a villa in the country. The roads on a Friday night are chock-a-block with people driving to their country residence.
- The standard of driving can be diabolical. You need to be hyper-aware at all times.
- Train prices are ridiculously cheap. For us to get to Sofia, which is about 90 minutes away, it costs £4.
- It’s possible to live here on less than £400 a month. Our weekly shopping bill is around £100.
- Men in the UK scorn European men for having and wearing bags. I don’t understand why because men here don’t have bulging pockets full of wallets/phones/keys, they don’t pass all their belongings to their partners to carry in their bags and are much more organised. It makes so much sense. Man bags are the way to go!
- Shaking & nodding of the head has the opposite meaning here. To say no you would nod your head and to say yes you would shake your head from side to side. This will take me a lot of time to get used to!
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