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Life of an Expat Casey Angelova

Casey Angelova an American expat shares her insights on life and everyday living in Bulgaria with QuestBG.

Where are you originally from and why did you choose Bulgaria?

I am originally from New York.  I grew up in Brooklyn, but later lived in Queens. I ended up living in Bulgaria, when my husband and I decided to move here to be closer to his ageing parents and give our children a different way of life.

How long have you lived in Bulgaria?

I have been living in Bulgaria for almost 4 years.

Do you feel like you’ve integrated well into life as an expat?

I find that I have integrated well into the life as an expat.  I have many friends from diverse backgrounds.  Being an expat in Bulgaria has afforded me opportunities and experiences that I don’t think I could have had elsewhere in the world.  I have had the chance to take part in a film, be featured on the Slavi Show, as well as preparing a traditional Christmas Dinner for Bulgaria’s Bella magazine.

How does the culture differ from home?

I find, the culture and the lifestyle in Bulgaria much more laid back than in the United States, particularly New York.  Bulgarians and Americans place value on different things, but that could also be because of the current economic conditions.

Do you speak Bulgarian and how important do you think it is to speak the local language?

Yes, I speak Bulgaria and I think it is of great importance for people living in a country for any length of time to invest in communication with the locals. Learning the language allows you to have a richer cultural experience. It is all too easy to be an expat in Bulgaria, Sofia in particular and never utter a word of Bulgarian.

Do you have many friends? Is it easy or hard to make friends?

Yes, I have many friends in Bulgaria.  Personally, I have an easy time making friends, but what is beautiful about Bulgaria is that there are some many existing resources available to expats.  I joined the International Women’s Club during my first few months and also took language courses at Sofia University

What has been the most challenging part of moving abroad? What has been the most rewarding?

On of the most challenging issues for me was missing food from US, particularly convenient food items.  I spent many days and hours hunting for ingredients that were so accessible in the US. I also began to learn how to make things from scratch that I wouldn’t have attempted had I not been living abroad.  All of the inconveniences prompted me to start a blog highlighting my success about navigating the Bulgarian culinary scene.  My blog is called Eating, Gardening & Living in Bulgaria. It is my goal to seek out places off the beaten path to find things that only locals knew about and share them not only with ex-pats in Bulgaria, but people around the world.  My blog project has grown to include restaurant reviews, a shopping guide as well as recipes, garden tips and travel. One of my greatest rewards from living in Bulgaria is cooking, researching and writing for my blog.

Do you work? How do you support yourself?

During my 4 years in Bulgaria, I have worked as a Producer’s assistant for NuBoyana Studios for four film projects; Double Identity (Val Kilmer & Isabella Miko), Universal Soldier: Regeneration (Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren), Undisputed 3 (Scott Atkins & Mark Ivanir) and Spiders (Patrick Muldoon).  I also worked in the kitchen of the Hilton Hotel in Sofia. In 2011, I will be attending The Culinary Institute of America, preparing for my career as a professional chef.

Did you have a problem getting a work permit/visa?

No, my husband and children are Bulgarians.

Do you have any regrets or do you have anything you wish could have changed about your move?

Before I left the US for Bulgaria, I researched all possible aspects of our decision to move abroad.  I have absolutely no regrets.   I don’t really consider myself an ex-pat because Bulgaria is my home.

Would you ever consider moving back?

My husband and I both love the US and want to visit often, but I don’t see myself in the future living for any length of time in the US, but you never know.

What advice would you give for the people out there thinking of moving to Bulgaria?

I would advise anyone planning to move to Bulgaria to be honest with themselves about what they are looking to gain, personally from moving to Bulgaria, especially if you are not planning on moving to a major city.  Don’t over romanticize the idea of living abroad.  You need to learn to accept the realities and not try to change customs, traditions or situations to suite your needs, but adapt to your surroundings and the choices you’ve made. Then I would suggest immersing yourself in the language and take formal lessons to learn reading and writing.

Visit Casey's blog: Eating, Gardening & Living in Bulgaria Casey can also be found on Twitter @caseyangelova and her blog is on Facebook.