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Expat Interview - Mark Mctaggart

Quest Bulgaria would like to thank Mark Mctaggart, an English teacher who operates an English Language Academy  in Varna, for taking the time to answer  our interview questions for expats living and working in Bulgaria.

 

How long have you lived in Bulgaria? Where are you originally from?

I've been living in Bulgaria for 8 years now. I came to Sofia in 2003 but moved to Varna in March 2004. I am originally from Redhill, Surrey, about 25 miles from London.

What made you move to Bulgaria?

I am an English teacher and was in Asia before. I wanted to move closer to home but yet still experience a different culture and country. I applied for a job at the British Council Bulgaria and was accepted and was delighted to move here.

Have you seen any major changes since you first came to Bulgaria?

There are so many things which have changed since I arrived. The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how many old cars there were on the street and the traffic wasn't too bad for a capital city. Now it's a very different story. Another major change in Varna is the way people shop. Before there were very few supermarkets and no Mall's and both are here in abundance now. Finally, and luckily for me as an English teacher, more and more people speak and want to learn English now.

What do you like about Bulgaria?

I like the lifestyle in general and that for me anyway it is much more relaxed than say London. The food is great, especially the salads and much more healthy than back home. People are very welcoming to tourists and foreigners and appreciate it when you can speak even a little bit of the language. Also, people are not in as much of a rush like they are in England.

What are the disadvantages?

I love to travel and there are not as many options from Varna. Also, the winter in Varna is completely different to the summer and much colder than I would have imagined before coming here.

What do you miss from home?

I miss my family back home and only see then a few times a year. I also miss the diversity of London and the fact that there is always something different to do there.

Do you know any of the language and how long have you been learning it and is it very difficult?

Yes, I have started (and stopped) learning Bulgarian 4 or 5 times. I can get by in most day to day situations that I come across and can hold a conversation at a low level (and with lots of mistakes). I learnt the alphabet quite quickly but it took me ages to get my head around the different genders in Bulgarian.

When did you set up your business?

I started English Academy in May 2006 with my business partner when the British Council closed their offices in Varna. She worked in administration there so between the two of us we had the knowledge and experience to make a go of it.

Was setting up a business in Bulgaria difficult?

It was very difficult at first and we put everything on the line to make it work. I was lucky to have a Bulgarian partner to deal with all the documentation and Bulgarian authorities as there was so much we needed to do to make the school legal. We also did a lot of the advertising ourselves at the beginning and I was working all day on setting up the school then teaching all evening until 10pm. It was a very stressful time for both of us and is one of the reasons we don't want to expand into Sofia.

What does your job involve? What do you do?

Now I spend most of my time managing the school, staff and planning the advertising for the school with my partner. I don't teach as much now, usually only when someone is ill or of there is a problem at the school.

Do you plan to stay in Bulgaria or do you see yourself moving elsewhere?

I see myself staying in Bulgaria as long as the business is going well. It would be difficult to start again somewhere else and I have also made many good friends over the years here. Bulgaria is my home now and I couldn't imagine going back to live in England.

What do you plan for the future?

I imagine staying here for at least the next 5 years assuming all is well with the school. I'd like to have a house near to Varna with a garden as at the moment I live in a small apartment in the centre of Varna.

Was it easy for you to make friends and settle in and do you have mostly Bulgarian or expat friends?

I was lucky when I came because at the school you get to meet many different Bulgarians, all who have an interest in speaking English. Therefore, most of my friends are Bulgarian who I met through the school. I found it quite easy to settle in as I'd been living overseas for 2 years prior to coming and was used to being away from England.

What advice would you give to people thinking about moving and setting up a business in Bulgaria?

Come here first and get to know the place before jumping in. Give yourself time to look around and to see what the place is like. Talk to the expats who live here to get as much information as possible, you'll find many of them in the local bars on a Friday and Saturday night.