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Bulgaria – Great Lifestyle Choice

With rising costs and falling house prices abroad many people are considering making a permanent move to Bulgaria. There is a wealth of information across the internet on property investment, locations and whole sections on the legal aspects of moving but very little information about what life is actually like here. This lack of info feeds people’s fears and many may be hesitating about what to do. As permanent residents in Bulgaria, the Quest Bulgaria team explains why the country is a good lifestyle choice.

The Cost of Living

Bulgaria is not just cheap in terms of property prices, but the cost of living here is a third of UK prices. Take a look at our price comparisons on food in our article entitled “The Cost of Living 2008” and you will be bowled over at the savings you can make. It’s not just food that is cheaper here, clothing, electrical goods, furniture and utility bills are also low allowing an average couple on a British pension to live very comfortably. Naturally, it’s no good coming to Bulgaria without a source of income, but many expats are astounded at how easy it is to find work even without a command of the language. The website www.jobs.bg funded by the European Union is a great starting place in your quest for paid employment. Many expats set up their own businesses here and gaps in the market are easy to spot given that the retail, business and entertainments structures are still in their infancy. Other expats choose to earn income from the UK by renting out their UK properties or leaving existing businesses in the hands of capable management.

A Relaxed Slower Pace of Life

Coming from a high-powered career means that one of the biggest attractions to Bulgaria is that it offers a slower pace of life with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beach in summer and skiing in winter. Evenings can be spent outdoors most of the year and many neighbours spend hours recanting humorous tales of life behind the Iron Curtain over a glass of Rakia. The scenery is stunning and there is a touch of the old world living alongside the new. Horse and carts are still respected modes of transport in Bulgaria and animals roam villages untethered. It is not surprising to get home and find a donkey or herd of goats in your garden. Villagers still grow their own produce and are very generous in sharing it with their foreign neighbours.

A Welcome Lack of Political Correctness

There are not enough words to describe the personal freedom that life in Bulgaria generates. If you are in to political correctness then this is not the place for you.

Discipline in schools is fair but strong and teachers still command power and respect, but you do not have to consider every word you say or worry about offending people because you used the word black instead of coloured.

Children can roam free in the villages as well as walk home from school without being bullied or abducted. You will not be given special treatment in Bulgaria just because you are a foreigner, so don’t expect the school play to be in English or your child to be exempt from singing the national anthem.

In fact the environment is one reminiscent of Fifties Britain where neighbours helped neighbours and children were safe.

There are many aspects of health and safety, which may astound the newcomer to Bulgaria. Many people ride motorbikes without crash helmets, children don’t always wear seat belts in cars and are free to go hunting at an early age. You can still send kids into the local store to pick up your wine and cigarettes without the need to produce ID. The responsibility for health and safety lies with the individual. Bulgaria is a far cry from the “Nanny State” that the UK has become and is one of the things that add to its appeal.

A Stable Economy

Bulgaria is now one of the healthiest economies in South East Europe and is seen in a favourable light internationally. The country has experienced strong economic growth and now has a stable GDP and lots of foreign investment.

Recently there has been much in the media about the EU’s harsh line on Bulgaria’s poor housekeeping in terms of its transparency regarding the spending of EU funds. Whilst the EU’s accusations of corruption and fraud in this area are true, the country is now making great efforts to play ball and have instituted a software programme in conjunction with Brussels, which accounts for every Lev spent.

The EU is playing a significant role in shaping Bulgaria’s political and judicial systems to ensure that the ordinary citizens of the country benefit from EU membership. Too much has already been invested in the country for the EU to walk away now and progress is being made albeit at a slower pace than anyone would like.

Bulgaria is likely to adopt the Euro in around 2010 and if improvements to its border controls continue it will join the Schengen zone around this time too, which will make for easier access for all EU citizens.

Great Family Values

Bulgaria is a country where family values play a leading role in the social structure. Many people particularly in the towns and villages live with or close to their extended family with Grandma watching the children and father and son working side by side.

This return to what many in the West deem as old-fashioned has a positive effect on the community in teaching children about good behaviour, respecting their elders and caring for the older generation.

Many expats have found that whilst they have left their families behind to live in Bulgaria, they are able to adopt a new family here. Most old folk are happy to take on the roles of “Diado and Baba” (Granny and Grandad) and new found friends become “Lellas and Chicos” (Aunties and Uncles) to your children. Indeed, these Bulgarian words are the normal forms of address to people you know according to their age.

 

Public holidays are celebrated with the whole family and close friends and the Bulgarians warmth and hospitality means that they are happy to include their new, foreign friends too.

 

High Standards of Education and Medical Care

Our report on the Bulgarian education system extols the virtues of the Bulgarian education system. Teachers are well qualified and seem to have more knowledge of the way a child’s mind works coupled with the ability to get the best out of each individual. The school buildings are old fashioned and in need of heavy investment, but the quality of text books far outshine those in the UK. Strong emphasis is placed on the teaching of Mathematics and from 1st Grade the foundations for teaching equations are set.

Languages are also an important part of the school curriculum and most children learn English or Russian from the age of 8 years, with opportunities to learn other languages at secondary school age.

Bulgaria’s medical facilities are also grim and a first trip to the hospital or doctor can leave many expats feeling concerned about the quality of care they receive. However, doctors and dentists in Bulgaria are extremely well qualified and au fait with modern techniques and technology. Many combine traditional Western medicine with alternative medicine like acupuncture and massage and retreats to spa centres are often prescribed as a cure following surgery or a long illness.