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Moving to Bulgaria – Great for Kids

One big consideration for parents thinking of moving to Bulgaria is how such a move will affect the lives of their children. Many postpone their move for fear of disrupting their child’s education, whilst others express concern over the lack of amenities for children in Bulgaria viewing the country as primitive and under-developed in terms of opportunities for their kids.

Yet a move to Bulgaria for children of any age can be a positive and rewarding experience, guaranteed to expand their outlook, social skills and educational qualifications.



A Kid’s Life in the West

Children’s lives in the West generally revolve around school and organized activities like football training, dance classes, swimming lessons and karate club. With many parents in full time employment, children are often left with wrap-around care from after school clubs who also organize structured activities. Weekends may be taken up with lavish birthday parties held at local entertainment centres, pre-arranged play dates or a visit to a child- focused attraction like a zoo or interactive museum.

In comparison to Bulgarian children, Western children want for nothing in terms of material things; they all have the latest make of mobile ‘phone, computer system, hand-held gaming machines as well as a large cache of toys, books and games. They dress in the latest fashions and are very demanding about which labels they wear, they have allowances, rights and often little discipline. This privileged, but synthetic existence comes with its own set of problems: there is very little family time and even less time to explore and experience the freedom of forty years ago. Children are confined to a world of organization and structure and instead of roaming free and exploring and learning for themselves, safety conscious parents will not allow them to pay in the street or wander down to the local shop and with a high rate of crime against children including traffic accidents, muggings and kidnappings it’s not surprising they are not allowed to stray. This attack on your child’s Western lifestyle may seem harsh, but having experienced both sides of the coin; life with kids in the UK and the same in Bulgaria, I think it is justified.

A Kid’s Life in Bulgaria

Life in Bulgaria brings a greater degree of freedom for children.

Most children spend every ounce of free time outdoors and indeed with the school day being substantially shorter than the UK school day, they have much more free time to enjoy being kids. Bulgarian kids have a greater sense of independence because they live in a environment safe enough to allow them to walk to the village shop unaccompanied, turn up at friends houses unannounced, play outside when it is getting dark and build secret camps in trees and deserted houses.

Instead of structured activities Bulgarian children revel in climbing trees, picking fruit and nuts, playing with animals, helping their parents and grandparents around the home, making their own toys from wood and any other materials they can find and playing with their friends. They do have toys, but not an excessive amount, they also have mobile phones, but not always the latest models and if they don’t have their own computer they go with their friends to the nearest internet café, they all watch TV, but are not used to being confined to the house for long periods. Crimes against children are few and far between in Bulgaria making childhood more akin with the way it used to be in the west forty years ago.


Emigrating with Kids

Emigrating is an unsettling time for everyone. It is hard to say goodbye to the people you love not knowing when you will see them again. On arrival in Bulgaria children have no friends and are unable to communicate because of the different language. They may spend a period of a few months out of the school system and become demanding for your time and attention. They may even resent the move and spend endless hours on the internet communicating with friends they left behind.

It is wise not to rush your child into integrating. Take six months to let them find their feet and most importantly organize private tuition in the language on a regular basis, preferably daily.

If your child is of pre-school age, in Bulgaria this means under seven, it is wise to enroll them into the local Kindergarten, where they will be able to mix with local children and in an unpressurised environment learn the language. To avoid upsetting your child arrange for them to start with an hour a day and build this up gradually.



The Benefits of an Expat Life

A study by Organization Resources Counsellors Inc at
Quotes that expatriate children grow up to be perceptive, articulate, interesting, and diversity-embracing adults. Emigration gives them a chance of a lifetime. It is a life changing, yet enriching experience.

Children rapidly become more culturally aware; their new Bulgarian environment teaches them about differences in language, music and wealth. Opportunities to travel in are far greater and they will enjoy exploring the treasures of their new host country as well as its neighbours. Whilst there are few organized sports clubs for younger children there are plenty of opportunities to participate in skiing, swimming, football, singing and dancing. Teenagers can go to local nightclubs without the fear of unprecedented violence against them.

Living abroad also brings increased confidence. Part of this growth comes with the ability to master the language; expat children of all ages take pride in this accomplishment and it has a knock on effect in their learning of other subjects.

Jane from Varna said, “My son was not performing well academically in England, so we had no qualms about moving here. He picked up the language very quickly and he has started to achieve better results than we could ever have hoped for in the UK.” Indeed, the Bulgarian education system is far superior to that of the British structure and yet children have a great deal of freedom within this system with no uniforms, assemblies and lining up, school is much more like college with a great deal of emphasis placed on independence and self-motivation.

Children who have made the move to Bulgaria have found their experiences to be positive ones. There appears to be little to do for teenagers who move out to the villages, yet those I interviewed all gave me positive feedback. Megan, 13 from London said, “I love Bulgaria. People here are so kind and everyone wants to get to know you. I feel privileged to have been given this experience” Megan loves animals especially horses and being here has given her the chance to indulge in her passion. Jake, 15, from Manchester says, “It’s much safer here and consequently I’m allowed out whenever I want. I have a much closer relationship with my parents now and they’re really pleased because I’ve been doing well at school, so they let me go to clubs in the resorts because they know I’m not going to encounter any trouble. Back home in Manchester this would be impossible as well as dangerous.” Jake spends his summer vacation jet skiing with his many Bulgarian friends.

Many people may be deterred from emigrating with a teenager for fear of disrupting their education, but these fears would appear unfounded. Children are often placed in a year or two lower than their UK school year, but this is not a bad thing in that it allows children to learn the language whilst covering work already familiar to them.

Parents concerned about their children receiving UK qualifications can arrange for them to take GCSE’s and “A” levels at the English Council, who have a presence in all major cities. In Sofia, there is a choice of international schools available to parents who wish to follow a similar curriculum to the UK or USA.

With strong EU investment in Bulgaria, prospects for employment are growing and by the time your child has completed further education, the opportunities will no doubt be much greater.

By living in Bulgaria, your children will have had a unique upbringing, which will have broadened their horizons, increased their confidence and their sense of independence and freedom.

As a family unit, you will be much closer through shared experiences than if you had stayed at home.

There is a wealth of literature available to people who are considering a move abroad with children and much research has shown that children who spend a long time living abroad are four times more likely to earn a degree, are more mature and have more successful marriages than their peers who lived “at home”.

What better encouragement could you need than that?