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Ten Things We Dislike About Bulgaria

Nobody is perfect and no matter where you live, be it Malibu Beach or a swish loft conversion in Chelsea, there are things that we dislike about where we live. Obviously Bulgaria is a far cry from the luxury life seen on the pages of glamorous magazines, but few of us move here for this and most who live here permanently love the country for what it is and what it has to offer in terms of a relaxed, healthy, low cost lifestyle. However, there are some things, which get our ex pats down; take a look at our list to see our top ten gripes…

 

1.    Spitting

Heaven only knows why the Bulgarians need to clear their throats so publicly, but they do and it’s difficult coming from another culture where this is considered rude, gross even to turn a blind eye or even accept it as part of the local culture!

2.    Customer Service

Oh dear, Bulgaria really lags behind in this field. Surly shop assistants, unhelpful bureaucrats, indifferent service staff, we really have experienced it all. The attitude is a legacy of the Communist era, where people were placed in jobs they never chose to do and regardless of their attitude and the effort they put in, they still got paid! Fortunately things are changing in this field with the onslaught of Western stores taking up camp in the newly built malls. Many are sending over Western training managers to teach their staff how to deliver services with a smile and in some of the coffee boutiques its actually starting to work!

3.    Lack of Red Meat

Petty? I don’t think so! When you live abroad for a long period of time you crave things that you can’t have and red meat seems to be on top of all of our lists. It’s not that you can’t get any; minced beef is available in most supermarkets, but try getting your hands on a joint of beef or a good steak! Cows here are reared for their milk and locally they are rarely slaughtered for their meat.

4.    Stray Dogs

This is one of the saddest sights you will see in Bulgaria and each time you see a stray animal searching for food, you feel guilty for not being able to give it a home. There is no culling or organised care programme to cater for the high volume of strays, many of which are abandoned by owners who are too poor to look after another litter of pups or to have their animals neutered. Fortunately the EU is helping Bulgaria to tackle this issue by providing funds to help neuter female animals and provide refuges for strays.

5.    Potholes

Are we getting trivial again? Unfortunately not. The road system in Bulgaria leaves a lot to be desired and it takes a certain amount of skill to concentrate on the traffic ahead whilst also keeping your eyes firmly on the ground to dodge the many craters caused by poor road repairs. On some rural roads you find yourself bouncing along for miles only to find that you have a puncture from dodging one pothole and ending up smashing into another. The poor condition of the roads harks backs to pre EU days when corrupt officials creamed off money set aside for roads and instead of applying a good coating of tarmac on a deep foundation, a thin layer was skimmed over the top of the existing road. There has been attempts at corruption on EU funding for roads, but the EU have strict laws about this and with the massive crackdown on corruption the road structure is likely to improve soon.

6.    Litter

Unfortunately, Bulgarians seem to think nothing of dropping litter in the street or countryside and the building boom of recent years has added to the problem with building companies fly tipping all over the place. The problem in Bulgaria is that there has been no money for an organised waste management system and whilst this is being addressed with EU funds, the mentality of the people needs to change first.

7.    Corruption

Whilst the Bulgarian mafia doesn’t intrude on the daily lives of ordinary folk, their influence is great and visible from the top government ministers down. Many ex pats reported having to pay backhanders to corrupt police and officials such as health officers, doctors and tax inspectors. Corruption is probably Bulgaria’s most severe problem and one that it is finding difficult to tackle. Most municipalities and public organisations now have corruption hot lines and those who had used them found them to be effective. But we are still a long way from the transparent society most ex pats long to have.

8.    Bureaucracy

Everyone listed the infuriating efforts to get any official documentation here. Everything from registering a car to getting an ID card involved lengthy waits, queues and unnecessary form filling. The disorganization at most public institutions  is amazing given that in most western countries everything can be done online, however times are slowly changing and in the next 10 years maybe excessive bureaucracy will be a thing of the past.

9.    Drivers

Bulgarians are such patient people in everyday life, but put them before a steering wheel and they turn into mad men. Their driving skills are dangerous to say the least with plenty of red light jumping, overtaking on the brow of a hill or blind bend and in the face of oncoming traffic. Many of the cars they drive are no longer road worthy and a hazard in themselves, drivers drink, talk on mobile phones and travel with booming stereo systems. The Bulgarian police have declared their “War on the Roads” campaign to combat the high volume of accidents caused by crazy drivers. Jumping a red light now incurs a one month driving ban and a thousand Leva fine; speeding at 30 km above the speed limit also incurs months ban and a hefty fine whilst drinking and driving comes with the highest penalties including periods of probation.

10.    Dual Pricing

Some ex pats described how they felt that they had been ripped off by being charged for a service only to find that a Bulgarian friend got the same thing cheaper. Examples cited included haircuts, trips to a zoo and satellite TV. Those ex pats who had a reasonable command of Bulgarian found that they were less susceptible to being ripped off than those who could not speak the language. Dual pricing was made illegal a couple of years ago and is much rarer now than it used to be, but it is worth learning the language and taking a Bulgarian friend with you if you are unsure.