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The Expat Community

Many Bulgarian towns and villages now have a high concentration of British and Irish expats who have chosen to make the country their permanent home. As a result many expat bars have set up for expats to get together to have a drink, a meal or to exchange information. Living in the expat community can be a comfort to many immigrants providing them with familiar surroundings from home, but to others it can be something they would prefer to avoid.

The Benefits of Living with Expats

It’s sometimes hard to integrate fully into the local Bulgarian community without ever speaking a word of English. Learning the language can be a slow process and communicating on a daily basis with the indigenous population can be a strain. Sometimes it’s nice to just hear a friendly English voice and to have a conversation without having to search for words or use a dictionary. It’s also good to exchange information and experiences and to find help particularly with property and residence issues.

Many people leave their family and friends to live in Bulgaria and it is good to meet new people who have shared the same experience. There is no getting away from the fact that our culture is different from that of the Bulgarians and often we may be misunderstood e.g. Bulgarians do not understand our love of animals and our desire to allow them to live inside our houses, whereas most expats have adopted a stray dog or brought pets over with them and this common ground can make a solid basis for a relationship. Bulgarian children generally do not arrange sleep-overs with other kids and this can make it difficult for parents who left their extended family behind unless of course you meet other expats with kids of the same age.

Expat bars are a great place to gather for good old British entertainment; many offer traditional British pub games including quizzes and darts as well as familiar food. They also tend to arrange celebrations around traditional events, which may not be celebrated here – things like Halloween and Christmas lunch. If you are in a business, which deals with the expat community then they are great places to make new contacts as well as new friends.

The Disadvantages of Expat Life

Sometimes you can feel caged in living so close to other expats. After all, you came to Bulgaria to escape Little Britain and not to immerse yourself back into it. Many expats do not work and consequently they have little to talk about; this in turn can mean that other members of the expat community become a source of gossip and all of a sudden you find yourself living in a goldfish bowl environment far greater than the one you left behind. Expat communities are often places where people like to offload their gripes about Bulgarian living and can be depressing for those who are still in love with the country. In fact take a look at some of the expat websites to get an idea as to how scathing the expat community as a whole can be.

Watching endless hours of Sky TV, eating egg and chips and playing bingo can become monotonous and begs the questions, “Is this the real Bulgaria or one I have manufactured because I am unable to integrate?”

The other thing about the expat community is it is small and therefore you may find it difficult to find like-minded people especially if you hold down a job here. Within the local community there will be lots of people with the same views as you and often it’s just a matter of finding them and learning to communicate.

Take It or Leave It

The best way is to find your equilibrium and use it to your advantage. Don’t isolate the local Bulgarian community and never forget that you are a guest in their country, here by your own volition. Likewise don’t disparage the expat community because it can be a useful source of information and you never know when you may need it. This does not mean you have to be the life and soul of your local expat bar, but it’s worth knowing where it is just in case.