Bulgaria 1O1 – Two Months On

It’s been two months since we moved to Bulgaria. A steep learning curve is being climbed but I have to admit, despite all that’s weird and different here, we are loving it!

Moving is stressful in general, now imagine moving to a foreign country without any real knowledge of the local language or even the ability to read their letters… madness, wouldn’t you say? Well, yes yet we decided to call it “an adventure”… it’s been a bit of a crazy roller-coaster but in the end, I claim it was worth it.

Bulgaria 1o1 - Expat journal from real life in rural Bulgaria... It’s been two months since we moved to Bulgaria. A steep learning curve is being climbed but I have to admit, despite all that’s weird and different here, we are loving it!

So, what’s different?

Weather, for a starter.

It’s so different to your typical English weather, Mark still can’t believe it. Last weekend we had 15C, hitting 30C in the sun… perfect summer weather one would say yet the calendar definitely shows December! We had breakfast in our cotton shirts in the garden and then BBQ’ed some goat legs for lunch and dinner later during the day. A few days later and a wake-up call, the snow hit, temperatures plummeted and now it’s stunningly beautiful and dazzlingly white everywhere. Crazy hey? It might be crazy but at the same time it’s wonderful, do you know why? Because of the sun! The sun comes to play every day. It might be 2C outside but after putting the washing on the line in the garden it is dry in a couple of hours, come on… this would never happen in the UK in December with its freezing cold rain and the almost constant gloominess from the perpetual grey skies. The sun shines here on average 300 days a year and when it does it is always accompanied by a majestic deep blue sky with the occasional scattering of little fluffy clouds.

Food!

Well, the food here is truly a wonder to behold and try! The almost total lack of supermarkets means most produce is truly local and let’s face it healthy (or at least much healthier than all that factory farmed mass produced stuff designed to the strict requirement of various superstores). The food here taste delicious, even a simple meal has so much flavour, it is pure pleasure to eat.

Prices.

Most people who have some general knowledge about Bulgaria will probably know that it’s less expensive here. Well, for the most part, this is true. Bills, which used to take a fair chunk of our income in the UK, don’t really amount to anything here. For example take the council tax, we paid over £2500 a year for a small, standard 4-bed cookie cutter house, now, it cost us less than £20 for property triple the size. Water, gas, electricity, road tax they all cost a fraction of our old bills but they are some things which cost more… Things like milk for example… if you like UHT milk, not a problem, it’s everywhere and its cheap but if you want fresh milk then you have to pay a premium for it, therefore bottled fresh milk from the store is hard to find and more expensive than in the UK but there is a way around it… you can simply take a more local approach, just like we have, and order some from a local man who just so happens to own a cow, fresh milk straight from the cow or even a goat, pasteurise it yourself at home and enjoy!

People.

People here are so unbelievably friendly! The fact that we don’t speak the same language doesn’t seem to faze them at all. They can chat to you for hours, will smile and wave when you pass them by and give you any help you need even if they have less than you… this is such a culture shock! Let’s face it in England we all have our circle of friends and associates but if a stranger knocked on your door and offered to help you fix a problem they spotted whilst passing your house how would you feel? Would you invite them in and accept them at face value, would you be cautious, maybe tinged with a sense of mistrust. In Bulgaria it is normal, a cultural thing it’s different here to what we have historically felt and thought but extremely satisfying as your faith in humanity is restored brick by brick.

We are kind of snowed in and enjoying piece of quite! Life couldn’t be better. Have a happy Saturday everyone!

A photo posted by Agata @BarkTime (@hunhun007) on

During our time here we have learnt a lot of new things. Some have said to us that we have gone backwards in time and regressed back to olden times and ways, but you know what… it’s good, and if you are of a certain age (lets’ call it middle-aged) it’s not that different to what England was like when we were kids and it makes us happy. Yes, I would probably prefer to have central heating and not have to worry about burning wood logs in my petchka to stay warm but even this has its charm especially in the evening sitting by the fire, not many can say that back home… and with time you simply get used to it.

Don’t get me wrong as I gush about living here, life here isn’t all perfect, there are quite a few things we will want to change in the years to come but for this moment I think we made the right choice. We are genuinely happy, more content and OMG so much more calm than we ever were in England. We get to enjoy daily sun, good food and unbelievably kind and friendly people every day… after all isn’t that what life should be all about?

Following the Dream

I don’t want a perfect life; I want a happy one!

Just like the quote says, we are on a mission to have a better quality of life… but let’s start from the beginning…

Following the DreamAll of this started about two years ago. We were getting fed up with living in UK, it was all work, work, work (more commonly referred to as the “rat race”) and there never seemed to be a lot of time for anything else and even if there was time there was never enough money no matter how hard we worked; couple that with the endless gloomy weather and seemingly daily rain resulting in it always feeling damp and meaning a lack of sunshine. There was also the issue of a growing hatred of the ever encroaching nanny state with the 1%ers amassing total control over, what felt to us as every aspect of our life in the end led to a level of dissatisfaction that resulted in us one evening deciding that it was time for a change… so we took the giant map of Europe out and started to look for a new place to live.

Yes, I know this might sound a bit extreme but life is short, we aren’t getting any younger and frankly it felt like the right time for our next start.

After going through all the obvious suspects aka favourite spots for Brits to emigrate to such as the south of France, Spain, Italy maybe even Switzerland but they were realistically outside of our budget, we were shortly running out of places to live… all we wanted was an affordable for us country with sunny weather, good food, friendly people and you know what… we found it…. In Bulgaria!

I can imagine that most of you at this moment are either thinking good for them or as is usually the case sat there thinking WTF! Well, trust me when I say we have kind of gotten used to this reaction from people by now. Most people can’t understand why on earth we would want to move from such a well-developed Britain to an underdeveloped country like Bulgaria… well, at the heart of the matter we just wanted a simpler life and after extensive research we truly believe that we can achieve our dream here.

It took us a long time to get to this stage. Four months ago we sold our UK home and by completion day we had managed to move all our belongings into my parents’ house/garage/garden shed in Poland.  From there we filled the car with diesel and started the long drive, 48h later we arrived in Bulgaria. The search for our new home began in earnest…

We came prepared with a long list of houses that we wanted to view. After a few weeks of driving around and viewing properties with endless hours of discussions about all the pros and cons of each place we had whittled the original list down to a short list of three favourites. At this time we enrolled the help of my dad… He desperately wanted to come, probably as much out of curiosity as wanting to make sure his daughter wasn’t about to buy a disaster and from our side it’s always good to get the opinion of someone more sensible than you may be. So we had him fly over just to check out our potential list of a new home. As it ended up all three passed the “dad inspection” and it was time to start making offers… long story short last month (yes, we have a small mini anniversary today) we become the happy owners of our new Bulgarian home.

I have to say it was a real roller-coaster… up and down and up again… so many new experiences, so many things to learn but you know what… we are for the first time in a long time truly happy. We own a lovely house with a garden big enough that we could hire a man with a tractor and plough to plough a section of it in order to get it ready for being a veggie patch next year, we are surrounded by kind, helpful people (no, we can’t understand them most of the time but no one seems to care), we are eating simple but real food, which tastes amazing but most of all we are debt free, we have no mortgage, no loans, no worry… I wake up, brew my morning coffee and go out to drink it in my warm sunny November garden (yes it’s the middle of November and it’s still warm), looking around and thinking to myself: “this is all ours”! This makes me happy!

I know we haven’t been around much lately (and thank you for the many emails checking up on me) yet as I sit here writing to you all with this update I can hand on heart say that all boxes are unpacked, the house is taking its final shape and we are now on the mission to do what we enjoy most… cooking, baking and blogging about it 🙂

Take care, speak soon and remember it’s never too late to follow your dreams!

I am a weird, vulture like stingy foreigner

I am a weird, vulture like stingy foreigner

This morning The Telegraph published a piece titled “My late night supermarket shopping saves me £2,800 a year”. As we are featured in this piece it was only natural for me to visit the online version of it and have a peak at the comments… now I wish I hadn’t done it. Actually this isn’t true. I think it was fine to visit and even the reading of it, but I should have never engaged and definitely never replied to some of them. I guess it was an impulse and when you find yourself under attack you are naturally overcome with an urge to defend yourself… how silly of me…

The piece was supposed to relay that you can save money by smart shopping. It looks like some people who cared enough to comment didn’t actually care enough to read the article fully or simply took it in a different way than what was intended.

The first attack was on my job. One guy thought that being a self-employed online moderator is so redundant that it actually makes me jobless. Someone else thought that I am probably hoping to secure in time a nice, well paid, lots-of-holidays, public sector job with all the trimmings – the mirror-image of self-employment. Really? Why people are so quick to project their own dreams or hopes on to others? I would hate to work for someone, especially in the public sector… as to trimmings? What trimmings? Being stuck in a cubicle 9 till 5?

Yet another person had decided that my lifestyle of frugal shopping makes me a sad personality. Quite the opposite, in my humble opinion, it makes me happy and gives me more money to spend elsewhere.

Someone else suggested that I should get a life? I actually have one and I am very proud of it.

One guy actually called me a vulture… how bizarre! I wonder if Mr. Seank knows what vultures are and what they do. I don’t actually scavenge, I pick food from the shelves just like he does I assume… the only difference is that I know which shelf to pick my food from and more specifically what time of the day I should go shopping in order to get a better bargain.

It’s sad that some people can be so narrow-minded. It’s seems it is so much easier to criticize something than to actually try and understand it. I was told that bargain shopping is not very British, maybe this is why so many people wouldn’t do it or even consider doing it… stuck with being an old stereotype or maybe just too proud to grab those good bargains is just plain silly in my mind.

There was also a comment suggesting that maybe if I work harder I would be able to afford full priced food… this was actually a funny one… I never said I can’t afford it, I simply chose to shop this way. Saving money on my food shopping, or any form of shopping come to that; leaves me with more money, and sometimes with some money to spend on other stuff. Not only this, it also gives me in most cases better quality food. A good percentage of reduced food at the end of the day comes from the finest or the organic selection, they are usually the most expensive ones and often unsold… so please explain to me why would I chose a shop value type of food (like some other comments suggested) over reduced but much higher quality products that are still in date at the time of my purchase? I simply don’t see any logic in this. And let’s face it, most labels on the food products have very little to do with its usability, they are there to empower buying power, they are there to prey on the lack of knowledge of the masses, they are simply there to make you buy more or at least more often.

I have learnt the meaning of labels and I have great understanding on how long my food will actually last before getting spoiled. I covered it earlier in my “7 Top Tips How to Reduce Food Waste” post.

I am not ashamed of my shopping style. I am actually proud of it and I have no inclination whatsoever to apologies for it.

I just feel sorry for all those people out there who failed to understand it.

People don’t have to agree with me and they for sure don’t have to follow my steps but I do think that before posting a comment or reply the individual should at least try to understand the piece and the meaning behind it. For no other reason than it will help them to form a non vitriolic and informed opinion to their replies. I also consider the other angle to this situation and that is that these foods if unsold will just be destroyed. There is no option under our law of donating it somewhere; it will not go to anyone who might actually really need it. If no one will buy it, it will go to the bin; in my opinion that is the greatest tragedy, that is a shame!

This whole comment situation had me bouncing of the walls most of the morning. It reminded me of The West Wing and The U.S. Poet Laureate episode when Josh posted a reply on Lemon-Lyman.com, which started a series of troubles. C.J.Cregg had a great came back to this whole commenting malarkey: The people on these sites: they’re the cast of One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest.

But there is always a silver lining. I’ve received a lovely email from Raphael who decided to write to me after seeing all the abuse some people gave me. Thank God we are not all the same. I am glad there are still a few people around who are full of civility and human compassion.

Philogenes wrote to me as a reply to one of my comments: You must know by now that most commenters aren’t interested in the facts, just their own opinions! …I didn’t know it but now I do. Lesson learnt. I was actually under the impression that if someone, as I regularly do, decides to leave a comment it will be meaningful and on topic… I was wrong, epic fail!

So, what do you think?

Am I a weird, vulture like stingy foreigner?

Can my way of shopping really be offensive to some?

Was the published piece really a reason for so much negativity?

And just to clear something else. I didn’t get paid for this feature. I didn’t do it for the money or for the fame (as suggested by yet another “friendly” comment). I have had my 15 minutes of fame with other articles published in various newspapers across the country and my own recipe on a billboard… I am not hungry for more, believe me. I agreed to do it in order to show some people another way, a way of saving a few pennies (and sometimes pounds) and having something to show for it. I hoped that maybe this feature would encourage some people to be more savvy when food shopping. I simply wanted to do something good, is that really so bad?