The Big Move: International Students Share Their Experience Moving to Bulgaria Pt. 1
Every year, many international students make the big move to Bulgaria.
We reached out to several AUBGers to hear more about their transition to Bulgaria and whether they’ve initially experienced a culture shock. Bulgaria offers 14 centuries of rich history and traditions, which is one of the reasons why international students decide to come to AUBG.
The Big Move series features representatives from 30 countries, who uncover some of the most interesting discoveries they made about Bulgaria. The interviews were conducted to explore cultural differences and aim to provide a country-specific insight into life in Bulgaria, Blagoevgrad, and AUBG.
This is the first part of The Big Move series. Check out the second part here. Stay tuned for our future articles featuring many more countries and their different perspectives.
How is Bulgaria different from your country? What was your first impression like? Did you experience any culture shock?
Bulgaria has offered me a very unique experience. My family is Indian and I was born in India, but I lived in the U.S., UK, and Australia throughout my life. I’d only been living in India for a year before I started at AUBG. Having spent my entire life traveling, and with such a mixed exposure to different cultures, I thought I was perfectly prepared to study in Bulgaria. But my first impression ended up just being a surprise of how different Bulgaria was from any other place I’d lived in. I was not very familiar in general with Eastern European culture so some aspects of that took me as a shock, such as the more distanced way people interact with each other versus the close and more warm way of interacting in the US or anywhere else I’ve lived. But just through observing and taking the time to understand, little hardships like this can easily be overcome, especially with the aid of your fellow peers and friends at AUBG.
I come from a town in North Macedonia, which is a short drive away from Blagoevgrad. Living in Bulgaria has been very similar to living at home. It was easy to adapt to living in Blagoevgrad, and my biggest transition was moving from a small town, where I had to commute to the city, to Blagoevgrad where everything is within walking distance. Students coming to Bulgaria for the first time can expect to fall in love with the scenic landscapes and the rich culture this country has to offer.
After living in China for several years with all the skyscrapers and flashing lights, what I noticed first was how simplistic and natural Bulgaria is. Of course, China is known for its huge population, but I’ve found the density of people here in Bulgaria relatively lower than anywhere I’ve been. There’s definitely a laid-back charm that everyone takes part in, especially here in the small town of Blagoevgrad. People may seem serious but they’re kind and friendly, from what I’ve experienced. Seemingly, there are beautiful snow-capped mountains and tree-filled hills in the surrounding distance everywhere I look, which is very refreshing. The only culture shock I felt was likely the different styles of saying yes and no – nodding means no and shaking your head means yes. Plus, the coffee cups are much smaller than what I’m used to.
To put it into one word, everything. Everything is different here, from people I have met to the clothes I wear. Compared to my homeland, Bulgaria is different in its nature, culture, and the mentality of people. My homeland’s landscape is characterized by steppes, mountains, and a dessert. There are not as many trees as here in Bulgaria, so the shift of landscape and climate was something I had to adjust to. Culturally, I was adjusting to the way people communicate here. It is much different than back in Turkmenistan. Here people are more open, easy-going, and talkative. In Turkmenistan, most people are not like that. Indeed, they also like to communicate, but the way they do it is a bit stricter and more moderate. I have found this difference especially in the greetings. In my homeland, people follow certain rules when they greet each other, specific and different for males and females. I have certainly experienced a culture shock. Also, I observed the difference in peoples’ wearing. In Turkmenistan, I used to wear traditional wearing, which is a long dress with national embroidery, as most of the women in my country do. Seeing people in Bulgaria mostly wearing Western clothes and only wearing traditional clothes on special occasions was unusual to me at first. Overall, it took me my entire freshman year to completely adjust to everything new here.
Bulgaria is not very different from Albania. I see a lot of resemblance in terms of cultural similarities and the people are just as nice. My first impression was how genuinely polite everyone is. The hospitality is wonderful; it might just make you want to never leave.
I was born and raised in Dubai, UAE. My mom is Bulgarian and my father is Egyptian. I’ve come to Bulgaria for some of my summer breaks and I liked the country. My first impression of Bulgaria was [about] its nature, the greenery, and the landscape. (...) Whenever I come back from my grocery shopping in Kaufland, I’m always amazed by the view of the mountains behind AUBG’s infrastructure. Balkan people somewhat remind me of Arabs - very straightforward, usually talkative and ready to help. My Bulgarian isn’t as fluent but I still use it with customer service and random people in the streets when I need help. Speaking English will usually freak them out because they often do understand what you’re saying, or are just uncomfortable with practicing English. Have a Bulgarian friend by your side when you need help to ask about something.
One of the first things I noticed was how different the architecture and infrastructure was from Norway. I was really impressed with the social life AUBG offered, including all the different clubs and how open the students were. I knew where I was going and I had prepared myself mentally that it would be very different from back home. So when I got there, I didn’t really get the cultural shock some other people had. I only looked forward to experiencing what Bulgaria had in store.
I didn’t experience culture shock when I came to Bulgaria because I’ve already been to many other countries and continents. Bulgaria is extremely different from my region in Russia, in terms of the climate. For example, in Russia, we have around 6-7 months of winter, while the situation is the opposite for summers in Bulgaria. It can go from extremely hot in the afternoon to cold at night.
I remember one of my earliest impressions when I arrived in Blagoevgrad is that the weather is strange. I arrived in late August, and it was the first time I felt cold in the shades and hot out under the sun. Coming from a tropical country, the big differences hit hard in December when the temperature dropped below zero for a few days and the air was so dry that my skin cracked. Culture-wise, I did not have an exact culture shock, probably because I really had no expectations before I arrived.
To be continued...