The Big Move: International Students Share Their Experience Moving to Bulgaria Pt.2
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 second part of The Big Move series. Check out the first 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?
Once I landed in Sofia and stepped out of the plane, I had to get used to a different, much hotter climate. Despite being located in the same climate zones, summers in Bulgaria are hotter and winters are milder. On the way to Blagoevgrad, or simply Blago, I could not stop looking at the mountains, which were quite novel to me since back in Ukraine I lived in a part of the country with a flat landscape. In addition to the breathtaking view of the mountains, my attention was drawn to the buildings with monumental style, which was popular back in the Soviet Union. Bulgaria left me with an impression [that it is] a modern country eager to move forward, yet [preserving] its past. It's something that Ukraine and Bulgaria have in common. However, traditions are quite different, especially when it comes to nodding. I was confused when asking for the bill at the restaurant and the waiter nodded in a way which usually would mean "no''. Only later I found out that in Bulgarian culture nodding in a way which conventionally is a "no" actually means "yes", and vice versa.
Before coming to Bulgaria, I knew that I was going to face different cultures and different realities. I believe that the strict culture that I was born into had formed a different Bahram. The [AUBG] community that I lived in for the past two years changed me in a good way and gave me a new world perspective. Even though I experience a different culture, language, and values in Bulgaria, the first impression that I had was nothing but positive.
Bulgaria is very different from my country. First of all, it is cheaper and easier for us to live here. Secondly, I think Bulgarian people are kind. I love that the cars have to stop for passengers, as Greek people do not follow this rule. When I went to Bulgaria for the first time I thought it was very different, but in reality, there is not such a big difference from Greece. Bulgarians have interesting traditions and my favorite is the one where you [make a toast] to wish someone good luck for an exam or something important.
For me, I didn’t have that much of a cultural shock once I arrived in Bulgaria because I have been to the U.S before and I thought it would be the same in regards to its culture and to it being a western country. I was completely wrong though, because [Bulgaria] balances out being westernized and at the same time practices and preserves its culture and traditions. There are many differences between Palestine and Bulgaria but also many similarities and things in common. We were also occupied by the Ottoman Empire for a while. Some Bulgarian words are very similar to Arabic.
Of course, Bulgaria is very different from my country. I should tell you that coming here was my first time being in Europe or on a different continent. Asia and its cultures are very different from Europe. The first shocking thing in Bulgaria was the working hours. In my home country, office hours are from 8 to 6, but people will keep working even after this until they finish work. Here, people strictly follow their working hours and come back the next day to continue, which is good. I think that’s why Bulgarians and other Europeans tend to spend more time with their family and friends.
My family moved to Bulgaria when I was 13 to a village near Veliko Tarnovo. I remember the first week of living here, we were invited over to our neighbor’s house and they had cooked shkembe chorba (tripe soup) and lambs brain. We lived in a village, so this was normal for them, but for me this was really strange.
I did not experience any cultural shock, but this can also be explained by the fact that I had traveled to numerous countries before coming to university. This has made me more open-minded, self-aware, and curious about cultures and ways of living. Bulgaria is not at all different from Moldova, despite being part of the EU. Our countries struggle with the same economic and political issues, as well as people’s desire to figure themselves out as a cultural identity.
I can find many ways Bulgaria and Colombia differ. […] In terms of cultural shocks, I think the hardest one was greeting [strangers]. In Colombia, we greet people by giving them a hug and kissing them on the cheek. In Bulgaria, people wouldn’t hug a stranger and they would only do a handshake, which makes sense. So, whenever I had to greet someone I would basically have the impulse to hug them which ended up in a [rather disappointing] handshake.
Bulgaria is completely different from Egypt. Everything from the design of houses and streets to the people is different [..] It is very normal for Egyptians to chat and laugh with strangers whenever and wherever, and even exchange numbers and become friends. Egypt has crowded streets all day and night. On the other hand, almost everything closes after 7 or 8 p.m. in Blagoevgrad, except for restaurants and some shops. As someone coming from Cairo, it was very unusual, but I soon got used to it.
To be honest, I didn’t experience a very serious culture shock, but I faced small struggles when I came here, for instance, the language was a huge barrier for me. [...] But this problem didn’t last for a long time as I started to learn the basics of the language and some specific words that would help me to communicate with people. Also, the Bulgarian students here on campus are more than [happy] to help you with anything and AUBG offers a Bulgarian course if you are interested. I was lucky enough to find that my academic counselor is the same professor who teaches this course - Professor Sabina Wien. I will try to take this course just because of her and her care for every student she has!
To be continued...