The Big Move: International Students Share Their Experience Moving to Bulgaria Pt. 3
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.
How is Bulgaria different from your country? What was your first impression like? Did you experience any culture shock?
Bulgaria is really different from Brazil, but the countries have some similarities. One important characteristic of Brazil is how friendly people here are - very warm and cozy. So I was afraid of going to Bulgaria and finding cold people, but I was surprised by how friendly Bulgarians are. People are, in general, nice. The majority of people are willing to help me communicate in public places and even try to teach me some words. One difference is the traditional dance and clothes. It is a symbol of the country, but it is hard to find one dance or one clothing that would symbolize Brazil, so I think this is different and amazing. This difference is mainly because of the size of both countries. While you may go from one side of Bulgaria to the other by car, it is crazy to think about crossing Brazil if not by plane. There are some States in Brazil that are bigger than Bulgaria. Also, the weather is totally different. In Brazil, we have two seasons: one really hot and one not so hot. In Bulgaria, I saw snow for the first time and experienced an actual fall [season]. Moreover, college life in Bulgaria is not the same as in Brazil, especially because students live on campus, and AUBG has the general education classes that do not exist in most Brazilian universities. Also, the food looks the same, but it is cooked differently. I don’t really like it, but it is not a big issue. My first impression was that the country is a good place to live. The biggest culture shock that I experienced was related to the background of both countries and, consequently, of both people. Latin American history is completely different from Balkan history, so some issues and traditions from Brazil, Bulgarians don’t know or understand, and it is the same for me. I took a Bulgarian history class in my first semester to try to minimize the cultural shock, and it was very helpful.
When I first came to Bulgaria, I lived in Sofia for four months. I was going to study at another university. I knew about AUBG but I wanted to stay in the capital and my education agency was still trying to make arrangements with the university. I felt happy when I first came to Sofia. It was at night, the city was silent and there were cool statues. It was snowing and this is not something that I was used to while I was growing up. I did not feel cultural shock, however, as our cultures are very similar. Even though I do not know the language that well, sometimes I can understand what is happening by looking at hand movements and facial expressions.
[...] I was surprised by how nice everyone was, if I needed help with anything there was always a native-Bulgarian speaker willing to help me. Visually, Bulgaria looked completely different at first, but that feeling faded as the weeks passed. I don’t think I felt a culture shock until I came home and realized truly how different it is in Bulgaria.
I think I did not feel culture shock as much as other students because I came from a European country. But some things were different like language, food, and tradition. I like many Bulgarian foods.
Bulgaria is pretty much different in any aspect of the cultural settings. However, Uzbek and Bulgarians are the same regarding hospitality. I didn’t expect anything extraordinary coming to Bulgaria as I knew that it was going to be pretty much the same country in terms of infrastructure. However, it is worth mentioning that Bulgarians like to party much more than Uzbeks do. I didn’t have any culture shock coming to Bulgaria the first time, but I should say that the way Bulgarians use body language saying "yes" and "no" [a nod for "no" and a headshake for "yes"] was really confusing, but you get used to it.
The first time when I was on the school van heading to AUBG, I felt like I had seen a painting outside the window - it was beautiful. The mountains, sky and even the grass seemed greener to me. I didn’t have a cultural shock, probably because I had moved several times and the people here are nice. I did have food discomfort, as I have been eating spicy foods my whole life, both in China and Kazakhstan. It was not easy to find spicy food here, but I found some restaurants to go to once a week.
I wouldn’t say I experienced a culture shock. The differences between Georgia and Bulgaria are not so significant when it comes to the way people think or act, as well as the way both countries operate. However, one thing I did notice soon after I arrived was how different the dynamic of Blagoevgrad was from my hometown, Batumi. I felt as if the students from AUBG were making the city feel more lively, whereas in my hometown students do not have this much power over [the city’s] dynamic.
Since my home is closer to Blagoevgrad than some of the Bulgarian cities, I am pretty sure that my cultural shock was minimal. Coming from Serbia, I am already quite familiar with the Bulgarian language and culture. Where I'm coming from, people behave the same way as here, in terms of manners and beliefs, and even the language is very similar. I have to note that we have much better food, but I'd never give up on some banitsa and kebabche.