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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Varna, Bulgaria

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Varna

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No

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Need health insurance in Bulgaria? William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

No. I studied twice a week for about two months, then gave it up. Cyrillic alphabet was a major problem. I speak fluent Spanish as well as English.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

Nothing. I have lived in a foreign country in South America and had lived on or near the border with Mexico and travelled in many Latin American countries...so was not concerned about culture shock.

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

I would not consider it significant. More of an irritation at times.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

No. I am married to a Bulgarian woman and began an established domestic life. I have experienced some of the above, but only in small doses. I cannot call any of what I have experienced a "stage".

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

A little frustration at times mostly at people who are supposed to do work and do not perform well or completely.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

The traditions that are observed most of which are centuries old. One of which is "Martinitza" (probably not spelled correctly). March 1st which celebrates the coming of spring and you wear something red and white. Everyone seems to participate even the dogs and cats.

Coffee shops...Bulgarians love to sit inside or outside, talk and drink coffee...very good coffee.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Putting up with terrible drivers. Streets in many cities are very narrow and cars are parked every which-way on sidewalks or wherever. Speed limits for the most part are not observed and very seldom enforced.

I will admit that the new government is trying to crack down on speeders with cameras.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

My wife has been able to keep me out of harm's way. So far....

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Like any other country...research its geography, history, customs and politics. Try to learn the language...not an easy task, but can be done.

This former communist country is still very bureaucratic. Documents and more documents each with signatures and stamps. Be prepared for long waits in halls (many times no waiting rooms especially for doctors).

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