George, it's been a few years since we last caught up with you – where are you living now?
Have to say it’s very nice to hear from you again and for you to follow up on our progress in Bulgaria 7 years on from our first interview!In fact, around 5 years ago, since we speak French as well as Russian, we decided to look at setting up both British food and Bulgarian real estate agencies in Paris, so we went over there for a couple of years, whilst leaving the working Bulgarian businesses in capable hands in Bulgaria. Despite the very pleasant lifestyle in France and two successful business start-ups, we found we did miss the Bulgarian lifestyle we had become accustomed to in Balchik, which is very laid back – there is nothing quite like Bulgaria! We had chosen wisely in the people we had asked to look after our businesses in the interim and found they had gone from strength to strength when we returned to resume control of them.
So, in answer to your question, we found we just could not stay away from Balchik after a period away and returned to carry on life here!
What has changed the most in your expat life over the past few years?
Obviously, we are a bit older than we once were and view life a bit differently. Being successful in both our chosen businesses has given us a nice cushion. Business-wise, things are moving along very smoothly and we find we can relax more and enjoy the country much more with the extra time we now have available. We do enjoy getting over to Veliko Tarnovo and enjoying the sights and culture in the Central parts of Bulgaria. Although the Bulgarian health system tends to be criticised a lot in some quarters, we have had occasion to utilise it a couple of times in the past two years and find none of the waiting lists you might expect in other countries and highly professional specialists in many areas of medicine, with state of the art equipment in many more hospitals and medical facilities.
And what has remained the same?
In the sense of being expats, we have not changed in the sense that we are still fun-loving and adventurous people or we would still be stuck in our homelands! We still have the same work ethic, which is absolutely vital if you are to succeed in a foreign land. We still enjoy learning new languages and the never-ending challenges that being away from your homeland bring.
Bulgaria, of course, has remained the same in that there are still great areas of beauty throughout the country and these, luckily, are not being commercialised. We hope that this will continue for many, many years to come for the enjoyment of our ancestors.
Talk us through a typical day in your life as an expat in Bulgaria.
We no longer really work through the weekends as we used to and if we leave out the mundane such as shopping and getting the gardeners in, our days usually follow a fairly fixed pattern. Computers are central to us in our business lives and we will check the myriads of messages we get overnight after breakfast – we then schedule appointments to view property for sale (mainly left to our staff these days) and to show prospective buyers property on our books in the north east of Bulgaria. We also co-ordinate online orders for British food from our clients and organise deliveries to those clients mainly via courier. We leave the weekends for travelling around and visiting the various corners of Bulgaria we have not yet seen.
Why should people consider Bulgaria as their next expat destination?
Bulgaria is well known for its areas of beauty and cultural heritage. There are the wonderful wild-life sanctuaries in the north east around Shabla and Krapets, the incomparable beaches all along the Black Sea Coast and the now world-renowned skiing areas around Bansko and Pamporovo. All in all, Bulgaria has something for everyone. In addition, Bulgaria is currently the most cost effective destination in the EU for anyone wishing to buy property of virtually any kind, but that is not a situation that will last forever, so the right time to buy is now. If you want an easy going lifestyle in a very largely unspoilt environment and at very affordable prices, then Bulgaria is the place for you!
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of moving abroad for the first time?
I would say that researching the country you are potentially going to move too is absolutely crucial, especially if it is a first time thing. You do have to be very flexible and open-minded, willing to adapt to a new cultural environment and possibly completely different ways of doing almost everything, along with learning a new language. These days, a vast amount of information is available via the internet, so it is possible to select a potential country on that basis. Once that is done, however, it is essential that you visit and rent for a while to get a feel for the different areas – Bansko is obviously very different to Balchik and Balchik is obviously very different to Veiko Tarnovo. I would recommend renting for at least a month in all of the areas you are considering moving to before making any final decision.
What are your plans for the future?
It’s pretty unlikely that Bulgaria is going to be my/our last stop, especially given that we just couldn’t keep away after leaving for France the first time! I have been around quite a lot and think my current country count overall at the moment is about 19. There is a lot happening in China now – we have Chinese clients coming over to look at property in Bulgaria now and it is interesting interacting with that culture. There is no reason why I may not repay the compliment and get over to China one of these days – that would be a new and tantalising prospect!
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