-Where were you born?
Kendal, Cumbria, UK
-In which country and city are you living now?
I live in a small village about 20 km from Stara Zagora in Central Bulgaria.
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live alone with 5 dogs and a cat.
-How long have you been living in Bulgaria?
I have been living in Bulgaria since October 2006 and have been in my new home for around 6 months.
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Bulgaria?
Around the beginning of 2006, my ex-partner and I were looking to move abroad and had considered Canada, Germany, Scotland, Austria and Bulgaria. I already had business in Bulgaria as I worked part time selling property there as the UK agent for a small company based in Bulgaria and I already owned several rural houses that I had bought cheaply. And so with the cost of living and the cost of property being so cheap, it was decided that Bulgaria was the sensible choice. However, my ex-partner decided in July 2006 he was not prepared to move abroad and leave his family and life in the UK behind and so our relationship ended and I moved out here on my own in the autumn of 2006.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
None required. Initially Eu members could only stay in Bulgaria for 30 days out of 90 consecutive days, and so I did apply for a short term 'C' visa allowing me to stay 90 days out of 6 months, which would see me through to when Bulgaria joined the EU in January 2007. However, just prior to my move, the requirement for any visa was removed. Once Bulgaria had been accepted to the EU I could apply for long term residency here, which was a fairly simple procedure requiring production of E111 card, Passport, my Bulgarian company papers (required to own land here), my title deeds for my house and proof from the bank I had a little money sat there.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
When I first came here I took out travellers insurance to see me through the first couple of months. I now just pay privately for any health care required, as health service here not the best.
-How do you make your living in Bulgaria? Do you have any type of income generated?
I sell property to other British and Irish, mainly rural village houses and then oversee required renovations. I started out working in partnership with a small company here as the UK agent but have since branched out on my own and have my own office and run my own website at http://www.thetravelbug.org and work with a number of different agencies to source and sell property. I have a number of good local contacts that help me source property for sale.
-Do you speak Bulgarian and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I can read the Cyrillic alphabet and know a few words but cannot form sentences as of yet. I can understand a fair amount but have been very lazy to date in learning Bulgarian as everyone I work and socialise with speaks good English or is another expat. But living in a village particularly it is important and necessary to speak the language so you can communicate with your neighbours.
There are many local customs and as part of a village you need to know and respect these - they include giving and receiving food from neighbours on certain days of the year, annual pig killing rituals usually around Christmas and so on.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course, like every Expat, I miss my family and not being able to pop around to my parents or gran for a cup of tea and a chat. I miss a good Indian restaurant!
Here in the summer, it is a constant round of BBQs, days by the pool, sitting in street cafes having a beer....Winter is meals at other expats houses, cosy restaurants, etc.
I also go cycling, walking in the mountains, swimming and lots more.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
Would like to expand property business. I am also launching my farming website (http://www.gofarmer.com) over here in Bulgaria. Want to travel to many places but intend to make Bulgaria my home and stay here. I have 11 rural houses here, one I live in, 2 have been renovated to rent out and rest waiting for renovations. Would like to expand rental side of my business and get steady income from that.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I bought a small, old house with a large plot for around 6000 Euros and then had this knocked down and a new 3-bedroom bungalow built for around 70,000 Euros.
-What is the cost of living in Bulgaria?
Not as cheap as it used to be. But still cheap by UK standards. Meal out for 2 with alcohol will cost around 20 levs, about 8 GPB. Bottle of beer about 50 pence, loaf of bread about the same. Fruit and veg all grown locally and very cheap and delicious from market. Petrol and electric not particularly cheap though.
-What do you think about the Bulgarians?
Mostly incredibly welcoming and friendly to foreigners. No problems being accepted into village, even though I do not speak the language. In main towns, many younger people speak English and are happy to help out.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Bulgaria?
Positives - cheap living, more relaxed life style, great weather most of the time, friendly locals. Central European location meaning Greece, Turkey, Romania, Italy, etc., are all easily accessible by coach, train or plane.
Negatives - bureaucracy can be a nightmare, legal system slow and corrupt, no Indian restaurants!
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Bulgaria?
Choose the area you want to live in carefully - do you want to be in a busy tourist area such as a coastal resort or ski resort, do you want to be in a larger town or village, do your research first and travel around a bit before settling anywhere. Keep in mind things that would take you 5 minutes in the UK, can take 5 weeks in Bulgaria and involve mountains of forms, visiting various offices and so on. You need to learn patience, something I am not at all good at.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Bulgaria?
http://www.thetravelbug.org - My personal website dealing with how I got involved in Bulgarian property and how I came to live here, my experiences renovating my houses, including court cases with builders and property I have for sale.
http://www.thetravelbug.org/blog - My blog updated weekly about what I have been up to, places I have visited recently and so on.
http://www.mybulgaria.info - largest forum for discussions about Bulgaria