Before reading, note that I love it here. I can even see myself living here. It’s just, there are some things I still struggle with and if you are planning an extended stay you might want to know about these things so you aren’t in a state of shock when you arrive.
1.) Nearly everyone smokes here. Although smoking is banned inside restaurants, it makes its way inside and the outside eating areas are filled with smokers. At night, you can even find some places don’t enforce the no smoking ban. If you have asthma, it can be difficult sometimes.
2.) The food. The good side is, things are mostly organic and farm fresh. The bad side is, if you love Mexican food you are SOL. If you love large grocery stores with a big selection of food, you will be sad. If you love American cheddar cheese, too bad. Here the cheese is sirene and kushkuval. Sirene is like feta and kushkuval is … um. Well, there are so many different kinds. I thought I didn’t like it but I recently found a kind I do enjoy so just try a few types and brands before saying no completely. Metro and Billa are the biggest stores. Metro is actually large, like a Costco and you need a membership. Billa is small, like a less versatile Trader Joe’s.
3.) People don’t want to smile and wave at you in the street. They don’t want to stop and chit chat in the grocery line. Neighbors don’t want to get to know you. Leave them alone.
4.) Some people don’t like America, or Americans, and they aren’t afraid to let you know they don’t like you or your country. I have experienced a little of this but most people are friendly. They will say they hate America, but they really mean they hate our foreign policies but like most American people. They will be lovely to you, so don’t worry.
5.) Things are really cheap here. It might be cheaper to eat out than to buy groceries to make a meal. Example? I can buy 2 small pizzas and a litre of coke for 8 lev. That’s about 4.25 USD.
6.) Macedonia and Turkey are touchy subjects. So are ‘gypsies’, or more politely, the Roma. I’ve learned it is better to keep my opinions to myself on these subjects.
7.) Pirating is rampant. Torrenting software, movies, etc. It is very commonplace here and thus a lot of websites will be blocked for you. You can reroute your IP address through places like ZoogTV but it will be slower for streaming. Keep in mind that torrenting is illegal. The good news is that cinemas are super cheap to go to here because they know people will just torrent if it is too pricy! Yay cheap movies!
8.) The homophobia is strong in this country. I would even go so far as to say, if you are gay and thinking about honeymooning here, just don’t. Don’t think you can come and kiss your wo/man here in public without a comment or angry look. People REALLY dislike LGBT people. Not everyone, obviously… but more than I was expecting.
9.) Many many many people do not speak English. Younger people are more likely to but even then, don’t count on it. Bulgarian is the language here. It is beautiful, but difficult to learn. If you try, they are way more likely to help you. So always smile and say Merci! That is an easy way to say thank you. Sadly, that’s the only french similarity I have found.
10.) Transportation is easy! They have trolleys or trams, busses, a metro system, and taxis everywhere. And these options are inexpensive. Be careful with the taxi brand, there are some that are “fake” taxis who will charge you much more. Only travel with OK Supertrans, Yellow Taxi, or Green if you want a Hybrid but the fares are more expensive with the green taxis. Beware of taxis that say OH Citytrans as this is a fake taxi. This post has more detailed information. That blog has a lot of really great posts related to travel in Bulgaria, I recommend checking it out if you are looking for more tourist info!