All you need to know before moving to Bulgaria


Bulgaria is slowly proving itself that it has more to offer than just the alluring coastline of the Black Sea. Life in this Balkan state will provide expats with a wide selection of outdoor activities that will make their stay a memorable one. Its capital, Sofia, is the center of trade, business, cultural institutions and major universities in the country. Expat being offered an assignment in Sofia will be in for an interresting mix of new working culture and nice weekend life. 

This small yet scenic country known as Bulgaria was established nearly 300 years ago and is still as amazing as ever. Expats will find plenty reasons to be drawn to it. 

Sharing borders with Serbia, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey, this Balkan state is where Europe's second largest river, The Danube, flows.  Its topography is marked by two mountain ranges and valleys while its climate is a cross between Continental and Mediterranean.  Bulgaria is the first Slavonic state that officially embraced Christianity. Its capital, Sofia, is the twelfth most populated city in the European Union. The total population of Bulgaria stands at 7, 364, 570 with expatriates making up 1% of the population. Expats looking for work will find that the employment rate stands at 53% with primary job industries being related to electricity, gas and water; food, beverages and tobacco; machinery and equipment, base metals, chemical products, refined petroleum and nuclear fuel.

Bulgaria is a haven for nature-loving expats.  From the towering peaks of the Pirin National Park to glacial lakes to the Black Sea Coast's hot and miraculous mineral springs, the country's sights are just ethereal. Those who are fascinated by history will feast over the National Ethnographic Museum's rich archeological collections that reflect the traditions, crafts, lifestyle and arts of the Bulgarian people dating back to the 1700's.  Still standing in the capital Sofia is the archaic Eastern Orthodox Church, which was erected in the fourth century and is one of the Balkans' most significant Christian architectural works. 

An intertwining of cultural influences from various surrounding countries is an inevitable result of Bulgaria's position at the Southeast European crossroad. Today, expats are contributing significantly to this cultural diversity, but the earliest to leave their mark where the ancient Thracians, Greeks and Romans whose cultural legacies stand firm and are plain to see. Some of these legacies are reflected in Bulgarians' relationship-oriented attitude; they will happily drop everything to attend to someone in need.  In the major cities, however, this tradition of hospitality has been gradually swallowed by urbanization. 

Bulgarians have traditionally been Christians since they accepted the Constantinople Christianity in 865 AD.  However, it was Islam that first sought to establish itself in Bulgaria during the Ottoman rule.  Roman Catholicism has been around in the country since the Middle Ages while Protestantism claimed its share of religious followers only in the 1900s. Despite the multi-religious culture of Bulgarians, never has there been any confrontation between the faithful of each religion. In fact, Sofia is regarded as the "Triangle of Religious Tolerance," a title that couldn't be more apt for a city with a Catholic Church and an Islam Mosque located, but a few meters away from each other in one of its main centers. The government itself is a staunch campaigner for freedom and equality, both of which are inherent citizen rights laid out in the Bulgarian Constitution.

People in Bulgaria are naturally akin to their native language and won't necessarily speak English.  Their official language is Bulgarian, which may be classified as Indo-European and is a member of the Slavic linguistic group.  Although Bulgarian is grammatically unique, it can be interchangeably used with the Macedonian language. 

If you want to live strong and healthy, Bulgaria could well be your ideal destination because of the natural inclination to consume healthy food, yogurt being their favorite. Bulgaria was once known as the country with the most citizens over one hundred years of age.  If you want to follow in their tradition of clean, long lives, Bulgaria is ready to welcome you.

Essential relocation information

Expats may generally choose to leave their belongings back home or have them shipped to their new country of residence. To bring one's possessions to Bulgaria, documents will be required such as a copy of the expat's passport, an original Work Permit, a Residence Permit to be issued by the Ministry of Interior, proof of relocation through a letter from the expat's employer, a letter of attorney and a complete inventory of all items in English. 

There will be some restrictions on certain items for shipment, including machinery and equipment, liquor and plants for which a Certificate of Health from the Ministry of Agriculture will be needed.

Banned items include firearms, drugs, tobacco products and dangerous chemicals and substances. Those bringing in vehicles will be required certain documents including the shipper's visa, proof of ownership, Foreign Registration Card and a driver's license. For each family that comes to Bulgaria, one vehicle may be shipped duty-free. 

In general, household goods may be shipped to Bulgaria within three months from the owner's arrival, and are duty-free. Requirements may change, so it is better to check with the authorities before travelling to Bulgaria.


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How to live like a local?


Expats will find that working in Bulgaria can be a good idea if they have the right qualifications in certain industries where a shortage of local labor exists.       

A Balkan nation with a terrain composed of mountains, rivers and the vast Black Sea coastline, expats will find that working in Bulgaria can expose them to a culture composed of Greek, Persian and Ottoman influences. The country is driven by its many business sectors, with major job industries being composed of the electricity, gas and water; food, beverages, tobacco; machinery and equipment, base metals, chemical products, refined petroleum and nuclear fuel industries. Expats will find that the average salary earned every month amounts to 2,196 BGN. With an employment rate of 53% and an expat population of 1%, most foreigners who have relocated to Bulgaria are employed in the healthcare and computer technology sectors.

A typical Bulgarian workplace is formal in atmosphere, but people don't necessarily dress to impress. Basic business etiquette simply requires decent attire.  People don't have to be given instructions to do something and everyone is expected to know their job without being reminded. Everybody calls everybody by a Ms. or Mr. followed by the person's surname.  

In general, Bulgarians can be very serious about their jobs but they don't take offense when somebody has to attend to a personal issue. For example, during meetings, using a mobile phone is allowed. Although language issues could be a problem when seeking medical, dental and other basic services, a good knowledge of English and other foreign languages such as German and Russian is considered an asset for any expat working in Bulgaria. Average working hours is 44 per week where the standard is 40 and the maximum is 48. Cost of living in Bulgaria is low.  Of course, this is just one reason why many people are starting to discover how comfortable life can be in this former Soviet republic.


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