Time To Reflect

Well it’s 6.30 in the morning, Andy and the dogs are fast asleep, outside the sheep are getting herded up to the field, i can hear the village cockerels crowing, dogs barking, the odd car going down the road and I’m sitting with my cup of tea, reflecting on our life so far, here in Bulgaria. It’s only been 16 weeks since our arrival, yet it feels so much longer! Looking back, I can’t believe how much we have achieved in such a short space of time. Ok, it’s fair to say that the work we have done is far from perfect in places, but our house is liveable and comfortable and almost ready for the winter. Apart from the bathroom and the small guest bedroom,( which we are tackling at the moment ), all the rooms will be done again, the outside of the house needs rendering, new windows need to be fitted, the garden needs a complete overhaul, etc, etc, but we will tackle all that next year, but by then we will have a lot more time and a better knowledge of how to tackle things. Some people think we are crazy doing it ourselves, but aside from the tight budget, we enjoy learning new skills and it gives us a great sense of achievement when we manage to do something we have never done before ( when it turns out right of course ). Ok, renovating a house yourself with limited funds and only a small amount of building knowledge is not exactly a bed of roses at times. We have had our stressful moments ( the plumbing !), our arguments over the best way to do things, ( I’m stubborn so I don’t give in easily haha), tools have gone flying due to frustration ( mostly by Andy !) and a few tears have been shed ( all by me because I’m a woman !) but even through all the difficult times, there is a positive side. We have learnt new skills and we are improving all the time, we are learning to work as a team ( important when your with each other 24/7), a sense of achievement and satisfaction ( the best feeling in the world ) and last but not least, and just as important, especially on a small budget, finding ways to use what we have to make things, rather than just buying it .
So next on my moment of reflection,is our life here. It’s strange how after only being here for a short time, it already feels like home. We live in a lovely village with wonderful neighbours, surrounded by beautiful countryside, great weather ( at the moment anyway! ), met some really nice people and met a lovely ex-pat couple that have become our dearest friends, life doesn’t get much better. Do we miss the UK, not in a million years. There is only one thing we miss and that of course is our families. That is the hardest thing to cope with here, not being able to just pop down the road to see our parents, I became an Auntie recently but it will be a while before I get to see my beautiful niece. It was my Sons birthday the other day and i missed not being able to wish him properly. The last few days have been a struggle for me as I have felt homesick, not for my previous life in the UK but because I really miss my children more than anything. That’s the only downside of moving abroad, having to leave loved ones behind but at least there is the Internet and mobile phones, makes the separation a little easier.
We still haven’t been able to master the language,although we have learnt a few words but we are becoming experts at charades! One of our neighbours keeps telling me off, saying I need to learn Bulgarian and then laughs at me because I keep saying ‘sorry’. Another neighbour and his wife are trying to learn English a little,so they can talk to us, which we thought was sweet of them. More and more of the villagers are starting to talk to us, I think it’s because they have now realised we are not here on holiday but here to live and therefore more accepting of us. Ok, so it all sounds so lovely and rosy, most of the time it is, although to be truthful, at times, it’s hard to work out what is the right thing to do or say so as not to offend, or to understand their ways, but these things take time and I think we are slowly learning to appreciate their ways, as I’m sure they are learning ours.
Looking back to a few weeks before we were to embark on our new life here, I must admit, I was scared and unsure if it was the right thing to do, after all we we moving to a country we had never visited, into a house we bought but had never seen,apart from photos. Yes, I suppose we were stark raving mad but in all honesty,I’m so glad we took that risk. Granted,it has been difficult at times and yes it’s bloody hard work. I’m sure we will have several mountains to climb, battles to fight and a few tears to shed, but if it means we have our little piece of heaven, it will be worth it.
Well as much as I’d like to sit around all day reflecting, I cant, I’m afraid my glamorous life awaits me……..time to go weed the garden !!!!


  1. Kaeleku

    Hang in there, I enjoy reading your posts. This is where I learned Bulgarian, the old US State Department course. It is a comprehensive course, free, and early lessons focus on the things you would need now. Not easy, but complete and better then anything else that I have seen, and it includes “tapes.” I can tell you your neighbors will love you if you really make an effort to learn the language.

    It wouldn’t let me post the link. Google FSI language, it is the first result.

  2. Kath

    Missing family seems to be the “killer” when starting a new life abroad but as you say there’s so many ways to be in touch now a days. I bought some learn Bulgarian cds last time I was there so its about time I started to learn the language as I’ll be back in September maybe even looking at potential new homes. Good luck.

  3. Nicole Hinds

    Dear Mariet and Andy,
    I just read your newest blog and it gave me goosebums (Sorry about my english. I´m German and my husband is Scottish). We just came back from Bulgaria. It was our 4th time and we love it. We´re toying with the thought of moving to Bulgaria. This is why I´m following your blog. Is it possible for us to have a private email conversation because as I´m a curious and nosy woman I would like to ask some private questions. If this is ok for you please contact me. I admire your work at yor house. Well done specially the bathroom. ;-)))

    1. andyandmariet

      Nicole it is not a problem at all, we have sent you an email, or alternatively you can contact us through our about me page on the site. Look forward to speaking with you soon. Feel free to ask us anything and we will be more than happy to help if we can. Thanks Andy & Marie

      1. Annette G.

        HI Andy & Marie, love your blog as well, only now found it. It is so inspiring what you are doing. I am toying with the idea of relocating to Bulgaria as well that’s why I have started following your blog. I am German in Scotland as well as Nicole above, so I you would not mind giving her my email adress if that woud be possible – I’d like to exchange some privatre emails as well…….

  4. Joanna Newman

    Loved reading your blog, you sound like me in the love stakes 🙂 Love to hear people who LOVE Bulgaria & all it has to offer. The lifestyle, the people, the countryside & the feel of the country!
    Glad you are feeling it. Yes you were stark raving mad to do it the way you did but thankfully for you it has worked out great, So so pleased to hear.

    Maybe we can post links to each others blogs on ours & spread the word 😉

    Homesickness is just that missing family, sometimes Mariet you just n eed to cry it out & get rid. It can take a while & will descend out of the blue sometimes but it will get easier over time. It has been 5 yrs for me & I still get sad, but not distraught now 🙂

    Welcome to our lovely adopted homeland!!!!!!! Wishing you a good life, an enjoyable love filled life here
    Joanna xxxx

    1. andyandmariet

      Thank you, it is working out for us so far but still got the winter to get through . No doubt I will be doing a lot of blogging during the winter months haha. Yes it’s a good idea to post links to each others blogs, will get Andy to set it up as that’s his forte, I’m not very good at the technical stuff !
      It’s so nice to receive such positive comments 🙂

      1. goodfoodvt

        You will be fine, just make sure you have food stocked up especially milk that you can’t get in the shop (well we can’t) wood chopped & near house, I would have said new windows in but that is next year, at least you will know if they are good! Water pipes lagged & when it hits the big freeze leave the taps cracked open a little so the water is moving. Get lots of bottled water for just in case & make sure you have plenty of gas (if you use it for cooking or heating) Then just hunker down & stay in doing indoor jobs 🙂
        I don’t go out in the car if there is snow on the ground or if it is icy due to two accidents. Nigel does but in the 4×4 with snow tires. We have a dangerous road to go through to get to a main road & nearest town which is 20 mins on a good road LOL. Yes blog lots in winter & you will be nice & warm. Just common sense really. Ask yourself what will I need if I am cut off for a couple of months, then you will be all good. It won’t be a couple of months LOL but could well be a month! You have to take the opportunity when it arises to get out & re fill.

        Your blog is great 🙂

      2. andyandmariet

        Joanna, I have now set up a new page with links to blogs that I feel other people could benefit from, yours is one of them. Hope everything here is working out for you the way you wanted. Thanks Andy

  5. Woody

    Just wait till the winter and then a few years in, when frustration takes hold and the romanticism starts to fade. The country begins to look bleak and corrupt, the politics here and petty politics mean very little gets done without a vested interest. You really start to miss family and realise most people do not give a hoot about their neighbours. There is also a huge divide between the rich and the poor. Been here 6 and a half years and it always seems like a struggle. I guess if your living of the proceeds of a house sold in the UK and a decent pension life will be sustainable here. Most BG pensioners try and live off approx 150 leva a month, which equates to about 70 quid. A crisis is coming to this country. As in the past siblings used to look after their mothers and fathers once pensioned, now so many have left to pastures new and stay there, there is no money being paid into a pension pot by the youth thus quality of life gets worse. It’s sad to see. I don’t want to burst your bubble but you might want to build your walls a little higher when that time comes. Saying that, I have made some friends I shall cherish for life here.

    1. andyandmariet

      Woody, thank you for your comment. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, neither of us are anywhere near pensionable age. Hopefully when that time comes we will have set ourselves up well enough that the self sufficiency will be in full flow and our overheads will be alot less. We didn’t have the option of money from a sale of a house as we were renting back in the UK but we have done alot of research and calculations so we should be fine from those side of things. Since day 1 we have been aiming to live like a Bulgarian and are getting the hang of it bit by bit. Our aim is to have animals next year so that we can breed and grown them ready to go in the freezer so as to elongate our investment, food stocks and also to save money. It is sad to hear about the pensioners and I agree with you that something will have to happen eventually. We are by no means rich and to be honest probably never will be, but we didn’t come here to make vasts amount of money, we came for a better lifestyle, something we couldn’t get back in the UK. We will always be preparing for the future as you never know what is round the corner (i.e. bad winters, drought, etc) but we believe that if the Bulgarians can do it then so can we, we just have to change our mindset and not be so British to achieve our dreams.

      1. Woody

        I get what your saying but if given half the chance, most Bulgarians would choose a different lifestyle from the village life as it is bloody hard. Money is difficult to come by and petrol and electricity are not cheap comparatively to wages or income. Droves of villages have emptied or been occupied by gypsies because residents have died off and the young do not see a financial advantage in living away from the larger towns. You mention in some of your writings of having to travel back and forward between your closest city/town and i find one has to do that quite often and it really hits the pocket. Other costs such as wood, repairing the roof, water if you haven’t got a well. Then there are doctors costs, dentistry and medicine. If you have kids or are thinking of having kids is it viable to be carrying water back and forth day after day. If you can afford to come completely off the grid then I suggest you do to save money, have a well drilled, get back up marine batteries to run pumps etc and go solar. As electricity often goes out during storms and snow fall, ruining frozen stores and if you have a heating system that pumps water around the house you will need that to work for up to 48 hours on occasion. Good luck. P.S im only 38 , got here aged 31 and a bit with my wife, had a baby last year, divorced, opened a bar, lost a testicle, renovated a house and an apartment, tried various ways to make ends meet, now do a lot of work for people in UK as it seems one of the only ways to make a decent income here is to grow and sell marijuana and i’m not willing to spend any time in a BG prison.

      2. Jan Miller

        Mariet & Andy, I truly take my hat off to you both and the wonderful work you have done together in your new home. I absolutely love your bathroom!! You both have the makings of people who will settle in here and enjoy Bulgarian life. I’ve lived here for 5 years now, although I bought my house 4 years earlier and used to spend 3 holidays a year here, summer and winter. I always came over for Xmas and New Year as I wanted to experience the climate, hot and cold! I’ve never regretted moving here and can’t imagine living anywhere else to be honest. Yes, like everyone else, I miss my family but have my cousin coming over next week and can’t wait to see him and his partner. He was instrumental in me buying this house and like lots of other idiots, I bought mine online after 6 months of intensive searching the country. I’ve never regretted it for a single moment and was lucky that my village is very alive with lots of families and only 2kms from the nearest town. I learned the language as a priority and it has made a huge difference to life here as I have some wonderful Bulgarian friends who now consider me part of their family. I was 59 when I moved here and did it on my own, so anything is possible in this country .. even with all the frustrating things that you come across in the early days. I wish you both well and will be following your blog with lots of interest , Jan x

        1. andyandmariet

          Thank you Jan for your kind words. I like our bathroom too, it’s my favourite room so far. I must say you were very brave to move on your own, I admire you for that and the fact that you’ve mastered the language. We are struggling as we find it quite a hard language and my i can’t seem to get it to sink into my brain ( I blame my age!). So glad you enjoy our blog, I’m sure there will be lots more to write about 🙂

  6. Windermere

    Really nice blog guys, nice to see folk are still coming and still enjoying Bulgaria. I’m Married to a local and are raising our young child here ( for now ) its a lovely peaceful place to raise young kids and spend lots of time with our family .

    I understand and respect with much of what woody says, I know him well and know he has great affection for Bulgaria and its people, I would say he and family are possibly more integrated in REAL local life than any other British expat family I know here, local friends ( think I’m the only Brit friend he has !) , a local business and a local life which he’s lived for some time . That said ,woody’s views are based on his experience , and one thing is for sure here, everyone has a different view on life / Bulgaria and how to survive a winter here 🙂

    My only word of advise after 15yrs of bulgarian experience would be to find your own way through it all , don’t force / bend your standards to fit here , it wont last , dont get tied up in the formulaic brit / village model and don’t try to emulate the Bulgarians ways of life , its probably not going to work for you long term, most locals I know would say most of them don’t want to live like Bulgarians, why would you 🙂 joking aside, take the best from it, enjoy all the differences from the old country , but never forget the fact that for the vast majority of people here life is extremely hard and the country has many many issues, its an absolute credit to them that they can remain so friendly, generous and welcoming in spite of those hardships. If we simply dismiss those challenges because it allows us to live our dream here, or our own dislike of western norms then we are in fact undermining the many difficulties and lack of choices many locals those face. And that’s a sure fire way NOT to make TRUE local friends.

    Anyway, Hope things continue to go well for you and don’t worry about the winters, they are great fun and my favorite time of the year .

  7. sara brunger

    Lots of good points here. But I am still enjoying your blog as I can relate to a lot of it. We don’t have kids so missing them is not a problem, and were lucky enough to find a house we could afford in a thriving village with excellent neighbours, but has already been renovated to holiday standard. Yes, the neighbours try to get us to do the growing etc their way, but we have been firm and have managed to fit in some of our favourite veg. If they fail we will try something else. We have enough bottled sauce and fruit to last years from the veg they had planted for us before we arrived, and the fruit from the trees. Unfortunately I have arthritis so shouldn’t be eating tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and potatoes. Our Bulgarian is still extremely basic too, not good enough to explain the finer points of what we want to grow and why. But we will get there. We don’t mix with the ex-pats much either, though OH will go to the bar on occasion if he needs to find something out that we can’t get across to the neighbours.
    We are ready for winter, with one (or two) exceptions….we have not put the two stoves in yet! But we have got wood, all chopped and ready. We do not intend to move out of the house any more than we have to and are lucky to have shops…and fresh milk…in the village

    Keep up the blog.

    1. andyandmariet

      Thank you Sara, like you we too have our wood, we have just bought 1 fire but still got one more to buy for the kitchen plus we think one of our chimneys needs rebuilding. That’s the next thing on our list before winter arrives. As for the Bulgarian language, well it might take a while :).

  8. Bruce McDonald

    I love following your open-minded, enthusiastic and committed process of adapting to your new environment. I’ll also second the recommendation made by Kaeleku on the FSI materials for getting a leg up on the language. My own language training was with the U.S. Peace Corps. They do an excellent job of language schooling but I looked for their materials online and I have to say the FSI course seems more comprehensive. Even though you have a neighbor who is reaching out to you by learning some English, the sooner you get up on your Bulgarian the better off you’ll be. Charades will get you only so far, and you’ll still supplement your growing language skills with that and other “communication strategies” for some time to come.

  9. Sam

    Hello andyandmariet. Quite a blog. I’ve considered Bulgaria for both the village and the beach residence. Would like to perhaps consider an apartment in Sunny Beach. Let me know your opinion. I’m an American citizen who travels the world and currently in Dubai.

    1. andyandmariet

      Hi Sam, thanks for reading our blog. To be honest we have never been to Sunny Beach, so I’m afraid we can’t give you any advice regards the area. It depends on what sort of lifestyle your looking for and if your looking for a permanent home or holiday home, if you wish to be by the sea or inland, etc, etc. There are several blogs on the web from expats who have relocated to Bulgaria, that will give you an insight in to different areas. If you have any questions you wish to ask, feel free to contact us on the ‘about me’ link on our web page.

  10. Varnarama

    Sam, Sunny Beach is a purpose-built seasonal resort, with very few inhabitants outside of the summer months.
    Why not try the seaside city of Varna, which is also lively in the summer but also has more than a 400,000 local population year round.

    Great blog btw.

    1. Sam

      Thanks for the reply. What would you say the main things to adapt to as someone from the US let’s say who would like to move to the area should adapt or adjust to. And what sort of expenses and costs are required on a monthly basis.

      1. andyandmariet

        Hi Sam sorry for the delayed reply as we have been out all day. In my opinion the few things we had to get used to was the fact that in a lot of ways life in Bulgaria is like going back on time. Growing vegetables and rearing animals is the way of life here and extremely important to the Bulgarians as it is a means of survival. Stray dogs is a big problem here and it’s heartbreaking to see them roaming around looking for food. The roads are bad, the heat can be unbearable at times. Every country has good and bad points but we love the country and the people. It is beautiful here and the people are very welcoming and generous.
        Monthly costs are food, water, electric, car insurance, phone, Internet, petrol. Food is fairly cheap. Electric and water is very cheap. Petrol about the same as UK. Phone, Internet and car insurance is fairly cheap. Going for a coffee or a meal is very cheap too. It all depends on what your looking to achieve and what sort of life style you want to have. We live a simple life but we still have a good life and get to enjoy Bulgaria without it costing us a fortune.
        I hope this helps but if you would like more information feel free to contact us through our ‘about me’ and we will answer any questions as truthfully as we can, regards Marie

  11. Sam

    Thanks Marie for the answer. I’ve travelled to many western countries primarily in Europe that’s why I’d like to know about Eastern Europe. And from all the countries I looked into Bulgaria offers many of the nice and simple ways that the western countries once enjoyed.
    I’d like to perhaps contribute to that society the professional experiences and knowledge gained through teaching English, Business or even Music.

    Let me know your opinion. Also, please let me know about the safety of the various places and which city are you in.



    1. andyandmariet

      It does feel like going back in time and its nice to go back to basics, to appreciate the simple things in life. We live in the Vidin area, apparently the poorest region in Bulgaria. We love it here and the people are lovely. As for crime, I’m sure there is some but we haven’t encountered any. In fact we feel safe here, much more than we did in the UK.

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