We like to engage those we meet in conversations about their country and give our impressions and this is easy in Bulgaria as so many of the 35 and under group speaks English and most speak it far better than some Americans I know (at least grammatically and enunciation-wise)
So it was at dinner the other night at the Hadji Nikolai restaurant in Old Veliko Tărnovo which is housed in the last remaining old Inn of it’s type left standing in the city where we had a long conversation with our waitress. This is just one of many such conversations that led me to this post.
We had met very many young Bulgarians working in Alaska last summer and spent some time with them and learned that many many of them go overseas to work for economic and opportunity reasons. We discussed this trend with our waitress. We have also discussed this with 4 or 5 other Bulgarians along our way now and what I am hearing pretty much supports my view of Bulgaria at this point:
Bulgaria is split generationally, technologically, entrprenuerally along a divide that spans either side of the 35 and younger age group from the lets say 40 on up. Of course this is a generalization but I think it is still instructive. The younger side of that split are world-wise, politically astute, ambitious, and dragging the other side of Bulgaria into the 21st Century kicking and screaming in some cases.
They are the first truly “Free” generation of Bulgarians and as such are impatient for progress, politically and economically. They are tech savvy as most people their age around the world and have access to all the same outlets as American youth.
Now you can argue, as I am sure some will, that what I wrote above is true of many places even the US. Well maybe but here the difference is far starker and much more noticeable. There is some consternation here as we were told by several that so many young people are leaving to go overseas to work. But their choice is staying in a minimum opportunity job here at 1.5 € per HOUR or go to England the US or Dubai and Make $10 to $15 per hour. Many do and come back to open small businesses or turn part of their family home in to a really nice AirBnb (as the woman did to the one we are staying in)
The Bulgarians we met in Alaska were working two or three jobs while there to earn as much as possible. The Grandma’s want them home. The older men stuck in a job they will have all their life are jealous and envious. The legacy of decades of depressive communist rule has left it’s mark for sure.
The YouTube effect: We have met several young people who have told us they learned (their near note perfect English) entirely from YouTube and the web, games and movies. This is undoubtedly happening all over the world. But the Bulgarians are seemingly very good at it. And the young are very good at putting that new knowledge to work for them.
Bulgaria is a fascinating country of contrasts Sofias modern new Airport and subway, the modern industry, more and more opportunity (but still very low) and the Old Bulgaria you can see all around you and mixed in with the new. The horse carts hauling hay and ancient toothless Bulgarian Grandmas hobbling down the lane with their long dresses and head scarves and canes. The young ambitious on-the-go, stylish, impatient for progress younger generation with their thumbs flying across their phone keyboards heading off to school or work.
I urge anyone looking at a second trip to Europe to consider adding in some time to Bulgaria. The scenery alone is worth it but the people and the experience are the real reasons to come.