The 32-year-old Belgian Gwen Schoeters came to Bulgaria four year ago, because she wanted to combine travelling and a new job. She got work at a call centre and a Bulgarian husband, and is now on a maternity leave. She has volunteered for organisations like For the Earth and Animal Rescue Sofia.

Have you experienced special treatment because you are a foreigner?

If I ask a person in his 40s and 50s if he speaks English, and they don't, they suddenly start pretending that I am not there. On the positive side, people are very helpful, even if they don't understand you.

Have you experienced sexism here?

I don't think so.

Is there anything typically Bulgarian?

Everything can be arranged. There is law, but often it is not relevant. First I didn't like it, but now I am changing. For example, I can no longer bike in Belgium because I'm scared that someone will run over me.

How did Bulgaria surprise you?

I remember the drive from the airport, going through Druzhba with all the Socialist blocks and then arriving at the Sofia Business Park. It was quite a contrast, and I think that's also typical for Bulgaria. There are so many contrasts here, on so many levels.

Do you have Bulgarian friends?

When I arrived, I mingled with people because when you migrate you should get to know the country and integrate. Now, I'm kind of tired and am having foreign friends.

Do you celebrate Bulgarian holidays?

My favourite one is Christmas Eve. Because the meal is meatless and I am a vegetarian.

Do you plan to stay in Bulgaria?

We are planing to move to Belgium because of healthcare, education and the social system. We will come here on holiday, to enjoy nature. It's better to live in a more organised place, and to have just a holiday here.

What is to be a Bulgarian?


The Bulgarians carry a big burden from the Ottomans and from Socialism, and it is still in the culture. They don't dare to speak up, to do something innovative. They don't believe they can change anything. But then again, there are people who do things, who want to change things.