The 43-year-old journalist DIRK van Harten swapped Amsterdam for Sofia in 2008, when he became a correspondent of Belgian and Dutch media for Bulgaria, Romania and Greece – and has had no regrets since. One of the most interesting articles he has written about Bulgaria was based on a several day trip with some shepherds in the Stara Planina, where everyone slept rough. Van Harten loves reading Bulgarian writer Yordan Yovkov in the original.

Have you experienced special treatment because you are a foreigner?

I have Dutch health insurance but sometimes Bulgarian doctors don't want to bother with the paperwork and don't ask for payment.

Is there a typical Bulgarian national character trait?

Well, here nothing is what is seems. Sometimes people appear very friendly, and then they ask you a favour. They are never open about it.

Did Bulgaria surprise you in the first place?

When I came here for the first time, more than 10 years ago, I was very pleasantly surprised. I arrived in the middle of the night, driven in a taxi from the airport. Looking out of the taxi window, I thought: I don't know what it is, but I like it. And the next morning I still liked it, and I still don't know what it is, but there is something here that attracts me and probably keeps me here.

Do you have Bulgarian friends?

Yes. I meet them in many different ways, like that guy who works on the Gorna Oryahovitsa railway station. We befriended when we helped a Japanese tourist to find the platform for the Veliko Tarnovo train – me, speaking a bit of Bulgarian and he speaking a bit of English.

Do you celebrate Bulgarian holidays?

I'm very fond on Baba Marta.

Do you plan to stay in Bulgaria?

I came here basically without any plans, to try it, to see if I like it. And that is still the agenda. I have a girlfriend, she is a Bulgarian and she has a good job here. But if things change or if I get fed up, we may decide to move. But, I think Sofia will be our home.