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You have recently moved to study abroad or to work in Bulgaria but you feel homesick and you find it hard to adjust to the local culture? Don’t worry, you are not the first one and you definitely won’t be the last person to experience culture shock. However, as locals we have some tips for you that might help you feel better and make you adapt sooner (and hopefully you will truly fall in love with our country!). The most important thing to keep in mind is that living in a foreign country is always a good experience (you broaden your horizons, meet new friends, grow up fast, learn to be more independent and hopefully learn a new language) so even when you feel down, try to remember that all efforts will eventually pay off so try to make the most out of your stay – you are not getting any younger!
1. Try to learn the local language
If you already live in Bulgaria, you know that having basic Bulgarian language skills is a must. Yes, young people speak English but sometimes signs or menus in restaurants are only available in Bulgarian language and the staff in the supermarket or at the post office won’t get everything you say. Also, Bulgarians love it when they see a foreigner trying to speak Bulgarian language – it is a kind gesture that makes you look interested in our culture!
The first step of course is to learn the alphabet and the most common phrases. This way you will be able to “survive” a day in Bulgaria. Also, try to spend more time with locals – this way you will get more used to the language and hopefully, you will feel less shy when trying to speak the local language. Last but not least, we acknowledge the fact that learning Bulgarian language isn’t easy, so we organize free Bulgarian language courses for international students in Bulgaria – contact us and sign up!
2. Check social media channels for interesting events
It is very likely that you live in the biggest Bulgarian cities, e.g. Sofia, Plovdiv or Varna. Hence, the chance that there is an interesting event happening over the weekend or a cool concert that you and your friends can go to is quite big! Bulgarians love to celebrate and to go out in general, so it is in our culture that we simply can’t imagine a week without doing anything fun or interesting!
Hence, check social media channels and websites for events that will help you discover cool events in your area. On our Facebook page “Inter HECS – Study in Bulgaria” we often share information about festivals and events happening soon, so don’t forget to follow us!
3. Engage with the local community
Of course, you should definitely try your best to make friends with locals – this way you will learn Bulgarian language faster, they will also help you explore Bulgaria and introduce you to our culture! Remember that there is no better guide than a local!
Also, explore different opportunities for volunteering or look for initiatives that you also support! For instance, timeheroes.org is the biggest volunteering platform in Bulgaria – there you might find inspiration on what to do in your free time in Bulgaria and will help you feel better and more productive!
4. Don’t forget that other people can help you
As we already mentioned, we guarantee you that you are not the only person who feels homesick when abroad. So speak with your friends who are also not locals (maybe other international students or colleagues) and be open about your feelings. Ask them how they overcome culture shock, what they do in their free time or organize a trip together – this might help you come up with new ideas on how to adjust to life in Bulgaria!
In addition, universities usually have a study abroad coordinator. They are familiar with emotional difficulties (such as homesickness) that are common among people who live abroad and definitely have some suggestions for you on how to overcome culture shock in Bulgaria!
5. Spend more time outside
We are glad to say that Bulgarian weather is pretty much … perfect! We have four seasons and each one of them is special and amazing in its own way. In addition, you can pretty much spend your whole day outside between April and October – the weather is pleasant and there are many free Wi-Fi spots in parks and along famous pedestrian streets. This way you can work outside and meet new people.
In addition, a lot of café places or restaurants with a view in Bulgaria that will allow you to enjoy the weather and a delicious meal! So don’t spend your whole day at home – explore the best places in the city you live in and take some friends with you!
6. Keep in touch with your family
Overcoming culture shock in Bulgaria does not mean forgetting about your friends and family back home. It is part of overcoming homesickness to actually speak with them on a regular basis – this way you won’t feel left out or alone and you will be up-to-date with everything happening in your home country. Also, your friends and family members are the people who know you very well (sometimes even better than you know yourself) so they will know what to tell you to make you feel better or to motivate you to explore Bulgaria and make the most out of your stay!
So install Skype, WhatsApp, Viber or any other application on your smartphone that makes international calls and messaging possible (and free) and call your friends and family when you feel at low – being homesick is nothing to be ashamed of!
7. Travel around Bulgaria
Bulgaria is a perfect destination for people who love travelling! In Bulgaria you can go to the Black Sea coast or to the mountains (Rila, Pirin, etc.), visit a famous waterfall or explore a deep cave, take a photo in front of a beautiful lake or find peace in a typical Bulgarian village where the old houses and the streets will make you feel as if you are lost back in time.
You can follow us on Instagram where we share on a weekly basis more information about the must-visit places in Bulgaria or read our article about some of the most famous sightseeing places! Last but not least, you can also check our ideas for one-day trips close to Sofia and Plovdiv!
8. Do not compare your home country with Bulgaria
It is okay if you feel homesick – it is absolutely normal if you miss your friends, speaking in your native language or simply food from your home country. We know “home sweet home” is a special place and living abroad will never replace what you have back home.
However, avoid comparing your home country with Bulgaria! The result will be clear – they are not the same. Still, try to be positive – not everyone has the chance to experience a new culture and live abroad. Furthermore, every country is special and Bulgaria is not an exception. Have you heard of the most famous Bulgarian salad, Shopska salad, which was pronounced the best dish in Europe in 2014? Or did you know that locals organize a nearly one-month hike from the most western part of the Balkan mountain (in Bulgaria, Kom peak) to the most eastern part of it (Emine cape)? Try to see living in Bulgaria as a challenge that will help you experience new things that you can later share with your friends back home!
9. Do things that make you happy
Back home you used to go jogging every morning? Or dancing is your passion? Don’t forget there are plenty of gyms in Bulgaria so if you miss any kind of sports, it is highly likely that you can practice it here too!
Also, if you are a fan of movies and you like going to the cinema, keep in mind that there are many cinemas in shopping malls in Bulgaria and dubbing is not so common. Hence, the new movie you want to watch will most likely be available in English language (with Bulgarian subtitles – one more way to practice your Bulgarian language skills).
10. Experience new things
Bulgaria is not only perfect for travellers but also for people who are adventurous! In Bulgaria there are many things you can do (that you might not be able to do in your home country)! To start with, trying the local food is a must – some of the most famous Bulgarian dishes include musaka, tarator, shopska salad, kyufte and kebapche, lyutenitsa. You will find at least one of those dishes very delicious so visit a good traditional Bulgarian restaurant as soon as possible (ask locals for recommendations!).
Last but not least, you can also go rafting, paragliding and scuba diving in Bulgaria! Horse riding, bungee jumping and hot air balloon flights are also an option! Or you probably fancy skiing in some of the best Bulgarian winter resorts? Google the adventure you are interested in and you will be surprised how many places offer such fun activities in your area!
We hope you found this article useful and we hope you enjoy your stay in Bulgaria!
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