top of page

Once at a restaurant in Greece I left my empty sports bottle at the restaurant table to go wash my hands. When I came back, it was filled with ice cold water. Then after each meal, there is a little dessert or coffee. And service with a smile, a thank you and a goodbye. All these things are small gestures and cost pennies.

For those unable to read the screenshots in Bulgarian, this is from an online newspaper. There's discussion about the glass of water offered with coffee. Pretty much a gold standard in Greece and many other countries. Or even without the coffee, in Greece you can be sure a cold liter of water will be on your table right when you're seated. In either case. This is not really offered in Bulgaria. There's no water unless ordered and paid for. And the Bulgarian representative of the restaurant branch wants to keep it that way. Because everything costs money. And money is everything. I indulge further below the screenshot.

My assessment after 10 years of travel in Bulgaria is that in the commercial hospitality sector the Bulgarians are tripping over their Stotinkis to reach their Levas. Most waiting staff lack the most basic skills or are just plain rude. When visiting restaurants here, you feel as if you're there to give your money.

In Greece, Turkey, Italy or even Austria, you feel like you're there to experience hospitality. It's in their blood. I've been a waiter for years before coming here and always did the small gestures. It is in your nature or it is not. It got me huge tips in the end.

And it's the reason I visited the Bulgarian seaside just once and went abroad for all other summer trips. Bulgarians will rather bankrupt their restaurant than realise this. It's what happens when 'businessmen' run hospitality rather than those who actually understand what it's about. No Bulgarian seaside for me. Yes, I really do boycot it because the glass of water represents the greater lack of hospitality. You either feel welcome or you don't.

The guest will maybe come back twice on his holiday, leave a good review or leave a huge tip, just because you gave them a silly glass of water without asking. And the fact that the national representative of the restaurant branch makes such dumbfounded statement is because once more it is the wrong person in the wrong position. A European fund slurper, who knew a friend of a friend and now gets to keep Bulgaria on its last position in Europe. Only visited by vodka drinkers by the pool, and those who visit Sofia once and never return.

It is a slap in the face of all the spa, wine and sustainable tourism the country has to offer. The last in Europe, but we get to have our glass of water.

0 views0 comments
  • Writer's pictureLeon de Leeuw

Time flies and that's a good thing. Depends how you look at it at least. I'm in Bulgaria for nearly nine years, except for the many trips abroad and the periods of working for the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. This was an interim assignment and after that contract ended, I found a permanent job in Bulgaria. Once more in clinical research. I enjoy my life and work. Often, people ask me how long I want to stay in Bulgaria. As long as I have a good time, I often reply. Because stability is an illusion. And in my three decades on this earth, I learned that the only constant in life is change. Change happens everywhere and in everyone's life. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

But holding on to a branch is senseless, eventually you'll be blown off or sucked into the wild river called life. Change could mean giving up a permanent job to take a temporary assignment, like I did when I went to Amsterdam. Some people thought it was risky, but I did it. I had a good time and learned a lot. And the skills I learned, I now use for my new permanent position. A job I would not have managed to do had I not learned the appropriate skills in the hospital in Amsterdam. It was a side step, one step to the left and one forward. Often, people are afraid of the side step in life. But it is the one step slightly diverting you off-track that can still move you forward eventually.

Another change is relationships and the people you surround yourself with. Unfortunately, I am not in touch with many people from the Netherlands anymore. Just my family of course. But even my brother moved to Finland and is even married now. He'll start a family there. And my parents are still in the Netherlands. Obviously changes none of us could have predicted a decade ago, but just what happens in life. And provided you are healthy and relatively satisfied, the downside of seeing each other less, is just an unfortunate reality. But I do not have friends in the Netherlands anymore, as every but the strongest contacts water down over time. My friends moved on and so did I. And at some point there is no sense to meet up anymore, because there are no shared experiences anymore to cherish or to reflect on. It would once again be like meeting a stranger. But there's always those friends that you can meet after a decade and it would be the same. Perhaps it's just me, but I have an easier time moving on from people. Just because I've had to do it over and over after living in five countries.

The change is in missing people. Whether a friend or a relative. Your brother or sister. Once you live abroad, even once you spend a small amount of time in another country, you are bound to make new connections. And you will then move on, and so will they. This can only mean you'll end up missing someone. All the time. You will however find peace and solace in it, as well as learning to accept that sometimes, out of sight really means out of mind. Think of that old friend at work who left or your buddy in that sports club. They left and did you ever think of them again? Perhaps once or twice, but really? That's the constant change in life. And in fact it can be liberating, because it also means you can let go of other people's opinion of you. As perhaps they are not thinking about you nearly as much as you think.

The one thing is again change. It will come whether you want it or not. And it is often those who resist change who eventually are blown apart when their rigid lives are shaken up by a forced change coming from this universe. Being too resistant to change, whether positive or negative, will eventually break a person apart if they are too tense to embrace it. I attempt to sometimes approach life from the angle that change is inevitable and sometimes I jump into the deep end to change myself before I am forced to change. To find a new place to live, a new job, a new sport I am nervous to try. But even then, I am in Bulgaria for nearly a decade, and at some point it might be time to change that as well. But that is what comfort does, once you get life good and easy, you stop posting frequent blog posts as I have. Or stay put and just relax for a bit. And perhaps that is just where I am supposed to be right now, as that is a change from my hasty self I was just a few years ago. I hope life is treating you well.

16 views0 comments
  • Writer's pictureLeon de Leeuw

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

It might be a surprise to many, but I moved back to the Netherlands. Another surprise is that it's just for a short while. No worries, it's for good reasons! I found a new job, and got an opportunity I couldn't let pass. Since October, I work for the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. Here, I'm a Contract Manager, working on contracts and negotiations for clinical trials. How do I find myself in this environment? Well, in Bulgaria I worked in clinical research, and have a solid experience in the field. The job market in the Netherlands is quite tight, meaning there are a lot of jobs and few people to fill these positions. That's a thing of 2020 and 2021, before that was hardly the case. After all, I left the Netherlands in 2014, and one of the reasons was that there were few jobs to come by.

Part of the deal is that I got housing in Amsterdam and will get to work remotely from Sofia after my onboarding period. So that's definitely a plus for me, I didn't need to move anything to the Netherlands except bring a suitcase. I left my belongings in Bulgaria and I just get back within a few months and continue my life there. Just with a new job. My work is very enjoyable. Because I negotiate contracts for clinical trials, these have a direct influence on the patients that I walk by on a daily basis. Unfortunately, they suffer from the terrible disease called cancer, and it's really hard to see the effect it has on people.

In either case. I find myself in Amsterdam now. The glorious capital of the Netherlands. The city of tolerance, of gay life, of the canals, and what not.. It is a nice city to live. I feel free here, to be myself, to live my best life, and to just take a breather and relax. After Christmas, I'll be back in Bulgaria. As the world is rather chaotic (best not watch the news), I just treasure the moments with my family, and appreciating what my country has to offer. It is far better to be back here than I ever dared to expect.

All the best and talk soon,


20 views0 comments
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Email
  • Advice
bottom of page