Even though I risk coming off as 'that westerner', I'll do so anyway.
I love Bulgaria and all Bulgarians I met have welcomed me with open arms. I have felt I made the right decision to move here since day 1. My experience is positive. Yet after a few years I certainly started seeing points for improvement. Outside the political climate, which I don’t know much about and have no influence on, there are minor changes we still need to go through here. One is standing up for oneself. Every day I see examples of people letting themselves being treaded on and I wish to see it changed or at least make people think.
One minor example of today was at the supermarket Billa. A German chain but obviously run by Bulgarians. There were long queues and people waited for at least 5 minutes. Above the registers there’s a sign saying "Guarantee, 1lv voucher if you wait more than 5 minutes." So I dared to ask for it, as the only client doing so. Even though most if not all clients had read the large sign. The lovely lady behind the registry, whom I’ve seen there for years, directly fell silent and said: "I don’t have vouchers. But I’ll give you the 1lv. These chefs here, you know.." She took it from her own pocket and gave it to me. I took it and thanked her, knowing she’s a grown woman and trusting she would later compensate this with her boss or directly with the registry. But as I left the store I directly reconsidered and thought she really wouldn’t do so. I felt bad about it and still do.
She didn’t stand up for herself even though she had every right to. The vouchers or money should be taken from the store and not herself. It’s a double negative this way. If enough people had asked for such vouchers instead of nobody, the managers would realise they better employ some more cashiers. The customers didn’t stand up for themselves and neither did the cashier, at her own expense. I’m not here to change the world or even change other people but I am here to share my reflections and at least have a positive impact where I can. And even though his occurrence is so small, it is at the same time very big. Because it happens a lot, on many levels. And I know people are afraid of and at risk to lose their jobs. They don't want to stick out like a sore thumb.
But this is the oldest country of Europe, overrun by many but it stood the test of time. Where’s the extra step, of this proud nation with proud people? I hope to someday see the self-pride and confidence to stand up for oneself. Bulgarians have every reason to be confident and proud. Of their country as well as their own culture and personal competences. People live tough lives, this makes them persistent and I've met some mentally very tough people. This is no longer a tucked away corner of Europe. We’re Europeans and I know the Bulgarians have come a long way. Taking pride in oneself and claiming self-ownership is one of the next steps and I’m sure we’ll get there.
With love to Bulgaria, Leon