We met Mark, an expat from the UK who has been living in Bulgaria for over 20 years! As you can imagine, Mark has a lot of experience behind him and quite a few interesting stories to tell. Aside from running a successful travel business, Mark is also a founding member on the management board of the British Bulgarian Business Association.
How long have you been living in Bulgaria? Do you speak Bulgarian?
24 years…… and not really.
You must have seen a lot of changes in Bulgaria over the years, what would you say are the biggest improvements?
I really could go on endlessly with the improvements as realistically everything was at ‘zero’’ or in otherwords had to improve as there was no other alternative. Just to choose a couple at random which we all encounter on a daily basis; the roads in the capital and the traffic flow has improved immeasurably as indeed has the countryside motorway network – it’s no longer a battle to get to Bansko for the weekend or to the Black Sea. Another massive improvement is in the shops and in the supermarkets, the latter of which quite frankly didn’t exist 24 years ago and food shopping was – as the cliché goes – a “challenge”.
Is there anything that has changed that you wish hadn’t?
Not a huge amount if we are honest and apart from the innocence of the people, maybe only the recent policy of importing tasteless fruits and vegetables is a retrograde step, though even this can still be by-passed.
Is there anything from the UK that you miss?
Match of the Day, though nowadays technology has also solved that little issue.
What do you do here?
I own a long standing international Corporate Travel Business which under its fashionable term is often referred to as a Corporate Services Provider.
How do you spend your free time?
Not sure there is that much but I would like to say skiing in winter and golf in summer (fitness permitting).
Do you have a favourite place in Bulgaria for vacations? Any hidden gems you can tell us about?
At the risk of sounding boring there are so many new places I hear about on an almost weekly basis that I feel I am missing the cream on the cake as far as what the country has to offer. That said, I do like Velingrad for a quick weekend due to, a) its proximity to Sofia, and b) the quality of the hotels. Additionally in winter, after a day on the Bansko pistes, a 5 minute drive to Bania into the outdoor mineral pools is an absolute delight.
Do you plan to stay in Bulgaria indefinitely or is there somewhere else you’d like to live in the future?
I certainly don’t have anywhere in mind that I feel I want to move to but equally I could never say I will live here eternally, although after 24 years people may raise their eyebrows at that one.
What advice would you give someone who is moving to Bulgaria to start a business?
For what is repeatable; don’t do anything here you wouldn’t do in your own home environment. Follow the same paths and processes as you would if setting up a business in your home town or country. Also, there are many people here (expats) who have been through it all before; seek their advice as they will invariably give you the answers you are seeking and not the answer others think that you want to hear (as is often the case when you ask a non expat).