“Dear passengers, please look to your left. You’ll notice that the aircraft’s left engines are on fire. Dear passengers, look right. You’ll notice that the aircraft’s right engines are also on fire. Dear passengers, look down. Those small white dots you see below you are the crew’s open parachutes. The on-board tape deck wishes you a pleasant landing.”
Bulgarians usually love to laugh and they constantly make fun of themselves in jokes that remain impenetrable to outsiders. Humor is kind of national priority here. However, the picture changes dramatically if a foreigner takes them on. It is essential that you love to joke around, that you can laugh at yourself and that you can laugh even on your darkest days. Because that’s how Bulgarians survive! Relax Baby…
“I don’t always understand Bulgarians. But when I do, I don’t!”
Even Bulgarians sometimes have a difficulty to understand what’s really going on in the minds of their fellow citizens. Nothing is what it seems there is always some hidden agenda.
Forget but never forgive. No one remembers any longer what happened exactly, but would not talk to each other ever. Never admit any wrongdoing.
A thug is zooming down the highway in his BMW when his cell phone rings.
“Hey man, where are you?”
“I’m driving down the highway, why?”
“Be very careful, they just said on the radio that some maniac is doing 300 km/h the wrong way on the highway!”
“It’s not just one, man, there are hundreds of them!”
Always look back. Someone can hit you from behind even when you are driving against traffic.
If a Bulgarian invites you to eat, never say no. There’s no such thing as “I am too full” or “I don’t eat that” for god’s sake just EAT!
Eat more and more…
Two drunk bulgarians are sitting in a car and one says to the other:
“Hey, watch out! You are driving on the sidewalk!”
“I think you are driving.”
Learn to drink an espresso for 2 hours. Enjoy! It’s like a ritual, it includes some gossiping, flirting with the waiter/waitress, reading the news on phone, chilling, staring at the people around or at the ceiling…
“Why do people from Gabrovo switch the lamp on and off every now and then when they're reading a book? To save energy while turning pages.”
What comes in mind when you hear “Eastern Europe”?
It is a very strange part of the world where you can feel yourself as a stranger, but different like at any other places. Eastern Bloc, post-communism syndrome, espionage, corruption, poverty and anguished faces. Some of the countries were more or less successful to go on after socialism, but anyway, it is definitely still here. It left huge marks on the cities with its buildings just as it left huge marks on people’s attitude and souls.
Many decades of distrust of government and even of fellow citizens still has an effect. Most of the people are feeling insecure which under these circumstances leads to judgment, greed, jealousy and envy, thus everyone wants to be superior to the other in some kind of way. Everyone wants to think “I am better or smarter than you”.
Depression, alcohol and smoking problems. Each of these countries have a problem with these, but nobody likes to speak about these issues. Anyway, everything is about money, and around money. It is the biggest issue ever for people, doesn’t matter they have it or not. “How much money you\he\she make(s)?”, “How is possible to afford this or that?” “Who is paying for it?”, seem like that these are the questions in everyone mind most of the time. People never stops counting. Better to remain silent and take the risk to be thought a fool. They got used to that during the socialism you can not get rich or successful in an honest way. Playing with the taxes, corruption, petty dealings and using buddies' help. Smart cheating didn’t became only inevitable to survive but also fun. Many struggle for a decent life or at least play that to keep staying in the community. Too much is never enough and nothing ever is good enough. They need some kind of pain otherwise they could not continue their ordinary lives as before. It’s a vicious circle. It seems almost impossible to kill these instincts from many people and why would it be after generations living it?
The new world after communism is still big shock for the elder generation. There is absolutely no doubt that the transition from state socialism to liberal democracy in many Eastern European states has been a long and bumpy ride. People used to have a steady job for their whole life, enough money to live, free healthcare and enough pension after 40 years work. So, they still say “it was much better before”. This is how communism is officially remembered in many cases. While the problems of transition vary from country to country, the most common concerns range from severe unemployment to a lack of job security and, inevitably, economic instability. Stagnating economic growth in many post-communist states has, however, also produced a new and unforeseen phenomenon: communist nostalgia. Romanticizing the past in the present to make it look better. It is a widespread appearance, that one can find all over the former Soviet Bloc. The manifestations of this attitude appears in many ways. Creating myths. Heightens the awareness that something is missing…
Many people like to forgot that there was no opportunity for growing and how much bad things the system caused. Memories of standing in long lines for basic necessities, a lack of variety in products available, extreme censorship, secret police, political prisoners, martial law, cruelty, absurdity and death. Losing freedom of speech and expression truly breaks the human spirit and body down.
Most of the younger generation still cannot believe that there are opportunities, that if you want, you can change things. People have to be open minded to be able to look over their borders and not only speaking about personal, but country borders as well. It is not easy to anyone to admit imperfection and take responsibility. But change always comes from the individual.
Just like all human being, Eastern european people want easier and better life for themselves and “sometimes” for their families and friends, but they rarely want it for everyone. There is a fear in the air that there is not enough good for everyone, that life can not be good for all so one has to save what can for oneself. “If life is good for my neighbor it can not be good for me or other way around”. Insecurity and distrust are deeply rooted. There is always contradiction in everyone and everything. It’s like they can not think straight. You cannot wish yourself better life while you don’t wish it for your neighbor on purpose. Nobody wants to work hard while they are preaching that hard work is ennobling. Everyone wants western Europe’s wealth but no one wants to change their thinking.
“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” “If my cow dies, I hope my neighbor's cow dies as well”. “Once a thief, always a thief”.
You always need to be careful what you wish...easy job and money, cheap (and crappy) food from the supermarket and convenient life. And what are the people doing who have these “privileges”? Well, nothing more than who hasn't got it, because they are all still “looking over the fence”. For sure they not satisfied, a true eastern european can never be satisfied living happily in the moment. There are always reasons to complain, always reasons to hate someone or something. If there is none, the government always ensures there will be "bread and circuses”. So complaining is the major part of every conversation no matter what.
People want more money and time, but many of them don’t know what for? They can not justify their desire. They cannot even handle what they already have. After two generations doing nothing there is only lack of imagination, visions, open mindedness, tolerance, will, self-confidence, trust and hope. Fear of each other, fear of being less than other, fear from being poor, fear of change, fear of more pain. Egoism, dishonesty, passivity, pessimism, depression, boredom, and laziness. Always going for the safest, easiest and the cheapest.
There is this paradox in people’s lives: they are always too tired to do something, while at the same time, they are always too busy to do anything. This is something incomprehensible for western or eastern people. So everything stuck while the time goes on and on. Of course, there is always time for drinking, smoking and gossiping. Meanwhile, avoiding real challenges, satisfying lower rather than higher needs. Learned helplessness and powerlessness. Of course, what is written here should not be generalized on the whole population. Only if the cap fits…
An Eastern european can survive a lot of things and can find some kind of solution for any problem (or can find a problem in any solution). They take it seriously: “what not kills you makes stronger”. What they don’t recognize that they are only making their own lives miserable.
Not a surprise when two eastern european meet somewhere in the world they understand each other easily. That is why, I think, that these countries should learn more from each other, and should help each other on the way.
Since socialism fell down, this part of the world really has the opportunity for new and better, but just not been able to seize it. Seems like to accept change is harder here for people like at any other place of the world, even if it would be for their advantage.
The process of transformation is still unfinished. So close to good examples, so close to “better”, but just as close to the “worse”.
However many questions remain. The point is simply to force us to think the unthinkable and having “seen it” in our minds, to consider again what we could change now, without boundaries of our imaginations. You should read, think, and decide for yourself where are you heading toward.
Work in progress. Change is inevitable. Good luck, Eastern Europe!
We would like to say special thanks to our Bulgarian friend who made this trip happen!
Feeling always as an outsider to your own culture makes a feeling that everything is so difficult and overcomplicated. After past years of experiences finally we got a deeper understanding. Our roots made some sense. Allowing ourselves to be taken away and not to escape Eastern Europe, especially Hungary. “Don’t ask me where I’m from. Ask where I’m a local”. Think about who your true self is and try to live it in every second.