Knut Girdal says that living in Bulgaria was a valuable experience.
Get the big news as it happens – straight to your email.
“In Bulgaria, life is not so complicated. Everything becomes easier there – with more improvisations, but it works.” The German Knut Girdal lived for five years near Sandanski. Why did he decide to return to Germany anyway?
49-year-old German Knut Girdahl lived for five years in the village of Dzhigurovo, near Sandanski. However, he decided to return to his hometown of Chemnitz. He is a webmaster by profession and works on various projects. The main one deals with the possibilities of migration from Germany to other countries – the site provides information and facilitates preparation in taking this important step. Knut Girdahl’s personal experience may be particularly useful for those Germans who are considering settling in Bulgaria. Bilyana Mihailova talked to him about his impressions of the country.
Why did you decide to move to Bulgaria?
– We looked around and visited several countries, compared the cost of living in them and found that it is the cheapest to live in Bulgaria – I think it is still the case. This is how we made our choice in 2017, by first going to Varna. It was nice there, but an acquaintance recommended Sandanski to me, and in the end we settled there – in the village of Dzhigurovo.
Does this mean that your main motive was economic – to save on living expenses?
– That was one of the reasons, but there was another – the warm climate: it doesn’t rain all the time in the summer there, like in Lower Saxony. And given that we can work from anywhere, we didn’t hesitate for long.
Was there a big clash between ideas and reality after you settled in Bulgaria?
– In the beginning, no, we had read articles about the country, we had talked to acquaintances who had been to Bulgaria, and so the picture gradually took shape. We had studied a lot of data – both about the economy, and about the population, and about the climate.
What did you like during your stay in Bulgaria and what did you not like?
– We liked that life is not so complicated. One example – checking the water meter in our house. Periodically a woman came to see him, but if we were not at home and she could not come in, it was no problem – the next week we brought a photo with the water meter data to the company’s office in Sandanski. Or another example – if we needed something from Germany, we ordered without problems and the courier companies brought it to us. There was no stress, unlike the organization of this process in Germany. In Bulgaria, everything becomes easier, it is accompanied by more improvisations, but it works.
And why, after five years of living in Bulgaria, did you decide to return to Germany? Were you disappointed?
– Disappointment is not the right word – rather I can talk about a sobering up that has come with time. We realized that we were going to the village – with the goats and sheep. But the small herds that roamed around were not particularly romantic – the animals were not as well cared for as we have seen for example in Italy. I understand that they were important to their master who depended on them for his livelihood, but nothing more – that’s how I would put it. My neighbor also had a cow, which he was very fond of – he called her by name, talked to her. All this got me thinking about EU regulations and agricultural incentives – what have they changed? He had no chance with this one cow… And the herds of cows passing by our house several times a day inevitably left tracks behind them.
In the village of Dzhigurovo, Knut Girdahl had a lot of work to do to repair his house.
In addition, in Bulgaria it often happens that when you make an agreement with someone about something, you are aware that plans can change. And they do not warn you, for example, that they will not come according to the arrangement. Or you order something, you go to pick it up at the agreed time, and it is not ready or not delivered. A big exception is if someone informs you in advance if there is a change in plans. Someone would say – so what? But if you have plans yourself? This is the difference between German accuracy and German reliability. The mentality in Bulgaria is different.
And five years was enough for you?
– Yes, one could say. We also missed our friends – we thought we would be able to keep in touch with them despite the distance, but it turned out not to be so easy. Then the pandemic came – a lot of things came together.
And did you have opportunities for personal contacts with the local people?
– Somewhat. I know Russian, I also started learning Bulgarian – I started from the word roof, which I needed because of the house renovation. I made a dictionary in which I wrote down the names of the building materials I needed. We contacted one of the neighbors – a farmer who also had a large business and had a more open view of the world and Europe. But the others were not like that – they were interested in their house and their garden, there was nothing to talk about with them.
This is what the house looks like after the renovation.
What would you advise Germans heading to Bulgaria?
– If we are talking about German pensioners, they are aware of what funds they have and are looking for a place where the money will be enough for them and they will feel good – in this sense, Bulgaria is a good address. I would recommend the “others” to look for proximity to a big city if they head to Bulgaria.
And you – would you define going to Bulgaria as a mistake?
Knut Girdal: No – it was an important experience. Things didn’t turn out the way I had imagined. But if we hadn’t tried, probably to this day I would have wondered if it wouldn’t be much better in Bulgaria. I already know the answer to that question. It was good that we went to Bulgaria. But it’s also good that we’re back.
What is it that you will never forget from Bulgaria?
– Sunset – when the sun was descending over the mountains. Then everything sank into calmness.