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Marta: a mother from Spain in Bulgaria

Mama española en Bulgaria is a blog which is a pleasure to follow. The girl behind it is a mother of two children from Spain who shares her impressions of our country, often comparing them to how things are in Barcelona. Despite being written in the Spanish language, the blog is gathering more and more popularity in Bulgaria too, which proves to be something strange and unexpected for its author. The probable cause of this is the fun opportunity which she gives us to see a side-on view of ourselves and to laugh out loud about stuff from our everyday lives which we’re so used to that it doesn’t even occur to us how strange these things might seem to someone on the outside. Apart from that, Marta often writes about things she likes really very much in Bulgaria and which made her stay here. So, who exactly is this Marta?


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1/ Hi, Marta. I gather that you’re from Barcelona. Could you please tell us a bit about your life there and about what you do?

I taught English to Spanish people and Spanish to foreigners, but I’d just graduated when I left for Bulgaria plus I was already pregnant with my first child, so I didn’t actually manage to devote myself properly to teaching work before coming to Bulgaria.

2/ Which places in your town do you like to spend some time by yourself in?

My favourite part of the city is the centre, Catalonia Square, especially Las Ramblas, as well as the little streets in the Gotico district. I can walk around there for hours!

3/What shouldn’t be missed in Barcelona?

Apart from the places I’ve already mentioned, Boqueria Market, Sagrada Familia, Batllo House, MNAC (The National Art Museum of Catalonia), Park Güell, Cosmocaixa (Science Museum), La Pedrera…

4/What is it that you miss most of all from Barcelona and from Spain as a whole?

I miss the Mediterranean climate, so mild and pleasant! Here in Bulgaria it’s fine for me in spring, summer and autumn, but in the winter it’s awfully cold for me!

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5/ How did you end up in Bulgaria?

It was easy: I got to know a Bulgarian guy! I had to choose between the two countries and Bulgaria won out…The truth is that none of the people around me could believe that I’d actually do it because nobody knew anything about this nation or about Bulgarians; they looked at me in disbelief, as if I’d told them that I’m off to Kenya to breed lions.

6/In your blog you tell many stories and share things that surprise you about our country; I follow these publications of yours with great interest, but could you nonetheless try to summarise: what are the strangest things for you about Bulgaria and the Bulgarians?

At the start I was surprised by the Bulgarian habit of nodding the head to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in the opposite way to the rest of the world; I admit that even now,  seven years later, I continue to nod like a Spaniard and this sometimes causes misunderstandings.

It’s also strange for me to eat yoghurt as something savoury: I’ve always eaten it as a sweet dessert. Plus wearing special indoor slippers inside the house, although that’s a habit that appeals to me more and more and now, in Spain, I can’t enter my parents’ house in my outdoor shoes.

Amongst the older traditions, there are two which strike me as rather strange: putting up death notices on the streets and spitting (or at least making a gesture as if to do so) when wishing someone luck. Anyway, I’ve already got used to the death notices and if an elderly lady makes the spitting gesture, it no longer seems all that strange to me.

7/What do you least like?

The cold from October to March. Once the winter comes, Sofia becomes darker and it’s as if the sun has vanished because there’s neither light nor warmth. Yes, there is a kind of pale light which illuminates things a little, but tends more to blind you, whereas the sky is seemingly always grey. For me, used as I am to Barcelona winters-a little damp but mild and sunny-the winters in Bulgaria are quite severe. I suppose one gets used to them in time.

8/ What do you like most in Bulgaria?

I like how well Bulgarians welcome foreigners as well as the patience they show when I say something wrong or I express myself incorrectly. They correct me, help me with what I don’t understand and answer my questions about local culture without any problem. They usually really appreciate it when they see a foreigner investing effort in learning the Bulgarian language.

On a different note, I really like Bulgarian cuisine, especially banitsa: I adore it! I can eat banitsa for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I actually miss it when I travel to Spain.

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9/Which Bulgarian national holidays do you observe in your home?

Christmas, Easter, Baba Marta, New Year: on the whole the ones my husband’s family celebrates. My daughter has learnt a lot about Bulgarian traditions at school: she made survachki, martenitsi and whatever else is made for each particular celebration and I take advantage of this and learn everything she shows me.

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10/In your blog you say that we Bulgarians are extremely open  towards children and you recount a case during a flight to Barcelona: on the plane you come across a Spaniard, a grouchy person whose reaction towards your child is exactly the opposite of what you’re used to seeing on the streets of Sofia. You know I have exactly the same story, only the other way around: the grouchy one on my flight to Spain was a Bulgarian, as a result of which I was left enchanted by the kind attitude of Catalonians towards me and my child. How do you explain this?

One can’t generalise: obviously, there are grumpy people in Bulgaria too, but the impression I’ve been left with throughout these years is that in Bulgaria children are greatly valued and they’re welcomed. When I’m walking on the streets with my children, there’s almost always someone who’ll say something nice to them, people open doors for us and make way for us. In Barcelona children are often a cause of irritation simply because of the fact that they’re children.

11/I myself really love Sofia, I feel really great in this city. Every day I discover new and interesting things here, but ever since I’ve had a child, I must confess that I’ve got to thinking about what it would be like for us to live abroad. This happens every time we come up against the healthcare system, the education system or in fact the infrastructure. Plus whenever I get in a taxi, I just feel like emigrating. How do you cope with this state of affairs?

I know a lot of Bulgarians who are planning to move to the West at the first opportunity and the thought that Bulgaria is becoming more and more depopulated and losing its young people saddens me. Those who leave the country will start families abroad and those who stay usually don’t have many children because they can’t afford any more. In this way Bulgaria is aging and that’s sad. I don’t know how a country can cope without its young people.

Spain is one of the usual destinations for Bulgarians who emigrate but things aren’t much good there either, young people are emigrating. I myself come from a family in which three of my brothers live abroad.

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12/Would you ever return to Spain?

I don’t think so. We came to Bulgaria because my husband’s parents don’t have anyone and if we move away, they’ll be left alone because they don’t have any other children. My own parents have a total of five to keep them company and help them if necessary.

13/How do you envisage your life in 5 years’ time?

For me to know Bulgarian better than now, possibly to speak with less of an accent, to be more integrated into Bulgarian society and to have a few more white hairs than now. I hope the rest is not that much different from now, because I’m satisfied with my life as it is at the moment.

The original interview is in Spanish. You can see it here.

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The original interview is in Spanish.

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