A couple of weeks ago I decided to contact some How To Marry a Bulgarian readers and ask them about their experiences being in the type of committed relationship that I write about here. The responses I have received are fascinating and I decided to start a new series of posts titled "Life in the Trenches".
The interview that I am about to share with you is with Anna Tzvetkova. Annie is Bulgarian and her partner, Daniel, is Swedish.
Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? Where are you and your partner from? Where do you currently live?
My name is Anna. I am 25, just moved to Sweden, studying to become a psychologist some day. I am Bulgarian, my boyfriend's name is Daniel, he is Swedish. We've been together for two years and a half.
How did you and your partner meet?
That's an interesting story. At that time I was working for an international NGO and was sent to a training in Moldova. Daniel was taking part in a long-term voluntary project there, working for the same organization. So we met very briefly, though having enough time for some very intensive conversations. Then I came back home and we started writing e-mails to each other … This is how it started. Later on he moved to Bulgaria and we lived there for a year and a half.
How did your friends and family initially respond to your relationship? Have their reactions changed?
My friends didn't believe at first that such a relationship has any future at all. We lived in different countries in the first place and everything really looked more like a fantasy than the real life. My family was terrified that I was often taking the bus to Chisinau, spending 24 hours in an old, unreliable vehicle, waiting for hours at the borders, just to spend a couple of days with Daniel.
How do your different backgrounds play into your relationship?
We have definitely not had it easy in this relationship. Very many cultural differences and discussions about what is wrong and what is right. Most disagreements have been about: education, gender issues, taste (music, clothes, food etc.), politics, social classes, heritage, responsibility towards society, chaos vs. structure and so on and so on. Most of these have only made us better and more open-minded people.
What are some of your your biggest cultural clashes: food, social life, domesticity, communication, family?
Let's start with the kitchen – it took me ages to accept that Swedish people peel their vegetables inside the sink and leave the rubbish lying there for quite a while. Not to speak about the way of washing dishes just leaving them inside the dirty water. It still takes me time to get used to the collective way of living in Sweden, to learn that I have to plan my washing and book the washing machine one week in advance. Daniel couldn't even grasp the idea of having a lady (the cashier of our block of flats in Sofia) who is coming regularly to take money for “common expenses”. We never really learned what the money went for and at times Daniel was very confused about that. I had a period when I really got frustrated at his conflict-avoiding attitude no matter what happened. Living in Bulgaria you just develop some strange instinct pushing you to constantly defend your rights whatever happens. Daniel didn't have this one and didn't seem to have problems being nice and polite wherever he went.
What do you love about being in such a relationship?
I love the freedom it gives you to be who you are and at the same time have the opportunity to share a different culture and enrich your own personality and lifestyle. I like the feeling that you never really know everything about your partner and they can easily surprise you. I love the fact that you never stop learning. I like the new ways of perceiving myself and my culture when seeing it through the eyes of a foreigner. And I simply adore the new meaning some words of my language get when combined in a sentence and pronounced by my partner.
Do you have kids? What part does "BULGARIA" play in their lives?
Not yet. But I really want to believe that we are going to live in Bulgaria at least as much as in Sweden and if we have children one day, I hope they will have the chance to feel Bulgaria by living there and not just reading about it.
How often do you travel to Bulgaria and what are your visits like?
Still to be found out. But we have already many common friends and memories from Bulgaria so for both of us it will be kind of coming home.
Has your relation to Bulgaria changed as a result of your being in this relationship?
Yes, I have definitely changed my relation to Bulgaria. It has become deeper and more real in some way. Before meeting Daniel I had taken it for granted that I live in Bulgaria, speak Bulgarian and share the Bulgarian culture. Now all this takes a bigger part of my identity and I somehow feel more Bulgarian than before.
Any advice for other people who are in the early stages of a committed relationship with a Bulgarian?
Be patient and have in mind that most of our habits and ways of thinking come from the way we've been raised. Even if we look intolerant, sometimes narrow-minded and difficult to adapt, it's something we have inherited from our parents who lived in a different world. The fact that we've chosen you means that we are doing our best to see the world with open eyes without being afraid.
Thank you so much, Annie, for your thoughtful responses and agreeing to be the first one up. Daniel is next!
If you would like to be interviewed, please, let me know! Collectively, we have so many stories that simply need to be told!