Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? Where do you currently live? Where are you and your partner from?
Hi Everyone! My name is Eva Bowen (though most Bulgarians would spell my name as Iva. I am Iva Popova on my BG passport, and Eva Popov on my US passport; it's all very confusing ;). I was born in 1979 in Sofia, Bulgaria and lived there until 1991 when my family moved to the U.S. I now live in Southern California with my [American] husband Bret, daughter Maya, and two big, hairy dogs, Whitney & Riley. My mom, dad and sister and I all live really close to each other. I work for an Asset Management/Financial Planning firm and Bret is a teacher. Maya is currently employed as the cutest 16-month old baby girl.
How did you and your partner meet?
Bret and I met 10 years ago at a party, a mutual friend introduced us. The following night Bret and his roommates were having a band play at their house and he invited us over. We've basically been together since the night we met.
My friends loved Bret. We already had some mutual friends, so we all sort of hung out together. My parents were a bit skeptical at first -- Bret is a lifeguard in the summers, so when my mom and dad met him, he was super tan with wild blond hair, he was 24 and I was 19.
Have their reactions changed?
When my parents found out he was a MATH teacher and a "responsible young man" they softened up a lot. Now? Now, if my dad calls the house and I happen to pick up, the conversation goes something like this: "Hi Iventze (oh yeah, here's something that's confusing for Americans … all the nicknames we have for each other). How are you? Can I talk to Bret?"
How do your different backgrounds play into your relationship?
I would say Bret's upbringing is very traditionally American and mine more of a mixture of Bulgarian and American. I feel like I was exposed to more and have a little more of an understanding of other cultures and traditions.
What are some of your biggest cultural clashes: food, social life, domesticity, communication, family?
Food – this is our biggest clash. Bret is meat and potatoes. I am shopska salata and tarator. Thankfully, we both agree on dessert.
Social life – it is currently close to non-existent (see 16-month old above)
Domesticity – Bret's mom stayed home and his dad worked. I think this is how he envisioned his future family. My mom and dad both worked. I always knew I would need to have my own career, even when I had children.
Communication/Family – in general, Bulgarians are louder communicators. I think my family always "out talked" Bret's family. I also talk to my family on the phone a lot. Usually several times a day. I still check in with my mom and dad.
What do you love about being in such a relationship?
I love that we get to celebrate additional holidays. I love that we've both added traditions that were not a part of our lives before we met. I love that it has made us more open-minded.
Do you have kids? What part does "BULGARIA" play in their lives?
I want "BULGARIA" and "AMERICA" to play equal roles in Maya's life. I always said "my kid will absolutely speak Bulgarian." I am already behind the ball on that, I find myself speaking English to Maya 90% of the time. I have also learned that so many of my pre- conceived notions of motherhood and the "always" and "nevers" in regards to children were just plain wrong and/or unattainable, but that's a whole other topic!
How often do you travel to Bulgaria and what are your visits like?
Not nearly as often as I'd like. A huge reason for the lack of frequent trips is my job and the fact that I only have three weeks of vacation a year. Yes, to the Bulgarian/European readers, three weeks for the entire year! Vacations and maternity leave are awful in the US. Anyhow, you need at least two to three weeks for a proper Bulgarian trip, which makes balancing vacation time rough.
Has your relation to Bulgaria changed as a result of your being in this relationship?
Even thought I don't make the physical trip over to Bulgaria as often as I'd like, I have a very strong connection to Bulgaria. We still have lots of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends there. And having my immediate family here has kept my Bulgarian-ness even though I've lived in the US longer than I lived in Bulgaria. I don't think my relationship to Bulgaria has changed because I am married to a non-Bulgarian.
Any advice for other people who are in the early stages of a committed relationship with a Bulgarian?
Hmm. Not great at relationship advice, but since you ask ;) Expect that his/her Bulgarian relatives will talk very loud, will greet you with a kiss on the cheek (both men and women). Expect to eat a lot during family gatherings. Learn to love rakia. Otherwise, pretty much all other relationship rules apply…
Thanks for doing this, Petya! Are you (and your husband) going to answer these questions?
THANK YOU SO MUCH, EVA!
To answer your question, I didn't think I would want to participate in the series, but you guys have been giving such thoughtful, interesting and entertaining answers to my questions that I have been thinking about how all these things play out in my own marriage. So, I guess, I might reconsider. Kyle said he'd be up for it too. Before that, though, next week I am introducing you to Yolina who lives in Zurich with her German-Swiss husband Marcel. As always, let me know if you would like to participate in the series.