Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life In The Trenches: Dessie Tarlton

YES! Life in the Trenches is back! Today I introduce you to Dessie Tarlton who I met via the How to Marry a Bulgarian group on Facebook. Internet buddies ROCK! I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, where do you live?

My name is Dessie Tarlton, I am 27 and Bulgarian. I spent the first half of my life in Sofia and the second in the UK. I am a financial analyst and I recently moved to join my husband in Moscow, where we expect to live another year or two before moving to Southeast Asia. We figure we deserve something warmer after a few Russian winters!

How did you and your husband meet?

I was posted in Moscow for six months a few years ago and a week after I arrived my colleagues organized my birthday party. One of them brought along a friend from Texas who had just got off the plane and was starting his new job. That’s pretty much it! We got married a year later in Houston at a cinema car park at 9.00 in the morning. Later we had a proper wedding in Arbanassi, Bulgaria.

What is the best thing about being in a relationship with someone who comes from a very different background than yours?

Since I’ve lived away from home I always knew I wouldn’t marry a Bulgarian, but I never expected to marry a Texan. Before I met Dudley I had never even visited the US and had only met American tourists in the UK. My preconception of America was far from positive but he changed it pretty fast. I love having the opportunity to experience his culture. In my eyes, the choice between the different cultures in our lives is what makes our relationship even better. What really baffles me is how it is possible to find someone who has the same beliefs, morals and ideas of life as I do while being brought up so differently? We are both open to adopting new things. Now that we live in Moscow we get to compare Russian culture with English, Bulgarian, American and Dutch and decide which we are going to go by.

What are some of your biggest cultural clashes: food, social life, domesticity, communication, family?

Because neither of us lives in our home country we spend more time dealing with our clashes with Russian culture than our own.

I read your post about male and female responsibilities at home and I love to say that he definitely doesn’t go by those stereotypes. We really do everything together, whether it’s putting furniture together, moving it or cleaning and cooking. I love that because it’s still our time and not a chore. I think culturally that clashes with the way I was brought up but I wouldn’t have it any other way : )

A big clash is eating! Dudley loves Bulgarian food so when the table is set he eats everything on his plate in 15 minutes. In my family we talk and drink and eat all evening so he keeps getting seconds and thirds and then complains we feed him too much. I am the same in Houston, they feed me Tex-Mex three times a day, where everyone consumes vast quantities of cheese in record-setting time and I spend most of my days there unable to move.

How often do you get to visit family and friends (yours and his)?

In that respect we are very lucky. We travel for work all the time so when it comes to the holidays we always go home to either Houston or Sofia. I would say we visit home twice a year each and our families visit us once a year.

Has your partner picked up any typically Bulgarian habits, sayings, etc.?

Yes he has : ) Zdrasti, zdrasti dai pari za pasti is my favourite. He can never remember what it means but it makes me laugh. He also loves dancing the horo though just like all our non-Bulgarian relatives and friends he can’t seem to get it.

What is your advice for other couples who in bi-cultural relationships?

Embrace diversity because it’s one of the best things about our world. Seeing other cultures through the one you love is the best way of experiencing it – so enjoy it!
Thank you so much, Dessie! Hope to meet you two in person some day!


If you guys are interested in participating in the series, let me know, OK! I am trying to spice things up a little bit and ask slightly different questions each time. Although, I must say, I never tire of hearing food and language stories. Dessie's mentioning of Zdrasti, zdrasti made me laugh really hard... Kyle knows the rhyme too but every time he says it, he insist it doesn't make any sense.


  1. =)

    I totally understand the "eating with family" comment. One thing that it seems most Americans are trained to do from birth is "scarf" their food down in 15-20 minutes. In Bulgaria, an average dinner @ a restaurant takes 3-4 hours, not 45 min to an hour, and yes...it can take 3 of those hours to clean a plate. I've slowly adapted, but there were times when I was so miserable eating with family because I would clean my plate only to have seconds loaded up on it...then feel obligated to eat it so I wouldn't be rude...then third portion...and oh, you need more rakia because your glass is empty...more beer too...


    OMG the putting-together-furniture thing. That's awesome :) When we got our latest desk + office chair it was awesome...I put together the desk, she put together the chair, and we were competing to see who would get done first. When we were in the States, she was the one who assembled our kitchen table set while I was busy setting up the bed at our apartment when we first moved in. Working together is an awesome feeling.

  2. This series is pretty inspirational and I'm following it with great interest. I've been in a inter-cultural relationship and I know things can be a bit hard, but in the end, it all depends on the people and their bond. It's nice to know that cultural differences can be overcome. I hope to read more of these personal stories! :)

  3. T.W.
    Timing is everything! Especially when food consumption is concerned. The more time I spend away from Bulgaria, the more impatient I become with Bulgarians and our endless dinners. See, the drinking part, I don't mind as much

    It's great to see you here. The great thing about this series is that it showcases stories of love and communication. The different cultural backgrounds only intensify conflicts and negotiations that all couples have regardless of cultural differences.

  4. i kind of think that nationality tends to make up not too large a part of someone's personality. sure, there are particularities. but i think you'll find more similarities when you compare, say, an american architect to a bulgarian architect or an american farmer to a bulgarian farmer than if you compare an american farmer to his compatriot architect. what i find common among all the couples in this little series are people moving country or getting married or both after a year or a few letters or a few e-mails or falling in love after a second. i think this kind of spontaneity and continuity and positive attitude is more of a common element then the actual inter-cultural aspect.

  5. What a fun interview. I'm Mexican and hubby is Croatian. Now we have a 22 month old daughter who speaks Croatian-Spanish-English (in that order)

    A Mexican chica living in Europe

  6. Hey, can I ask a question? What is the rest of the zdrasti zdrasti rhyme? We adopted a little girl from Bulgaria a few months back and they taught us the beginning of the song, but I only heard the rest a couple of times. The part that ends with slapping hands? I totally forgot it and I want to keep it alive for her, so to speak.

    Blagodaria! (I'm sure I butchered that spelling...)


    1. No! You spelled it just right!

      Geri is so lucky to have you! Adoption is the biggest gift you can give a child! Reading your blog just warms my heart!

      Here's how the rhyme goes:

      Здрасти, здрасти, здрасти!
      Дай пари за пасти!
      Улица "Лисица"
      на ти една плесница.

      Zdrasti, zdrasti, zdrasti
      Dai pari za pasti
      Ulitsa Lissitsa
      na ti edna plesnitsa.