The Expatriate Life Five Years On
Five years have past since taking the dive into the life of living the expatriate life and many times since I have questioned my choice. I not only chose to leave my country of residence but I made the decision to cut all ties including residence and personal belongings. I have read articles over and over about the prime choices of locations for expats but never found them too appealing so I opted for a country off the beaten path to reside in. This may not be the smartest move I have made over the years but it was one I felt was right at the time.
I had met some one through many discussions that I felt was the perfect match and really had given me another look at life. This woman was a Bulgarian that also had been through many of the same situations and experiences that I have and it made me feel really at peace. After a brief eight month long distance relationship, with a few visits in between, we decided to get married. This was the second marriage for both of us so we more or less had an idea of what we were doing. After we were married we both started the bureaucratic process of applying for the visa to bring my new bride to the U.S... Believe me this is a long and extensive process.
After four months had past, several hundred dollars in fees and a few calls to local congressmen, we were no closer to being together than we started. At this point my new bride reminded me that there was a plan “B” that we could use, this was moving to Bulgaria. This was an un-expected option at the time, I mean I had thought for many years of moving abroad but this entirely caught me off guard. After a very short period I had to agree that this was the solution to get us together quicker. From this point on I had spent hours researching information on a country I never knew anything about. This took time and deep thought because I thought of my house and career at first rather than any other consequences.
One month later here I was, moving lock stock and barrel to Sofia, Bulgaria with no more information than I could find on the internet or from my new bride. One thing that stuck on my mind was that living off my pension in the United States would have been un-thinkable, and with the costs and just relying on slightly over a $1000 a month (My pension) would have been a nightmare. The first few months I had closely scrutinized just about every move I had made and I took advantage of every opportunity that was available to save money. As time past and I became accustomed to the many open markets and various shops in the area and the actual necessities, things began to become more comfortable. This definitely takes time to adjust to when you are used to the supermarkets and warehouse type stores of the U.S…..
I had found that the everyday life is quite a bit more relaxed and is more focused on the day-to-day life and not based around the future or the past of anyone. It is a place where you can just take care of the necessities that are needed and not could or would have things that are common in a much more pressured culture. Being here, even though the rising costs of travel around the world are escalating, it is still very inexpensive to take advantage of the history that is ever so deep in this country. For a culture that has sustained its traditions for several hundred years, it also provides all of the conveniences that anyone could find in some of the most popular cities.
With the given advantages, there are some downsides to my chosen haven and that is the process of retaining the visas need to stay here. The process it self is not as lengthy as the U.S. has its sticky areas. But if you have family members it can cause some problems. My individual problem arises from bringing my son with me, being a teen when we first moved here was never a problem. After spending all this time here we looked forward to obtaining our permanent residency and moving on with our lives. One thing that seem to spoil it all was that after the age of 18 years old, Bulgaria no longer conceders them a family member and this starts the turmoil.
To date we are currently working on the visa issue, but still highly recommend Bulgaria as a very acceptable place to consider when moving abroad and testing the expatriate life. Although with us, we both have lived in different cultures and my wife has also been in the expatriate position. Knowing about the challenges of being an expatriate, she has helped me adjust tremendously. The biggest thing is to work together and work them out, this has kept us together through our ups and downs.
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