Expats in Bulgaria – Meet Richard

We had a great chat with Richard from the UK about his new life in Sofia, here’s what he had to say (p.s. we are definitely going to try Rakia and Tonic!)

How long have you been living in Bulgaria?

I was here for a few weeks last year but I’ve been living here nearly constantly since January.

Did you have any idea about what to expect? Is Sofia how you imagined it would be?

For work I spent quite a while last year working in Krakow, Poland, and nievely I sort of expected the two countries to be similar and in many ways they are but in many ways they are not.

What are you doing in Bulgaria and how long do you plan to stay? 

I’m here for work for a couple of years to set up a new Software Development Center for Ocado in Sofia.  This is Ocado’s fourth such development center (we have one in the UK and two in Poland) where we develop all of the software needed to run an online grocery company.  Online grocery is quite a complicated problem to solve because people order a large number of items, some of which need to be kept chilled or frozen, that we need to group together and delivered to the customers door at a time of their choosing.  When you think that we stock over 40,000 different products for the customer to choose from then delivering over a quarter of a million orders per week is a big challenge.

What’s your commute to work like?

For my journey to work I take the tram, it is quite a nice way to wake up in the morning during which time I can catch up on emails and read a bit of a book.  For my journey home, if the weather is nice, I usually walk back – it takes about 45 min which is quite a nice way to enjoy the Bulgarian sun.  If the weather is not so good then its back on the tram.

Has anything in Sofia surprised you?

I knew nearly nothing of Sofia or Bulgaria before I arrived for the first time – I’m not even sure I could point to it on a map.  Now I’m here there is much more than I expected – Sofia is a very nice city with really interesting places to go in an evening for dinner or drinks.  Sofia is a capital city and as such I’ve eaten things from all over the world – such as food from Peru.  It’s also really nice to be able to easily get out of the city and head into the mountains for some skiing – which I’m not very good at so the extra practice is very useful!!

Are you learning Bulgarian?

Not as much as I should – I’m focusing on understanding cyrillic at the moment and once I’ve mastered that I will take it from there.  The number of people who speak English in Sofia is great and so far I’ve been busy with work but hopefully in the future I’ll have time to learn some more words.

What’s the most difficult part of life in Sofia?

Getting used to the ice was interesting…. I only fell over twice so I think I did ok considering how little experience I’ve had of it back home.  I think the most challenging part is yet to come – the hot temperatures in the summer but fingers crossed it’s not too bad!! 

Do you like the food in Bulgaria? Any favourite dishes or recommendations? 

The food here is great, there are lots of really nice restaurants and bars – I’ve been trying out quite a few while I’ve been here and I’ve enjoyed a lot of them.  I’m still not a fan of Rakia, though I have found that if you drink it with Tonic that it is palatable, but don’t tell any Bulgarians as this is something they will not approve of. Though if anyone wants to set up a Rakia cocktail bar I’d happily frequent it!! If Rakia and Tonic is on the menu at least ?

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