Bulgaria Travel Tips: Nina’s Take on Health, Safety and Romance
Traveling to Bulgaria? Nina Alexander presents her travel tips about health, romance, women’s rights and safety:
Bulgaria Travel Tips: Health Information
Feminine Hygienic Products in Bulgaria: What’s available/what’s legal/where to buy them?
Products for women are literally available anywhere in Bulgaria. All pharmacies sell a vast selection of both local and imported products and everything can be bought without a prescription. There are two well-known chains of groceries around Bulgaria (Lilly’s and DM), which offer some really good products as well, including intimate wet tissues – a real life-saver when a woman is on the go!
Birth Control in Bulgaria: What’s available/what’s legal/where to buy them?
Condoms are sold absolutely everywhere in Bulgaria including supermarkets, petrol stations, small local stores, etc. Birth control pills for men are not yet available in Bulgaria, however the ones for women can be bought at any pharmacy without prescription. The most commonly bought brand is “Yasmine.” You can just walk into a pharmacy and get them – they cost around 8-10 euros. Birth control diaphragms are also available at pharmacies and a prescription is not needed. The same applies for emergency contraception (the next day pill). Gynecologists offer additional methods of contraception, such as injections, and even though you can purchase them at any pharmacy, a visit to the doctor is recommended.
Gynecologists in Bulgaria: Are there any that you recommend? How, if at all, is a visit different from at home?
There are lots of gynecologists in Bulgaria and it’s extremely easy to find one. This website provides a list of doctors around Bulgaria. Not everything on the website is translated, but if one is completely lost in this area it is a good enough source. Additionally, a woman can walk into literally any hospital and ask to see one. Without medical insurance, a visit to the doctor will cost anything between 15 and 30 euros, but not more than that.
Breastfeeding in Bulgaria: What are accepted places for women to breastfeed? Is it accepted to do so in public?
Generally breastfeeding in public is accepted, but I would recommend using a scarf. Recently there was a case, where a shopping mall security guard asked a woman who was breastfeeding to cover herself and nearly 95% of society was ready to crucify both him and his employers. That was a single case and I believe it is a good example.
Bulgaria Travel Tips: Romance
Dating Locals in Bulgaria: What are the norms and traditions? What should women look out for?
Dating Bulgarian men is much like dating men anywhere else, except for the fact that they’ll expect to see the woman more often. Because cities here are not so big, seeing your boyfriend once a week is completely unacceptable for a relationship. The norm is at least 4-5 times, if not every day. Meeting the parents of the Bulgarian boyfriend doesn’t mean the woman should be hearing wedding bells – people here are not that quick on deciding to get married. Perhaps the worst characteristic of Bulgarian men is that they are very rarely faithful and easily influenced by their moms and/or friends. When dating a Bulgarian, it is crucial that the woman likes not only him, but all of his friends and family, too. Otherwise, things are bound to get messed up.
Types of Bulgarian Men: Describe a few “typical” types of men.
To me, there is 3 types of Bulgarian men. First are the “macho” guys. They are not very well oriented in the modern world even though you will see them with fancy expensive cars and the latest technology. Their affairs are however mostly shady and they are big chauvinists. I would personally recommend avoiding them as much as possible: they are prone to bringing a lot of drama into the relationships.
The second group consists of the active guys. If a girl has an adventurous spirit and enough energy – they can be really cool! These boys do know how to treat a woman with respect but won’t be nice if the girl is a “princess.” Simply don’t talk to them about nail polish or Sex and the City, and you might find an amazing friend and partner.
The third group consists of everyone else. Bulgarian men are generally good human beings. When treated well, they can be real sweethearts. They are quite capable and you can count on them to fix your car, change the lightbulb or repaint the entire apartment even if they are bank employers. Most Bulgarian men don’t really have a business mindset, so if you want to open a business with your Bulgarian partner you may need to push him a little. But when well trained, he can be someone you can count on. Oh, most importanly: except for the “macho” boys, nobody really makes the first move. For some reason, they are all really shy so you’ll have to initiate things if you want something to happen…
Is Bulgaria LGBTQ-friendly?
Most people won’t really say anything, but they’ll judge. For sure. Different sexuality is quite new for Bulgarians (believe it or not) and they can tolerate it when not demonstrated. Everything that pokes them in the eyes however, they’ll moan about, criticize and discriminate against.
Bulgaria Travel Tips: Women’s Place in Society
Women’s Rights in Bulgaria: Do women have the same position in society as men? How can you tell?
In Bulgaria there’s a saying: “A man may be the head of the family, but the woman is the neck. When the neck turns, so does the head.” This sentence describes the situation in Bulgaria when it comes to women’s rights. According to political norms, both genders are equal but just as in most other European countries, women are paid less than men. Nevertheless, to the sharp eye it quickly becomes obvious that women run Bulgaria. If you have married Bulgarian friends for example, try inviting them for a beer after work – most of them will tell you that they have to ask the missis if they can go.
Local Bulgarian Women: What are some clear cultural differences between you and them?
There’s a group of women in Bulgaria, who are called “buns.” This is supposed to describe a type of girl with fillers in her lips, a boob job, perfectly straight hair and a ton of make up. They are easily recognizable as all “buns” look just like the local pop folk singers and are pretty much the same.
Even though I am Bulgarian by origin, I lived abroad for quite some years and I find it really hard to communicate with most of the local women, since my interests in literature, adventure and photography are rarely shared by them. Most Bulgarians do not worry too much about planning way ahead in the future and mostly live day-by-day, which makes communication on a deeper level quite hard at times.
The other massive difference is the lack of respect for personal space. If you’re used to having your 1m diameter personal space you can forget about it – no Bulgarian will ever understand this concept.
Women-Specific Environments in Bulgaria: Are there places where only women are or are not allowed?
There are several mosques around Bulgaria (a vestige from the time when the country was occupied by the Ottoman empire) where women are not allowed. Besides there, women are more than welcome everywhere else and often don’t even pay entrance fees at night clubs.
Perception of Foreign Women in Bulgaria: How do local men/women react to you when you say where you’re from?
I am not exactly a foreigner yet not totally a local. Most of my friends however are foreigners and they are very well accepted in Bulgaria. Due to the fact that locals were not allowed to visit western countries during communism, now they consider everything that’s foreign to be super cool, including foreign people. Foreigners are generally more respected in Bulgaria than locals especially when it comes to applying for jobs.
Bulgaria Travel Tips: Safety
Transportation in Bulgaria: Any that are safer/less safe for women to take?
As I mentioned above Bulgaria is generally very safe and it is perhaps safer for women. Of course, crossing the city at 3 in the morning isn’t the wisest idea, so a cab is recommended. No method of transportation however is particularly dangerous for ladies.
Dangerous area/s in Bulgaria: Any specifically for women?
There are several cities in Bulgaria mostly inhabited by Turks who have either stayed here or moved to Bulgaria. I have personally never been to those cities (Kardjali is a prime example) and if anyone decides to visit, I would recommend being a little more cautious than anywhere else.
Clothing in Bulgaria: What to wear/what not to wear?
As people say: wear the clothes for the body you have, not for the body you want. Bulgarians can be cruel (with words) when someone is dressed inappropriately. However there’s nothing that’s actually forbidden around here.
Photo credit: Ville Miettinen