Juliette, France, in Bulgaria for 12 months

Juliette Guinamard

What is EVS for you?

For me. Hm. An opportunity. Just for me it was to discover another kind of job, because my studies were really theoretical. So it was to discover a lot of things this year in a great country, because I didn’t know anything about Bulgaria.

What is Varna and Bulgaria to you?

Good question. I never know what to answer to that.

Has it become like your second home?

Yes, yes. I was really impressed by that. I didn’t thought that I would feel so comfortable here. Because I didn’t know anything about here and I kind of just found a project like that and I said “ok, I don’t have anything elso to do so let’s go to Bulgaria”. And the beginning is difficult. When you find a project and you say you will go and you have like 3 weeks to prepare yourself. And then you’re in the country. But it was really great, really easy.

Would you say you came here by accident or you wanted to come to Bulgaria?

I think by accident. Definitely.

So you chose the project?

Yes, I chose the project not the place.

And what do you do here? 

As volunteer in L’Alliance Française de Varna I’m just helping. I do whatever I can do, like, helping for communication, making posters. Also I update the Facebook page, but it’s not my main job. Like office job and conversation workshops, and I had to design lots of games. So it’s pretty great diversity of tasks, which I like, because I don’t get bored.

What do you love in Bulgaria?

That even if you don’t have much money, which is ok as volunteers, you can manage to have a decent life. Like, traveling in France is very expensive. The train is for rich people and not for students. And here, you can hitch hike, you can meet lots of great people, you can find decent clothes in second hand stores, which doesn’t really exist in France.


Yes, it’s starting because it’s fashionable right now to have vintage clothes, but since it’s for vintage clothes and it’s fashionable it’s more expensive. Here for 1 or 2 euros you can find great T-shirt or great shirts. And even fruits and vegetables are cheap so you don’t feel like your poor here, even if you are.

Would you say that it’s the thing you like the most about Bulgaria?

I think it’s important part of why I like Bulgaria. Because when I will go back to France, even if I earn more money I will feel more limited in what I can do.

So you feel kind of unlimited here?

Not unlimited but things are easier, specially fro traveling.

Have you traveled a lot?

I don’t know if a lot, but I had some little trips, yes.

Would you say that you got to know Bulgaria?

Oh yes, I know Bulgaria much better than France now.


Like, geographically speaking. Yes, because in France you book train ticket and they calculate your travel for you, so even if you have to go trough lot of cities you don’t care, because if it’s in the west or the east and you have to go to south, you don’t care, you know where you have to be. But here you have to plan – to check which is the best way, the best road where the most cars are driving, so you get to the small cities. And I didn’t think I would get that good in geography in the end.

How were you surprised by Bulgaria?

I don’t know. The first thing that stroke me most was the people on the streets who are selling stuff. In France I don’t know if it’s forbidden or just not in the culture, but you don’t see grandmas and grandpas selling vegetables or whatever they knitted in the winter. And it’s nice because the city is more alive that way. And it changes, everyday you see new stuff and when the spring comes you have new products. And fro national holidays they sell new stuff as well. So the city is transforming, not just the trees and the snow, and the sun.

Is there anything with what you can’t live or agree here? What disturbs you?

I think racism. I mean, I can understand that older people can be racist, because they were raised that way and my grandparents sometimes are racist. So I don’t question when you are like 70 or 80 years old, because it’s difficult to change yourself. But when you meet educated people, people who went to high school and study at university some times, and they say stuff like “I’m not racist, I’m not saying I’m racist, but you know gypsies and Turkish people are this and that”. And it disturbs me. It’s like as if they don’t want to open themselves to foreigners.

Have you met lot of people like that?

Comparing to France yes. But maybe it’s because it’s important to them. They want to show that gypsies and they problems are not Bulgarian problems. Because that’s what lot of people have told us. Specially while hitch-hiking you get to talk a lot with the drivers and they were always ask “who forced you to go to Bulgaria? Why didn’t you choose Germany or Spain or whatever?” And we answer that we decided to come here. And then they say “but you know in Bulgaria you have corruption, gypsies, you have poverty”. But as volunteers we don’t know that. If you are healthy and you have a place to live, you just enjoy the country.

I think lot of people don’t understand and they’re confused, why people come here. Because that’s one of the frequent questions people ask me – why you came here!

Yes, like it’s the last place on your bucket list – you can go anywhere in the world and just not Bulgaria. So why not? It’s a country we don’t know. It’s not necessarily worse than Italy or Sweden.

But is there something you don’t like here?

No, not really. The only thing I don’t like in daily life is that you always have to think about having small change in wallet. Because sometimes you can get kicked out of the bus if you don’t have it or you have to excuse yourself like 3 times.

Have you been kicked out of the bus?

Almost once. But I didn’t care because I had only one bus stop to drive.

But just because you didn’t have small change?

Yes. And once the бус баба* , she almost killed me because I paid with 5 and 10 cent coins. And she asked “what do you want me to do with it?”, I said I don’t care, it’s 1 leva, take it!

What will you bring home from Bulgaria?

I think lyutenica and the pot they use to cook, if I can find one and it will not brake in my luggage. I would like to take the big one, but I’m not sure if it’s possible.

How did you feel about the climate here?

Really good. I come from colder region and I thought it would be difficult in summer, but finally it wasn’t. I have never been so tan in my life. Even if people don’t believe it and they ask if don’t go to the beach often. I have to answer them that I do and it’s my darkest color.

How did you deal with the home sickness while being here?

I didn’t really feel home sickness, because I went back home for Christmas, then my parents came to visit me in April and I also went back to France for 2 or 3 weeks in August, so I didn’t have time to feel home sick.

Maybe you had something like reverse home sickness when you miss some other place and not home?

Maybe I missed Germany. Because I was there last year and it was really quick transition – I spent only 3 weeks in France between Germany and Bulgaria. And it’s difficult when you arrive in the country, you don’t speak the language to get used to it. But in Germany it was so easy. You spend 1 month and you know the city, the people and you have your little habits and you think it’s going to be as easy in another country, but it’s not, of course.

And how did you deal with it, that you miss Germany?

I just try to get to know Bulgaria better, the language specially. Because you are more independent when you speak a bit Bulgarian and then I just waited.

Would you say that you speak good in Bulgarian?

I understand it and I can speak with lot of mistakes, but specially when we hitch-hiked I was the one speaking all the time, so it’s quite an exercise. Painful in the beginning, but it’s the best exercise you can get I think.

What is your life outside of work?

It depends on the week. Sometimes I’m just being lazy in my bed, sometimes I like to cook, sometimes I go to visit events. I tried to go to the opera, but it was not my taste at all. I also went to the beach, in the evening, we have great Sea garden.

How much have you been involved in the local culture and local life? Did you go to concerts or festivals?

Yes, but not more than usual I guess.

But could you say that you have seen the culture here?

Yes, kind of. I used to go to the Sea garden in the Sunday evening because they dance hora**. But I don’t think I was that part of cultural life here. Maybe only for some events – the one we organize in work or the ones organized by the University of economics Varna, specially Bulgarian. I went to some film festivals, like 2 or 3 film festivals.

Have you found some new hobbies here? Or maybe started to do something new here?

Well, I got better at origami. Before I could already do some basic stuff, but here while hitch-hiking we took origami sheets with us and we offered origami to drivers. When you drive 400 km with only one person, you just want to thank him or her. And sometimes the drivers are so nice, they ask you so many questions and they talk to you, they teach you Bulgarian and they offer you coffee or whatever. It’s difficult to just say thank you, you want to leave something for them. Even if they throw it away after a while, it doesn’t matter.

Have you fallen in love with something new?

No, I don’t think so.

In one word describe – what is your future?

Let’s say  – initiative.

Thank you very much!

*бус баба – bus baba, ladies who sell tickets in buses

**Hora, also (horo and oro) is a type of circle dance originating in the Balkans but also found in other countries.


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