Cultural differences

Differences between Bulgaria and Malaysia

1. “What do you miss the most about/in Malaysia?”
2. “What do you like about Bulgaria?”
3. “What do you think about Bulgaria?”
4. “What are the differences between Bulgaria and Malaysia?”

I’ve answered the first 3 questions in my previous posts. Click on the links above if you haven’t read them. In this post, I’m going to share about a few differences between Bulgaria and Malaysia.

There are 3 significant differences between these 2 countries: the climate, the languages, and the food. There are definitely more than these but I’m going to share just these 3 points in this post.

1. Climate

  • The climate in Malaysia is equatorial. In short, it has either sunny or rainy days. The humidity level is quite high. During sunny days, it can be hot and stuffy that you can hardly breathe. During heavy rainfalls, the thunder and lightning can strike so hard that you feel like they’re just next to you.
  • The climate in Bulgaria is continental. There are several regions in Bulgaria that have the Mediterranean climate. In short, it has 4 seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Spring and Autumn can be chilly at times but I think the weather during these 2 seasons are the best (or I should say, more “humane”). Winter can be drastic and temperatures can drop down to -20° (or less). Summer can be so hot that you feel your skin burns under the sun.
  • Side notes: 1. No weather is perfect (haha!). 2. I’m not a climate expert. You can search for more information on the Internet if you are interested to know more.

2. Language

  • In Malaysia, we mostly use Bahasa Malaysia (BM) for government-related matters and both BM and English for official matters. However, Malaysians use different languages/dialects at different times, in different contexts and to different people. We usually speak “properly” when we are at school or at work or when we are talking to the elders, but most of the time, we prefer to use Manglish among friends to show solidarity.
  • In Bulgaria, the Bulgarian language is the main language. English is not necessarily a second language for Bulgarians and it is not widely used here. German, French and Russian languages are among the common choices for Bulgarians as a second language.

3. Food

  • I have problems describing this part. I’m not sure if they are called the “Malaysian cuisine” but we usually call it the “typical Malaysian food”. If you ask me what kind of Malaysian food I like, I’ll tell you that I like char kway teow (literal translation: stir-fried ricecake strips, from Chinese cuisine), nasi lemak  (literal translation: rice fat?? – fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, from Malay cuisine) and roti canai (some kind of flat bread, from Indian cuisine). It’s really complicated. You should really search for more information on the Internet.
  • Pizza and pasta are common in Bulgaria, but most people stick with the typical Bulgarian cuisine. When you mention “Bulgarian food” (or beverage), you immediately think of musakakebache, sarmi, banitsa, tarator, gyuvech, ayran, boza… 
  • A side note: I know better “to eat”, and not “to explain”. Haha! 😀

In addition to these, I’m also going to share about other differences in lifestyle I’ve experienced in my daily routine.

4. Nodding vs. Shaking your head 

  • In Malaysia, nodding generally means “yes” and shaking your head generally means “no”.
  • In Bulgaria, it is the complete opposite.
  • I’ve mentioned this in one of my previous posts, click here to read about it.

5. Rice vs. Bread

  • In Malaysia, rice is essential in almost every meal.  Bread is mostly eaten during breakfast or as a snack.
  • In Bulgaria, bread is essential in every meal. Even if your meal consists of rice, you still eat it with bread. Rice is like a side dish.

6. Fork vs. spoon

  • In Malaysia, except in the case of fine dining where more than one utensil is used, we generally use spoon when eating. I use both fork and spoon but most my family members use only spoon when eating. Some Malaysians prefer not using any utensils at all.
  • In Bulgaria, again with the exception of fine dining or when you are drinking soup, usually only the fork is used. Yes, I eat rice with fork here! 😀

7. Alcohol vs. Non-alcohol

  • In Malaysia, alcoholic drinks are only allowed for non-Muslims. People usually consume alcoholic drinks (beer, wine or liquor) during night time or during special occasions.
  • In Bulgaria, people drink alcoholic drinks all the time, at any time of the day. In the restaurant menus, alcoholic drinks can take up more than 5 pages. Non-alcoholic drinks usually take up only about half a page. Alcoholic drinks are considerably cheap here. And many people own a vineyard and they brew their own wine. Every year, my father-in-law brewed his own wine, on average 200 litres per year.

8. (On a sunny day) Shopping malls vs. Beaches 

  • In Malaysia (except on long weekends or during school holidays), on weekends when you have nothing to do, most people go to the mall. After all, the malls are air-conditioned and you can find everything there. And you don’t have to suffer under the hot sun!
  • In Bulgaria, everyone goes to the beach. If you don’t go (or haven’t gone) to the beach, they think you’re weird. (Yeah, I’m weird). I know people who can go to the beach everyday for a month. Apparently, people here like to “suffer under hot sun” (a.k.a to get tanned)!

It’s so interesting to see the differences in the lifestyle of different people in different countries. I think the most interesting difference for me is eating rice with a fork. Which do you think is the most interesting?

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What I like about living in Bulgaria

In my previous post, I mentioned that there are several questions I was frequently asked in Bulgaria.

1. “What do you miss the most about/in Malaysia?”
2. “What do you like about Bulgaria?”
3. “What do you think about Bulgaria?”
4. “What are the differences between Bulgaria and Malaysia?”

In this post, I’ll answer the second and the third questions.

Note:
The things I’ll share in this post may be similar to what other people have experienced in other European countries or countries that have similar characteristics. This post is mainly about my experience living in Bulgaria.
 I am making a comparison based the cities where I lived and am currently living: Johor Bahru (JB), Malaysia and Varna, Bulgaria. This doesn’t apply to all Malaysia or all Bulgaria.

1. Safety

  • In JB, the crime rate is rather high. Many of my friends and family have been the targets of snatch thefts and robberies. Last year, on the night before my wedding in Malaysia, I had a small family gathering at home. There were about 20 of us, mainly adults with 2 kids. My elder sister was robbed right at the front porch of the house, just 2 steps away from the house entrance. In separate incidents, my bro-in-law was robbed at knife point while on his way to work in broad daylight, my dad was chased by 2 motorcycles with masked robbers after withdrawing money from an ATM, and my mum’s bag was almost snatched when she went to the market in the morning. It doesn’t matter when or where. You just have to be extra cautious especially when you are alone. You can be the target of crime no matter if you are a woman or a man.
  • I’m not saying it’s crime-free in Bulgaria. I’m sure crime happens everywhere in the world. However in Varna, I feel relatively safe. I can walk on the street without having the constant fear that someone might come on a motorcycle to snatch my bag. I still practice caution whenever I go out. But I definitely feel much safer here than I was in Malaysia.

2. Everything is fresh and organic here!

  • In JB, organic fruits and vegetables cost a lot of money! I wouldn’t say Mr. Hubby is picky with his food, but he is very particular with the quality of his food. I think organic fruits and vegetables generally taste better than the “non-organic” ones. I usually spent about RM100 (approximately 50leva), buying just vegetables and fruits. Seriously, I can go bankrupt by just eating fruits and veggies back home.
  • In Varna, everything is fresh and organic. It’s cheap too! Well, during winter is another story. After buying the fruits and veggies from the market, you can simply rinse it with water and eat it. Unlike in JB, I had to wash and soak and use special drops to remove the “toxic” on the fruits and veggies. It can be a very tedious process. 😦

3. The tap water is drinkable

  • In JB, the tap water is not drinkable. You can choose to drink it and end up having diarrhea later. Most households invest in water filters. Only with water filters, the water from the tap is safe to drink. However, I know some people are still boiling the water even when it is filtered, just to make sure it is 100% drinkable.
  • In Varna, the tap water is drinkable. When I first came here, I thought it was a joke when Mr. Hubby told me that I could drink from the tap. I was like, seriously!?! I still prefer not to drink from the tap although everyone else at home does that. I sometimes buy bottled water from the grocery store. But if my bottle is empty, I don’t mind to just crawl to the kitchen, turn on the tap, and drink the water from there. 😀

4. Minimal air and noise pollution

  • In JB, air pollution is a serious problem. Every year, when one of our neighbouring countries decides to burn its forest, the whole Malaysia would suffer horrible air pollution. Even without that, the exhaust fumes from the vehicles are enough to suffocate you. And, I have black boogers all the time!!! As for noise pollution, with on-going construction works everywhere, it’s difficult not to have any noise. That’s understandable. But the worst “noise pollution” is when your neighbours fight. They scream and shout and throw things at each other in the middle of the night, especially near your front door. That’s the worst kind. (Note: I lived in an apartment in JB.)
  • In Varna, the air pollution is minimal. Vehicles here rarely “fart” black fumes. Smokers are everywhere but there are designated smoking areas. As long as you don’t go near those areas, I guarantee your hair will still smell nice after 2 days and you will not have black boogers!! As for noise pollution, there are almost no constructions nearby the place I’m staying. My neighbours are friendly and civilised, as least I haven’t seen them shouting or throwing things at each others. I would say the “biggest noise polluters” are the kids playing in the playground in front of our apartment! 😀 But, how can I blame the kids? They’re just too cute! 😀

5. No ants loitering around

  • In JB, if you don’t keep your snacks properly, ants attack in 5 minutes. If you don’t pack and throw your garbage daily, ants form an army around your garbage bin. If you don’t wipe your spilled drink in 2 minutes,  ants swim in it. There are always ants attack, any time of the day. If they don’t attack the food, they attack you!
  • In Varna, I hardly see any ants. I can leave my food unpacked for hours, no ants will attack. I can leave my glass with fruit juice stains until the next morning, ants don’t bother to pay a visit. If I see any ants here, I most probably will attack them by throwing food at them!

Of course there are many other things I like about living here. But I’m just gonna share these 5 points today. So, what do I think about Bulgaria? I think it’s generally a nice country. What do I think about my stay in Bulgaria? So far, I’ve been treated like a princess here. So, I would say that my stay has been great! Hahahahaha…

So which place do I prefer? JB or Varna? NONE of them. Every place has its nice and not-so-nice features. There are things I prefer in JB and there are also things I prefer in Varna. There’s no perfect place in this world but you can always adapt and embrace the local cultures to make your stay perfect in different places. Do you agree? Share your thoughts with me! 🙂

 

Things I miss doing the most back in Malaysia

In Bulgaria, I have been asked these questions rather frequently.

1. “What do you miss the most about/in Malaysia?”
2. “What do you like about Bulgaria?”
3. “What do you think about Bulgaria?”
4. “What are the differences between Bulgaria and Malaysia?”

In this post, I’ll answer the first question. Instead of sharing what specific things (i.e food, weather etc) I miss the most about/in Malaysia, I’ll share with you what are the things I miss doing the most back in Malaysia.

I generally adapt to different environment pretty fast. After all, I am the one who decides where I want to go and where I want to stay. I wouldn’t call it homesick, but I do miss doing certain things back home in Malaysia. Honestly, I survive well even without doing these things here but that doesn’t prevent me from missing them. In fact, I can do these things here too. However, my stay in Bulgaria is not permanent so it’s really unnecessary and it’ll be a hassle to “achieve” them.

Note: I am making a comparison based on the cities where I lived and am currently living: Johor Bahru (JB), Malaysia and Varna, Bulgaria. This doesn’t apply to all Malaysia or all Bulgaria.

1. Wearing whatever I want

  • In JB, I wear what I want based on my mood. Except when I’m going to work or when I’m attending to some official matters, I usually stick with my 3S – Shirt, shorts and slippers.
  • In Varna, I still wear what I want but it depends heavily on the weather. Now it’s summer, so I still get to choose. During the day, it can be really hot (like 35°C) that I feel my skin burns when I step out of home. I can wear my favourite 3S but I’ll get burned like crazy. Alternatively I can wear longer pants/skirts/dress and/or long-sleeved shirts but I’ll most probably get sweaty fast. Tough choice huh? In the evening, it can get quite chilly (like 20°C or below) despite it’s summer.  Even if I just want to get a short walk in the park after dinner, I cannot wear my 3S because I’ll probably get sick after that.
  • Solution? There’s nothing I can do about it because I cannot change the weather. I’ll just have to choose from what I can wear instead of what I want to wear, that’s it! Well, it is a good excuse to buy more clothes, eh? 😀 But then again, my drawers are already full. 😦

2. Eating hot and spicy food

  • I wouldn’t call it my favourite kind of food, but I like the hot and spicy sensation that really tickles my taste bud. In JB, I can have the typical Malaysian food like asam laksa, curry mee or nasi lemak with a lot of sambal. Alternatively, I can opt for kimchi (Korean food), tom yam (Thai food) or sushi with a lot of wasabi (Japanese food).
  • In Varna, most restaurants serve the typical Bulgarian cuisine. I believe there are many different cuisines served out there but I’m just going to share about “hot and spicy” Asian cuisines. There are Chinese and Thai restaurants, but only very few of them. The menu usually states very typical/authentic Chinese or Thai cuisine but the taste is very much Bulgarianized. I mean, who eats beansprouts with olives and pickles? At least, I don’t.
  • Solution? I can live without spicy food. The Bulgarian cuisine is really nice. And seriously, my mum-in-law cooks like the best dishes in the world. What more can I ask for? I’ll eat the olives and pickles, minus the beansprouts. 😀

3. Driving

  • In JB, I drive almost everywhere. Public transports are accessible between main roads and old neighbourhoods but not between the new neighbourhoods. The distance between the nearest shops and home is relatively near (about 5 minutes drive), but not near to the extent that I would want to walk.
  • In Varna, I walk almost everywhere. Shops and malls are relatively near, also approximately 5 minutes drive. But unless people are going downtown or are carrying lots of things, they usually prefer to walk. So yes, I walk about 15-30 minutes (depending on my walking speed and weather) to the nearest shopping mall.
  • Solution? You would agree with me that buying a car just to satisfy my desire to drive is totally not worth it. I’m sure my father-in-law would allow me to drive his car, but I don’t want to drive a manual car.
  • A side note: People here don’t believe I have more than 10 years of driving experience. They think I’m 22 years old. So I must have started driving when I was 11. 😛

4. Drinking bubble tea

  • In JB, I drink a lot of bubble tea. I really enjoy chewing those pearls (black, chewy tapioca balls). It just makes me feel happy! It doesn’t have to be tea, I can have chocolate milkshake with pearls too. Whatever beverage I want, with pearls.
  • In Varna, there’s no bubble tea shop (at least I haven’t seen one). Because I’m writing this post, I actually found out that there’s a shop selling bubble tea in Sofia (which is about 6-7 hours drive from Varna).
  • Solution? I can “import” those pearls but I think they come in big packs. I definitely can’t eat them all by myself, nobody’s gonna help me because it’s not “their kind of thing” here, and storing them will be a problem. Alternatively, I can travel all the way to Sofia to get it. 6-7 hours drive just to get my bubble tea? Nah, I don’t think so.

5. Going for facial and massage

  • In JB, I enjoy going for facial, at least once a month. I have this beauty therapist whom I trust a lot when it comes to doing facial for me because I have sensitive skin. I also enjoy going for foot and body massage whenever I want.
  • In Varna, there are facial salons. But I’m not sure I can trust that person enough to touch my face. I have tried searching for massage and reflexology centers but all I found was “erotic massage”. Hmmm…I don’t think I need an erotic massage.
  • Solution? I’ll try to survive without doing facial and massage, at least for now. I hope I can find suitable ones when I’m in Canada.

6. Doing offline and online shopping

  • Honestly, I don’t have many choices in JB either. Kuala Lumpur is definitely a better place when it comes to shopping. But in JB, I did a lot of online shopping. There were times I got like really bad quality products but for the price that I was paying, I would say it was acceptable. Sometimes I got really good deals online.
  • In Varna, the choices are very limited. The largest shopping mall in Varna is smaller than an average shopping mall in JB. The prices here are more expensive for the quality of clothes that they are selling. I cannot do online shopping because most sites are in Bulgarian.
  • Solution? I’ll stick with international franchise brands like Zara, H&M, Bershka etc or I’ll shop online from shopping sites that ship internationally.

7. Going to work

  • In JB, I had 2 jobs. I was teaching in a college on a full time basis. I was also managing Mr. Hubby’s company (NGS Internet Marketing) – doing recruitment, accounting and dealing with the official matters. Haha, you’ll never believe how much I miss working! For me, it’s not just about doing my job but it’s also about developing myself professionally and socialising with others.
  • In Varna, I don’t work. I eat, sleep, clean the room (not the house), travel (sometimes) and write blog posts! I call it the “long and deserved holiday”.
  • Solution? Finding a job here is definitely a hassle because 1. I don’t speak Bulgarian, and 2. I am not staying here for long time. I’ll appoint myself as a blogger at the moment.

So, if you have been wondering what I miss the most, I hope I’ve answered your questions here. What do you think? Have you been abroad and missed doing/having something badly back home?

Sometimes it is better to say “yes” or “no” than to nod or shake your head

I must say that this is one of the weirdest things I’ve encountered in my whole life. Back in Malaysia, when someone asks me a question, I usually include some gestures in addition to my reply. I don’t know why I do that. I guess I just want to be a little more expressive in my reply.

Q: Do you want an ice-cream?
Me: Yes, please! (Nodding vigorously)

Q: Do you wanna go out after work?
Me: (Shaking head slowly). No, I feel a little tired today.

Q: Can I have this document by tomorrow?
Me: (Nod once). Of course, I’ll pass it to you tomorrow morning.

Is there anything wrong with my gestures? Absolutely no!

BUT… if you ever want to visit Bulgaria in future, I highly recommend that you strictly stick to saying just “yes” or “no” instead of nodding or shaking your head. Why is this so? It is because nodding and shaking your head mean exactly the opposite! Huh? Yes, you are right. Back in Malaysia, nodding usually means yes while shaking your head means no. However in Bulgaria, nodding means no and shaking your head means yes.

I am not joking!!

I remember very clearly on my first visit to Bulgaria, my mum-in-law (back then, she was “boyfriend’s mum”) prepared a feast for my arrival. I was very happy that someone whom I met for the very first time actually put in so much effort and prepared so much food to celebrate my arrival. Everyone was very nice to me eventhough I didn’t speak the same language. Mr. Hubby (then, “Mr. Boyfriend”) acted as the translator between me and his family members. The food wasn’t just delicious but they were also nicely decorated too.

Here comes the scandalous part. Everybody was happily eating and chatting. Eventhough we didn’t understand each other, we were all smiles. As we were eating, my mum-in-law popped the questions, “Is the food okay for you? Do you like it?” Mr. Hubby translated. Well, I didn’t speak Bulgarian but I was thinking that even if I reply “yes” (in English), they should be able to understand me. So, I replied like I usually do, in addition with the head gesture.

Mum-in-law: Is the food okay for you? Do you like it?
Me: (Nodding vigorously), YES! YES!

Do you get the picture of what just went wrong? Yes, I just nodded vigorously. Nodding in Bulgaria means NO. So I supposed nodding vigorously means NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!! When I was nodding, I actually didn’t look at them face to face. I was too shy, after all it was my first time meeting my boyfriend’s parents and I just wanted to be as proper as possible (ahem!). Then I realised something was wrong. How come everyone became quiet after I replied? So I looked up and I saw that everyone stared at me in shock.

Well, Mr. Hubby then explained to me that nodding means no and shaking head means yes. Seriously, at that time I just wanted to dig a hole somewhere and hide inside forever. Looks like my plan to be proper failed miserably. So, I was in shocked and I explained that what I really meant was “Yes, I love it” and NOT “No, I don’t like it”. Mr. Hubby translated. We had a good laugh. It was so nice that they were so understanding and didn’t blame me for that.

Honestly, until today I still can’t get used to the Bulgarian styles of nodding and shaking heads. I mean, for 20+ years, I’ve been nodding for agreement and shaking my head for disagreement. It’s very difficult for me to change it, no matter how I force myself to. Now, I avoid using any head gestures. I stick to just saying “Yes” or “No”.

Have you ever encountered any situation like this? Share your stories with me!