|British Lion Food Store|
My name is George St Clare and I currently live in Balchik on the Northern Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria. Prior to Bulgaria, I have worked in the computer field in the UK and Qatar, computers and real estate in Russia and real estate in Malta. In Bulgaria, I run three companies - GPS systems, real estate and specialised British Food.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
My move to Bulgaria took place at the end of 2004 from Malta. The real estate market was not really moving there at that time and there appeared to be good opportunities in that area in Bulgaria. Malta is a small island and having driven round the whole island many times in a couple of hours, it was beginning to become a lot less interesting than it had been! I am now married to my fourth Russian/Ukranian wife whom I met in Balchik.
Both the real estate and GPS markets waned with the financial crisis in 2008 and that is when I decided to move into specialised British Food. I run the British Lion Food Store in Balchik. I am pleased to say that we have the largest selection of British food in Bulgaria (around six hundred different food products) and have also branched out into selling DVDs and Books. Having lived in Russia for seven years and speaking fluent Russian, I find that the culture here suits me better than the Middle East or Malta. Virtually all Bulgarians speak Russian or at least understand it, so that is very helpful, although my Bulgarian is very basic. I did actually come out to Sofia in Bulgaria in 1977 as part of my Russian degree course and always felt I would be back!
What challenges did you face during the move?
Bulgaria is a country of challenges! The first challenge was to actually get my personal belongings imported into the country - this took two months and frequent visits to customs posts in three different towns. The mentality here is very different to that in the West and the bureaucracy is particularly stifling. This would be acceptable if the procedures were the same in every area, but each area seems to have different "rules". I had thought things would be simplified after entry into the EU in 2007, but that has proved to be very far from the case...