Since coming to Bulgaria I have gained a broader sense of cultures thriving outside of the United States. There are many who want to compare what they experience in another country to what it was in their native cultures, they don´t really measure the things that are incomparable.
Every year thousands of people travel to various countries to experience the expatriate life for many different reasons. While they do this they are also trying to stay connected to the way of life of home, so to me it´s not exactly living the life. There are some new experiences but they never fully let go and enjoy the full impact of the local culture. There are many different ways people hold on to the past, such as: the internet with the messengers and social networks, the long distance calling, frequently flying back and fourth and so on. I suppose to others there may be multiple levels of living the expatriate life, but to me, if you are going to do it, just do it. Cut the ties of the past and take advantage of the new surroundings and the local culture and live it.
Being married to someone from another culture has given me a new outlook. Together we are raising a blended family, what I mean by blended is that we both have children from previous marriages and different cultures. Although with us, we both have lived in different cultures and my wife has also been in the expatriate position. Knowing about the challenges of being an expatriate, she has helped me adjust tremendously.
We still maintain our own cultural practices such as holidays and religious ceremonies but we also combine them so we can share everything with each other. There are some minor differences but nothing that has been an issue. I think with many couples in this situation, one of the major problems is that the communication breaks down because one does not want to adapt. The communication in families like ours is really important especially when it comes to the more mundane tasks like shopping and finances. With a family as large as ours in a society that most families only have one child, we make it work off of my disability compensation from the Veterans Administration.
Having children in the school system has given me a broader view on the course material and teaching methodology of the school system. We don't often discuss politics but when we do we talk about the views of these countries and the views of the politics of the United States and the United Kingdom. I have had the chance to speak to many people about their varying views on the political issues of the past and present, and to see how the decisions of the U.S. and the U.K. affect people from other countries.
One of the things I enjoy is shopping in the local open air market; the fresh vegetables are unbelievable, tasty and large without all the pesticides. The selection is great and you pick what you're going to be cooking, no plastic wrap or cans to deal with. The prices are so low that it is well worth buying in these markets verses the chain stores with the canned vegetables.
Another thing I like is the public transportation; where ever we go there seems to be a tram, trolley or bus going in that direction so this cuts the use of the family station wagon. Even though the car is very economical, compared to the cars I´ve had in the U.S., it seems that the use of the car is mainly for long trips because of this convenience. We haven't had to pinch pennies because just living the life style and using common sense, makes everything a lot easier and worth living.