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Lesson Transcript

Yuri: In this lesson, we're going to tell you more about life in Bulgaria.
Iva: There are so many aspects to Bulgarian society it's hard to know where to begin.
Yuri: Well, since the title of this lesson is "Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Bulgarian Society," I've picked top five topics.
Iva: Which are?
Yuri: Major cities and city life, family life in Bulgaria, Bulgarian work culture, and generational trends.

Lesson focus

Iva: Why don't we start with city life? Most Bulgarians live in cities after all.
Yuri: Good idea! We'll start with the three major Bulgarian cities, Sofia, Plovdiv, and Varna.
Iva: Sounds great. Sofia is located in western Bulgaria.
Yuri: With a population of just over one million, Sofia is the political capital of the country, but it is not the only tourist attraction.
Iva: In Sofia, you can see the Alexander Nevski Cathedral, Ivan Vazov National Theater, Lake Ariana and Sofia Public Mineral Baths.
Yuri: Besides that, Sofia has unique architecture and location nearby Vitosha Mountain.
Iva: And the Boyana Church.
Yuri: You're really excited about history, aren't you?
Iva: Yes, I am. I love the ancient history of the Bulgarian cities.
Yuri: Well, what does Plovdiv have?
Iva: Plovdiv is located about 130 miles east of Sofia.
Yuri: Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria and the manufacturing and cultural hub for Bulgaria.
Iva: Plovdiv is more a city of art than tourism.
Yuri: Yes it is. Lots of art galleries and art-related business is done in Plovdiv.
Iva: It's also one of the oldest and, simultaneously, most modern cities in Bulgaria. It is home to a fantastic contrast of old and new world influences.
Yuri: From the Roman-style Plovdiv Antique Theater (2nd century A.D.) and the International Plovdiv Fair...
Iva: ...And with estimated 30 art galleries...
Yuri: Plovdiv has not just a little, but a lot of something for everyone.
Iva: What does Varna have to offer?
Yuri: Tons! It is the biggest city at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, and third-largest city in Bulgaria.
Iva: That's right. It is also offering the major beach resorts nearby.
Yuri: With the capitol as the western cockpit, Varna is located in the most eastern part of Bulgaria.
Iva: Varna has lots of museums, doesn't it?
Yuri: Yep. The treasures of the archaeological museum include a necropolis with the oldest example of gold jewelry ever discovered. Also of interest are the ethnographic and city historical museums, the navy museum and the aquarium, the natural history museum and, of course, the sea-related zoo and the dolphinarium, the Sea Gardens.
Iva: And my favorite part, all the first class resorts.
Yuri: Yep. It's very pretty. Many people also visit the natural reserve Kamchia and the rock monastery of Aladzha.
Iva: That's pretty amazing, but I'm Bulgarian and I know that there's much to these cities than what first meets the eye.
Yuri: That's true. Probably the number one thing you need to know about Bulgarian cities is that they are full of contradiction.
Iva: Sofia is and probably always will be beautiful almost beyond compare.
Yuri: The Vitosha Mountain on the outskirts of Sofia, the many parks and architectural landmarks are part of its charm, to say the least.
Iva: But recently, the small crimes like pickpocketing or fights are becoming a common problem in Sofia.
Yuri: This is such a problem, it earns a spot on the list of major challenges Bulgaria needs to overcome.
Iva: The government does many things to improve the situation.
Yuri: That's good.
Iva: Plovdiv is a unique city with its location on ancient cultural crossroads.
Yuri: And now you see lots of cars jamming the road.
Iva: Plovdiv is a mixture of ancient and modern, of good and bad in Bulgaria.
Yuri: Being older than most of the oldest towns like Rome, Athens, Carthage, or Constantinople, Plovdiv is a town built upon layers of towns, but unfortunately, it's layers today are sometimes too mixed up.
Iva: Varna is different.
Yuri: It is a big and shiny resort city, safer and well organized. The bay remains a recreation area. Almost all the waterfront is parkland.
Iva: But although the sea water is kept clean, the beaches are being polluted by the tourists.
Yuri: What about family life?
Iva: Families in Bulgaria are typically very traditional and very tight-knit. It is not unusual or strange for 20, 30, and sometimes even 40 year-old men and women to still live with their parents.
Yuri: It's still weird to me.
Iva: Bulgarian families are typically and that tradition has remained one of the most important values in Bulgarian society,
Yuri: For example, many households consist of an extended family.
Iva: Yes. Although household chores are primarily the responsibility of women, including most working wives. The women still are viewed as mothers, not as workers.
Yuri: So the number two thing that you should know about Bulgarian society is that most Bulgarians (more than 70%) are Orthodox Christians.
Iva: Six and a half million Bulgarians identify themselves as Orthodox Christians, as well as two million people in other European countries and around the world.
Yuri: Christianity is often part of the family identity.
Iva: That's true.
Yuri: Now on the work culture and the economy. What are they like?
Iva: Bulgarian economy is a free-market economy.
Yuri: Economically, Bulgaria is a developed industrial-agrarian country, and an attractive place for active tourism and sports lovers because of its incredible natural resources.
Iva: Bulgaria, with its unique climate and natural resources, is home for Bacillus bulgaricus, a number one yogurt in the world, which is believed to be the main factor for the long life of the Bulgarians.
Yuri: Really? I didn't know that.
Iva: As far as work culture goes, the Bulgarian business culture is hierarchical, but often the consensus of everyone involved is sought when making decisions.
Yuri: Yeah, meetings and negotiations are formal in nature and senior members in the group have the most authority and command a certain level of respect. With that, the third most important thing you should know about Bulgarian society is that it is closely tied to the land.
Iva: That's right. Phrases like “ежа се”, "to behave like a hedgehog," indicates that someone is aggressive and/or defensive, and “Запънал се е като магаре на мост”, "to be like a donkey that does not want to cross the bridge," to indicate stubbornness. Thousands of other phrases and customs show a close connection to nature, despite Bulgaria's industrial development.
Yuri: What are the politics like in Bulgaria?
Iva: Currently, Bulgaria is parliamentary representative democratic republic.
Yuri: The prime minister is the head of the government.
Iva: Yes, executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Yuri: The decisive winner of the elections was Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, or GERB, party led by Boyko Borisov.
Iva: Yes. Oh, you should also know that GERB amassed more votes than the members of the Central Left Coalition and is to lead a center-right government.
Yuri: Really?
Iva: Yes.
Yuri: Interesting.
Iva: With that, the number four thing you have to know about, Bulgarians understand how their government works and many are not really interested in the politics.
Yuri: This is partially due to the fact that over the past twenty years, Bulgaria has always had dramatic changes in the government.
Iva: And Bulgaria has an unstable party system that includes the dominating party plus several small parties, which emerged for a short period of time in the past decade.
Yuri: Recently, the presidential elections (October 2011) showed that people still cannot show strong support for one specific party or person.
Iva: Many Bulgarians want to work and live abroad, but many others think that the economic growth by outsourcing and investment in tourism is possible. That's why it is very important for us to continue growing.
Yuri: So the number five thing you should know about Bulgarian society is that it is changing constantly.
Iva: Yep. In the past 20 years, after the change from the communist time, Bulgaria has changed so fast that novelty constantly bombards Bulgarians.
Yuri: People who grew up without electricity are now writing software and designing solar panels. Women who washed clothes by hand in the village river now travel the world as partners in international businesses.
Iva: That's right. Not surprisingly this has caused a tremendous generational gap.
Yuri: The younger generation has absorbed every novelty presented to them, iPhones, Twitter, and biofuels are part of everyday life, but many of the older generation have had difficulty keeping up.
Iva: As time goes on, though, things keep getting better.
Yuri: And we hope you're excited to interact in this unique culture.


Iva: Well, that was our glimpse into Bulgarian society today.
Yuri: We hope you learned a lot. We certainly covered a lot of information.

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