Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in the EU and is dependent on its EU partners for both investment and trade. Despite this, Bulgaria’s economy has displayed steady annual growth, while significantly decreasing its unemployment rate over the last few years. Although coronavirus has negatively impacted the country's GDP, it is once again seeing positive growth and it seems the economy is back on track.
Bulgaria’s main industries include energy, mining, metallurgy and tourism, while finance and IT are growing sectors. Salaries in Bulgaria are lower than in many other EU countries, but this is offset by a low cost of living. Expats may find it difficult to get a job in Bulgaria, as companies tend to hire Bulgarian graduates over foreigners.
Expats from the EU or the EEA can work in Bulgaria without a work permit, but non-EU expats must secure a work permit before arriving in the country. Work permits are requested by an employer, who must justify their reasons for employing a foreigner over a Bulgarian.
Job market in Bulgaria
Expats looking for employment in Bulgaria will find the most opportunities in the urban centres of Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna, working within multinational companies as well as in the IT, finance and engineering industries. Teaching English in Bulgaria is another opportunity for expats to find employment.
Those with multilingual proficiencies, specifically in key European languages such as Russian, English, French and German, are in demand in Bulgaria and are therefore more likely to find a job. This is because many European companies outsource their labour to Bulgaria. Knowledge of Bulgarian will be useful in securing employment with a local company.
Finding a job in Bulgaria
Many expats move to Bulgaria with an employment contract already in place. Otherwise, multinational companies will post listings of job offerings on their websites. There are also numerous online job portals which list employment opportunities for expats in Bulgaria.
Expats can also contact the several English-speaking recruitment agencies operating in Bulgaria that will assist them in finding a job.
Work culture in Bulgaria
Expats working in Bulgaria will discover that fostering and maintaining relationships are key elements of Bulgarian work culture. Trust is extremely important in work environments. Relationships may form slowly, as Bulgarians tend to take their time getting to know new colleagues.
Although Bulgarians tend to be direct and cooperative, deference is given to age and seniority. Otherwise, the work culture in Bulgaria is not overtly different from the work culture in other EU nations.
A factor that many expats may find confusing in Bulgaria, however, is the opposite meaning of head shaking and nodding in the country. While a head shake indicates 'yes', a nod indicates 'no'. Expats should keep this in mind when conducting business, as well as in day to day life in Bulgaria.
►Read Doing Business in Bulgaria to learn more about working in the country.
►Banking, Money and Taxes in Bulgaria provides insight into money matters.
"Life runs at a totally different pace here. Everything is much more relaxed than it was back home, which is both a blessing and a curse for an impatient person like me. Bulgarians really seem to prioritise family life and friendships – there’s always time for coffee and a chat with friends and neighbours." Learn more about how Claire, a British expat, has adjusted to expat life in Bulgaria.
Are you an expat living in Bulgaria?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bulgaria. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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