From: Burgas, Bulgaria | Moved to the UK: May 2013 | Occupation: Sales support manager | Qualifications: (BA) Economics
I was a bit stressed about coming over initially. Everyone was talking about Bulgarians and Romanians coming to the UK to take jobs and live off benefits and it made me really scared of what living here would be like. A friend of mine who has been in the UK for two years said there was something in papers about Romanians and Bulgarians every day.
But I haven’t really experienced any problems. Some people I know have experienced problems but I think there are reasons for that. They don’t speak English and when we are in a group with English people, they just speak Bulgarian. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. If you go to another country and you just speak your language and don’t learn the culture, then you will have problems.
So I think that a lot of the discrimination you see in the newspapers and on TV are against people who are not willing to integrate.
"I didn’t come here to live on benefits, I came here because I can have a salary which allows me to live rather than survive"
Something an English friend said once stuck with me. He said it’s not that people are scared that we will come here and take jobs, it’s that London is overcrowded. People are scared there is not enough space. So the media have to find something against us to write about, they can’t just say ‘there isn’t enough space’. So they say we are no good, we can’t come here, they don’t want another Polish invasion.
But for me, I really appreciate what London can offer me. I have a nice job in a furniture company doing similar work to what I was doing in Bulgaria, although it’s much better paid. In Bulgaria, I was working as an interior designer getting a salary that was three times less than what I get here, yet the bills are the same.
But also, it’s a very different culture in Bulgaria. You either live with your parents until you get married or you just get married. Not many people live in house shares.
I am 27 now and most of my Bulgarian friends are either married or pregnant. 25 is the age you have to get married or have kids. If not, people see you as old. If you don’t want to get married, you are different.
And you can’t even take time off work for holidays. I used annual leave once and I got fired. The only time you can take time off work is if you’re pregnant or if you are ill. I’ve been working since I was 13 and I’d never had a proper holiday until I had a week recently in Majorca which is what every English person does, but for me it was extraordinary.
So I am a hardworking person. I didn’t come here to live on benefits, I came here because I can have a salary which allows me to live rather than survive. And just like any normal person, I want a good salary and normal working days and holidays.