I’m speaking to a lot of people at the moment about Brexit and living in Bulgaria. Some are Brits looking to move to BG others are Brits that are already living here. Not all are particularly bothered! Moving to Bulgaria and getting a European passport feels like a way to escape the anti European feeling in the U.K. . For those that are already here Europe is their home and what goes on in perfidious Albion means little or nothing.
To a greater or lesser extent Brexit will effect us all and being a little prepared will make a huge difference. No matter how welcoming Mr Borisov is in the press, there will be hoops to jump through and forms to fill. There will be changes. We can speculate wildly about what might happen. I don’t think anyone believes we will go back to a visa regime where each applicant needs to employ 10 Bulgarians and invest the national debt of Puerto Rico to live in Bulgaria. But I do believe things will change. I will not bore you with the thousands of possible options! Below I’ve laid out some thoughts about making it all as painless as possible.
What does Brexit and living in Bulgaria mean to me? We have a few business in Bulgaria and the U.K.. The hotel is focused on guests earning in pounds. The BG factories are Euro focused and exporting to Euro markets. The U.K. factories are indebted in Pounds and selling in multiple currencies. On a personal level Dylan is both British and Bulgarian, living in the U.K. . Vania is Bulgarian, living in the U.K. , paying national insurance and earning in the U.K. but as yet not legally settled there. I am non resident in the U.K. and resident in BG, earning in Bulgaria and paying national insurance in the U.K. . Complicated isn’t it.
I’m no expert and have no training in these matters but I have spoken to a lot of people and listened to a lot more. Below is my Brexit check list:-
If I get sick who’s paying for me to get better? In Bulgaria even now this is complicated. I have a G.P. and I pay national insurance in BG thus I can easily access the Bulgarian NHS. I also have private medical cover so if it is serious I can use some of the fantastic private hospitals in Sofia.
As a legally signed and sealed tax paying long term resident in BG I see little or no change to this set up. Make sure you have medical cover you are happy with! If you are not willing to spend time being cared for like a Bulgarian pay for private cover.
For Vania, Dylan and I in the U.K. I pay voluntary N.I. contributions to guarantee NHS care and state pensions.
Living in Bulgaria is cheap, I live like a king here on an income of 12k pounds a year, this includes international holidays and eating out regularly. What I consider a Regal lifestyle might not be what you consider Regal!
Planning realistically honestly and carefully will make your move much easier. How many flights a year will you need back to the U.K.? Do you fly B.A. or is Ryan air acceptable? Do you have dependants who might need support? Do you have bills in the U.K.? How old are you? Will you need long term medical care or home support? My income exceeds my expenses by about 10% to quote Mr Micawber’s famous recipe for happiness:
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings and six, result happiness.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
I would recommend you have a really honest look at your cost of living and expenses.
You or your family will get sick. relatives will get old. Putting aside some money just in case is advisable. If you suddenly have to move to the U.K. for a few weeks or even months you will be shocked at the difference in costs of living. An income that means you live like a king in BG could make you a begger in the U.K. . A slush fund saved monthly will soften this blow.
Living in Bulgaria is fun, there is a lot to do. Village life is great, the climate kind and people welcoming. In twenty years when you are a doddering old duffer will you still want to be living in a village with dirt roads and a 30km shlep to the nearest shop or hospital? Once you’ve sold up and cut all ties with the U.K. are you really prepared to spend you twilight years here? Can you afford to move back?
For me Bulgaria is a perfect place to live. I love the mountains in every season and spend most of my free time playing in them. Climbing, hiking, mountain biking, skiing or just getting drunk in the woods cooking pork products over an open fire I’m in my element. I have just enough work to keep me busy and my mind sharp. I’m a lucky boy.
If you move here to retire, are you going to get bored or lonely? The beautiful sleepy little village is wonderful for a week or two but 365 days a year? 365 days a year when you have no one to talk to? 365 days a year when you are an outsider with nothing in common with your neighbours, no common language or interests? Learning the language is essential if you are planning to move here. Having hobbies other than getting drunk will keep you entertained and balanced. Understanding Bulgarian culture and immersing yourself in it will help develop the friendships and networks that most Bulgarians rely on.
Running your own business, at the best of times, is both rewarding and challenging in equally measures. Running you own business in a foreign country tilts the balance in favour of challenging! Incomes in Bulgaria are slim, paperwork labour intensive and compliance difficult.
I have seen many foreign small business people hugely upset by trying to run a business here. Is it really worth it? REALLY REALLY? Think long and hard.
Running a large concern here is a different ball game all together, labour costs are low, staff highly educated and motivated and we are in Europe! Remember Brexit will effect you. Are you selling in Pounds? Are you buying raw materials in Euros? We don’t know how Brexit will effect us but it will and we are hedging against it like crazy. Borrow from banks in the country where your company is based. Borrow money in the local currency. Sell in the same currency as your production costs are incurred. Small shifts in currency over long contracts can destroy your profit margins. Currencies can shift 15% over night they can shift 30% in a matter of weeks if you are selling in pounds and your costs are in Euros a normal shift can be fatal.
Trade barriers are talked about but doubtful in my mind. But paperwork will become more difficult. Complying with two sets of rules for every aspect of your business will prove annoying. Have you got a big enough team in place that really understand what you do? Time to train a few more office staff me thinks!
Simply put I have been preparing. We don’t know what is going to happen, no one is telling us a consistent time line as to where we will be in 5 years time. So blindly I am preparing. I hope it is not all wasted but I feel secure with the preparations I have made for my family and I. I have taken all the steps outlined above and feel that do matter what our leaders do team Hughes will be cool!