Bulgaria is becoming a full member of European Union in 2007. It appears to be one of the poorest members of the union, I believe. Driving between Sofia and Varna shows that there is much development needed. Roads are definitely not even close to other European countries that I have been to and all other infrastructure looks run down. The biggest difference, however, is the salary level of people here. In discussions with graduate students, I found that there compensation as a graduate student is, considering cost of living differential, is much lower than we pay in United States. Of course in real dollars it will be really lower. I was trying to find out whether this is good for managing their living in Bulgaria and it appeared that the amount may be such that they may have to really stretch to manage. I was interested in understanding this to see how this country will evolve as a result of its becoming part of the EU. My impressions, however, are based on discussions with only two students and one of them was relatively quiet so really only one person.
Considering rapid changes that this country has been seeing in the recent past and is likely to see in the near future, it does appear that this may be one of the countries where outsourcing may boom. Language is the biggest hurdle they have in outsourcing â€“ but that does seem to be changing. It was clear that once you leave the main areas of businesses or where tourists may visit, all the signs are in Bulgarian.
Another interesting thing I noted is the relative absence of Internet culture here. Since I am guest of Bulgarian Academy for the conference, they have arranged for my stay. The hotel Cherno More in Varna did not have Internet connectivity. And luckily there was a 24 hour Internet cafÃ© in the neighborhood so I could go there. Here in Sofia I am spending night, to catch early morning flight, at Hotel Bulgaria â€“ a three star hotel. This hotel still has rotary dial phones so it is too much to expect to have Internet here. But considering the location of the Hotel â€“ almost central part of town â€“ I expected to find good Internet cafes easily. Talking to concierge it became clear that there is not much. Finally I was able to find a place in very run down situation. It was clear that this is not something that is popular here. The computers in this Internet CafÃ© reminded me of the places in Nagpur, my home town in India.
People are very friendly. Prof. Rachev was very sincere and emotional when thanking me for coming to give the talk in Varna. That moment alone was worth all the trouble for coming. Considering my health and timing of this conference, I was not very happy that I had to come here at this time. But the way they treated me â€“ the honorary professorship â€“ and the discussions with doctoral students in my workshop was all very rewarding. I felt that communications were far from smooth â€“ almost all people that I met had their names ending in â€˜vâ€™ or â€˜vaâ€™ or â€˜fâ€™ so language was a barrier â€“ but the intent of the communication was clear. This is where one clearly notices efficacy of experiential communication rather than abstract informational communication. If I were not here with them and tried to do this on e-mail or even on phone, there will be practically no communication. Even in my drive back I was with two people who did not speak English, but they managed to convey how friendly they were and one of them is even coming to pick me up to drop to the airport in morning. They just want to be sure that everything goes smoothly with me and I go back with pleasant experiences and memories of Bulgaria. And I am definitely very pleased with my trip so far.