Every short or long term expat would concur that living in a foreign country poses all sorts of challenges – from understanding body language, to eating the food, finding your way around, guessing which municipal clerk does what, and so on. So when it comes to daily errands such as hoovering and ironing, dropping off and picking up the dry cleaning, doing your shopping, babysitting or walking the dog, things can get very complicated.
Besides the language barrier, you may find that information on the above services is harder to spot than in your own country. You needn't despair – finding home help in Bulgaria is as easy as it is affordable, if you know where to look.
In the first instance, don't be surprised to see highly educated people – particularly nurses, doctors, teachers and artists – taking up full- or part-time cleaning and childcare jobs. As many of them would admit, they are better paid in private homes than in the state-run hospitals and schools. The same is true for taxi drivers. Next time you get a cab you may have the relativity theory explained to you in detail by a university professor jobbing as a driver.
Finding the right person for your cleaning, babysitting and pet care needs is the hard part. Word-of-mouth is always the best option, so ask family, friends, landlords, neighbours and colleagues for referrals.
This can work out well – and fast – if you live in a town/village where everyone knows everyone and, importantly, people normally know who can be trusted, regardless of whether you need daily home cleaning or occasional garden trimming. In these cases, your new friends will be a good source of information about payment, although it would all depend on what you want done and how much you're prepared to spend. It's always advisable to discuss all the details before you employ the person. This is especially valid when it comes to babysitting – if you want your babysitter to do the ironing or washing up as well, make sure they know it.
If you'd rather go for the professionals or simply happen to live in Sofia, Varna or Burgas, again, look for tips from friends, colleagues and expat forums, leaf through the Golden Pages' latest edition (covering Sofia only) or simply Google the options for cleaning, plumbing, babysitting, flower ordering, and so on.
Understandably, professional cleaning seems to be the right choice when what you need is a thorough clean of your home. These companies would have all the necessary scrubbing and water sucking machines, purpose supplies and specialised staff such as alpine cleaners for your 7th floor windows. Sherita M, Baraj M and Vasilka are reputable companies, and their English language web pages list service details including the prices and the regions they cover. Approach contracts in the usual way – insist on an English language version and read it carefully before you sign it. If for any reason you're not happy with the performance, inform the company management.
When it comes to babysitting, you have the same two options – tips from friends or a professional service. As in the case of home cleaning, your choice may basically depend on where you live, as companies tend to operate in Sofia and the big cities rather than in villages. In any case arm yourself with patience as you may not come across the right person right away. Be as clear and precise about your expectations for a babysitter as possible. For example, you may prefer to have a nurse with childcare experience to do a full-time job, a former school teacher speaking two foreign languages for a part-time job or a young girl with little experience to only occasionally babysit. Signing a contract can save you a lot of trouble.
Whether it is house keeping, or child or pet care you need, or you want someone to fix the leaking roof or repair your shoes, you may want to have it all done by a single company to save both the time and effort to look for different agents. Concierge services may be relatively new in Bulgaria but they are geared to cater to the growing expat community and provide all sorts of expatriate support from housekeepers and nannies to plumbers and key cutters without breaking the bank. Check out todoor.net, bgexpat.bg, or expatservice.org, particularly if you're not lucky enough to have your own personal lifestyle manager, or a helpful landlady or neighbour who does your shopping, pays your bills, and looks after your cat while you're away.
With these menial jobs taken care of, you'll agree that life in Bulgaria can indeed be quite enjoyable. Why not save your free time for the ones you love?