I have been accused of having rosy tinted glasses on when I eulogize about my life in Bulgaria. So I thought for balance I should point out some
of the things that have infuriated me (albeit only mildly) in the last two years. Without exception (maybe pot holes) obsessive documentation is the all
time winner. Today I have been taxiing a neighbor who wanted to renew his ‘red’ (EU) passport.
To call Bulgaria a functioning bureaucracy would be a complete understatement, without reams of documents and official stamps the whole country would
cease to function. I have been trying to work out why this is. Even the simplest of tasks cannot be done without an official document of sorts. For
example, when I purchased my house here it was necessary to form a shell company to purchase the house. In order for the company to function you would
need an official stamp. This is where the problems start. In order to be able to purchase a stamp you need a document stating that the business has
already been created, and to create the business you need an official stamp!
Obviously there are ways around this otherwise I would have been unable to purchase my house, I am left to wonder why the situation actually exists though.
Whenever I point out how bizarre this is I am given the default answer. ‘This is Bulgaria, that is normal’.
This is the first and only ex-communist country that I have visited/lived in, so apologies if my conclusion is off the mark. The need for official
documents, and stamps as far as I can see removes any responsibility from the individual. Decisions are not made by common sense or by individuals;
workers here follow strict guidelines and can never deviate from them. For example since I have been here I have been offered employment at a foreign
language school. I can only take up this employment if I can get my degree legalized in Bulgaria. No problem there.
Only to get my degree certificate legalized here I have to submit my completion of secondary education certificate. Being from the UK there is no
such document. I explain this to the bureaucrats. It appears that this does not matter. Just because something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that I
can’t produce it. It is on the list of documents to be submitted and therefore I cannot proceed.
There is no room for change. When you question these things with the officials you are normally given shrugging shoulders, and looks of realization
that they know the system is wrong, but they have no intention of changing it. The normal man on the street is so used to having every part of life
dictated to them that it is just normal!
When submitting some kind of documentation you will also have to provide photocopies of the said documents. Do the offices have
photocopies – definitely not. Or at least they do but they are for official use only.
So back to todays renewal of passport. Salim enters the passport office and joins the queue to collect the documents that need to completed.
Completes them then joins another queue to submit them. Gets turned away as he has not made the photocopies required, has to leave the passport
office to get his photocopies. Returns, rejoins the queue for submission of documents. Oh no, it’s lunch time the office closes all queues are
cancelled, come back in an hour and try again.
I ask why this can’t be done by post? Don’t be daft he says, they would lose all the documents.
I suppose now that I have been here a while I have become desensitized to these kind of situations that would have me screaming at bureaucrats in the
UK, as they say.
‘This is Bulgaria, it is normal’