Freedom of Movement 27 - Sofia
“Barry in Beirut” is the name he goes by on the internet. He is, in fact, in Bulgaria.
Barry grew up in the East End of London. “I was the Cockney Billy Elliott. My dad wanted me to box and play football, but I wanted to dance and sing”.
Barry worked in advertising, for Saatchi & Saatchi in London, then various european offices - Moscow, Milan, Rome, Riga, Ljubljana, Vienna, Bucharest, Hamburg, Amsterdam, which gave him the travel bug. He then took a 4 year posting in Beirut, which, he says, was an idea he got from his dad, who was stationed there when he was in the army.
After that, he came back to Europe, and has been in Bulgaria for the last two years.
He loves it. “From a creative perspective, living abroad keeps you on edge - a bit more amplified - it’s always new, you have to work a bit harder, it’s good for your mind.”
The city has a buzz of optimism, developent, co-operation, opportunity. Ex-pat Bulgarians are returning, bringing with them ideas, connections and money from across the world.
When it comes to the creative sector, skill sets are transferrable across borders - the writers, artists, etc all have the skills that are relevant and applicable in that industry, and these were the same skills that were valued everywhere. People could come and go, work in similar jobs in similar companies in many different countries.
The country is cheap. The workforce is educated, motivated and mostly bi-lingual. There’s a lot of STEM and technical expertise, which is what the former Warsaw Pact countries’ education systems excelled at.
“These days, when I get into a taxi, the driver will ask where I’m from, and it’s “Haha! Brexit!” They find out that the rest of the world isn’t as perfect as they’d been led to believe. They think it’s hilarious.”
Who says free movement is just for posh people?