The Bubble


Майкъл Кешмън


Many foreigners that reside in Bulgaria, or in any country other than their native one, tend to live in what I term the "bubble". They speak their own language, drive the same kinds of cars, eat the same cuisine, watch the same television programs and generally live almost exactly the way they did back home. The bubble that they build around themselves keeps them encased in a unnatural enviroment of familiarity in which everything foreign going on around them is held at bay and pretty much ignored on a daily basis. They tend to find that they can get by without having to learn the indigenous language as they only frequent places that speak their nativetongue and surround themselves with others who each live in their own similar bubbles. Their cultural and political interests mainly lie back in their homelands and though they may now reside abroad, they are not too concerned about what is taking place all around them in their present locality. This phenomenon may not be a deliberate construct, but is probably an unconcious instinctual defense mechanism that allows them to deal with the almost overwhelming sense of alienation they feel at now living in a country far different from their own.

The bubble is a barrier that buffers all external stimulus and translates it for the occupant into contextual terms that they are more familiar with and therefore easier to understand. Though a lot is lostor ignored in translation, enough gets through that they can get by and function. The occupant is satisfied to simply pick up a couple of key foreign words and phrases each year to be able to order a beer or ask the location of the restrooms; also it works to impress friends and family back home. Once the bubble is constructed, it is very hard to dissolve it. Thisinvisible barrier allows one to exist almost anywhere in the world, but in turn it prevents its creator from truly becoming a part of their surroundings. Culture and social integration are almost impossible unlessthey have aspects that are similar to what the bubble already contains.

It is only through immersing yourself in the place that you live by making a concerted effort to learn the language and the intricacies of the society that one can truly begin to adapt and "fit in." This can seem an unachievable task, but in the long run it is well worth the effort. So burst your bubble and learn things that are foreign. Someday you may find that you are mistaken for a local and then you will know that all your efforts have been worthwhile and that the bubble had only been a preventer all along and not an enabler.

December 2007