Bulgarian False Economy

Bulgarians are one of the most prudent in terms of economical living. The countless ingenious ways they have developed to save their small earnings and pensions with the absolute avoidance having to replace anything by repairing is legendary.

Throughout all the time in Bulgaria observing the way Bulgarians achieve the height of economy but still live a very decent and comfortable life is something that many others from the western society should learn from.

With this in mind there is one exception to the rule and for the life of me I can’t fathom out why this is.

In Bulgaria, electricity is relatively the most expensive commodity that the populous have to pay on a monthly basis, apart from many gypsy communities who get away from not paying! (Another story!) With this in mind and me thinking I know bit more about how the average Bulgarian thinks just gets blow out of sight with what goes on.

It is a common occurrence that once a month the electric bill is personally handed over to Baba, her hand shaking as she receives the letter. It not opened until she has gone inside the house and sat down. There is another pause and a deep intake of breath before she begins to even think about opening it.

Month after month the same procedure takes place, she knows that what that envelope contains is disturbing, upsetting and for Baba a major concern on her pension. She is responsible for the electric bills and more often than not it accounts for half of her pension income!

So this month is no exception, the letter containing the bill proceeds to be opened with intensification of the shaking hands and a face of grimace. The bill is seen and the predictable and loud groan of, ‘O Boje, Boje!’ comes into play just like the previous month and the month before that. On every occasion she is shocked with the amount of leva being asked for by EVN the electric company blaming them for the excessive cost of running their power into our home.

Now Baba may be surprise alone with the other members of the Bulgarian household but for me this is no surprise at all, in fact on the contrary. I see what goes on in this Bulgarian house; I know why these bills are the equivalent of the devil being delivered each month.

It is hard to conceive that the way electric is managed in the home goes against all the principles of economy instilled in this environment of tips and wrinkles. Even stranger is the fact that there is a major misconception in the relationship between how the power used to the bills received. It is a simple equation that they fail understand; the more electric you use the higher the bill will be.

Let’s have a few examples of the wastage that goes on in this Bulgarian household. Firstly, lights are left on all the time even in the daytime and no one is using the room. Fair do the bathroom has no windows and needs a light on but even that is left on for much of the time,

We have a desktop computer with hi-fi attached, this is left on continuously 24 hours, occasionally the monitor is turn off during the night but that’s it. The powerful hi-fi, to which it is linked up, remains on standby when not in use, which also drains away the power. There is also a television in the main room and it is normal for the computer hi-fi and television on all at the same time for countless hours. This is not just the young man Ivo’s idea but Galia does exactly the same when on the computer in Ivo’s absence. The added twist is that quite often a film is being watched on the PC, the music blaring out of the hi-fi and the television working overtime either. Ironically, as in all Bulgarian households, the triple-bulb lighting chandelier system in the room only contains one light bulb that illuminates the room small compensation really! Added to this are the computer game systems where the games’ base units remain on even when not being played.

There was a recent change to the front door bell, the doorbell dog Jessica has now moved on and a wireless doorbell installed, using a socket. Sign of the times eh! Small item I know but it all adds up especially in many Bulgarian households where so many friends and relatives call and use the bell. No day goes by without at least 10 visitors a day using the bell and continuously if no one is there. We even use it to let Baba know we are back from work or shopping just because it’s there. Over a month the doorbell could be used up to 500 times! Like I said, it all adds up.

The hallway has two lights, one for the outside and a fluorescent green light inside. Both are on every evening as the streams of visitors come and go. Many night they are lit all night as Ivo’s night ventures go on to 2-3 in the morning – not drunk I may add jus at socialising with friends in a town centre of a friends home as they do without the need for drink.

The boiler for hot water, which essentially is a water storage system, is not on continuously but just heated up for 3-4 hours a day for evening showers. This again is not the best way to do it and being thermostatically controlled unlike lighting and other power sources it would be more economical to leave it on ticking over. There used to be an electric extractor fan in the bathroom linked up with the light but now, a small blessing in economy, it doesn’t work since a new light switch was installed (DIY of course.)

Into the kitchen and another massive source of power to be wasted. Another extractor fan over the oven and hob is used every moment cooking takes place. It is also run as a cigarette smoke extractor as Galia smokes under the canopy, so considerate of course.

The oven is an old electric sucking machine that takes 20 minutes to heat up both in the oven and on the electric hob. The cost of just heating up Baba linden herb tea in the morning is excessive as it take nearly half and hour for one litre to boil the saucepan of water. This is done twice a day. The oven is used more or less every day as Baba cooks for us all with two to three hours for baked item and stews etc. on the top hob on for anything up to 5 consecutive hours.

All this oven and hob work still goes on by Baba even though we had bought a microwave placed right next to it, but Baba doesn’t understand how it works! She only knows how to make popcorn with it and that took three months to learn. Galia and I now make out tea and coffee in the microwave, 2 minutes a time, some saving there now as we both took 30 minutes before on the hob.
There is a television in the kitchen/dining area, this is on much of the time and when not, remains on standby throughout. A typical scenario last night when watching Bulgarian Music Idol where the computer was working the television being watched by me and Baba watching the same programme in the kitchen area on the other television even though she could see the other television where she sat! All lights on and hi-fi on standby, the oven working with the extractor fan on and hall, garden and toilet lights on. A situation not uncommon every night but without Ivo there who was out working; he will add to this by using the hi-fi at the same time

Even now at 10:00 in the morning with only Baba and me present, the computer is on, the television is running the hi-fi on standby along with the smaller television in the kitchen. The hob is on boiling chicken soup therefore the extractor is on and the bathroom light running without a soul there.

Along with the countless mobile phones (GSMs) and hand held games that constantly used and therefore need constant charging we now have a good reason for high electric bills.

Being a guest of the family in this house it is not for me to dictate how they run their affairs, I just advise where necessary and observe in the main. But how strange it is to see such waste in one area and on the other hand so much care, thought and attention in others. Understanding how Bulgarians think with this in mind is a complex business.