(According to the US Peace Corps - Bulgaria)

The following words of wisdom were gathered and complied from former foreign volunteers in Bulgaria to help you through the inevitable hardships of the adaptation process. The list was created in the hope that you and your mentor can cash in on somebody else's experience and accommodate it in your specific situation.
Every match of volunteer and mentor is unique and views the problems and possible solutions in a different way. We hope that the following friendly advices might help both of you adjust easier and work together successfully.

COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE. Lack of sufficient open communication, which may lead to misunderstanding or miscommunication, is one of the two most common reasons for foreign volunteers' frustrations with work and people. You come from a different culture and in many cases the same facts or words can be viewed and interpreted very differently by you as well as the Bulgarians. Ask questions, regardless of how trivial and obvious they seem, and talk as much as possible with your co-workers in order to really understand what's going on. Do not be shy, remind people, if necessary, that you expect their feedback.

Learn the language. Improving your Bulgarian is absolutely vital not only for your professional effectiveness at site but it will also ease the hardships of your adaptation period, ensure faster better integration into the community, increase your understanding of the Bulgarian culture, and improve social life and cooperation with your co-workers. Invite them over at your house. By doing this, they will become more open for communication and will look upon you from a more personal perspective, which will improve your working environment by all means. All of the above, combined, constitute a very good remedy against the blues and frustration you might face with during your adaptation.

Don't expect a perfect match between your skills and your site's needs. Those needs might be only an overall vision, and your duties may not necessarily (and most probably won't) call for many of your qualifications. Your specific scope of work needs to be created together with your co-workers after you have arrived at your site.

Be tolerant, not judgmental, with respect to differences.

Be outgoing and proactive, get involved, take initiative in and out of the workplace, be open to new experience.

Don't let your limitations hold you back. "Make" your work despite difficulties.

Foreign volunteers are here to identify and respond to the needs of the host country and the individual organizations. They are in Bulgaria to do what their host-country organization asks them to do.

Bulgaria is in a process of transitions and changes and host agencies need help in approaching those changes. The foreigners have a different perspective and life experience and that's exactly what Volunteers are here for - show it, share it.

In the vast majority of cases technical expertise, knowledge and technology are already here. Volunteers strengths are not that they know something better but that they know something in a different way. They will not change the whole world. Their niche is the host-country organization, their workers and community.

Foreign volunteers and the hosting organizations come up with different ideas and need to work together in a collaborative manner for a common goal and aim for the best possible outcome.

The effectiveness and satisfaction, site "quality" and meaningful work, depend to a large extent on both of you, on your flexibility, resourcefulness, and positive attitude.

The only way to deal with a different way of thinking is compromise - meet in the middle at a round table and develop a climate of mutual understanding.

You always need to listen to your colleagues and friends, they know what problems exist, they just don't know how to fix them or know only one way of doing it.

The process of adjustment is an ongoing one and continues during the whole service. The road of learning new ways to interact more effectively with your colleagues is very rocky at first and will flatten out over time. But the sooner you allow it to happen, the better your journey on it becomes. Being together on that joyride is what both parties need.

Volunteers must remember that they are not living in their own country and cannot expect to be effective immediately. In situations when their skills are not fitted to the task at hand they must learn to rely on their resources. The First place the Volunteer should go to for help is the host country mentor. Volunteers need to remember that no matter how much knowledge and experience they have in certain field, it is the mentor who knows how things operate in Bulgaria. It's their job to help the Volunteer understand the local field in order to be able to utilize his/her skills more effectively.

The most important skill for Volunteers is the ability to adapt and apply their knowledge to foreign situations. Volunteers cannot expect the whole host organization would change to match their skills, they have to develop them within the organization.

Volunteers have to realize that they cannot come into a completely unfamiliar place and tell others how things should be run. After developing a strong relationship over a long period of time with co-workers a Volunteer then may become effective in being open about these issues. However when a Volunteer is new and does not really know what is going on it is only destructive to be so critical.

It is important that Volunteers only give suggestions and do not make demands. This only causes hostility on the Bulgarian side. It is not effective to act as the all-knowing co-worker. It is vital that Volunteers are extremely sensitive to this in order to have an effective impact on a project.
"Unlike high-profile contracted foreign experts or consultants visiting Bulgaria, Volunteers are regular team members of the host organization.

Be patient and persistent. One of the problems that most foreigners working in Bulgaria experience is the slower pace at which things get accomplished. The best way to deal with this is to establish a working relationship that is flexible enough for the Volunteer to work on other projects when the primary activities are advancing slowly.