Sat, May 25 2013
Nikos Galanis: The best of both countries
Property consultant Nikos Galanis has been doing business in Bulgaria since 1991 and has lived in Sofia permanently with his family since 2004. During his 17-year acquaintance with Bulgaria he's seen an incredible transformation. "I see and live the tumultuous changes in Bulgaria. But I have a sense of fulfilment and I'm happy to be here," he says.
A resident of London for many years, Nikos gets particularly incensed by misrepresentations in the British press about Bulgarian crime levels. "The British press go on about organised crime in Bulgaria but life in Wembley (west London) was far more dangerous," he says.
"My children were born in London but grew up in three different countries: Britain, France and Greece. Bulgaria is definitely my second favourite country after Greece. My children have made many friends here. Contrary to public perceptions abroad, I feel safer in Sofia than Athens, London or many other Western European capitals."
Nikos finds many similarities between the Balkan neighbours. "Bulgarians, just like Greeks, enjoy a drink, a leisurely meal and good conversation," he says.
Nikos' job involves him ferrying regularly between Greece and Bulgaria. "I consider myself lucky to share my time between Bulgaria and Greece. Although long trips can be tiring, my lifestyle is very pleasurable. In the summer season I show prospective Bulgarian investors properties in Chalkidiki in Greece and in the winter season I show prospective Greek investors properties in Bansko."
Conducting business in Bulgaria is rewarding, according to Nikos. "Taxation is low and the business environment is flexible, not necessarily easy per se but certainly progressing fast. I find Bulgaria's investment environment to be better than Greece's. I have seen many clients double and even quadruple their investments in unbelievably short periods."
During his four years here Nikos has seen many changes. "Back then there were far fewer shopping malls. And when I think back to the 1990s there were far fewer advertising hoardings, cars and supermarkets. Perhaps the food wasn't as varied as it is today, but I think in some ways it was tastier."
Nikos spends half the year in Greece and so homesickness is no problem. "I spent my childhood near the sea. I feel that the clear blue and warm sea of Greece is the best in the world. For me, Greece is the ideal place to be in summer. I grew up in Thessaloniki and Chalkidiki is nearby, happily thriving. I like spending time by the seaside, enjoying ouzo bars, tavernas and the distinct aroma of pine tree and sea water. But, on the other hand, I can't think of a better place than Bansko in the winter with its excellent snow, extended ski runs and throbbing night life. Each year more Greek skiers travel there. In the future I think Greeks will be the main tourists in Bansko and Bulgarians will be the predominant tourists in Chalkidiki!"
If Nikos has a gripe about Bulgaria, it's the poor connections. "This delays integration between the two countries. Conducting business for me and many other people would be so much easier if it were improved. The rail link, for example, is unacceptable. Sofia to Thessaloniki, a distance of just 300 km, takes six hours. How many Greeks would visit Sofia and how many Bulgarians would spend the weekend in Thessaloniki if this changed?"
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