Monday, October 13, 2014

Comparative anxiety in Bulgaria and Australia

The Mall of Sofia was welcomingly bright and shiny, and I strolled about with no particular purpose, enjoying the respite from the Bulgarian winter. All of a sudden I spotted a chocolate shop, and, lured by the advertising of Belgian treats, I wandered inside. Waiting for me to approach her was a thin girl with long hair and no trace of a smile. I hovered near the counter, wanting to ask for assistance, but anticipating the rude indifference common to many customer service personnel in this part of the world. In the end I pointed to something behind the counter with more confidence than I felt. "I'll have -- that!"

My boldness had an interesting and unfortunate effect on this girl. She felt unable to relate to my assertiveness, and I could sense a strong bout of self-critique from the way she moved her body. It became painful to watch her torturing herself so I was glad to leave, but she reminded me of the kind of anxieties I was brought up to entertain in my early childhood.

Australians are comparatively assured in comparison. They have a lot of social, political and economic systems to fall back on. They're part of the Western tradition of capitalist democracy, considered to be the least imperfect political system by many. Meanwhile, Bulgaria has a system of corrupt politicians with high levels of poverty and widespread discontent. Grumbling is a way of life, even a civic responsibility. 

Having lived in Sydney since the age of seven, I have learned to be more relaxed and less anxious than the average Bulgarian I meet. I am probably more self-critical than the average Australian, and can relate more to other immigrants and their own watered-down anxieties. Not a lot of people share my cultural mix (mostly due to there being so few Bulgarians), so I sometimes have to make room for it. A space like this one is good for such purposes.

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