More than 8 ½ years of austerity and more than 20 pension cuts – with more set for Jan. 1, 2019 – have forced some Greek retirees to pull up stakes and move to neighboring Bulgaria, one of the poorest countries in the European Union and one perhaps even more corrupt.
Greek pensioners are making a rational choice by moving to Bulgaria, the financial news agency Bloomberg said in a review of the phenomenon. In 2017, according to Eurostat data, Greece’s cost of living was almost double Bulgaria’s, which is the lowest in the 28-country EU bloc.
One cited in the report, with only his first name of George given, a 75-year-old, said after his wife died five years ago, said he moved from Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, and moved to Bulgaria’s capital of Sofia, where his slashed pension, now at 800 euros ($908.42), allows him to “live like a king,” he said, instead of trying to eke out an existence in his troubled homeland.
“Of course there are difficulties with adjusting and friends,” he said, not wanting to give his last name, fearful of Greek tax officials. “But with the money I have, I can return to Greece often, and I also have the opportunity to travel,” he said.
While the report wasn’t able to quantify the number, it ticked off how much cheaper commodities are in Bulgaria, making the country attractive for struggling Greek pensioners.
Gasoline costs 1.15 euros ($1.31) per liter in Sofia, compared with about 1.60 euros ($1.82) in Athens; a home Espresso coffee costs 2.30 euros ($2.61) while the same brand in Greece has a 4.70-euro ($5.13) price tag; a metro ticket costs 80 cents (90.84 cents) compared with 1.40 euros ($1.59.) Cell phone charges are half those in Greece.
“In general, life is 30 percent cheaper than in Greece, and that’s if you choose to stay in Sofia, Burgas or Plovdiv,” said George. “In smaller towns or villages, life is even cheaper.”