This paper uses an ethnological perspective to explore the experiences of ethnic Bulgarian and Rudari workers at home and in Mediterranean countries, focusing on how they cope with the challenges of living and working in different socio-economic and cultural settings, and how this dynamic affects their social organization. Greece became a preferred destination for Bulgarian citizens immediately after 1989; while Spain became more attractive in the late 1990s. Some ethnic Bulgarians and Rudari are temporary migrants who eventually return to Bulgaria, while others turn from labour migrants into immigrants settling permanently in the host country and adjusting to the Spanish and Greek ‘way of life’. Both groups have developed similar migration strategies in Spain and Greece, but their patterns of social adaptation in these countries have ethnic specificities. These are mainly the various ways of connecting and interacting with the foreign populations, the forms of inter-communal social organisations, and their impact on migrant communities. Because of the communities’ development in both countries, ethnic Bulgarians and Rudari introduced various collective integration strategies to establish associations and schools by which they tried to position and shape their traditional relationships within the new society, while considering that this would be a way for successful integration.
The paper also discusses the specific ways in which the relationships between the members of the Bulgarian citizens’ communities within the Spanish and Greek society have been shaped differently. The reasons for this difference in patterns of the Rudari social positioning among the Bulgarian community in Spain and Greece should be sought in the different migratory contexts and in the higher or lower degree of social integration achieved by Rudari within Bulgarian communities. The migration shifts lead in the end to a new picture of ethnic Bulgarian and Rudari presence in Spain and Greece. Insights from this study will help deal with issues related to the Gypsy and Bulgarian migrations in contemporary Europe.