Georgi Bonev, Lenovo: I could say that in Bucharest I lived some of the best feelings in this world
"Bucharest is the place where I saw my daughter growing, making her first steps, telling her first words. I could say that here I lived some of the best feelings in this world, and that's why I will always have a special connection with this city." - Georgi Bonev, CSEE Marketing Lead for Motorola, Lenovo.
A mix between an immense passion for photography & adventure and a successful professional life helped Bulgarian Georgi Bonev discover many new and exciting places all around the world. He lived in Germany and South Korea but also got to travel to Papua New Guinea, Central Asia, or Africa.
Today he is living in Romania - the country he has heard a lot about from a Romanian friend he met while studying in South Korea. Bucharest became his new home almost five years ago when he joined the Lenovo team, and since then, he got to discover more of the country and its people, both during business and leisure travels.
After years of being an expat in Bucharest, he says Romania is not only a well-developed country in terms of digitalization but also a place with beautiful natural landscapes and warm-hearted, honest, and friendly people.
"Romania changed me professionally and continues to set high stakes with every launch we have, which is a very competitive market. On a personal level, I lived the pandemic here, so without questions, it helped me to discover new passions," Georgi Bonev told Romania-insider.com.
But his favorite city remains Bucharest, the place where he saw his daughter grow, where he lived "some of the best feelings in this world."
In an e-mail interview, Georgi Bonev has talked to Romania-insider.com about his experience as an expat in Romania, but also about his great interest in photography & travel and the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on traveling.
Tell us a bit about your background by mentioning the countries where you have lived.
I was for 4 years in Germany as part of my bachelor's degree. For a short time, I moved back to Bulgaria before I reallocated to South Korea. I spent there 4 years. During my stay, I graduated with an MBA and joined the Global Marketing Team of a leading consumer electronics company. Then, I moved back to my homeland for about 5 years. In 2015 I left my job to pursue a personal photography project dedicated to tribes who live outside of the modern world as we know it. My adventures brought me to Papua New Guinea, Central Asia, Africa for 14 months. In the summer of 2016, I reallocated to Bucharest, and a few months later, I joined the Motorola team.
What is your favorite place in the world, from those you have visited, and why?
There is a long list of places with huge positive meaning for me. However, If I have to list one, then this should definitely be my family home in Sofia (BG). It is always a great experience to sit down with my extended family and enjoy our time together.
How did you felt about not traveling in the last year due to the pandemic? And how you feel about returning to travel – what concerns do you have?
When the COVID-19 pandemic halted travel around the globe, I thought that it would only last 3 or 4 months. My business travels, my passion for photography, and my constant desire for adventures made me travel a lot, so I could not imagine how it's like to stay in the same place for a year. Before the pandemic, I spent 15 to 20 days traveling per month. I must admit that this was challenging, considering I wanted to have more active time with my little kid.
The pandemic taught me several positive things.
Thanks to the technology, I was able to keep in touch with my family and friends, located in all corners of the globe. Remote work became the new norm, and I had figured out how to be a productive & successful leader while been far from my team.
Furthermore, instead of spending 1.5~2hrs a day committing, I could use this time to micro-adventures. I thought to myself, "What if I explore my neighborhood within a 5 km radius?" This covered an area of 80 sq km. And there was a big forest right next to my home. In 2020, I managed to visit Baneasa forest 147 times, which translates to 2020 km. There I met: deer, foxes, rabbits, wild boars, hawks, owls, and various other birds and thousands of insects, wood mouses, and on few occasions, aesculapian snakes. Those quick visits to nature between calls made me cope with the stress much better. Micro adventures pounded my first steps in the outdoor with my little kid. We learned to appreciate every second of our father-daughter time in the wilderness.
And the technology-enabled me to capture those dear moments with the smartphone camera, listen to favorite songs & podcasts, and check on my health metrics.
In 2021 I ponder on the idea of sustainable tourism. What would it take me to minimize the CO2 impact on the planet?
How long have you been in Romania and what brought you here? What is your main activity here?
In October 2016, I joined Lenovo to lead its Mobile Business Group Marketing team in South-Eastern Europe. In the beginning, I was managing 12 countries. However, our region is overperforming and growing. Today, my territory starts from Austria, covers all Balkan countries, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, and stretches to Ukraine. It's a fairly large & complex region.
Can you describe, from a business perspective, the cultural differences between Europe and Asia?
It will be unfair to think that there is such thing as European culture or Asian. The reason is that languages, food, history, customs, people determine each culture. And on both continents, we have a huge variety. Nevertheless, people in Asia tend to be more collectivistic. This means all belief in success as a part of a group. Hence, the role of the family, the teachers, the work in a team is extremely important. The more west we move around the globe, the more individualistic people are. Also, when making a decision, western societies tend to focus on logic, and often people see things as binary (for example, black or white, right or wrong, good or bad). In Asia, emotions play a vital role. And oftentimes, this leads to huge confusion when a westerner is dealing with people from Asia. On the other hand, to consider that kind of thinking is wrong is too extreme. After all, there are 4.6 billion people in Asia, and many of them follow those principles. Everyone just needs to be more open-minded and respect the other side.
What was your main challenge when arriving in Romania? How did you overcome it? What are the similarities with Bulgaria, the country you were born in?
Bulgarians and Romanians have much more in common than we think. Food is somehow similar, we share many common words, the behavior of consumers is similar too. In both countries, people prefer established brands. Maybe one major difference that I notice is that in Bulgaria we have more small-size companies. For example, if you walk down the street in Sofia or any other city, you will see many family own shops. In Romania there are more large multinational companies, for example, you can see an international supermarket almost on every corner in Bucharest.
Please describe your first encounter with Romania.
For me, the first meeting with Romania is when I met Alex in South Korea. He was my roommate when both of us studied MBA there. Gradually we discovered so many common things between our own countries and cultures. And it's no surprise that he remains my best friend ever since.
Upon my arrival in Romania, I discovered so many warm-hearted, honest, and friendly people.
How has Romania changed since you first arrived?
I believe that change is permanent, philosophically said the only constant in life changes. We all face changes every day, and this is an integral part of our personal development. It depends on each one of us what we take from each experience we live. For me, the last years were fulfilled, from a personal point of view, but also professionally. As I said, the Motorola brand is present in the Romanian market since 2016, and the last 5 years were a path of rediscovery, which required a lot of construction and involvement. We've set-up the team, tied our connections with our partners – telecom operators and retailers, we've established the brand as a trusted and innovative mid-tier smartphone producer, and we are now building on the future, focusing our efforts on foldable phones, 5G technology, our e-commerce platform and merging our extended portfolio with flagship devices. So, yes, Romania changed me professionally and continues to set high stakes with every launch we have, which is a very competitive market.
On a personal level, I lived the pandemic here, so without questions, it helped me discover new passions.
Would you recommend Romania as a country to live in or to visit? Please explain your answer.
I don't like to give absolute sentences, and I think that choosing where to live is a personal matter… sometimes impacted by the business you are in. I think that everyone should travel as much as possible because it is the single way to find which place suits you best. Living abroad has its challenges. If anyone shared that it's butter smooth, then probably exaggerates. However, I find the weather, food, people, nature well matching with my preference.
What are the three things you like most about Romania and why?
First and foremost, I will mention technology. Romania is a well-developed country in terms of digitalization. Most Romanians' are fully embracing the digital transformation, buying more devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, that enable them to access the Internet and its digital tools. Romanians have informed users, tech-savvy, and they are constantly daring the brands that are activating on this market. Nevertheless, 5G coverage has become better and better and will take its full speed this year.
Then I like the joy of life that you find here. And the irony, the sarcastic humor with which Romanians communicate around events and people.
The third reason it should be natural, the beautiful natural landscapes you can find here.
What don't you like in Romania and what would you change here?
Most probably, like any other Romanian, I would say that the infrastructure lack is something that we are all experiencing in a bad way. And it also holds you back from visiting Romania and knowing the local customs. Whenever you think that the weekend can be a true gateway to discover a new place and to explore the country's culture, you can find yourself in the position of spending too much time in your car, in a traffic jam. From another perspective, maybe the infrastructure lack is the one that offers a special feeling through Romania's wild side, as there are still so many unexplored places, uninhabited, that are hard to reach for most people. And that helps them stay unique and pristine. Luckily for me, I have a constant desire for secret places that await to be discovered.
What is your favorite place in Romania and why?
Romania has many places which are worth to be discovered. Due to Motorola's market visits, I could see all the big cities in Romania and this is a blast. But I would say that my favorite city is Bucharest, as it is my home for almost 5 years and it's also close to my parental home, as I'm just 5 hours away from Sofia. Bucharest is the place where I saw my daughter growing, making her first steps, telling her first words. I could say that here I lived some of the best feelings in this world, and that's why I will always have a special connection with this city.
What advice would you give to a foreigner that comes to Romania to live as an expat?
Just be open to NO experiences! Romanian people are open to others, they are willing to meet new people and understand them; if you don't activate boundaries in terms of discovering a new culture, it will be easy to integrate. Many people speak English, so this makes everything easy. Romania is a beautiful country that offers various landscapes and a lot of outgoing places in the woods, mountains, seaside, Danube Delta and everything else you'd like to visit. Also, it reminds me so often about Bulgaria, as they are similar on several points.
If you'd like to move to a new country, or actually in Romania, just find something to do there, like work or volunteering, or whatever you'd love to do to meet new people; this will help you integrate with the community and find out their way of living. Also, say YES to experiences, listen to your intuition, and embrace the change that comes into your life. Just keep in mind that each path comes with challenges; accept them, embrace them, understand them, and go further!
Please share other important info with us to cover your interest in traveling and photography.
My life in Asia taught me to appreciate every moment of my life and have a hobby to inspire me. This is how I developed a strong passion for photography & indigenous cultures. In 2014 I went for a test project to Ethiopia, where I made my first voyage in the world of tribes. It was fabulous. After this experience, I organized my next expeditions to Papua New Guinea, Mongolia and Morocco. In all these places, I lived together with the tribes to get to know them better and deep dive into their culture. Only by doing so could I capture the tribes with my camera at their best. The life-philosophy of all tribes is very simple and appealing to me. They focus on the family, community wellbeing, and happiness. I feel those people represent what the origin of modern humans is, and they can remind us of what are the important things in life.
(Photo source: courtesy of Georgi Bonev)