Aylyak is an untranslatable Bulgarian word* that could roughly be defined as:
“The art of not giving a sh*t, doing everything at a relaxed pace and not worrying at all”.
The aylyak lifestyle originated in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-biggest city, where it has been practiced intensely for decades. If the definition appeals to you, we encourage you to indulge in a little aylyak no matter where in the world you are. Here’s our complete guide to the aylyak lifestyle.
[*in fact, aylak is the Turkish word for ‘idle’. The meaning Bulgarians attribute to it, however, is far more complicated and represents a way of life rather than a momentary condition.]
Don’t hurry. Seriously, don’t. Ever.
The residents of Plovdiv are famous for taking long, leisurely walks back and forth along their main pedestrian street, Alexander I. If you sit at one of the sidewalk cafes and try to remember the faces of the passers-by, you might be surprised that you can actually do it because people keep on passing again and again. If there’s a job that needs to be done, it can be, of course, postponed.
In fact, the only aspect of life in Plovdiv that seems rushed or stressful is the driving. Slow and relaxed while they walk, Plovdiv dwellers turn into wild beasts as soon as they get behind the wheel of their car. You may be honked at, shouted at and brutalized in many ways on the road, but always keep in mind that these are the same humble people whose faces you remembered earlier in the cafe.
Take advantage of the weather
Plovdiv is notorious for its sizzling summers, when you can expect the temperature to stay above 84°F (29°C) until midnight. Then and only then can you comfortably hit the street and enjoy the nightlife under the stars (Kapana art district and the old town are the two best places to do it).
So what should you do to pass the time during these sweltering days? Simple: aylyak (a.k.a., savoring craft beers, napping, reading, talking to friends on the phone). Repeat in winter (substituting beer for mulled wine).
Keep calm when you feel irritated
If only! In fact, Bulgarians are not very good at ignoring the annoyances around them; they feel personally obliged to respond loudly to every single thing they don’t like. Yet somehow they still manage to practice the zen-like lifestyle of aylyak. Are you confused now? As you can see, aylyak is a very complex concept…
Aylyak and mañana
There’s a famous Bulgarian joke that pretty much explains it all.
A Bulgarian asks a Spaniard:
– What does “mañana, mañana” mean?
– It’s when your life is mainly drinking wine, relaxing, eating good food, and having loads of fun. And what is aylyak?
– The same but without all this tension.
If you are not familiar with Bulgarian culture, you might also be interested to learn that the residents of Plovdiv are known for their excessive use of another Plovdiv-born word: “mayna” (pronounced my-nah). This is even harder to translate as it can stand for almost any part of the sentence, ranging from “bro” to “I can’t believe it!”, “get away” or “good luck”, just to name a few.
You’ll gain plenty of respect from a Plovdiv resident if you say: “Aylyak, mayna”, which means “I’m relaxed and worry-free, and I don’t care for anything in this world” (and I know how to say it in Bulgarian!).