Character traits

Cultural specifics

Bulgarians are hospitable and good-willed by nature and character. This however does not become immediately obvious. When meeting someone new, Bulgarians usually shake hands and keep direct eye contact. The direct eye to eye contact during a conversation is an expression of honesty and openness. Each rule has its exceptions though. Thus for example prolonged staring during communication between men and women can be considered as an expression of interest.

Personal space and contact vary depending on the type of relationships. Hugging is more useful among friends or family members. Women, who are friends, usually greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. If they meet for the first time, they usually shake hands. When communicating with unknown people or someone from the other gender, certain distance is usually kept.[1] In friendly or family environment, Bulgarians usually make close contact – touching, tapping, hugging. It is particularly interesting that nodding, which for most other peoples is a confirmation, means “no” in Bulgaria and shaking your head means “yes”. This is a cultural specific that is very perplexing for foreigners, speaking to Bulgarians.

Bulgarians’ “yes” and “no” expressed with head movements. Own work.

In a formal setting, in Bulgaria it is accepted that formal forms are used when turning to someone. These are You, Your and Yours. In such cases are also used the lexical expressions – Mister, Mrs, Miss.[2] It is not unusual to address someone formally and use their first name at the same time. The use of formal addresses is mainly limited to the working place, and in many situations, even people of high status, prefer to be addressed by their first name. It is important that a suitable expression is used, depending on the time during the day when the conversation takes place: “good morning”, “good day”, “good evening”. During events with official nature it would be better if the greeting is followed by the family name of the party we are addressing (if it is known to us). Formality in communication between people, who have met more than once, gradually lessens.

The addresses Mr/Mrs are used during official events and business meetings or when you meet someone for the first time. As far as business meetings, coming to work and meeting deadlines are concerned, Bulgarians value punctuality very much. The situation is much more different when we speak of non-formal meetings and social engagements. Bulgarians are often late for such meetings. Dinners usually take one or two hours. When the occasion is special though, they can spend 4-5 hours. Bulgarians are talkative. The conversations usually take place in a higher tone of voice and with constant gesturing with hands. When looked from the side, it sometimes seems they are fighting for something. The conversation usually ends up in a friendly manner. The closer the people are the more animated their conversation is. They sometimes argue but never take these arguments personally.[3]

[1] Cultural specifics of business in 31 European countries. In: Passport to trade 2.0 [online]

[2] Jonova, Marina. Levels of Degrees of politeness in the official speech. In: Rhetoric and communication [online

[3] Greetings and non-verbal customs in our countries [online]

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