Good Manners in Bulgaria
Around 7 million tourists from the UK, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia annually visit Bulgaria to savour the many delights that it has to offer. Aside from the cultural delights of Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, the country has an amazing array of historical sites and architecture, some dating back as far as the 3500 BC. Bulgaria is home to no less than nine UNESCO world heritage sites. In winter Bulgaria is a popular destination for skiers, and the summer sees tourists flocking to the resorts situated by the Black Sea. So as you’d imagine, Bulgarians are very proud of their cultural heritage.
Therefore, when visiting this beautiful country, you’d be expected to treat these cultural and historical landmarks with respect. The same also goes for the Bulgarian people – by learning a few fundamental facts about Bulgarian social etiquette, you should have no problems fitting in, making for a thoroughly enjoyable and trouble-free stay in Bulgaria.
The Basics Of Bulgarian CultureLike many countries around the world, in Bulgaria the family unit and family values are an important part of Bulgarian life and society. There is a basic assumption that family members, especially seniors, should be treated with respect and dignity. Should you find yourself being introduced to your Bulgarian counterpart’s family, always make sure to meet and greet respectfully.
In Bulgaria, conservative traditions are still abundant, so a formal handshake and an appropriate salutation for the time of day is the most appropriate gesture. If you are not introduced to the group as a whole, make sure to shake hands and greet the most senior members present first. Use honorific titles if they are known, or if not, address a man as “Gospodin” (Mr) or a woman as “Gospozha” (Mrs.) followed by their surname. Men and women may kiss on the cheeks, but your Bulgarian host should only ever initiate this sort of informal greeting.
The Bulgarian Orthodox church is also an important part of Bulgarian culture, having remained an important aspect of Bulgarian life despite years of Communist rule. Some churches, such as the Boyana Church in Sofia, are open to admission for the general public. As a tourist, sensitivity and appropriateness should abound. If you are planning on visiting a church, make sure to dress conservatively. Also, before taking your camera, it is good manners to make sure that photography is allowed before snapping away.
DiningWhen visiting Bulgaria, whether on business or pleasure you may be invited into the home of a Bulgarian for dinner. If this is the case, you should be aware of a few points of social etiquette. Firstly, it is good etiquette to bring a gift for your host. Flowers (with an odd number of stems) and spirits are appropriate, and you needn’t be too decadent. It is important that you appear to have put a lot of thought into the gift giving, rather than opting for something overly extravagant.
You should also be aware that if family members are present at the meal, you should be aware that most senior person present will be served first. As a guest you may be invited to start first, however it would be good manners to insist that the most elderly person at the table should begin. So no tucking into your food without being invited to do so by your host!
Generally, Bulgarian meals will be full of chatter, and table manners are not overtly formal. However, despite the otherwise casual nature of Bulgarian dining, you should still make sure that your elbows don’t rest on the table and that your hands are always on show.
The general consensus is also that a smaller portion of food is served first, so that you are able to accept a second helping. This shows that you are enjoying the food and that your host has provided plentiful amounts of food.