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Bulgaria Customs & Etiquettes


Most Bulgarians are born into the Bulgarian Orthodox church. The Church has long played a role in retaining a sense of being "Bulgarian", acting as the default support system under Ottoman and Communist rule. Despite Communist attempts the Church held firm and upon the fall of the Soviet Union and the Communist Party in Bulgaria the church experienced a revival – religious holidays were celebrated again, baptisms and church weddings gained in popularity.

The family is the fundamental social unit and much of society is based around it. Families still tend to be extended rather than nucleur. Several generations may still all be found under the same roof. The family is generally very close and forms large networks of mutual assistance and support.

A common characteristic of strong family orientated societies is that they tend to also have hierarchical structures with corresponding rules of behaviours that enforce people's roles. In Bulgaria respect and honour is given to people with age and position. In normal social situations this is manifest where the oldest in the group is greeted first, accorded a title, served first or offered the best food at the table. With such perks also come responsibilities, for example they would be responsible for making decisions for the group.

Bulgarians are very proud of their culture and heritage. Stories and folklore still form an important part of life where legends and traditions and are passed between the generations. These are also captured in poetic songs, rituals, music, dance, costumes and jewellery.

Meeting & Greeting

• Bulgaria, on the face of it, is still a fairly formal and conservative society - initial greetings are therefore formal and reserved.
• Greetings consist of a firm handshake, direct eye contact and the appropriate greeting for the time of day.
• Address people with their titles (if you know them) or with Mr "Gospodin"/ Mrs "Gospozha" followed by the surname.
• Only friends and family address each other with first names and possibly a hug or kiss.
• One should always wait for their Bulgarian counterparts to determine when it is appropriate to become this informal.

Gift Giving

• Gifts are generally exchanged at Christmas, birthdays and when invited to someone's house.
• The general rule for gift giving is that it more about the thought than value – in fact do not give overly expensive gifts as this may cause the recipient embarrassment.
• When going to a Bulgarian's home for dinner take bring flowers for the hostess and a bottle of good spirits for the host.
• If taking flowers avoid chrysanthemums, lilies or gladiolas as they are used at funerals. Also ensure there are an odd number of stems.
• If giving a gift to a newborn only give an odd number of presents.
• Gifts are generally opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

Table manners in Bulgaria could be considered casual, but there are certain rules of etiquette that should be followed.

• When invited to sit at the dining table wait to be shown your seat.
• Napkins should be left folded next to the plate. If others unfold them and place them on their laps, do the same – you will be at a more formal meal.
• Wait for the hostess to give the green light before starting to eat.
• Although you may be the guest of honour it is polite to insist the eldest person at the table starts proceedings.
• Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible at all times.
• Eating more food shows appreciation for it, so on the initial serving take little to allow you a second serving.
• Glasses will always be refilled – leave a mouthful at the bottom of your glass if you don't want more.




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