Patience and amicable relationships are crucial to success when doing business in Bulgaria. Knowledge of attitudes and values is essential in order to communicate effectively with your counterparts. Learn more about the Bulgarian business etiquette, how to build good business relationships and get to know the Bulgarian meaning of a nod (means “no”).
In Bulgaria, punctuality is much valued and expected in business relations. If you are going to be late, it is advisable to call your business partner and explain the reasons.
The business dress code is similar to that of other European countries and depends primarily on the industry and working environment. In some businesses less formal dress code is possible, but still always in an appropriate manner. Men are expected to wear suits and women similarly formal business attire; conservative, yet stylish clothing, is preferred.
Know your business partner
Bulgarians like to do business face-to-face and it is important to visit local partners and customers in person to get to know each other and build a lasting relationship. If communication is limited to e-mails only, it will not be well-received and will not have the desired effect. Many Bulgarians are direct but it is important to pay attention to non-verbal signs of communication and sometimes ask the same question a number of times, to see if the response changes. Bulgarians use a number of understatements when they do not like something or are unhappy with a situation. They also have a high appreciation for humour and can often have a self-deprecating attitude.While communicating, they tend to make a lot of gestures and clearly show their emotions in facial expressions. However, the demonstration of intense emotions at the workplace is considered as unprofessional.
What a nod actually means in Bulgaria
Please note that Bulgarians have different head gestures to indicate ‘no’ and ‘yes’ compared to other cultures, such that shaking your head from side to side signifies ‘yes’ and an up and down movement means ‘no’. Most Bulgarians maintain eye contact while talking, which indicates sincerity, friendliness and respect. Bulgarians usually stand close together at arm’s length when they are talking to one another. Normally, they shake hands when meeting and maintain direct eye contact. With business partners and colleagues, it is appropriate to keep a moderate amount of space when speaking.
How to name someone
Mr and Mrs are the titles used during formal occasions and when meeting someone for the first time, but it is not uncommon to be called by your first name and formality lessens as time goes on. It is normal to exchange business cards at the beginning of a business meeting. The use of formal titles is mainly limited to the workplace and even in situations where the person is highly-regarded, they might prefer to be addressed by their given name.
Table manners tend to be casual, although there are some rules that ought to be respected. When invited to sit down at the table, wait for the host to show you to your seat and allow the most senior person to begin proceedings, even if you are the guest of honour. The customary toast is ‘Nazdrave’, which means ‘good health’ and it’s very important to not only say it to the whole table, but also to every person while making eye contact.