As a Bulgarian who loves to travel, I have been asked some ridiculous questions from people I’ve met along the way. I often get questions like, “Is Bulgaria a tropical island?” and “Do Bulgarians have TVs in their homes?”
Generally, Bulgarians are very warm people, and they can cope with many stereotypes and ignorant questions, but there are some things that can easily upset us. So if you really want to get on the nerves of a Bulgarian, follow this advice.
Talk about politics.
While in Bulgaria, or in the Balkans in general, it’s better to avoid talking politics. People are very passionate about this topic, and you never know who you will offend. A true Bulgarian seems to know everything about governing a country, and is a real political expert, so better not mess with that.
Ask us what language we speak.
Okay — I understand you don’t have to know this, but Bulgarians are very proud of their language. Not knowing that the official language is Bulgarian can make some people pretty mad.
Ignore the fact that the Cyrillic alphabet was invented in Bulgaria.
There are many people who claim that the Bulgarians “borrowed” the alphabet from Russia because — let’s face it — who would ever think the Cyrillic originated in a small country like ours? However, the early Cyrillic alphabet was developed in the First Bulgarian Empire by Cyril and his brother Methodius.
Leave your shoes on when you go inside a house.
If you happen to visit a Bulgarian family, you need to ask for permission to leave your shoes on. In most homes it isn’t acceptable to enter the house with shoes on your feet. The host might not tell you straight away, but be assured they will be pissed off when cleaning up the mess you left.
Scarf down your meal at dinner or lunch.
Bulgarian people like to enjoy, and prolong, their dining experience. When you’re out at a restaurant, it isn’t all about the food — it’s mainly a social experience where you just happen to be drinking and eating. It usually lasts more than two hours. If you’re visiting a family in their home, prepare yourself for even more time at the table.
Mix up the yes/no head shake.
In Bulgaria, nodding your head up and down means NO, and shaking your head sideways indicates YES. Do not try to tell us it’s the other way around, because we are pretty sure our way IS the right way. Practice this before traveling to our country (you’ll thank me later).
Imply that some of our national heroes and historic figures are Macedonians.
Now, this is a sensitive topic for both countries. It leads to the first point again, where it’s better not to talk politics. I will say, though: We may have some issues with the Macedonians, but deep down inside we love each other. This article was originally published on May 15, 2014.