Business Culture in Bulgaria
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Business Culture in Bulgaria is characterised through: business communication, business etiquette, business meeting etiquette, internship and student placements, cost of living,work-life-balance and social media guide
Bulgaria is situated in south-eastern Europe, within the north-east part of the Balkans. It borders Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and the Black Sea. Bulgaria is at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The territory that is now Bulgaria was a battlefield for some of the earliest civilizations all over Europe. The First Bulgarian state was established in 681AD, after the unification of the Bulgarian tribes coming from Central Asia and the local Slav tribes. The introduction of a common religion, language and alphabet united ethnically and culturally diverse peoples and developed the Bulgarian national consciousness. The history of the country is rich in the struggle for political hegemony in south-eastern Europe and independence from the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. In 1908, Bulgaria reached complete independence from the Ottoman Empire. In 1946, the state was declared a republic, under the political and economic dominance of the USSR.
The democratic changes began at the end of 1989, once multiparty elections were instituted and a new constitution was put into effect. Bulgaria then started the transition to a market economy governed by a parliamentary democracy. Bulgaria has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1991; it joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.
The Bulgarian population was 6.8 million people in 2022. The Bulgarian ethnic group amounts to almost 85% of the population, followed by the Turkish ethnic group at 8.8% and the Roma at 4.9%. The main religion is Christianity with 76% of the population members of the Eastern Orthodox Church; a further 10% of the population follow the Islamic faith.
The capital of Bulgaria is Sofia and the country is divided into 28 territorial provinces. More than 72% of the Bulgarian population lives in the urban areas. Bulgaria is a small open economy. The GDP composition by sector is more than 63% for services, 31% for industry and more than 5% for agriculture. The country has a stable currency, maintained by a currency board, which has pegged the Bulgarian Lev to the Euro at the rate of 1.96.
Bulgaria is also a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its main trading partners are member states of the European Union. Exports to Germany, Italy, Greece, Romania, Belgium and France account for two-thirds of overall exports to the EU. Bulgaria’s main trading partners from outside of the EU are Turkey, Russia, Serbia, and the Republic of Macedonia. Key exports include apparel, iron and steel, footwear, machinery and equipment; while imports are primarily machinery and equipment, fuels, minerals, raw materials, metals and ores, chemicals and plastics.
Bulgaria has a temperate continental climate, where winters are cold with high humidity and summers are hot and dry with a Mediterranean influence in the south.
Bulgaria is located in the Eastern European Time Zone and adheres to CET (UTC+2) during the winter and EST (UTC+3) during the summer.
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Xenophobia: being a foreigner in Bulgaria
In general, Bulgarians are very hospitable, friendly and helpful, although they may seem more serious than most Europeans at first. Many of them speak foreign languages and appreciate foreign visitors, so they can be really good company. Bulgarians also accept foreigners well as business partners, as they consider them to be experienced and trustworthy.
More than 50% of Bulgarians perceive that numbers of immigrants in Bulgaria are quite low and do not represent a threat to their jobs. However, there are also major concerns that immigrants will compete for jobs and may contribute to crime escalation, as well as overwhelm the social security system. The impact of immigrants on national culture is not considered to be a threat to Bulgarian society and Bulgarians foster the preservation of their customs and traditions. Bulgarians have high levels of intolerance towards the Roma people, homosexuals, and immigrants to a lesser extent. However, most Bulgarians consider that immigration has both positive and negative impacts on the country.
Successful business requires good knowledge of the foreign country culture. You have to be prepared to encounter different attitudes and beliefs that influence the business decisions. This section is intended to provide the basic ‘ground rules’ for doing business in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian population is well educated, with approximately 80% of the working-age population having secondary or higher education. The education system in Bulgaria has two main stages, from grade 1 to 4 and from grade 5 to 8. Children usually enter the education system at the age of 7 and, after finishing 8th grade, choose a high school from one of three types: comprehensive, profile-oriented (language and maths) and vocational (technical) schools. Typically, the length of a high school program is 4 or 5 years, according to the type of school.
More than 200,000 students study at universities and specialised state and private higher schools.. In line with the general EU trend, the biggest numbers of students are studying subjects related to business administration and public relations, followed by industry and construction, and then the humanities, arts and medicine.
Education is the fundamental right of every citizen in Bulgaria. Every child is mandatory to go to school from pre-school till the age of 16. The standard of education in Bulgaria is quite high.
The education system in Bulgaria is opening up to the world and the needs of a knowledge based economy. The teaching of foreign languages is introduced from an early age in kindergartens and schools. Most educational institutions have good computer facilities and broadband Internet connection. The academic staff is being enriched by young specialists who are educated abroad. Bulgarian universities are opening up to foreign students. Courses that are taught in English are being introduced in many universities.
People wishing to study in Bulgaria or to enrol their children should contact the relevant embassies or consulate offices in their home country, or the Bulgarian Ministry of education, science and youth.
Transport and Infrastructure
The public transportation network is well developed in Bulgaria and you can reach most Bulgarian cities and villages by bus. There are bus lines that are operated by both private companies and the state, whose schedules can be found at bus stations in the major cities. The schedule for buses travelling from the capital Sofia to all other destinations in the country can be found at: http://www.centralnaavtogara.bg/
International bus routes connect Bulgaria to the majority of European cities. You can buy a ticket from company offices, the carriers themselves, bus stations, tourist agencies, as well as on the internet.
Bulgarian State Railways provides both passenger and freight services, connecting cities and towns across the country. Train tickets are available to buy at the railway stations and it is preferable to be at the station at least 40 minutes before the departure of the train. Information regarding the railway network is available at the following internet address: http://bdz.bg/index-en.php
Local transportation outside the capital city is usually by bus or trolley-bus. The price varies in the different cities; however, the bus or trolley ticket is rarely above 1 Lev (0.50 euro).
Taxis are expensive, with a base rate of 1 Lev per journey and a distance charge of 0.79 Leva per kilometre in the capital city. In the rest of the country, where the distances travelled by taxi are shorter, prices are higher.
Bulgaria has four international airports, in Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv and Burgas. Sofia airport has two terminals and can be reached from the centre by bus, taxi or car. More information on the services offered can be found at:
Bulgaria has water borders along the Danube River and the Black Sea. Varna and Burgas are the two most important sea ports.
There are no specific taboos in Bulgaria. However, Bulgarians have a fairly conservative attitude towards homosexuality. There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples in Bulgaria. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is forbidden in the areas of employment, housing, education and the provision of goods and services. Bulgarians compare favourably to other European countries in terms of racial attitudes. There are people of Cuban and African descent in the country and they may provoke more interest in regions outside the capital, Sofia.
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