Business etiquette

Bulgaria flagAttitudes and values  reflect the ways people  think and behave. Knowledge of attitudes and values can therefore be of significant importance if you wish to communicate with your counterparts effectively.

Corporate Social Responsibility

There has been rising interest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Bulgaria over the last decade. Companies have become more conscious about their influence on the environment and contribution to society as a whole. They have started to implement CSR principles and policies in order to become more competitive in the realisation that CSR has a considerable impact on social unity, transparency and trust among the different stakeholders.

Through sponsorship and charity involvement, Bulgarian companies seek to demonstrate their commitment towards their employees, everyday problems and concerns of the environment. Over 40% of companies now participate in charity and social activities. CSR projects and initiatives are highly promoted and most of them are organized on a partnership basis, as a way of attracting broad interest from companies, the media and the non-governmental sector.


In Bulgaria, punctuality is valued and expected in business circumstances. If you are going to be late, it is advisable to call ahead and explain the reasons. If you are going to be late to a social event, it is still a good idea to call ahead; even though there is more flexibility in what time you might be expected to arrive. When Bulgarians go out with friends, they try to take their time and enjoy each other’s’ company, so dinners usually last a couple of hours.

The travel time required depends on the location and although transportation is becoming more reliable, there could be delays. In big cities, buses are usually every 2 to 3 minutes, but can be as much as 15 to 20 minutes apart during weekends.

The extension of metro lines 1 and 2 in Sofia has improved public transportation and journey times in the capital city have become quicker and more reliable. Since the two metro lines connect several remote neighbourhoods to the city centre, the use of taxis or cars is decreasing. The metro lines connect major residential areas with universities and major business locations and travel time to the centre is about 10 to 12 minutes. An extension of the metro to Sofia Airport and the city’s main business park is expected to be completed in 2014.

Gift Giving

In Bulgaria, statistics show growth in the corporate gift market at 20% annually. Firms give gifts mainly on big national and Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and St. George’s Day.

As corruption is widespread, giving gifts when doing business is a delicate matter. It is better to give an ‘original’ gift instead of an expensive one, which could be perceived in a number of different ways. Among the most conventional gifts are branded office materials, such as promotional notepads, pens, corporate calendars, organizers, post-it notes, clocks and ashtrays. Another traditional gift is a bottle of fine wine, sometimes combined with wine- glasses, a bottle rack or box of luxury accessories (a thermometer, corkscrew, stopper), as well as luxury chocolates or some sort of dessert. Gifts should be relative to the social status and highly respected clients should receive more attention and a more personal gift. For company employees’ personal occasions, gifts such as vouchers, tours or flowers are given. Gifts are usually opened right away.

Business Dress Code

The business dress code is similar to that of other countries and depends primarily on the industry and working environment. In some businesses less formal attire is permissible, but wearing revealing or provocative clothing is highly unacceptable. Men are expected to wear suits and women similarly formal business attire; conservative yet stylish conservative clothing is preferred.

Bribery and Corruption

The Bulgarian economy offers a number of advantages and disadvantages to people who consider establishing a business there. One of the weaknesses is the still unresolved problem with bribery and corruption, as highlighted by the Perceived Corruption Index in the public sector. In 2012, Bulgaria scored 41, a slightly better score compared to neighbouring Greece (36) and Albania (33). Major recommendations of the European Commission for Bulgaria included the achievement of visible results in the fight against corruption, increased efficiency through the adoption of more active measures by public institutions, increased effectiveness of the legislative framework and transparency with regard to nominations for key positions. Business corruption is becoming less and less common, since entrepreneurs and companies have stopped paying ‘taxes’ to government officials for various undisclosed services. Bulgaria is in fourth place in the EU with respect to corruption at personal level and many Bulgarians who deal with doctors, police officers or other institutions offer money, a gift or a favour, in order to receive a faster and better service.

Find out more about business culture in Bulgaria: