1.1 Macedonian business culture
Located in South-eastern Europe, in the heart of the Balkan peninsula, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is one of the smallest countries among its neighbours covering an area of 25,714 km². The territory of FYROM is surrounded by mountains punctuated by valleys and is landlocked between Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Kosovo. The river Vardar, the largest in the FYROM, bisects the country.
The population of the country is over 2 million with half commuting to the capital city, Skopje, during the week. There are diverse ethnic groups: Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Vlachs, Roma, Serbian etc. The largest among them are Macedonian (67 per cent) and Albanian (22 per cent). The Macedonian language belongs to the South Slavic group of languages. In written communication the Cyrillic alphabet, consisting of 31 letters, is used.
Approximately 65% of the inhabitants declare themselves to be Orthodox whilst 33% are Muslims.
The climate is Mediterranean. Summer and autumn are hot and dry whilst winter is relatively cold and wet.
FYROM is in the time zone of UTC+1. However, during the summertime (March to October) the clock is changed to summer time UTC+2.
Located at the crossroads of various empires, FYROM’s history has been very turbulent. Throughout history both the country’s name and its territory have been subject of claims by neighbouring countries. Some of these disputes are still unresolved. However, on the 8th of September 1991 FYROM declared its independency.
The political system of the FYROM is a multi-party parliamentary democracy with a government consisting of a coalition of parties and an independent judicial branch with a constitutional court. The Government has executive authority and is headed by the Prime Minister. The President represents the country and is elected by general election with a mandate of five years. The legislative body, the parliament, is the most important institution of state authority. Its members are elected every four years.
The FYROM has been a member of the United Nations since April 8th 1993 and of the World Trade Organization since April 4th 2003. Further, the Republic of Macedonia is an aspiring member country of NATO.
For further information about Macedonia, please see below:
- http://www.culturecrossing.net/basics_business_student.php?id=122 [en]
- http://www.seeheritage.org/macedonia/history.html [en]
- http://www.macedonia-timeless.com/ [en]
- http://www.exploringmacedonia.com/ [en] [mk]
- http://www.gomacedonia.com/en/ancient_macedonia/20/three_ancient_cities_on_the_via_egnatia.aspx [en] [mk]
- http://www.unitedmacedonians.org/macedonia/ [en]
- http://www.cybermacedonia.com/mculture.html [en]
- http://www.euinside.eu/en/news/macedonia-has-won-a-battle-but-not-the-war-in-the-name-issue-with-greece [en]
- http://www.europeanforum.net/country/fyr_macedonia [en]
1.2 International business in FYROM
The FYROM has a small and open economy. The traditional economy is agricultural, but the country is now industrialized and highly integrated within international trade. The FYROM does business with countries around the world, therefore it is essential to go over a few basic rules of etiquette before arriving in the country for meetings and negotiations.
1.3 Standards of education
Education is a fundamental human right and in the FYROM special attention is paid to all aspects of it. The internationalisation of higher education encourage the mobility of students and teaching staff which leads to acquiring international experience, is a high priority for the FYROM.
1.4 General education
The educational system in the FYROM can be classified into three divisions – primary, secondary and higher education.
Primary level education takes eight years from age seven to fifteen. Students are awarded a Diploma for Completed Elementary Education. Elementary and high school are mandatory.
Besides standard high school, there are many vocational high schools in each city such as: technical, medical, chemistry, economy, law, gymnasium etc. and some form of high school is obligatory and lasts four years. On completing high school, students are awarded a Secondary School Leaving Diploma.
In 2008, 85% of high school graduates were enrolled in universities. An undergraduate degree would normally be obtained in four to six years. The duration of the studies depends on the type of faculty. For example: Faculty of Economics is four years, Faculty of Law three years, Technological/Metallurgical Faculty five years, Faculty of Medicine six years etc.
After finishing the first academic level students can go on to complete Masters and Doctoral degrees.
At the state-owned universities there are two levels of fees. Students who have a good grade point average pay 200€ per year, and the fee for those who do not satisfy the requirements for the so called state-fee need to pay more, usually 400€. However, depending on the student’s status, participation fee is higher and can range from 400-600€ per year. This is the so the called private fee.
The FYROM has a young and educated workforce. Approximately 45% of the population is under 30 years old.
In 2009 the FYROM was recognized as an IT leader in the region for launching information technologies into education supported by the company Intel. Intel awarded 15 Million Dollars to the FYROM Government’s Project “Computer for every child”.
For further information see below:
- http://www.mon.gov.mk/en/index.php [mk] [en] [al]
http://www.mio.gov.mk/?q=node/3150 [mk] [en]
1.5 Xenophobia: being a foreigner in FYROM
After the Macedonian ethnic group, which comprises 64,2% of the population, Albanian citizens are the most numerous with 25.2% among the other minorities such as Turkish 3.9%, Roma 2.7%, Serb 1.8% and other 2.2% (2002 census). The FYROM ratified the Resolution on implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities on 17 September 1997. On the protection of national minorities and their rights and freedoms, the Republic of Macedonia cooperates with the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe, UNESCO etc.
The fact that two major Albanian parties are represented in the National Assembly (one in government, one in opposition) confirms that minorities play an active role in political life. There are also a number of parliamentarians elected from all national minorities, including the Roma. Persons belonging to national minorities are widely represented in local authorities. In August 2008, the Law on the Use of Languages was adopted, which gives clear legal status to the Albanian language and regulates its use in parliament, government ministries, judicial and administrative proceedings. Public television (MTV) and radio extensively broadcast programmes in the languages of national minorities (Albanian, Turkish, Serbian, Romani, Vlach and Bosnian). There are also numerous NGO’s, whose engagement is primarily oriented towards improving the dialogue and cooperation among the ethnic groups.
When meeting foreigners, people from the FYROM are very kind and also very curious of other cultures. They may ask questions that seem inappropriate, such as how much money you earn, what your house is like, etc. A foreigner should not be offended by these questions they are just curiosity about how other people live.
For further information, please see below:
- https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1959557&Site=CM&BackColorInternet=C3C3C3&BackColorIntranet=EDB021&BackColorLogged=F5D383 [en]
- http://www.usefoundation.org/view/419 [en]
1.6 Cultural taboos
Taboos in intercultural business communication are those practices and verbal expressions that are considered to be unacceptable. They don’t differ much from those of the other European countries; however there are some particular issues that need to be taken into consideration.
It is rude not to accept gifts or food from others. If you are a guest in someone else’s house, they will continue to give you food and drink, and ask you if you would like more. As they pay so much attention to making the guest feel comfortable, it is considered impolite to refuse this hospitality.
Laughing and speaking loudly is considered rude and completely unprofessional.
Making noises while eating, belching, hiccupping and picking your teeth or nose in public is considered rude. Homosexuality is also considered a taboo so it is advisable to avoid talking about this subject.
When in the FYROM, it is wise to be informed about issues such as the name conflict with Greece and corruption.
1.7 Other issues such as transport infrastructure
Before arriving in the FYROM it is essential to be familiar with the transportation system ant the possibilities and conditions.
The railway infrastructure was built in 1873 and the total network today is around 925km with 168 railway stations. There are three international routes:
– Ljubljana-Athens railway connects Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Skopje, Thessaloniki, and Athens.
– Budapest-Athens international line runs through Belgrade, Skopje and Thessaloniki.
Railway transport is provided by Macedonian Railways, which is publicly owned and the only provider of railway services in the country. Tickets should be bought at the desk at the train station.
- http://www.mzi.mk/index.php [mk][en][al]
Buses travel to every town in the FYROM. As with rail transportation, tickets can be bought at the desk at the bus station. Buses are the only means of public transportation. From Skopje buses travel to Belgrade, Prishtina, Sofia, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Ljubljana etc.
Skopje Bus Station
Ohrid Bus Station
FYROM has two international airports:
– Aleksandar the Great in Skopje
– St.Paul the Apostle in Ohrid
The FYROM is well connected to the rest of Europe, the Americas and Asian countries. There are direct flights to Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Rome, Prague, Budapest, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Zagreb, Split, Sarajevo, Tirana and Istanbul.
Turkish TAV has operated the FYROM airport since 2008 and has the right to do so until 2028.
The airports in Belgrade, Sofia, Tirana and Thessaloniki can also be used, as they are only a few hours’ drive from the FYROM.
- http://www.airports.com.mk/ [mk] [en]
Roads make up the main transport network. The overall road network of the country is 13,278km. However, the road conditions may differ significantly from those in many European countries. Many drivers ignore speed limits or traffic regulations. Driving is on the right hand side of the road and drivers and passengers are required to wear seatbelts. Furthermore, car headlights should be on at all times, no matter what time of the day it is. The speed limits are generally declared on the highway/road signs. Most of the highways are in good condition, but many secondary urban and rural roads are poorly lit and in need of repair. There are pay-tolls and road side emergency services.
There are a lot of taxi companies. Make sure to choose a registered one and always ask for a receipt. The ones who don’t have a fiscal machine in their cars are driving ‘in black’ and will ask for much more money than the drive actually costs. It is recommended to ask how much the drive will cost before getting into the taxi.