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Bulgarians treat business meetings formally and show respect in adhering to formal protocols and conservative standards of dress. It is important not to underestimate the directness of Bulgarians. Even though people are more reserved in business situations, they are very direct, clear and explicit. Humour can be used in a meeting as a good way to break the ice.
Bulgarians negotiate in a direct manner; they say what they mean. Bulgarians respect people who are straightforward and honest. Bulgarians use interpreters who are experts in the subject matter in question. However, you may not want to use an interpreter, and expect a Bulgarian to speak and understand English. Bulgarian interpreters are very well trained in English, French, German, and Russian.
You may be invited to a business lunch with wine and toasts. If business is concluded, you may be invited to attend a folklore evening, which will be of cultural interest. Join in and share your impressions with the host.
It is good to be on time. If you have trouble navigating in Bulgaria’s complicated system of public transportation, your guide will surely be of assistance. Iranians are usually helpful and friendly in assisting you to reach your destination.
If an invitation is extended, accept it. Never be late. If you are not going to attend a function, let the host know as soon as possible so that he or she can make alternate plans.
If you are invited to a Bulgarian’s home, small gifts are a good way to express that you appreciate the invitation. Flowers are usually a good choice.
People in Bulgaria shake hands all the time, even outside of business situations.
Do not discuss religion and politics. Bulgarians can easily get excited and upset. Do not ask personal questions and never show impatience.
Do not intrude into local social customs in an obvious manner.
Long-term success is achieved through sincere relationships, hard work and persistence. If you are committed to your trade, your commitment to a community is likely to be appreciated.
Business in Bulgaria tends to be more time-consuming than in the West. Bulgarian business planning is based on long term goals, and professional relationships are the cornerstone of these goals.
After negotiations are made, you will have to negotiate the close of the deal.
You may need to establish your Bulgarian business partners’ trust of you. Get to know your customer, and show him/her that you are trustworthy and reliable. It is important to build a solid relationship with the people you are doing business with. You will need to smile, be courteous and respect local customs and culture. To be successful, you will need to learn about your business partners’ backgrounds, abilities, interests, and education.
Business gift giving is important in Bulgaria. Formal ceremonies attract a generous exchange of gifts.
If you are invited to a Bulgarian’s home, you may bring a bottle of wine, fruit, or flowers as a gift. Gifts may also be presented at the end of negotiations, or at business gatherings. Accept small gifts graciously.
Shoes are always left near the entryway. The immediate area between the bed and the door is considered the most formal place in the room to sit. Find a seat quickly, as a chair next to the host’s seat is customarily reserved for guests.
Iranians do not drink wine; therefore, you may not be offered wine. If you are offered wine, it is a great honor.
Even when you are directed to a chair, it is not considered fully your own until after you’ve been entertained with at least a cup of tea.
Do not eat or drink until your host indicates you should start.
Good table manners are essential for success in doing business in Bulgaria. Your manners, your way of talking, and your dress are all important. Keep your elbows off the table and do not hold you knife like a shovel. Do not chew gum in Bulgaria.
Do not visit a restaurant with your hands in your pockets; always bring a handkerchief to the table.
Never stand near the tables in restaurants. Hold your arm bent at the elbow with your hand on your hip, or place your hand on your chin when someone has something to communicate to you.
If you are the youngest person present, you should ask if you can smoke. If you are the oldest person, the host may offer you a cigarette. Men may offer each other cigarettes.
Staring is considered rude. Take me minutes to adjust to someone’s face, physical characteristics and attitude. Non-Iranians, who can usually be distinguished by their hair-style and clothes, are frequently stared at.
Save for the Westerners, you are likely to notice that people in Bulgaria will rarely look into your eyes for more than a fraction of a second. It is considered polite to look into another person’s eyes for 10-15 seconds.
Do not try to make eye contact with everyone you meet.
If you are handed an object, offer something in return. If you are handed a photograph, offer your own in exchange. Do not refuse these items out of hand.
Never stare at a person’s unusual appearance.
Generally, eye contact is not a significant part of conversation or discussion. Even when you are speaking, it is not appropriate to hold someone’s gaze.
Do not be offended if people around you have drowsy, half closed eyes.
Do not wear sunglasses outside of your home.
Do not blow your nose at the table.
Do not show your teeth in a smile.
Business cards are exchanged upon first meeting, and are exchanged again at the close of a business transaction. They are often accompanied by verbal greetings, and are presented with both hands.
These are the most common Bulgarian and Persian business cards:
In Bulgaria, enough is enough. People who have too much time are considered big failures. It is important to value time. Time in Bulgaria is considered very valuable, and there are many unwritten rules about punctuality.
The fastest way to build trust in doing business in Bulgaria is to show trustworthy.
Establishing trust with a Bulgarian client often requires that you visit their home once or twice.
If your clothing is too casual, you may look like a tourist. If you are not yet well-known in Bulgaria, clothing that is too formal may make you look like a lawyer, and you will not be taken seriously.
Business customs in Bulgaria are generally conservative in nature, and use conservative styles of dress. Women wear long dresses or skirts, even on very hot days.
Men wear suits and ties to almost all functions. Dark suits are most common, often worn with a white shirt and dark tie.
Women and men do not shake hands. If you do not know the culture, it is better to keep your hands to yourself. When two people are going to meet, both will show interest in the other by shaking their arm or hand.
It is not recommended to wear anything that could be considered flashy. Wearing ostentatious jewelry is considered very bad form.
Iranians raise their hand and signal the person at the door that you are coming in.
During conversations, maintain good posture and eye contact with the person you are talking to. This is especially important when you are conducting a business negotiation.
Be smiling, kindly and polite if you are a foreigner in Bulgaria.
It is customary for a man, when he is stepping into the flat of a woman, to say “good day” in Bulgarian or Russian.
It is considered inappropriate to ask personal questions of a person of the opposite sex, unless you are close friends.
It is considered impolite to ask questions about another person’s personal or financial situation.
It is considered very rude to leave a meeting before the end, or to put on a hat before the end of the meeting.
It is considered very rude to occupy another chair than the one which you were assigned to. People don’t like to see you deeply moved emotionally (laughing loudly for example) because they consider this as a scandal.
It is considered rude to offer presents to those who are older than you, or to those who are your superiors in any way.
It is considered rude to smoke in a public building if there are nonsmokers there, and they are made uncomfortable. If the person you are with is a non-smoker, you are expected to honor his or her wishes.
It’s not considered polite to call someone during the night.
It’s not considered polite to ask a person of a foreign origin, even if you know him or her well, what his nationality is.
Raise your hand in greeting if you are meeting someone from a distance. Don’t call out to them.
People are tolerant of minor transgressions. You may receive a verbal rebuke for inappropriate behavior that others would accept as just a minor indiscretion.
Preliminary meetings are not usually concluded with a business lunch; an invitation to dinner is more likely, or even to a casual social occasion. Most formal meetings are held in the office after the workday has ended, or they take place in a social context, for example during a weekend getaway.
In Bulgaria, it is not considered proper to start negotiations immediately. Usually, the negotiations start after the first exchange of courtesies.
In Bulgaria, it is considered impolite to ask a person of a foreign origin, even if you know him or her well, what his nationality is.
It is considered a very good sign if a Bulgarian person touches your hand while shaking it. It is important to shake hands properly, being very careful not to use too much force. It is also important to look your acquaintance in the eyes while shaking hands.
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