Interacting with Bulgarian People
Here’s a useful tip: The people in Bulgaria shake their heads for yes! And nod for no. This has caused so much confusion and hilarity involving tourists over the years that I thought I’d lead with that one and save everyone a lot of heartache. You read a lot about how different gestures mean different things around the world, of course, but few are as basic as “yes” and “no,” and people have a natural tendency to think such basic communication must be somewhat universal to the human condition.
Bulgaria is a beautiful country. About one-third of the country is covered in old forest, largely untouched by modern encroachments, and the people there like it that way. A lot of Bulgarian culture is very tree-centred, in fact; although Bulgaria produces a stunning amount of wine (almost 200,000 tonnes a year) their most popular alcoholic beverage is called Mastika, which is made from tree resin and sports a proof of about 47. It does take some getting used to.
Bulgaria in the Media
You don’t hear much about Bulgaria in the US or other Western countries, do you? But you may have heard more than you think. In the film The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks as a man who cannot leave an American airport due to a revolution in his home country that leaves his citizenship status in the air, Hanks speaks Bulgarian although his character is given the fictional nationality of Krakozhian. Apparently Tom Hanks’ father-in-law was Bulgarian and Hanks based the character on him!
The national instrument in Bulgaria is – unfortunately – the gaida, which are essentially bagpipes. So if you’ve ever experienced the joy of bagpipe music, you know exactly how horrifying that is.
Bulgarians love yoghurt! It’s a staple of just about every meal, and some Bulgarians have even posited that their relative good health and long lifespan compared to other developed nations has less to do with the environment and more to do with all the yoghurt they eat!
Finally, even though Bulgaria is in the European Union, they don’t use the Euro – they still have their own currency, the Lev. Good to know when you travel there!