For first-time visitors to Bulgaria*
Bread and Salt
At official ceremonies in Bulgaria guests are often greeted by an offering of bread and salt. In accordance with tradition, the guest must tear off a piece of bread, dip it in the salt and swallow it. Afterwards he must produce a ripe tomato from his pocket, take a bite and offer it to the host as a gesture of friendship. Never attend ceremonial occasions unprepared – that is, without a tomato in your pocket.
Some laws in Bulgaria do raise eyebrows among foreigners. For example, a law dating back to the 16th Century allows foreign visitors to jump queues. Also, when hailing a taxi, the last person to arrive on the spot is entitled to get into the cab first.
The new government issued a decree ordering all business meetings and arrangements to be aligned with Central European Time. For all other events in the country Eastern European Time remains in effect. This will settle the chronic lack of punctuality from Bulgarian businessmen once and for all.
Bulgarians believe that a John Atanasoff, presumably a compatriot of theirs, was the inventor of the computer. When visiting Bulgaria, do not miss the chance to have a look at the original invention – all post offices are equipped with this version.
The phrase "I'll get the bill" in bars and restaurants deeply offends Bulgarians and bruises egos. Avoid confusion and embarrassment by announcing in a loud voice: "I’m not paying anything" before setting out for a night on the town with your Bulgarian pals.
Stay in Tune
Internet firm Yahoo is very popular in Bulgaria. So much so that the locals have invented a traditional dance called the horo, during which they loudly shout out the name of the company: "Yah-o-o-o!!!" Join in the fun and shout this out whenever you dance any traditional or modern dances with your Bulgarian friends.
Fighting corruption is Bulgaria's top priority. Among the latest drastic measures in this direction is the implementation of EU funding for the mounting of hidden cameras in all public toilets. These are the usual place where Bulgarians hand over bribes, away from inquisitive eyes. The video recordings of suspicious individuals in public toilets will be screened in parliament every Friday during question time.
Bulgarian cultural life abounds in events throughout the year, so take advantage of this to attend the opera or a classical concert. During the interval show some knowledge of local culture and music by making sharp observations such as: "I find the music and the performance quite good, but, frankly, I prefer Azis." (The most famous Bulgarian composer at the moment.)
*Please, exercise a modicum of common sense