MisLEADING ADVICE No 11

by Hristo Kyosev; illustration by Gergana Shkodrova

For first-time visitors to Bulgaria*

misleading advice 11.jpg

Keeper of Warmth

Ever since times of yore Bulgarians have always cherished deep respect for the so called “keeper of warmth” in their family or tribal dwellings. In pagan times a dedicated priest carried out this task. Nowadays, the tradition is still alive as the ritual role of the “keeper of warmth” is bestowed upon the chief executive of the local Central Heating Company. He is a well respected figure loved by everyone in town. Very often, when his term of office is over, he moves on to live entirely on state’s expenses.

Bulgarian Booziness

Bulgarians have very liberal drinking habits. That is why, it is considered quite normal to have breakfast consisting of a banichka (a cheese pie) and a bottle of boza (sweet tasting strong alcoholic drink, hence the origin of the English word booze). If you are not that type of person who starts drinking at 8 am, politely refuse the offer of boza with the words: Blagodarya, ne piya (Thank you, I am a teetotaller).


History Matters

Bulgarians take great pride in being the inventors of many things, from yoghurt to the computer. Amaze your Bulgarian friends by disclosing a lesser known fact – football was also invented by Bulgarians. It happened in the 8th Century AD. At that time, the now popular game was played by the elders in the tribe – they did not run but slowly paced up and down the field full of self-conceit, with wise, though somewhat wary, looks on their faces. In Bulgarian football, this tradition has been observed ever since.

Thought for Food

Due to a chronic lack of funding, the animals in Bulgaria's zoos are severely undernourished. For that reason it is not only widely accepted, but considered extremely charitable, for patrons visiting zoos to bring food and feed it to the animals. When feeding the monkeys at the Sofia Zoo, it is also recommended that you offer some food to the other people watching, which they will gladly accept.

Piece of Cake

At Christmas Bulgarians prepare a traditional cake, "banitsa", with lucky charms hidden in it. Usually, these are small twigs of dogwood, each signifying a different lucky wish according to the number of buds on it: good health, love, success at work and so on. After revealing your lucky charm, you must swallow the twig for good fortune to be bestowed upon you. The only exception is the "wealth" lucky charm, since it is usually a one lev coin. In keeping with tradition, you should put it aside for a rainy day.

Traffic

British authorities restrict the access of Bulgarian workers to local labour markets. In a bid to mollify their British counterparts, the Bulgarian government stepped up urgent measures aimed at showing that Bulgaria is moving closer to British standards. For example, Bulgaria has, basically, right-hand road traffic. However, the recent measures make it perfectly legal to overtake vehicles from their right side – just the way it is in the UK.

*Please, exercise a modicum of common sense

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