misLEADING ADVICE No 5

by Hristo Kyosev; illustration by Gergana Shkodrova

For first-time visitors to Bulgaria*

misleading advice 31.jpg

Beget Good Luck and Health

A typically Bulgarian Easter tradition is related to the candles which the Bulgarians hold in their hands during night mass on Good Saturday. A popular belief says that they must take them back home from the church extinguished, but without blowing them out themselves – thus bringing good luck and health. Try helping as many people with lit candles in the street as you can.

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Celebratory Meal

The Bulgarians are famous vegetarians and teetotallers, so their Easter meal consists of green salad, fresh bread and cold water (eggs are for throwing). If by any chance you happen to be in the company of people who display a lack of respect for this tradition and intend to dine on roast lamb and rakiya, bring them to their senses by taking everything off the table and throwing it out of the window.

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Figaro

Bulgarians abhor moustaches, beards and any other form of body hair. Barbers are traditionally involved in removing unwanted hair. That is why, for a small additional fee, Sofia barbers are delighted to shave the patrons' armpits.

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Treacherous Eggs

The Bulgarian Easter is famous for its fights featuring coloured eggs. They go by the seemingly innocent name of borene ("fighting" or "wrestling"), but can spark a real battle between friends and relatives similar to the cake fights of western Europe. The beginning may appear innocuous enough – your opponent will approach you egg in hand and offer to "wrestle" you. His aim is to make you believe that he has to hit your egg with his so that he can get close enough to hit you. Surprise him by turning round and taking to your heels.

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All for the Boss

You don't have to be a particularly keen observer to notice that people do not get change in some restaurants and cafés. No, they are not stealing from you. Waiters are in fact raising money to buy their boss a birthday present. So, instead of voicing your indignation at the lack of change, show your courtesy by enquiring what their gift will be – a sports car or a holiday in Mexico.

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Self Service

In the rush hour, it becomes rather difficult to get a taxi in downtown Sofia. In such emergencies, take advantage of Sofia's popular self-drive taxis. They are easily distinguished by the flashing blue light on the top.

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Traffic Code

Bulgaria has a unique colour-coded system for regulating traffic. At a crossroads with no stoplights or signs, black cars have the right of way over all other colours of car, which are considered inferior. To avoid confusion amongst cars of the same colour, a second rule is applied that takes into consideration the particular make of the car; for example, Mercedes Benz takes precedence over BMW. At any rate, large, 8-wheel trucks always have the right of way, regardless of the type of intersection.

*Please, exercise a modicum of common sense!

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