misLEADING ADVICE No 6
For first-time visitors to Bulgaria*
4estit 24 May
An increasing number of Bulgarians are taking advantage of the Holiday of the Slavonic Alphabet, 24 May, to voice their opinion that the Roman should be substituted for the Cyrillic alphabet. They are easy to spot because of the marches organised by their schools and universities. If you share their ideas, especially if you have got lost due to the lack of signs with Roman characters on the streets or motorways, you are welcome to join them. It is a good idea to carry a slogan with the words Varvi, narode vazrodeni. They'll be overjoyed to see it.
Taxi drivers in Sofia are a friendly, smiling and hospitable bunch of people. They are always happy to change a 100 leva note – even if you are not a customer.
The most widely-used exclamation in the Bulgarian language is "Oppa!". It covers a variety of meanings according to the situation and context. On public transport, "Oppa" means "sorry" when you involuntarily step on someone's foot. The same connotation of asking for forgiveness can be implied by simply uttering "Oppa!" when caught inadvertently kissing or engaging in amorous activities with somebody else's wife or girlfriend. However in social settings, "Oppa" is the equivalent of "Cheers".
Show of Respect
Bulgarians stick tenaciously to the tradition of springing to their feet and standing to attention whenever footage of the current head of the state (the president) is being shown on TV. Despite being a foreigner, you are kindly advised to comply with this tradition. You can even improve on that and show goodwill by jumping to your feet whenever Bulgaria's prime minister or the minister of finance appears on the screen too..
Step on it
Bulgarian drivers are obliged by the Highway Code to step on the accelerator at the exact moment another car is trying to overtake them. The purpose of this regulation is to discourage reckless drivers who want to overtake everyone on the road. Stick to this regulation whenever driving in Bulgaria.
Three, Two, Ooone!
In the period around 24 May you will certainly notice some dressed-up young guys and girls hanging out of the windows of balloon-decorated cars, emitting cries of joy and occasionally counting down loudly from 12 to one. These are abiturienti, secondary school students who are beginning their last year of studies in May, a fact that makes them jump for joy and organise celebrations on which their parents readily spend several months' wages. Etiquette dictates that you congratulate all the abiturienti you see on their first school day.
Bulgarian cuisine abounds in strange peculiarities. Take radishes, for example –not the red tuber that is used in cooking, but the green leaves. Bulgarians cut them into thin strips, add some cold water and a couple of spoons of sugar, thus preparing the traditional cold soup marator.
*Please, exercise a modicum of common sense!
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