by Anthony Georgieff

No need for insults and slurs as long as you know when and how to ask the wrong questions

Try making tea to a Briton without boiling the water properly, then leave the tea bag in the cup for way too long. Watch him or her in the eye and say "with all due respect, this is the right way to make tea."

The French are also pretty easy to annoy, especially if you tell them the guillotine, that ultimate symbol of liberty, equality and fraternity, had already existed in Yorkshire. Danes are difficult because they are generally rational to the point of nonchalance, but do ask someone you dislike what is his salary after tax.

Greeks are pretty easy meat. They will rise up and probably call a general strike upon hearing the name of Angela Merkel. And we all know how to deal with unpleasant Germans. Just mention the war (not the Korean war, of course).

Bulgarians usually love a laugh and they constantly make fun of themselves in jokes that remain impenetrable to outsiders. However, the picture changes dramatically if a foreigner takes them on. They may pretend they do not care but they will be at least indignant if you asked them to explain the difference between a shopska salad and a Greek horiatiki, or if you inquired why Serbian meatballs taste so much better than the standard Bulgarian fare.

Do bear in mind that these are minor insults, however. Anyone can insult other people, but you need to be a master to be able to infuriate your Bulgarian pals by just asking the wrong set of questions. If you really want to be nasty, here is a Top 10 list of questions that are sure to pick up a fight - or worse.

1. Football is always a good starting point to get involved in a quarrel with people. If you want to be gentle, mispronounce the name of CSKA. You may be excused because you are a bloody foreigner. Don't give up. Go on by asking questions about the Ludogorets team. Say they not only can't play football, but their defeat by Valencia was fully deserved. At this point, allow your chums to take a breath and prepare for battle. Once they have girdled up their loins, kick them where it hurts most. Just ask: "When did you say was the last time the Bulgarian team actually won a match?"

2. Politics is bellicose ground, too. At the moment the Bulgarian nation is split between GERB and the BSP (and their cohorts). The main discussion goes roughly likes this. If you put in a good word for the BSP, the GERB folks will immediately accuse you of being a Communist. If you are not too critical of Boyko Borisov, Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Rosen Plevneliev, the former Communists will say you are a Mafioso. As you realise you can't be both a Communist and a Mafioso, you have one way of recourse. Ask a question. Now Bulgaria is a member of the EU, right?! OK, what does it bring to the EU?

3. Food. You already know thatbanitsa,kebapcheta and all of those taste better anywhere in the Balkans outside Bulgaria. Many Bulgarians know that too, so don't expect them to get insulted. But cuisine is multifaceted, so it does offer ample opportunities for serious insult. Pick up one aspect of food, for example tripe. Your Bulgarian friends will probably be surprised to learn that all Europeans, with the possible exception of some diehard supporters of the Tory party, do eat tripe in various combinations. Expound on your French tripe, of which of course Tripes a la mode du Caen is the most remarkable, then visit Italy and offer your recollections of Trippa alla Romana, Trippa Veneziana and Trippa Calabrese. Do some name-dropping. Balzac, Leonardo da Vinci, D'Annunzio - all whom presumably indulged in tripe, are good choices. Quote from their diaries how much they enjoyed tripe and how they loved preparing it themselves. Reserve Botticelli and his Florentine Lampredotto for the final round. By the time you come to it, the Bulgarian members of your company will probably be fairly consternated. Once you are sure they are, pull out your guns and shoot: "Do you really thinktarator should be listed as world cultural heritage?"

4. Sofia Metro. The residents of Sofia are very proud of their new underground - and rightly so, especially when you bear in mind that it took them over 30 years to build a five-stop line. Notwithstanding the fact that some of the trains bear signs stating "Made in the USSR" the metro is actually quite good. You think you can't really insult anyone by asking questions about the Sofia metro? Think again. Inquire who on earth devised a system where you are unable to buy a return ticket.

5. Bulgarians love conspiracy theories. They will probably have already told you their own explanations about US world hegemony, about the influx of asylum seekers, about shale gas and many others. Now is the time to produce one conspiracy theory of your own. If you really want to bite, tell them The Daily Mail has been carrying reports about Bulgarians settling in Britain and conspiring to overthrow the monarchy. The Daily Mail, you might add, rarely gets a story right, so you used your own sources to do a little investigation. It turned out the plotters were in fact Macedonian revolutionaries pretending to be Bulgarians. You know that of course the Macedonian nation is much older and nobler than the Bulgarian, so why would a Macedonian want to pretend he is Bulgarian?

6. Back to domestic affairs. Your local friends seem to have taken to liking a new face in politics. Not Nikolay Barekov, hopefully, but someone who's been unheard-of so far has made a good impression on them. That is an young and well-educated man who appears to be tolerant to other people's opinion. He does not promise to lower taxes and raise pensions, nor will he count down 800 days to improve significantly the lot of his compatriots. The man is intelligent, does not claim he is a saviour, has set up a small party and that party is going to run in the forthcoming election. Your friends seem to really like him and are going to vote for him.

Now take your sword out of the sheath: "Who is paying him?"

7. This technique involves telling your Bulgarian friends the Bulgarian language is poor when it comes to slurs and curses. When they start trying to disabuse you, say in quick succession all the bad words you can remember in English. Something like this is good for starters: "Twat, bellend, arsehole, wanker, tosser, dickhead, scrubber, slag." Regardless of how good their English is, your Bulgarian chums will probably be unimpressed because they will likely miss the fine nuances (and if they went on working holidays in America they won't understand a word anyway).

Now is the time to take the rabbit out of the hat. Your golden question in this situation is "Oh, by the way, do you know where the word 'bugger' comes from?"

8. Once upon a time the Bulgarians used to make nasty jokes about the Albanians. Funny, because no Bulgarian would own up knowing in person a real Albanian. Albanians, in the Bulgarian mind at the time, were slow to react in addition to being notoriously inefficient - hence the expression "Albanian heater." Now no one has heard a joke involving Albanians for a long time. Everybody is telling jokes about the people of Pernik. Ask why.

9. Alright, let's go for the heavy artillery. Anything to do with Turkey, especially the Turkish "yoke," that convenient whipping boy for everything that's gone wrong in Bulgaria in the past 650 years, is bound to be taken very emotionally by Bulgarians. The reasons are many and varied, but the consequences boil down to one thing: mistrust at best and fear at worst. You don't have to talk to Ataka supporters to experience that. In fact, after any chat about Turkey and the Ottoman Empire you will know why a TV comedy soap in the mould of 'Allo, 'allo will never be made in Bulgaria.

With this in mind, the opportunities to infuriate your Bulgarians are almost limitless. One 100 percent guaranteed way to immediately anger them is to ask, in an offhand manner, whether the Ottoman Empire was actually so bad in comparison to the Russian Empire.

If your nose is still unbroken, you might consider dealing one final blow. You can say: "If the Turks were so bad, why didn't you ovethrow them?"

10. If all else fails, you can resort to the universal Bulgarian slur. By now, presumably, your knowledge of things Bulgarian is advanced and you have come to realise that the overwhelming majority of Bulgarians not only consider Gypsies dirty and nasty criminals. They think they are subhuman. So, to get yourself into really hot water, tell the Bulgarians they are like Gypsies. Probably the first reaction will be one of amazement as your targets will be unsure you know what you are talking about. So, repeat. Demand a little explanation about thereal difference between Gypsies and Bulgarians.

OK, you've been warned. By now, in case you are still alive, you will have lost your Bulgarian friends for good.


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