Interesting customs and traditions in Bulgaria

Hello everyone,

Living outside of our home country requires us to adapt to a new culture and different traditions. What are some of the cultural specifics in Bulgaria?

What are some of the traditional beliefs and cultural practices that you have encountered in Bulgaria that are different to your home country?

Tell us a bit more about some of the customs that you’ve found interesting, such as communication style, food, greetings, laws, or festivities.

What were your initial reactions and how did you adapt to them?

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Priscilla

It is difficult for me to adapt to the high level of superstitions here.

It seems like almost everyone is concerned with "techenie" (Currents or breezes). It can make rooms stuffy because people do not want to open windows and create a cross breeze.

Also, people always chastise me when I sit on cement or rock or the ground because it will "freeze my eggs, so I can't have kids." Even in the summer time I am told this. I also get strange looks when I don't wear a jacket in the spring, even when it is plenty warm out. Overall, I think people here bundle up against the cold a bit more than people in the states.

In my town, people are very into alternative medicine. They are highly anti-vax and prefer casting lead to going to a doctor.


That being said, there are many awesome traditions, too. I love the orthodox holidays, like St. Jordan's day, when they throw the cross in the river. Every holiday is an excuse for a big meal, which is always nice.

I find most younger Bulgarians to be polite but reserved. Often shy to speak English, and definitely a bit more formal than I am used to- in dress and in mannerisms. Older Bulgarians I also find to be more formal than me, but instead of being reserved they tend to comment on everything.

Well I got thrown into the deep end as my wife is Bulgarian. Some differences I like, others I don't, all I just take in stride as I like different cultures.

- One that is very different from America is eating off the same plate. I don't like it lol. Middle of the table will have plates of various foods on it and that's generally fine, pick your meat or whatever and put it on your plate. But everyone using their own forks to eat various dips or yogurt? Yuck. That might be the only one that really bothers me though. Take a frickin' spoon and put some of it on your plate. Imagine if you were eating soup and I used my spoon to eat out of your soup.

- I like the Christmas Eve tradition of baking bread and having a coin in it which someone gets. Signifies good money ahead. I like the way my mother in law walks from room to room blessing it on Christmas Eve. My wife and her family don't eat meat on Christmas Eve. I do however. I love my  kebapcheta. If and when I live there I'll honor that tradition. But since I can't get it here in CA, I eat as much as I can when in Bulgaria. And this Christmas Eve I'll be having kebapcheta and shopska salad. Weird for that time of year but I don't care.

-Every single Bulgarian lighting and throwing fireworks outside their windows on New Year's Eve is glorious lol.

- Don't know if it's normal but my father in law mixes his village made wine with soda like Fanta. Never seen that anywhere else.

- Horo, the national dance is always fun. I always join in. Bulgarians love seeing a foreigner join in. Always giving advice.

- Martenitsa is cool. In March my wife ties a little red and white bracelet around my wrist. Tradition says you wear it until you see a stork and then tie it to a tree or bush. We don't have storks here in CA but still do this and tie it on some tree.

- Lighting candles and saying a private prayer in Alexander Nevski is fun.

There's plenty more. Like with any culture if you just visit as a tourist you don't experience the true culture. With my wife's family being Bulgarian I get the real experience, even the village life, outdoor squatting toilets, home brewed wine and rakia and all.

-I guess that's another tradition. So many make their own rakia and give it to you as a gift. So when we leave to go home we'll have a bottle of grape rakia, cherry rakia, plum rakia, etc.

I find that Bulgarians are much more open about health and money issues. They have no shame in asking how much rent I pay, how much they spend on certain items, or being up front about what they went to the doctor or hospital for. They're also open about telling you what you should and shouldn't do for your health, kids, etc. If I mention a cold, they will tell me exactly what kind of tea or remedy to use. If I tell someone I plan on doing something and my reason for it isn't sufficiently explained, they question my decision like it's offensive. If my kids' legs are showing one inch, strangers will tell me they're too naked.

Even so, there's a cultural difference in their hospitality and willingness to give, even if it's from their last few levs or food. They think differently about money. My culture tends to think "save, capitalize, economize," whereas many Bulgarians I know think about the moment.

An interesting part of the culture is that most people know the traditional "pogovorki," proverbs or fables that teach a lesson. I too had someone tell me not to sit on the cement or I would become sterile, and I had my children with me at the time.  :lol: Also I think it's incredible that Bulgarians can keep up with so many holidays and the specific traditions that go with each one. Watching them join in the horo on New Year's is really special.

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