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Tips on Doing Business in Bulgaria

Considering doing business in Bulgaria? If so here we present you with some tips on how to go about doing business in this interesting country that is steeped in culture and customs.

 

First of all Bulgarians like to do business face to face, so visiting the country is a vital step to meet and get to know local partners and potential business clients. It may mean you will need to stay for a time in Bulgaria or be prepared to make several trips to continue good relations with those you have already made contact with. The majority of Bulgarian companies and businesses have not taken on the west's faster dependence on technology such as email, faxes and long distance relation so these techniques do not work as well. Bulgarians still have an older and slower way of dealing with business and prefer to meet with potential clients. You will have to work hard to obtain close relations with Bulgarians. Making appointments with a person of a senior level in a business can take time; although appointments can change at the last minute. Planning ahead is not Bulgarians strong point they prefer to take things as they come. Meetings can be lengthy, so allow plenty of time. You will need to allow time to build a business liaison compared to other countries when doing business in Bulgaria.

Some other points to consider when considering starting a business in Bulgaria are –
In general the usual office opening hours of a business in Bulgaria are Monday to Friday from 9.00 am–5.30 pm.

Bulgarians in business dress formally, so if in doubt dress up - not down.

Try to arrive to a meeting on time or slightly earlier if possible; if you are going to be late it is advisable to inform the person of the delay.

It is worth noting to avoid appointments at certain times of the year due to holidays in the public sector. Bulgarians have annual holidays of up to 4 weeks, typically the summer between July and August and Christmas and New Year breaks.

At an official meeting, remember to shake hands with everyone there, and introduce yourself using your formal surnames. You need to build on business relations before first names are used. Also it is common practise to exchange business cards on the first meeting.

Keep eye contact with those you are talking to and presenting your services to Bulgarians will think you are untrustworthy and insincere. Have all of your facts on hand as it is surprising how much detail Bulgarians will go into.

You may negotiate business over a lunch or dinner. Bulgarians are very sociable and enjoy eating and drinking. Lunch can last a while and the times vary from 12.30pm-late afternoon. Evening meals start from 7.00pm onwards.

If dining out it is the Bulgarian custom to toast by clinking glasses and say "Nazdrave" (which means to good health) when drinking alcohol drinks, such as the traditional Bulgarian plum brandy "Rakia" It is common practise to have a salad with this drink too.

Although the country has adopted the no smoking policy it is still a common vice and meetings may be disturbed by the need for someone to light up.

When discussing your potential services and business ensure you keep eye contact with who you are talking to. Bulgarians will consider you insincere and untrustworthy if not. It takes a long time for Bulgarians to build up trust with new clients.

English is spoken widely in the capital Sofia, but can be limited in other parts of the country so you may need to employ the services of an interpreter or translator.
It is recommended to put forward all potential decisions and try to come to an agreement to suit both parties.

Finally, don't expect an answer straight away. Bulgarian people are more laid back than other countries. You will need to have a certain amount of patience in waiting for answers when dealing with them in doing business in Bulgaria.