A Guide to Bulgarian Culture and Language


Bulgaria is a predominantly Slavonic-speaking country in Eastern Europe, and the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet. It is home to an Orthodox Christian majority (76.9%), but it also contains significant numbers of Turks (8%) and Romani people (4.4%). Bulgarians are very hospitable, and many locals enjoy the company of visitors. Bulgarians are also very curious about the way other people live, so prepare to be asked many questions about your home country.

The linguistic character of Bulgarian is somewhat unique: it is a fusional language, with no distinction between indicative and imperative verbs and between genitive and dative cases. The definite article is a weak form, attached as a suffix to the first stressed nominal constituent of a noun phrase. Adjectives agree with the noun they modify in number and gender, and there is case inflection in the verbs.

In addition to the standard Bulgarian language, there are a number of dialects. Some have been preserved more or less intact by the state, others are completely lost or have evolved into new forms. A great deal of influence has come from other Slavic languages, particularly Russian and Serbian, as well as Turkish. These lexical innovations have influenced the development of Bulgarian grammar. The most commonly used alphabet is the Latin script, but it has been augmented with the letters of the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet since the end of Communist rule in 1989.

The most important festival in the Bulgarian calendar is Lazaruvane, a ritual to welcome spring. It is celebrated eight days before Easter on the Saturday named after St. Lazarus, and it is believed that a girl who performs this ritual will soon find her husband. Traditionally, the girls gather in groups to remember old songs and learn new ones. The girls are dressed in white and are accompanied by their mothers and grandmothers, who sing songs of joy and happiness.

Many Bulgarians are able to speak some English, especially those who work with tourists. However, the younger generation tends to prefer to communicate in their native tongue, so it is important to be able to answer their questions politely and clearly. Knowing a few simple words can go a long way in making your visit more enjoyable for you and your Bulgarian hosts.

A good idea is to bring a translator app with you on your trip, or to download Google Translate before visiting Bulgaria. This will allow you to translate into Bulgarian and then to practice your pronunciation as well, so that you can better understand the locals when they speak to you. You can also find some excellent Bulgarian translation software online that will allow you to practice your new skills on the go. Packing cubes and compression sacks are traveller’s best friend, and make packing for a trip to Bulgaria much easier and more organised.