Culture of Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s culture is as diverse as its landscape. It is a secular society with a strong tradition of free thought and individualism. A sense of humor is common. People are quick to laugh at themselves. They also appreciate irony and satire.

Bulgarian is part of the Slavic language family and has its own unique grammatical features. Bulgarian lacks the infinitive, but it has retained most of the complexities of its old declension system, including nominative, accusative, dative, genitive and locative cases, as well as a complex evidential system used to distinguish between witnessed and nonwitnessed events.

The name Bulgaria comes from a Turkic word meaning “to mix.” Ethnic Bulgarians descend from the merger of Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic people, and Slavs, a Central European people, in the seventh century C.E. Bulgarians are proud of their language and its alphabet, which was brought to the country from Byzantium in the ninth century C.E. The Cyrillic script is an integral component of Bulgarian national identity and is celebrated on a national holiday each year on May 24.

Although Bulgaria has been a member of NATO since 2004, and the European Union since 2007, it remains economically dependent on its neighbors to the north, south and east. Agriculture is a major industry, producing fruits and vegetables, grapes and wine. The country is rich in natural resources, with vast reserves of lignite and anthracite coal, as well as mineral deposits of lead, zinc and copper. Tourism is another important industry, with most visitors coming for the beaches and mountains.

Bulgarians are very hospitable and welcoming to guests. They enjoy entertaining at home and often treat strangers as friends. People are respectful of parents and other elders. Physical discipline is rare, and children usually obey their parents. In a typical household, men and women are equal in status and share responsibility for housework and childcare. Family members frequently help each other, and older children take care of younger siblings. Families are organized into networks of relatives, and kinship is a central focus of social life.

When visiting a Bulgarian home, it is polite to bring a gift. A traditional gift is cognac or rum, which is a popular liquor in the country. Other common gifts are chocolates, honey or dried fruit. A Bulgarian friend will likely thank you for a gift by saying естите от вас! (etsiz dva te!).

Learning Bulgarian takes time, but it’s a relatively easy language to learn. One of the most difficult things is remembering the definite articles, which are added to the end of a noun. Unlike English, where adjectives always add -IC to form their plural forms, a Bulgarian adjective agrees in gender and number with the noun it’s attached to and is placed either before or after the noun. It’s easy to make grammatical mistakes, such as pronouncing an adjective as a noun when it’s actually a verb, or mixing up the feminine and masculine nouns.