The Bulgarian concept of time

Polychronic cultures such as Bulgaria see time as a period in which several different things happen at the same time. Time is a force of nature, therefore it is difficult to “tame”. Bulgarians try to meet deadlines, but they are not always in command of their time. Unforeseeable events often occur that can influence even the most careful of plans. This is why planning in Bulgaria tends to be of a short term and more broad nature. Bulgarians use plans as guidelines; sticking to them is desirable, but not mandatory.

In the here and now

Bulgarians live in the present. Throughout Bulgarian history there have been many wars and centuries of foreign rule. In the 11th century the Byzantines controlled the fate of the Bulgarians; in the 14th century the Ottomans came; and in more recent history the Soviet Union determined the future of Bulgaria for 45 years. It was rare for the political situation to be secure, allowing for stable, long-term economic development and planning. This is why Bulgarians are short-term oriented and try to make the most of the present. They live by the motto: “Eat, drink and wear your new clothes, because you never know what will happen tomorrow”.

This attitude is also reflected in business life. Since the fall of communism in 1989, Bulgaria has been in a state of upheaval – socially, politically and economically. Since joining the European Union in 2007, the legislation as well as the banking, financial and tax systems have had to be adapted to EU law. New regulations and directives are adopted almost every day. In this rapidly changing business environment, it is difficult for companies to develop reliable, long-term planning.

A focus on the short term dominates life in Bulgaria

This focus on the short term is also reflected in the way business is conducted. Many Bulgarian entrepreneurs are eager to reap short-term profits; their primary goal is to make an immediate profit. Try to gain the trust of your Bulgarian negotiating partners and convince them of the advantages of a long-term business relationship.

Appointments in Bulgaria are also planned at short notice and impromptu visits are commonplace. Even visits without prior notice often occur. Scheduling appointments that are over a week away is a no-no; Bulgarians consider that to be in the distant future. It is therefore advisable to confirm any appointments with Bulgarian business partners or colleagues one or two days in advance.

No precise planning also means no adherence to deadlines. Bulgarians have a hard time estimating when they will be done with something in order to arrive on time for their next appointment. Delays of 15 minutes are common in both personal and professional settings.

When working with Bulgarian business partners, you should avoid trying to change their approach to time. It is better to adapt your approach and scheduling. Split larger projects into multiple steps. To secure a deadline, you should request regular status reports. With a little patience and a touch of humor, you and your Bulgarian colleagues will be able to successfully master any time bottlenecks..

Eugeniya Weber

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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