10 Things to Know About Bulgarian People (2023)

There are numerous specific moments in the Bulgarian national culture that are unusual (and easy to notice).

First of all, Bulgarians love their country and enjoy speaking about their national identity, history, and politics (always a popular subject).

They have a great respect for their ancestors, and respect their cultural and religious customs.

There are many interesting facts about Bulgaria. For example, Bulgaria is one of the oldest European countries. It was established in 681 AD and it is the only country that hasn’t changed its name since then.

Carl Sagan selected the Bulgarian folk song “Izlel e Delyu Haydutin” for the Golden Record which was sent in space onboard the Space Probe Voyager 2 [1].

Bulgaria, along with Turkey, produces 80-90% of all the rose oil. According to history, the Thracian gladiator Spartacus was born in Bulgaria in 111 BC (more specifically on the territory that the modern-day Bulgarian state occupies).

And there is much more to know about this country! If you are interested in learning more about Bulgaria, take a look at this article about the most interesting facts about Bulgaria.

From a cultural perspective, Bulgarian folks have more than just a few uncommon practices based on widely spread superstitions.

Table of Contents

Bulgarian People Facts

1. Stepping On New Shoes

If you buy new shoes in Bulgaria, your Bulgarian friends will step on them. Regardless of the fact that they might be white (the shoes, and also the people).

Sounds awkward, but in fact, it is a genuine expression of wishing you joy with your new pair of shoes.

Stepping on your shoes doesn’t mean that your friends will gather and jump on your feet, but rather lightly tap your shoes.

This particular custom is mainly common amongst the younger population. However, there are few different unusual ways of congratulating something. For example, if you get a haircut, you will get a light slap on your neck.

This may seem strange to a foreigner, but in Bulgaria this is a friendly gesture of wishing you good fortune with your new haircut.

Oh, and your Bulgarian friends might congratulate you after you’ve taken a shower. No worries, they will just say “Congrats” and leave you be.

(Video) 12 Things to know before visiting Bulgaria | Tour around Sofia | Inter HECS

2. Never Leave Windows And Doors Open At The Same Time

There is a wide-spread belief in the Balkans, that draught is deadly. This is the most common reason for shouting at your family members and kids – Don’t play/sit in the draught or you will get sick!

Therefore, Bulgarian folks never leave a window and a door, or two windows open at the same time – because of the “techenie” – the Bulgarian term for a draught.

Although folks in Bulgaria, and all around the Balkans, may seem too upset about this issue, there is a logical explanation. The current of cool air in a confined space may not kill you, but apparently it is not recommendable for the muscles and the bones.

So, this might not be that much of a superstitious behavior (it’s more of a public health concern issue).

3. Head Shake for Yes and Nodding for No

Here’s a little task – Just try to say ‘Yes’ and shake your head ‘No’. Or the other way around – Say ‘No’ and nod ‘Yes’. How strange does it feel? Is it even possible to manage it? Well, Bulgarians do it [2].

Bulgarian folks nod their head for ‘No’ and shake it for ‘Yes’. They are the only Slavic folks who do so. All the others practice the ‘usual’ way, except for the Bulgarians and the Greeks.

4. A Lot of Old Folks (Among the Oldest Citizens in Europe)

According to UN statistics, 25% of the population in Bulgaria are folks over the age of 60, which makes Bulgaria the fifth nation with the highest percentage of elderly people in the world.

But although Bulgaria is among the leading countries in the world in the number of elderly folks, at the same time, they are among the countries with the lowest life expectancy.

Elders in Bulgaria are very respected as wise and experienced, and are often cared for by the members of their family. They share their knowledge and educate the younger generations, and are often the best storytellers.

They are full of stories about the Bulgarian nation, history, and politics, as well as religious and social issues.

Bulgarians are very close to their families, and not only parents, but also grandparents.

Superstition – Part Of Their National Identity

Have you ever felt that you should be more careful on Friday 13? Or have you ever believed that breaking a mirror means seven years of bad luck?

Or that a black cat crossing your path means death in the family? If your palm itches you will get some money?

Have you ever wondered how anyone ever came to believe that a double knock on wood would reverse the bad luck? Are these fortunes just floating in the air and we pick them up with a certain unpredicted and unplanned event such as finding a horseshoe?

People from all around the world, belonging to different ethnic and national groups, traditions, religions, and cultures, all have certain beliefs. It is because folks have always been curious to understand the unusual events around them.

And they were quite creative in explaining those events.

There are numerous superstitions that are shared among the Slavic population. Some of them are bizarre while others may be logical. However, they are all interesting.

Throughout the centuries, Bulgarians were influenced by Romans, the Slavs, ancient tribes and ethnic groups that lived on that territory, the Ottoman Empire, the Bulgarian Orthodox church, as well as various different nations from West and Central Europe.

(Video) Top 15 Places to Visit in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian national identity and the Bulgarian culture are a very interesting social and ethnic mixture. It is not a surprise that so many different beliefs and practices exist in modern Bulgarian society.

5. If You Are Scared Spit In Your Shirt

This superstition is the most peculiar superstition in Bulgaria. Apparently, spitting in your bosom has some magical power of encouraging you while you are scared (In my opinion this should be a part of every culture in the world!).

According to ethnography, there are many cultures around the world where spitting is related to the supernatural.

People spit on something, for something, and to something. It is a demonstration of courage and preparedness of the subject over the invisible supernatural world.

So spitting in your own shirt while being afraid, keeps the things you are afraid of, away from you. For example, if you walk alone in the dark and you are afraid of the darkness itself, spitting in your bosom will keep you safe (at least that’s what folks believe in Bulgaria).

When it comes to spitting, Bulgarians also spit when they give a compliment to somebody. For example, if they meet a cute baby or a person with beautiful features, they would spit (or just imitate the sound of spitting) while saying “Oh pretty you” or “You’ve grown up” (What a nation. eh?).

6. Many Bulgarians Wear a Red Thread on Their Wrist

Red threads are the most spread Bulgarian ‘amulet’ that keeps one from ‘bad eyes’. You will be surprised to see how many Bulgarians actually wear those treads.

Some wear them because they respect the traditional beliefs and customs that are still part of the Bulgarian culture.

There are many who wear them because they actually believe that red treads are protective (the best public health measure before wearing masks was introduced).

‘Bad eyes’ means that folks are envious and that their envy might cause you bad luck in your life. They might be envious of success, physical looks, fortune, luck, and anything else for that matter. Wearing a red thread will protect your good fortune.

It is the Bulgarian variant of the Nazar Boncuk charm or Turkish Eye Bead, which also might be an ethnic leftover from the Ottoman rule in the country.

7. Mothers Are Often Spilling Water for Good Luck

Spilling water is a folk custom in Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, and some other Eastern European countries.

Moving water is perceived as pure, taking all the negativity from one place. That’s why, (usually) mothers are the ones who spill water when their children start their first day of school, have exams, are graduating, are getting married and so on.

For every important event, water is spilled behind the person’s back so that any possible bad luck will disappear with the flowing water.

Running water also symbolizes mobility and ease of movement, so spilling it also means wishing someone a good flow of their work.

8. Opening an Umbrella Inside Is a Blasphemy

You should never ever open an umbrella inside because it brings bad luck (instantly). The origins of this belief are quite murky.

It is a still-existing cultural phenomenon that people avoid opening umbrellas inside. And not only in Bulgaria. This belief exists in various other modern places.

For example, there was a Roman woman who opened her umbrella only moments before her house collapsed. Also, the British legend about a prince who accepted two umbrellas from a visiting king and died only a couple of months later.

(Video) What Bulgarians Think about Bulgaria | Easy Bulgarian 1

This superstition may be similar to the one “Don’t walk under a ladder” which also exists in Bulgaria and also means bad luck to do so.

However, both superstitions might have a practical purpose which is preventing folks from doing anything that may be slightly dangerous.

And that’s not all folks.

There are many more superstitious beliefs in Bulgaria such as:

“Never leave your purse on the floor because you won’t have money”; or “Never go back once you get out of your home because it will bring you bad luck during the day”; “Never sit at the edge of the table because you will never get married” and so on.

The territory of the present-day Bulgarian nation stands in the region where the ancient Thracian civilization existed (before they were conquered by the Roman Empire).

The Thracians were known for their gold-making, fierce warriors, and the gladiator Spartacus. So you shouldn’t be surprised if you get around some Thracian tombs, as there are some 15,000 of them spread around the country.

9. UNESCO Heritage Sites

There are seven cultural and three natural UNESCO Heritage Sites in Bulgaria:

The ancient city of Nessebar which is situated on the shores of the Black Sea;

Boyana Church on the outskirts of Sofia has one of the most complete and perfectly preserved monuments of east European medieval art;

The Madara Rider, a unique relief, representing a figure of a knight triumphing over a lion. It is carved into a 100-m-high cliff near the village of Madara in north-east Bulgaria;

Rila Monastery – founded in the 10th century by St John of Rila is a monument that symbolizes the awareness of a Slavic cultural identity following centuries of occupation;

The Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo -a complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells, located in the village of Ivanovo, in the valley of the Roussenski Lom River;

The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak which contains the best-preserved artistic masterpieces from the Hellenistic period in the country;

The unique Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari is a beautiful architectural survivor of the culture of the Getes;

The Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe;

The Pirin National Park and Srebarna Nature Reserve.

The highest peak on the Balkan Peninsula is located in Bulgaria – Musala peak with an altitude of 2925 meters high is located on the top of the Rila mountain.

(Video) Geography Now! Bulgaria

Although high, Musala is not so difficult to climb up. Rila mountain is part of the Rila National Park where you can hike the route of Rila’s seven lakes and also visit the Rila monastery.

10. The Cuisine

One of the most important things in this country is the cuisine. To really enjoy Bulgarian cuisine you have to relax and give yourself time for all the small table rituals.

The meal can start with the famous Shopska Salad, made from tomatoes, cucumbers, onion/scallions, raw or roasted peppers, sirene (white brine cheese), and parsley that is best served with rakia – the national brandy (and extremely popular in Eastern Europe) [3].

Or with Tarator – a yogurt and cucumber soup [4].

One of the most popular meals is the Kebapche (just like anywhere else in the Balkans), which is grilled minced meat with spices. The meat is pork or beef.

Then a must-try-food is the fish – a grilled sea bass, sea bream, the fried scat and the red mullet, and the calamares.

Another must-try is the Banitsa – a popular pastry in all Balkan countries. It is made with eggs, filo pastry, filled with eggs and baked in the oven. There are many variations in the filling, both salty (spinach, leeks, cabbage) and sweet (apple, pumpkin with sugar, walnuts).

And the golden rule – if a grandma (it doesn’t have to be yours) invites you to eat you can’t refuse. Actually, it is kind of impossible to refuse.

Also, no matter how much you eat they will never be satisfied and will often sit next to you and just keep saying how little you eat. So, no matter what – eat everything that a Bulgarian grandma cooked for you.

Related articles:

16 Most Popular Bulgarian Dishes

11 Best Bulgarian Desserts

The Bottom Line

This country has a little bit of everything for anyone’s taste – It has unique architecture all around, ancient monuments, beautiful sand beaches, great mountains for hiking, tasty cuisine, and very warm and friendly people.

The best of all – even though it is part of the EU, Bulgaria is still relatively cheap.

If you liked this article make sure to check out this one about Ukrainian people.


  1. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/voyager-2/in-depth/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22915258/#
  3. https://www.restoranibeograd.com/en/news/drink-like-a-serbian-everything-you-need-to-know-about-rakia-1/
  4. https://www.food.com/recipe/tarator-bulgarian-cold-cucumber-soup-62181

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What are Bulgarian people known for? ›

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What you should know about Bulgaria? ›

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What is Bulgarian culture like? ›

Bulgarian culture is an unique mix of fairly advanced cultures – mostly of Thracian, Slavic and Bulgar cultures, but there are Byzantine, Turkish, Greek and other influences making numerous masterpieces of the world significance coming from the remote past of antiquity.

What do Bulgarians believe? ›

Religion in Bulgaria has been dominated by Christianity since its adoption as the state religion in 864. The dominant form of the religion is Eastern Orthodox Christianity within the fold of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

What culture speaks Bulgarian? ›

Bulgarian is a Southern Slavic language with about 12 million speakers in Bulgaria and also in Ukraine, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Greece and Romania. Bulgarian is mutually intelligible with Macedonian, and fairly closely related to Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Slovene.

What is Bulgaria known for crime? ›

Bulgarian organized crime groups are involved in a wide range of activities, including drug trafficking, cigarette smuggling, human trafficking, prostitution, illicit antiquities trafficking, extortion (often under the cover of ostensible security and insurance companies), racketeering, various financial crimes, car ...

What does Bulgaria call Santa Claus? ›

Bulgaria. The Bulgarian name of Santa Claus is Дядо Коледа (Dyado Koleda, Grandfather Koleda), with Dyado Mraz (Дядо Мраз, "Grandfather Frost") being a similar Russian-imported character lacking the Christian connotations and thus popular during Communist rule.

What is difficult about Bulgarian? ›

One of the biggest difficulties for Bulgarian-learners is pronunciation, especially when Bulgarian textbooks make it seem even more complicated. But how difficult is it to learn Bulgarian pronunciation and phonetic changes, really? Well, once you have the alphabet down, the process really isn't so difficult.

What should I be careful of in Bulgaria? ›

Watch out for pickpockets and bag thefts in tourist areas and major public transport hubs, including airports. Be vigilant at all times, particularly late at night. If you wish to report a crime, call the local police on 112 and make sure you get a crime report.

Is Bulgaria US friendly? ›

Bulgaria is a reliable ally in an area of strategic importance to the United States. The United States and Bulgaria maintain shared use of several Bulgarian military facilities through the U.S.-Bulgarian Defense Cooperation Agreement, which came into force in 2006.

At what age do Bulgarians get married? ›

According to the Bulgarian legislation, the age for marriage is 18 years.

What is the most important values in Bulgarian society? ›

Iva: Bulgarian families are typically and that tradition has remained one of the most important values in Bulgarian society, Yuri: For example, many households consist of an extended family.

What are Bulgarian families like? ›

Family composition in Bulgaria is varied but generally similar to families in U.S. Typically, only the parents and children live in the same household. In some cases, often in rural areas, grandparents are also part of the household.

What DNA do Bulgarians have? ›

Estimated ancient DNA admixture. Bulgarian: 52% Neolithic farmer (ENF), 32% Western Hunter Gatherer (WHG), 13% Ancestral North Eurasian (ANE).

How do Bulgarians greet? ›

The formal way to greet people is Добър ден! Literally, Добър ден means “Good day”; so as a rule we can use Добър ден only during the daytime—from morning until evening. During the evening, we say: Добър вечер! Вечер is Bulgarian for “Evening,” so Добър вечер means “Good evening.” During the morning we say: Добро утро!

Why do Bulgarians nod for no? ›

According to the legend, Bulgarians swapped the meaning of the signs, so when the Ottoman rulers asked whether they wanted to convert, they would shake their heads for yes, when they meant no.

How hard is Bulgarian to learn? ›

Bulgarian is known as one of the most difficult languages in the World (category 4), knowing that Japanese is in the most complex category (5). Learning Bulgarian is estimated to 44 weeks (1100 hours).

What language is closest to Bulgarian? ›

Bulgarian is most closely related to modern Slovenian, Sebo-Croatian, and Macedonian. It is also closely related to East Slavic languages like Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian, and to West Slavic languages like Sorbian, Polish, Slovak, and Czech.

What is the national drink of Bulgaria? ›

Rakija - the national drink of Bulgaria. Rakia is a traditional Bulgarian fruit brandy.

What is a typical Bulgarian breakfast? ›

Banichka and Boza

A traditional Bulgarian Breakfast is “Banitsa s boza”. Banitsa is traditional Bulgarian food prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of cheese between filo pastry and then baking it in an oven. Boza is a drink with thick consistency and a low alcohol content, it has a sweet flavor.

What alcohol do Bulgarians drink? ›

If you have just arrived in Bulgaria and are still curious to taste the vast variety of authentic Bulgarian meals and drinks, undoubtedly the most traditional and emblematic alcoholic beverage to start your night with is the local rakia.

Is Bulgaria known for human trafficking? ›

Today, human trafficking in Bulgaria exploits both foreigners and Bulgarian citizens in an ongoing trade for sex, free labor and forced begging. This small Eastern European country is one of the main sources of human trafficking in the entire E.U.

Does Bulgaria violate human rights? ›

The European Court of Human Rights often holds that Bulgaria violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Is life good in Bulgaria? ›

The country has a great landscape to explore, but life can be equally as exciting if you're living in one of the big cities. Bulgaria has a strong culture when it comes to music, sports, nightlife, dance and food, so there's always events and festivals going on throughout the year.

What do Bulgarians call their dad? ›

Баща (bashtá) – father, usually called “tatko” or “tate”. Майка (máyka) – mother, addressed as “mamo” or “mayko”

What do Bulgarians eat on Christmas? ›

Consequently, Bulgarians usually feast on an array of vegetarian dishes on December 24, including bean soup, "sarmi" (stuffed cabbage leaves), stuffed peppers, various pastries, compote, as well as fruit and nuts, dried plums, and dried apricots.

What do Bulgarians do on Christmas? ›

Bulgarian Christmas Day customs.

Koledari, or Christmas carolers, go from house to house throughout Bulgarian villages on Christmas, starting at midnight on Christmas Eve. These groups of carolers are typically made up of young men dressed in traditional costumes, which vary from region to region.

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What religion are most Bulgarians? ›

Religion in Bulgaria

The majority of citizens, estimated at approximately 85 percent, are at least nominally Orthodox Christians. Muslims make up the largest minority, estimated at approximately 13 percent, while the remainder includes Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Gregorian-Armenian Christians, and others.

Do a lot of Bulgarians speak English? ›

Less than a quarter of the population speaks English in Bulgaria, 1.74 million people in total.

Is it rude to tip in Bulgaria? ›

Is it standard to tip in Bulgaria? Tipping is standard practice in Bulgaria and travelers should aim to tip around 10% of the total bill in a restaurant, provided the service has been up to scratch. Hotel staff are usually left around USD $1 per night for housekeeping and the same for the porters per bag.

Is Bulgaria a rich or Poor country? ›

Bulgaria is a member of the United Nations and is one of the newest members of the European Union. It is a member of other major organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and NATO. The World Bank classifies Bulgaria as an upper-middle income nation.

Is Bulgarian tap water safe to drink? ›

Tap water is safe to drink all over the country but not always pleasant in taste or appearance. Bulgaria's vast supplies of mineral water are widely available in 0.5 litre and 1.5 litre bottles.

Who is Bulgaria's best friend? ›

Bulgaria's main allies are Greece and Romania, and it maintains good relations with Serbia and the rest of the Balkans. The Republic of North Macedonia plays an important role in Bulgarian foreign and domestic policy due to historical, ethnic and cultural ties.

How many Bulgarians are American? ›

Bulgarian Americans (Bulgarian: Американски българи) are Americans of Bulgarian descent. For the 2000 United States Census, 55,489 Americans indicated Bulgarian as their first ancestry, while 92,841 persons declared to have Bulgarian ancestry.
Bulgarian-born population.
6 more rows

How long can a US citizen live in Bulgaria? ›

U.S. citizens traveling on regular tourist passports cannot stay more than a total of 90 days in Bulgaria within a 6 month-period without a Bulgarian visa. This law is strictly enforced.

How do you marry a Bulgarian? ›

The documents for civil marriage (the only valid in Bulgaria), required by both parties, are: Proof of identity, ID card if EU citizen, passport non-EU. Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage (Legalized and in Bulgarian language), to prove that the person is free and legally eligible to marry.)

Is it legal to marry your cousin in Bulgaria? ›

Cannot marry each other: Close relatives; Brothers and sisters, their children and other collateral relatives up to the fourth degree including. Same-sex marriage is not permitted in Bulgaria; there is no legal recognition of same sex partnerships.

What countries allow 14 marriages? ›

Greece. Females married as young as 14 or 16.

What is Bulgarian culture known for? ›

Bulgaria has a rich heritage in the visual arts, especially in frescoes, murals and icons. The Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak offers fine examples of excellently preserved ancient Thracian art. Tomb art provides one of the most important sources of information about Thracian lifestyle and culture.

What are Bulgarians famous for? ›

9 Things Bulgarians Are Most Proud Of
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  • Football Players. ...
  • Volleyball Players. ...
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  • The Yogurt. ...
  • The Cyrillic Script. ...
  • The Bulgarian Oil-Producing Rose. ...
  • John Atanasov, Inventor of an Early Computer.
Dec 20, 2017

What kind of people are Bulgarian? ›

Bulgarians (Bulgarian: българи, romanized: Bǎlgari, IPA: [ˈbɤɫɡɐri]) are a nation and South Slavic ethnic group native to Bulgaria and the rest of Southeast Europe. Other South Slavs, especially Macedonians, Slavic speakers in Greece and Torlak speakers in Serbia.

How smart are Bulgarians? ›

– According to MENSA International, Bulgaria ranks 2nd in the world in Mensa IQ test-scores and its students rate second in the world in SAT scores.

Is Bulgaria a poor or rich country? ›

Bulgaria is a member of the United Nations and is one of the newest members of the European Union. It is a member of other major organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and NATO. The World Bank classifies Bulgaria as an upper-middle income nation.

What makes Bulgaria unique? ›

The country is remarkable for its variety of scenery; its rugged mountains and relaxing Black Sea resorts attract many visitors. Like other nations of the Balkan Peninsula, Bulgaria claims a mix of Eastern and Western cultures, and the mingling is evident in its cuisine, its architecture, and its religious heritage.

What races are Bulgarians? ›

Bulgarians are part of the “West Eurasian Race” sometimes refereed to as Caucasian, or Caucasoid. Which encompasses Europeans, Middle Easterners and North Africans. Bulgarians are also European which by political definition makes them “White”.

Are Bulgarians white or Caucasian? ›

Based on the results from our population genetic analysis we suggest that contemporary Bulgarians are an admixture of ancestral Slavonic groups, rich on locally absorbed EEF DNA and Proto Bulgarians, rich on Caucasian DNA and genetically related to the bearers of the Saltovo-Mayaki Culture from 6-8 century AD.

Where do Bulgarians descend from? ›

Bulgarians are the people of the Turkic origin /Hunnic-Onogur tribe/ from the central Asia – present Turkmenistan from where they started migration towards the Balkans at the end of the 2nd century AD and have settled in the area between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea north of the Caucus and east of Volga River and west ...

Is crime high in Bulgaria? ›

Bulgaria crime rate & statistics for 2018 was 1.30, a 10.03% decline from 2017.
Bulgaria Crime Rate & Statistics 1990-2023.
Bulgaria Crime Rate & Statistics - Historical Data
YearPer 100K PopulationAnnual % Change
28 more rows

Is Bulgaria cheap to live? ›

Bulgaria is often dubbed "the cheapest country in Europe" for the affordability of consumer goods and services.

What is Bulgarian most similar to? ›

Bulgarian is most closely related to modern Slovenian, Sebo-Croatian, and Macedonian. It is also closely related to East Slavic languages like Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Russian, and to West Slavic languages like Sorbian, Polish, Slovak, and Czech.

What is a Bulgarian called? ›

Bulgar, also called Bulgarian, member of a people known in eastern European history during the Middle Ages. A branch of this people was one of the primary three ethnic ancestors of modern Bulgarians (the other two were Thracians and Slavs).

Are Bulgarians friendly to foreigners? ›

“If you're not familiar with Bulgarian culture you may find the people to be rude at first. They're not rude, they're actually very friendly, however they are very direct and honest. As a Brit this is a little difficult to get used to as we are always much more diplomatic with our words.

What have Bulgarians invented? ›

There are many Bulgarian inventions acknowledged internationally, way beyond the Bulgarian yogurt and the 1st computer.
  • 1- The First Digital Electronic Computer.
  • 2-The Automatic Automotive Transmission.
  • 3-The Oral Contraceptive Pills.
  • 4- The Cyrillic Alphabet.
  • 6-The digital wristwatch.
  • 7- Space Food.


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