How should one negotiate with Bulgarian business partners? Avoid jokes about their country.

Bulgaria is one of the Czech Republic's traditional foreign business partners. This is due to its similar language, geographical closeness and historic ties. Furthermore, after Bulgaria's accession to the EU, the conditions for bilateral trade became much simpler. What should be prepared for during negotiations with Bulgarian representatives?

For the Czech Republic, Bulgaria is not only a holiday destination, but is also an important trading partner. Czech products have a good reputation on the market in Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic exports to Bulgaria triple what it imports from Bulgaria. The volume of investments has also been increasing year to year. This coastal country with more than 7 million people is very friendly towards visitors and business partners.

The mentality and approach to negotiations of partners from that country correspond to the characteristics of southeastern Europeans. Even during a business meeting, you can encounter casual attitudes and a friendly approach. It is usually common to begin a conversation with general or personal topics, such as how you like the host country, where you are staying, etc.

Making a good first impression is crucial. If the conversation is flowing, this can be considered evidence that you have struck a chord with your business partner. However, silence or answering in short sentences can indicate that the Bulgarian side is not very satisfied. Mutual familiarity should not be overdone either. Business is business.

It is a good idea during the first meeting to shake hands and maintain eye contact. As far as attire is concerned, Bulgarians dress relatively conservatively. Even during a hot summer, a business dress code is followed. You can wear a shirt without a tie and a light business jacket, which can be taken off and set aside if agreed upon with the others.

Something in particular that you should be aware of in Bulgaria is that agreement is expressed by shaking your head rather than nodding, and disagreement is expressed by nodding (the opposite of the Czech Republic).

Punctuality first and foremost

You should arrive on time for meetings, but Bulgarians are usually tolerant if you are no more than five minutes late. If you end up in a traffic jam or are affected by a traffic accident or similar circumstances, it is best to call and explain the problem. The other party will usually take a very accommodating approach and remain willing to negotiate.

If you are more than five minutes late, typically up to 20 minutes, you can expect your negotiating partners to be offended, and this can make the meeting very difficult. If you are going to be more than 25 minutes late, it will be best not to show up for the meeting at all, because your Bulgarian colleagues will not wait for you. In such situation, it is better to plan a new meeting. It is important to keep in mind that meetings typically last longer than originally planned. This should be expected, especially if you are scheduled to have multiple meetings during one day.

Bulgarians highly value recommendations and personal ties and connections. Business is done relatively often through friends and acquaintances. Nonetheless, it is possible to impress even without having contacts. Foreigners are welcomed in Bulgaria, and if you offer enough experience and give a trustworthy impression, you will have a good chance of success. It usually takes a relatively long time to reach a business deal, and one meeting usually is not enough. Therefore, it makes sense to have patience and not to be afraid to negotiate smartly, and having the character of assertive businessmen is welcomed.

In most cases, Bulgarian businesspeople prefer personal meetings. They value charisma and the capabilities of meeting participants more than electronic presentations. Nonetheless, using modern technology will not negatively affect your presentation. Members of the younger generation are especially more open to modern technology. The professional social network LinkedIn has been gradually increasing in popularity. Therefore, if you are going to a meeting, take a look at the LinkedIn profile of the person with whom you will be having the meeting, because your findings can often benefit you.

Confirm the deal as soon as possible with a written contract signed by both parties. Agreements involving "shaking hands and considering everything clear" can sometimes work, but the situation could change over time, and so it is a good idea to have a contract in your hands with the most detailed possible description of the situation and terms agreed upon. If you do not speak Bulgarian, conduct the meeting in English, which most people involved in business speak very well.

National pride is typical among Bulgarians. Sometimes they have the impression that they are overlooked and underestimated in Europe, and therefore they make a major effort to lift themselves from such position. A crucial piece of advice in conclusion: avoid any inappropriate remarks or jokes directed towards your business partners.

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