Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Southern branch of the Slavic language family. Bulgarian was the first Slavic language to be written which started to appear in writing during the 9th century in the Glagolitic alphabet, which was gradually replaced by an early version of the Cyrillic alphabet over the following centuries. Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language (collectively forming the East South Slavic languages), has several characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages. Consequently, modern Bulgarian is about as far from Russian as Swedish is from German.
English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and is now the most widely used language in the world. It is the third-most-common native language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Following British colonisation from the 16th to 19th centuries, it became the dominant language in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is spoken as a first language by the majority populations of several sovereign states, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and a number of Caribbean nations.
Although the English and Bulgarian languages have Indo-European origin, we can perceive how different they are when speaking and writing in terms of their language specific pronunciation and grammar rules. What about the English and Bulgarian cultural differences? Related to that, believe me, we can talk a lot, and we shall still miss lots of the things we can share about both languages cultural issues. I will try to provide some examples on that. Hope I will offend neither of the countries so just interpret the article in a funny and interesting way to get familiar with the two country’sgamint language and culture.
Let’s focus on the most important difference here – the body language we use
- Bulgarians shake their heads when they mean “Yes” and nod when they mean “No”. Sometimes they reverse these gestures when they know they communicate with foreigners, and in this way they deepen misunderstandings further. The best way to avoid all this mess is simply to use the words Yes and No. It’s easy, isn’t it? It saves you lots of time and troubles!
I know an English guy who was travelling from Burgas to Istanbul. The coach pulled up and he asked “Is this the coach to Istanbul?” The guys were nodding and saying “ne, ne ne” (ne means No). He knew they were saying “no”, but he got on the coach anyway because the nod meant “yes” to him. It was a deep cultural interpretation on his part. Of course, they were saying “no” and he knew that the nod means “no” in theory, but it was an interesting disconnect between theory and practice. And a lot of other Europeans get confused about Bulgarian body language! So when you come to Bulgaria, have in mind our vice-versa body language gestures and just ask “Yes” or “No”.
- In Bulgaria we may show you two fingers which do not mean what you think. It would just mean two – number two but you will probably interpret it as an offense and be shocked of the disrespect we show to you. We have had no intention to offend or hurt you; it is just a cultural difference and different body language interpretation. We may online gaming deserve to be beaten somewhere in England without actually knowing the reason ha ha…
- Bulgaria is not very used to having foreigners here. In the capital you will definitely find someone who speaks English, but in the countryside and the small town I live, it will be a miracle to meet somebody who speaks some English as most people don’t. So don’t be online gaming surprised or offended when people frown and walk away from you when they find out you are a foreigner. I can state that the UK turns to be one of the most hospitable nations in terms of people of different origin, nationality and race while Bulgarians are not so open to foreigners and to cosmopolitan population. I could partially explain that warm and kind attitude with all the British colonies the English used to have.
- In England people very often say Thank you/Please/Sorry but this is not our way here. Of course most of us are well-brought up and well-educated but our culture does not imply those words in our general behavior. Sometimes we use all these words, too but not as frequently as you.
I remember one of the times when I was in England; I think that was in the Blue Water shopping centre near Gravesend, I was an observer of an interesting happening. A friend of mine was buying something (probably some clothes and some bags from the Fifth Collection Celine), the cashier gave her the bag, and then the receipt and then some promotional coupon and my friend just said “OK” and walked away. Then I heard the cashier saying “Ohh she is so rude”. My LoL friend was not rude nor in a bad mood. Apart from her poor English, I am sure she could not have said “Thank you” three times as was expected.
- In England in small towns or villages, even if people don’t know you, they will still say “Hello”, “Hiya” or “Good morning” but this is not the case in Bulgaria even if in countryside. It is not because we don’t show respect to you but because we usually would not greet somebody we don’t know. An exception is when Bulgarians are in a queue and an old lady or man comes, some people might greet them. Don’t take that personal, please. That’s the way of our living here.
- We, Bulgarians are often too emotional, like the Italians or the Spanish, talking loudly and gesticulating too much sometimes.
Once I was at Gatwick airport, just landing and going to the Gatwick station and trying to catch the train to Victoria. Actually we were a group of people (only Bulgarians). And since we are Bulgarians (you cannot imagine how emotional and wildly gesticulating we can be) we were talking very loudly at the station waiting for the train to come. We were not arguing, everyone just wanted to share their thoughts with others. At some time a railway officer approached us, stared at us and asked” Are you ok?”, I said “Yes”, he asked “Which train are you waiting for?”, I said “The one to Victoria.” Then he looked at the train schedule, saw that the next train to Victoria would arrive in 10 minutes and just said “OK”, which meant they were looking fine since they knew which train they were waiting for and where they were going to”.
- In Bulgaria people are getting more and more focused on learning foreign languages, esp. English. We perceive it as a necessary step to find a better job position and broad our view and philosophy of life. While in England I have the impression that since the English language has achieved the status as the league of legends world’s lingua franca through globalization, you don’t need to bother learning a second language although I cannot deny the presence of some very well-educated English linguists.
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Author: Nataliya Nedkova, an English-Bulgarian translator and interpreter
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