Bulgarian business culture guide - Learn about Bulgaria
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Bulgarian business culture guide - Learn about Bulgaria

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http://businessculture.org - Find out about business culture in Bulgaria. This guide is part of the Passport to Trade 2.0 project, which examined European Business culture in 31 countries looking at ...

http://businessculture.org - Find out about business culture in Bulgaria. This guide is part of the Passport to Trade 2.0 project, which examined European Business culture in 31 countries looking at business communication, business etiquette, business meeting etiquette, internship and student placements, cost of living, work-life-balance and social media guide.

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Bulgarian business culture guide - Learn about Bulgaria Bulgarian business culture guide - Learn about Bulgaria Document Transcript

  •            |  1     businessculture.org Business Culture in Bulgaria   http://businessculture.org/easterneurope/business-culture-in-bulgaria/ Last updated: 25.10.2013 businessculture.org   This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This Content   cannot be publication reflects the view only of the author, and the Commission Germany   held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
  •            |  2     TABLE  OF  CONTENT   Business  Culture  in  Bulgaria   ......................................................................................................  4   Xenophobia: being a foreigner in Bulgaria .......................................................................................... 5   General Education ............................................................................................................................... 5   Educational standards .......................................................................................................................... 6   Other Issues such as transportation infrastructure ............................................................................... 6   Cultural taboos ..................................................................................................................................... 7   Business  Communication  ..........................................................................................................  8   Face-to-face communication ................................................................................................................ 8   Language Matters................................................................................................................................. 8   Business Relationships .......................................................................................................................... 8   Making contact ..................................................................................................................................... 9   Personal Titles ...................................................................................................................................... 9   Business  Etiquette  ..................................................................................................................  10   Corporate Social Responsibility ......................................................................................................... 10   Punctuality .......................................................................................................................................... 10   Gift giving ........................................................................................................................................... 10   Business Dress Code ........................................................................................................................... 11   Bribery and corruption ....................................................................................................................... 11   Business  Meeting  Etiquette  ....................................................................................................  12   Importance of Business Meeting ........................................................................................................ 12   Business Meeting planning ................................................................................................................. 12   Negotiation process ............................................................................................................................ 12   Meeting protocol ................................................................................................................................ 13   How to Run a Business Meeting ........................................................................................................ 13   Follow up letter after meeting with client ........................................................................................... 13   Business meals .................................................................................................................................... 13   Business Meeting tips.......................................................................................................................... 14   businessculture.org   Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  3     Internship  and  placement  .......................................................................................................  15   Work experience................................................................................................................................. 15   Internship and Placement advice ....................................................................................................... 15   Social security and European health insurance ................................................................................. 15   Safety .................................................................................................................................................. 16   Do I need a visa? ................................................................................................................................ 16   Internship and placement salary ........................................................................................................ 17   Internship and placement accommodation ........................................................................................ 17   Cost  of  Living  ...........................................................................................................................  18   Money and Banking ........................................................................................................................... 18   Traveling costs .................................................................................................................................... 18   Work-­‐life  Balance   ....................................................................................................................  19   National holidays ................................................................................................................................ 19   Working hours .................................................................................................................................... 20   Working culture .................................................................................................................................. 21   Health insurance ................................................................................................................................ 21   Social  Media  Guide  .................................................................................................................  22   Search and Social Media Marketing for International Business ........................................................ 22               businessculture.org   Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  4     Business  Culture  in  Bulgaria   The following is a very short introduction to Bulgaria. External links at the end of this page provide you with more in depth information concerning different topics. The following video gives you an overview of the general facts: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGXP7YraUJQ) Bulgaria is situated in south-eastern Europe, within the north-east part of the Balkans. It borders Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and the Black Sea. Bulgaria is at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The territory that is now Bulgaria was a battlefield for some of the earliest civilizations all over Europe. The First Bulgarian state was established in 681AD, after the unification of the Bulgarian tribes coming from Central Asia and the local Slav tribes. The introduction of a common religion, language and alphabet united ethnically and culturally diverse peoples and developed the Bulgarian national consciousness. The history of the country is rich in the struggle for political hegemony in south-eastern Europe and independence from the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. In 1908, Bulgaria reached complete independence from the Ottoman Empire. In 1946, the state was declared a republic, under the political and economic dominance of the USSR. The democratic changes began at the end of 1989, once multiparty elections were instituted and a new constitution was put into effect. Bulgaria then started the transition to a market economy governed by a parliamentary democracy. Bulgaria has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1991; it joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007. The Bulgarian population is currently 7.3 million people or 1.5% of the EU population. The Bulgarian ethnic group amounts to almost 85% of the population, followed by the Turkish ethnic group at 8.8% and the Roma at 4.9%. The main religion is Christianity with 76% of the population members of the Eastern Orthodox Church; a further 10% of the population follow the Islamic faith. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  5     The capital of Bulgaria is Sofia and the country is divided into 28 territorial provinces. More than 72% of the Bulgarian population lives in the urban areas. Bulgaria is a small open economy. The GDP composition by sector is more than 63% for services, 31% for industry and more than 5% for agriculture. The country has a stable currency, maintained by a currency board, which has pegged the Bulgarian Lev to the Euro at the rate of 1.96. Bulgaria is also a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its main trading partners are member states of the European Union. Exports to Germany, Italy, Greece, Romania, Belgium and France account for two-thirds of overall exports to the EU. Bulgaria’s main trading partners from outside of the EU are Turkey, Russia, Serbia, and the Republic of Macedonia. Key exports include apparel, iron and steel, footwear, machinery and equipment; while imports are primarily machinery and equipment, fuels, minerals, raw materials, metals and ores, chemicals and plastics. Bulgaria has a temperate continental climate, where winters are cold with high humidity and summers are hot and dry with a Mediterranean influence in the south. Bulgaria is located in the Eastern European Time Zone and adheres to CET (UTC+2) during the winter and EST (UTC+3) during the summer. Xenophobia:  being  a  foreigner  in  Bulgaria   In general, Bulgarians are very hospitable, friendly and helpful, although they may seem more serious than most Europeans at first. Many of them speak foreign languages and appreciate foreign visitors, so they can be really good company. Bulgarians also accept foreigners well as business partners, as they consider them to be experienced and trustworthy. More than 50% of Bulgarians perceive that numbers of immigrants in Bulgaria are quite low and do not represent a threat to their jobs. However, there are also major concerns that immigrants will compete for jobs and may contribute to crime escalation, as well as overwhelm the social security system. The impact of immigrants on national culture is not considered to be a threat to Bulgarian society and Bulgarians foster the preservation of their customs and traditions. Bulgarians have high levels of intolerance towards the Roma people, homosexuals, and immigrants to a lesser extent. However, most Bulgarians consider that immigration has both positive and negative impacts on the country. General  Education   The Bulgarian population is well educated, with approximately 80% of the working-age population having secondary or higher education. The education system in Bulgaria has two main stages, from grade 1 to 4 and from grade 5 to 8. Children usually enter the education system at the age of 7 and, after finishing 8th grade, choose a high school from one of three types: comprehensive, profile-oriented (language and maths) and vocational (technical) schools. Typically, the length of a high school program is 4 or 5 years, according to the type of school. More than 200,000 students study at universities and specialised state and private higher schools.. In line with the general EU trend, the biggest numbers of students are studying businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  6     subjects related to business administration and public relations, followed by industry and construction, and then the humanities, arts and medicine. Educational  standards   Education is the fundamental right of every citizen in Bulgaria. Every child is mandatory to go to school from pre-school till the age of 16. The standard of education in Bulgaria is quite high. The education system in Bulgaria is opening up to the world and the needs of a knowledge based economy. The teaching of foreign languages is introduced from an early age in kindergartens and schools. Most educational institutions have good computer facilities and broadband Internet connection. The academic staff is being enriched by young specialists who are educated abroad. Bulgarian universities are opening up to foreign students. Courses that are taught in English are being introduced in many universities. People wishing to study in Bulgaria or to enrol their children should contact the relevant embassies or consulate offices in their home country, or the Bulgarian Ministry of education, science and youth. Other  Issues  such  as  transportation  infrastructure   The public transportation network is well developed in Bulgaria and you can reach most Bulgarian cities and villages by bus. There are bus lines that are operated by both private companies and the state, whose schedules can be found at bus stations in the major cities. The schedule for buses travelling from the capital Sofia to all other destinations in the country can be found at: http://www.centralnaavtogara.bg/ International bus routes connect Bulgaria to the majority of European cities. You can buy a ticket from company offices, the carriers themselves, bus stations, tourist agencies, as well as on the internet. Bulgarian State Railways provides both passenger and freight services, connecting cities and towns across the country. Train tickets are available to buy at the railway stations and it is preferable to be at the station at least 40 minutes before the departure of the train. Information regarding the railway network is available at the following internet address: http://bdz.bg/index-en.php Local transportation outside the capital city is usually by bus or trolley-bus. The price varies in the different cities; however, the bus or trolley ticket is rarely above 1 Lev (0.50 euro). Taxis are expensive, with a base rate of 1 Lev per journey and a distance charge of 0.79 Leva per kilometre in the capital city. In the rest of the country, where the distances travelled by taxi are shorter, prices are higher. Bulgaria has four international airports, in Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv and Burgas. Sofia airport has two terminals and can be reached from the centre by bus, taxi or car. • businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  7   Cultural  taboos   There are no specific taboos in Bulgaria. However, Bulgarians have a fairly conservative attitude towards homosexuality. There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples in Bulgaria. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is forbidden in the areas of employment, housing, education and the provision of goods and services. Bulgarians compare favourably to other European countries in terms of racial attitudes. There are people of Cuban and African descent in the country and they may provoke more interest in regions outside the capital, Sofia. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  8     Business  Communication   Face-­‐to-­‐face  communication   Bulgarians like to do business face-to-face and it is important to visit local partners and customers in person to get to know each other and build a lasting relationship. If communication is limited to only emails or faxes, it will not be well-received and will not have the desired effect. Many Bulgarians are direct but it is important to pay attention to non-verbal signs of communication and sometimes to ask the same question a number of times, to see if the response changes. Bulgarians make a lot of gestures while communicating and clearly show their emotions in facial expressions. It is important to note that Bulgarians have different head gestures to indicate ‘no’ and ‘yes’ to other cultures, such that shaking your head from side to side signifies ‘yes’ and an up and down movement means ‘no’. Most Bulgarians maintain eye contact while talking, which indicates sincerity, friendliness and respect. Bulgarians usually stand close together at arm’s length when they are talking to one another. Language  Matters   85% of the population speak Bulgarian as their first language, followed by 9% who speak Turkish and 4% whose mother tongue is Romani. A large percentage of the young population speak foreign languages and English is widely used, having been taught at all schools and some universities. About 60% of the working age population (25 to 64 years) speak at least one foreign language and around two thirds of the students learn English or German. Despite that fact, outside of Sofia, interpreters are often required for business meetings. Other languages such as Spanish and French are commonly used and most of the older generations understand and freely speak Russian. Bulgarians also understand other Slavic languages when they are spoken slowly, such as Serbian and Macedonian. Business  Relationships   Bulgarian culture is very vocal; people are generally quite talkative and enjoy conversations. They feel uneasy about sudden breaks in conversation and although interruptions are not well accepted, they can demonstrate that someone is interested and paying attention to the subject matter. In most cases, it is considered very rude to interrupt. At first, it may be difficult to start a conversation but with a little perseverance, Bulgarians will normally open up and may start talking a lot, at times with several people speaking at once. Contracting is a very important part of doing business, because it serves to document the arrangement and states what the individual participants have agreed to. It also ensures the agreement is respected and what corrective actions may apply, in case it is not. If part of a contract includes penalty clauses for missed deadlines or milestones, Bulgarians will pay businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  9   close attention and consider them very seriously. Mutual trust and personal relationships in business may take a number of years of cooperation to develop and, even then, it is advisable to have a written contract. Sometimes, Bulgarians accept verbal agreements as contractual obligations, but this is not a widespread practice and not seen in serious business relationships. Being able to allocate responsibility is something that Bulgarian managers are not very good at. Typically, all important decisions are made by the head office or senior management. Bulgarian society is highly centralised and only in recent years have there been attempts at decentralisation. Management is not democratic and there is a very clear division between employer and employee. Bulgarians usually consider the demonstration of intense emotions in the workplace as unprofessional. They have a high appreciation for humour and can often have a selfdeprecating attitude. They use a number of understatements when they do not like something or they are unhappy with a situation. Making  contact   Normally Bulgarians shake hands when meeting and maintain direct eye contact. Light hugs are something typical between close friends and family. A kiss on each cheek is a usual greeting between women who know each other. With members of the opposite sex and business colleagues, it is appropriate to keep a moderate amount of space when conversing. Between friends and family, the need for personal space is less. Personal  Titles   Mr. and Mrs. are the titles used during formal occasions and when meeting someone for the first time, but it is not uncommon to be called by your first name and formality lessens as time goes on. It is normal to exchange business cards at the beginning of a business meeting. The use of formal titles is mainly limited to the workplace and even in situations where the person is highly-regarded, they might prefer to be addressed by their given name. Terms of address between spouses are also very informal and women are no longer solely identified as ‘the wife of’ and addressed by their husband’s name. It is important to include your job title and professional accreditation on your business card, although mentioning an academic degree will hold little weight without supporting evidence. It is important for Bulgarians to be well acquainted with the person they are doing business with. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  10   Business  Etiquette     Attitudes and values reflect the ways people think and behave. Knowledge of attitudes and values can therefore be of significant importance if you wish to communicate with your counterparts effectively. Corporate  Social  Responsibility   There has been rising interest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Bulgaria over the last decade. Companies have become more conscious about their influence on the environment and contribution to society as a whole. They have started to implement CSR principles and policies in order to become more competitive in the realisation that CSR has a considerable impact on social unity, transparency and trust among the different stakeholders. Through sponsorship and charity involvement, Bulgarian companies seek to demonstrate their commitment towards their employees, everyday problems and concerns of the environment. Over 40% of companies now participate in charity and social activities. CSR projects and initiatives are highly promoted and most of them are organized on a partnership basis, as a way of attracting broad interest from companies, the media and the non-governmental sector. Punctuality   In Bulgaria, punctuality is valued and expected in business circumstances. If you are going to be late, it is advisable to call ahead and explain the reasons. If you are going to be late to a social event, it is still a good idea to call ahead; even though there is more flexibility in what time you might be expected to arrive. When Bulgarians go out with friends, they try to take their time and enjoy each other’s’ company, so dinners usually last a couple of hours. The travel time required depends on the location and although transportation is becoming more reliable, there could be delays. In big cities, buses are usually every 2 to 3 minutes, but can be as much as 15 to 20 minutes apart during weekends. The extension of metro lines 1 and 2 in Sofia has improved public transportation and journey times in the capital city have become quicker and more reliable. Since the two metro lines connect several remote neighbourhoods to the city centre, the use of taxis or cars is decreasing. The metro lines connect major residential areas with universities and major business locations and travel time to the centre is about 10 to 12 minutes. An extension of the metro to Sofia Airport and the city’s main business park is expected to be completed in 2014. Gift  giving   In Bulgaria, statistics show growth in the corporate gift market at 20% annually. Firms give gifts mainly on big national and Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and St. George’s Day. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  11   As corruption is widespread, giving gifts when doing business is a delicate matter. It is better to give an ‘original’ gift instead of an expensive one, which could be perceived in a number of different ways. Among the most conventional gifts are branded office materials, such as promotional notepads, pens, corporate calendars, organizers, post-it notes, clocks and ashtrays. Another traditional gift is a bottle of fine wine, sometimes combined with wineglasses, a bottle rack or box of luxury accessories (a thermometer, corkscrew, stopper), as well as luxury chocolates or some sort of dessert. Gifts should be relative to the social status and highly respected clients should receive more attention and a more personal gift. For company employees’ personal occasions, gifts such as vouchers, tours or flowers are given. Gifts are usually opened right away. Business  Dress  Code   The business dress code is similar to that of other countries and depends primarily on the industry and working environment. In some businesses less formal attire is permissible, but wearing revealing or provocative clothing is highly unacceptable. Men are expected to wear suits and women similarly formal business attire; conservative yet stylish conservative clothing is preferred. Bribery  and  corruption   The Bulgarian economy offers a number of advantages and disadvantages to people who consider establishing a business there. One of the weaknesses is the still unresolved problem with bribery and corruption, as highlighted by the Perceived Corruption Index in the public sector. In 2012, Bulgaria scored 41, a slightly better score compared to neighbouring Greece (36) and Albania (33). Major recommendations of the European Commission for Bulgaria included the achievement of visible results in the fight against corruption, increased efficiency through the adoption of more active measures by public institutions, increased effectiveness of the legislative framework and transparency with regard to nominations for key positions. Business corruption is becoming less and less common, since entrepreneurs and companies have stopped paying ‘taxes’ to government officials for various undisclosed services. Bulgaria is in fourth place in the EU with respect to corruption at personal level and many Bulgarians who deal with doctors, police officers or other institutions offer money, a gift or a favour, in order to receive a faster and better service. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  12   Business  Meeting  Etiquette     Importance  of  Business  Meeting   Bulgarians treat business meetings formally and show respect in adhering to formal protocols and conservative standards of dress. It is important not to underestimate the directness of Bulgarians. Even though people are more reserved in business situations, they are very direct, clear and explicit. Humour can be used in a meeting as a good way to break the ice. Be prepared for a long business meeting; it is common for meetings to last longer than the allocated time, so plenty of additional time should be scheduled between meetings. Patience and amicable relationships are crucial to success when doing business in Bulgaria. Business  Meeting  planning   It is important to make appointments in advance and try to avoid the main holiday periods. Usually appointments take some time to be organized, depending on the seniority of the person that you want to meet. Business appointments are normally planned two to three weeks in advance and should be arranged by making contact by telephone. . If you arrive at the place of business without an appointment, it is almost certain that you will not be able to meet with the person you are looking for. Working hours are typically 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. The first meeting with a Bulgarian associate is usually for introductory purposes and no decisions will be taken. Typically, Bulgarians choose not to hurry when it comes to making important decisions. Also, business partners should keep in mind that Bulgarians are less-deadline oriented, particularly in comparison to most Western cultures. Negotiation  process   When you talk with Bulgarians you need to remember that negotiations are typically held with the manager. The manager may take suggestions or be advised by employees, teams or advisory groups, but will make the final decision. Bulgarians have very flexible negotiation skills and will volunteer personal comments and information to a greater or lesser extent.. They dislike being asked highly personal questions about their own education or friendships but will talk readily about political, cultural or societal subjects. In a business situation, individuals will be far more serious and cautious about what they are willing to divulge. Moreover, there are considerable differences in the approachability of people in the smaller villages than in the larger towns and cities. When you begin negotiations, Bulgarians are likely to get straight to the point and discuss the key problems up front. When all the business is covered, Bulgarians will stay at the negotiating table to drink coffee or tea with you and begin joking or ask you about how you feel about the country. They will give you suggestions about where to go to and what to try from the Bulgarian cuisines and may even invite you to dinner. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  13   Bulgarians still enjoy combining business with pleasure, so negotiations will be accompanied by long nights in traditional local pubs with plenty of eating and drinking. Negotiations are not merely intended to reach an agreement, but also to make sure the visitor feel welcome.  Meeting  protocol   Bulgaria is a moderately formal society, which means that initial greetings are always formal. When meeting people shake their hands firmly, maintain eye contact and use a suitable greeting for the time of day. It is better to refer to people by their titles (if you are familiar with them) or using Mr ‘Gospodin’ / Mrs ‘Gospozha’ with the surname. Only friends and family members will address each other by their first names and give each other a hug or kiss in public. A foreigner should always let the Bulgarian counterparts take the lead when communications become more informal. Business cards are always exchanged on initial meetings and having enough cards with you will make a positive impression. How  to  Run  a  Business  Meeting   Bulgarians organise meetings in a western style following strict protocols and procedures. It is important to allow enough time for business meetings, because they normally take more time than expected. Visitors are expected to be punctual or arrive several minutes early for an appointment. In case unexpected circumstances cause a delay longer than 10 or 15 minutes, it is better to call ahead, apologising for the delay with an expected time of arrival. Bulgarian business culture is hierarchical but the opinion of everyone involved is important and taken into account in the decision. More senior members have the most authority and demand a certain level of respect. Follow  up  letter  after  meeting  with  client   Following up after a meeting is necessary to show that you care and have a desire for the relationship to succeed. Virtual meetings are considered poor substitute to in-person meetings and should only be used when necessary or to supplement the regular personal visits that are needed to maintain the level of trust and understanding. Business moves slowly in Bulgaria and detailed paperwork is essential for business transactions and clear communication. This is especially true when dealing with the Bulgarian government, as business transactions can be stalled by bureaucracy. Business  meals   It is common for business contacts to have lunch or dinner together following their meeting, and whoever makes the invitation is normally expected to pay. Excessive drinking is commonly expected at a business meal and smoking is even common throughout a meal. However, legislation has recently been introduced that forbids smoking within a building. Table manners tend to be casual, although there are some rules that ought to be respected. When invited to sit down at the table, wait for host to show you to your seat and allow the most senior person to begin proceedings, even if you are the guest of honour. The customary is ‘Nazdrave’, which means ‘good health’ and it’s very important to not only say it to the whole table, but also to every person while making eye contact. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  14     If you are invited to dinner at the home of your business associate, it’s important to bring something for the host and hostess, such as a good bottle of wine or something sweet. Additionally, you will be more respected if you bring something ‘for the house’, such as a small souvenir from your home country. Avoid expensive gifts as the gesture could be misunderstood, but if the hosts have children, it is essential to bring some treat for them too in the form of chocolate or other sweets. Lunch usually starts between 12.30pm and 1pm, whereas dinner starts between 7pm and 8pm. English is spoken in the majority of the big restaurants, particularly in the capital, Sofia. Traditional dishes that are common for the Balkan region include: Shopska Salad, which is the most well-known salad and is a mixture of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions and Bulgarian white cheese; kavarma, a spicy stew prepared in an earthenware bowl, banitsa, a layered filo pastry with a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of white cheese, tarator, a cold soup made of cucumbers, yoghurt, garlic, walnuts, dill and vegetable oil. Other popular dishes are mousaka, shkembe chorba, and stewed beans. The combination of stewed meat, vegetables and spices is very typical in Bulgarian cuisine. Business  Meeting  tips   Business decisions are very often influenced by personal attitudes, so it is useful to create and maintain good relationships with partners. It is common to celebrate a person’s name day as well as their birthday. Actually, a lot of Bulgarians recognise their ‘Name Day’ more than their birthday as a day when they bring drinks and treats into the office to share. All the people who are named after individual Saints celebrate their name day on the same day; for example, everyone named Maria celebrates Assumption Day, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. • DON’T underestimate the directness of Bulgarians. Despite their reserved reputation when it comes to business situations, communication is more direct and succinct. • DON’T say “Chiao” as “Hello” businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  15   Internship  and  placement     Work  experience   A student placement or internship is a compulsory part of undergraduate education in Bulgaria and although there is no central placement database, most students are able to find placements by themselves. Universities and specialised technical schools cooperate with local enterprises in order to help students acquire specific skills relevant to their future profession. Some student placement opportunities are facilitated by career centres at the universities, while others are offered by the Bulgarian ministries and local governments. Student placements in Bulgaria can also be uploaded by companies to the Europe Internship [http://www.europe-internship.com] portal. Most Bulgarian universities offer student placements for foreign students under the LLP Erasmus programme, which supports student placements of be¬tween 3 and 12 months in commercial establishments and research centres within Europe. Internship  and  Placement  advice   Information on job opportunities can be obtained from the National Employment Agency, which offers temporary or seasonal vacancies that might be of interest to students. Opportunities for internships are also offered by AISEC Bulgaria. Social  security  and  European  health  insurance   Citizens of EU member states, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland can obtain the European Health Insurance Card, which provides access to the Bulgarian public health care system and ensures compensation of medical costs after the foreigner returns back home. More detailed information is available at http://www.en.nhif.bg/web/gues/home. In exceptional cases, a temporary E111 proof of entitlement and proof of identity may be accepted in place of an EHIC. On presentation of the necessary documents, visitors pay the same contribution fee as insured Bulgarian citizens for access to medical services, treatments and prescriptions. Any visitors from outside of the EU would need to check their eligibility for free or subsidised medical services and obtain private insurance where necessary. The public health care system in Bulgaria does not include all types of medical services and private health insurance may be needed, even with an EHIC. Bulgaria has compulsory public health insurance and contributions are obligatory for Bulgarian citizens, as well as for foreigners who permanently reside in the country. The obligatory contribution rate is 8% of the monthly salary with the employer paying 60% and the employee 40%. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  16     Health care services are accessed through a family doctor (GP), who is able to refer people to a specialist registered with the National Health Insurance Fund, if required. There are many specialised private clinics and hospitals in the country. When visiting such clinics patients pay the whole cost of the services they receive immediately, whether or not they have health insurance. In Bulgaria, the state offers social assistance. If you become ill, according to the law, the employer only pays the first day of sick-leave at the average daily rate. The employee is obliged to present their employer with a doctor’s note for any short-term inability to work. Sickness benefits for short-term inability to work, work-related accidents and illnesses are covered by the National Social Security Institute. The support for monthly child benefit is determined on the basis of family income and is given until the end of the child’s secondary education. Foreign women are also entitled to receive child benefit. Safety   Overall, Bulgaria is a safe place. However, greater attention must be paid when travelling with the public transport due to the presence of pickpockets. Taxi drivers may overcharge unwary visitors and taxis that don’t have a visible meter should be avoided. ATMs are available almost everywhere in major cities. However, all cards should be used carefully to minimise the risk theft or fraud. It is safer to use ATMs that are situated in major institutions like banks or large malls and it is advisable to use credit cards for hotel bills or at major retailers. Aggressive driving behaviours and the absence of proper infrastructure mean that driving can be hazardous, so it is safer to drive defensively and ensure that seat belts are worn. It is highly recommended to avoid confrontations with other drivers and an English version of the Bulgarian traffic laws is published on the Ministry of Interior website. You should act cautiously when you are outside of the major regions, avoiding dark streets and not giving any indications that you have money or valuables. • • • • The emergency telephone number is 112. The electricity voltage in the country is 220 V; 50 Hz Tap water is safe to drink in most of the cities. The speed limits are 50 km/h in populated areas; 90 km/h outside populated areas and 140 km/h on highways. Do  I  need  a  visa?   Holders of valid Schengen visas are allowed to enter Bulgaria and stay for up to 90 days in any 6 month period. For residents of EU member states or the USA, no visa is necessary for a visit of up to 90 days. Detailed information can be obtained from the website of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: www.mfa.bg/en/pages/view/85 Depending on nationality, students may need a residence permit and information on a individual country basis. Information can be obtained from: http://www.mvr.bg/en businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  17     A visa will only be given to owners of legitimate passports or travel documents that remain valid for a minimum of 3 months after their planned stay and have a blank page for affixing the visa. When foreigners enter Bulgaria, they are supposed to state in writing the reason for their stay and the address where they will live, unless they are citizens of the European Union or countries in the Economic European Area. The Bulgarian Foreign Nationals Act gives access to three key visa categories: the transit visa, short-stay visa and long-stay visa. Foreign citizens are only allowed to work in the country after obtaining a work permit, unless otherwise stated by law. Work permits are issued for a maximum renewable term of one year on the basis of an existing employment contract or arrangement with a local business and there are a number of legal terms and conditions that must be met. An obligatory requirement for obtaining a work permit is that the citizen holds a long-stay visa. Foreign nationals on short-stay visas cannot receive work permits in Bulgaria. Foreigners need to ask the local employer for work permits, which are then issued by the Bulgarian Employment Agency. Citizens of the EU do not require any visas or permits to travel to or work in Bulgaria. Internship  and  placement  salary   Salaries in Bulgaria are lower when compared to salaries in other EU member states. In Bulgaria, the median monthly disposable salary (after tax) is 700.00 Leva or approximately €350. However, example monthly salaries range from €1,000 to €2,500 at the senior executive level down to €200 to €550 for a secretary or a painter and decorator. The salary is negotiated between the company and the employee and some companies provide unpaid internships. Internship  and  placement  accommodation   Most higher education institutions in Bulgaria have their own halls of residence that provide housing to students for the duration of their studies. Foreign students studying in Bulgaria on the basis of a bilateral agreement or an or¬der from a Bulgarian government body are normally entitled to accommodation in halls of residence. However, foreign students who are paying their own tuition fees receive accommodation at halls of residence only if there are vacant rooms/beds. The costs vary from university to university, ranging between €30 and €50 a month. If the conditions in halls of residence do not live up to a student’s expecta¬tions, it is possible to rent a private flat or room for between €150 and €350 a month.Detailed information on students’ accommodation is provided in English on the websites of the Universities and specialised higher schools. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  18   Cost  of  Living     Comparative analysis describes Bulgaria as relatively cheap and a much more affordable place to live when compared to most other countries in the European Union. However, the prices of some basic foodstuffs and electricity are constantly rising, which adds to the cost of living. Prices tend to vary from town to town, and the larger cities are more expensive to live in. The cost of living includes accommodation costs, as well as everyday costs such as food, transport, spending time outside home, etc. The largest amount that students have to pay is usually the rent for accommodation. Typically the price of renting an apartment ranges from €250 to €600 per month in the capital, depending on size and location. In total, basic monthly living costs range from €520 to €900. Money  and  Banking   The official currency in Bulgaria is BGN Lev and it is the only currency used for daily transactions. One Lev equals 100 Stotinki. Coins with the values of one, two, five, ten, twenty, fifty Stotinki and one Lev are in circulation. Notes are denominated in 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Leva. Banks and the exchange offices are allowed to buy and sell foreign currency, although it is better and more secure to exchange money in a bank. Typically banks are open from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. However, in the big trading centres, banking hours are from 10am to 9pm. Most everyday purchases are made with cash or a debit card. In the larger stores, hotels, catering and entertainment places credit cards are accepted; while in smaller stores and hotels, it is necessary to pay in cash. Personal cheques are not used in Bulgaria and traveller’s cheques are not accepted for retail purchases. Traveling  costs   There is a wide variety of public transportation modes in the capital, including buses, trolley buses, trams and subway. A single ticket costs 1 Lev (0.50 Euro), but tickets can be purchased in books of 5 or 10 tickets priced at 4.50 and 8 Lev, respectively. Tickets for travel by bus, trolley bus or tram are all the same and can be bought from kiosks situated near the bus stops or from the driver, where a kiosk is not available. Don’t forget to validate your ticket when you get on the bus, trolley or tram, using the small machines to perforate your ticket.Subway tickets are sold only at the metro stations and are different from the ones for buses, trams and trolleys. If you are full-time student you can get a discount rate for public transport. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  19     Work-­‐life  Balance     The desire for a positive work-life balance is a major concern in modern society. However, it has been put under pressure by the aging society, economic downturn and current trends in family formation. It is very difficult in Bulgaria to balance the time between work, family and social responsibilities. According to the Bulgarian National Working Conditions Survey undertaken by Eurofound, 13% of Bulgarians have an ongoing struggle to balance work with their personal lives. The number of men in this group is twice as high as the number of women. The main difficulties are long working hours and incompatibility of partners’ work schedules, as well as overall fatigue and the need for more rest. 43.5% of employed people consider that the reconciliation of work and personal life requires additional effort on the part of the individual and thus leads to greater stress. One in three employees works more than 45 hours and 50% work at least two Saturdays each month. The situation is especially challenging for women and the number of women who are working over 48 hours a week is very close to the number of men. In general, the dual income household model prevails. In Bulgaria, women take more responsibility for the housework, childcare and care of elderly relatives when compared to men. Flexible working arrangements are not common practice and people in Bulgaria face a lot of difficulties maintaining a work-life balance, which influences their satisfaction with their quality of life. Almost 60% of Bulgarians consider that work is more important than free time. A low tax rate and improving working conditions is beginning to improve the work-life balance. In Bulgaria, income tax is based on a flat rate of 10%, which is automatically deducted from each person’s pay every month. Working conditions have developed much in recent years with progressive legislation and bilateral improvements in the health care and social security services. National  holidays   In Bulgaria there are public holidays and many other traditional ones. Saints’ name days are deeply valued and people are very keen on celebrating their name days. Some of the most famous days are St. John’s Day, St. George’s Day, and St. Dimitar’s Day because a lot of people are named after these saints. The holidays that Bulgarians celebrate most are Christmas and Easter, which are big family celebrations where everyone gets together for eating and drinking. Other holidays that are highly recognised are Mother’s Day, All Soul’s Day and Lent. Public Holidays: • • March 3rd – The day Bulgaria celebrates its liberation from 500 years of Ottoman domination (1393-1878). May 6th – St. George’s Day and the official holiday of the Bulgarian Аrmy. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  20     • • • • • • • May 24th – Bulgarian Education and Culture, and Slavonic Literature Day. The days of St. Cyril (827-869), who created the Cyrillic alphabet, and St. Methodius (826884). A beautiful holiday with lots of flowers, music, and joy. September 6th – Reunification Day. The day the two parts of Bulgaria, Principality of Bulgaria and East Rumelia (autonomous in the Ottoman Empire) were reunited. September 22nd – Independence Day -. Bulgaria’s independence was declared in 1908 in Veliko Tarnovo Other national holidays are Labour Day on May 1, and Revival Leaders’ Day (on November 1st) which is an off-day for students, but still a workday. Also New Year (January 1) and New Year’s Eve (December 31) and Christmas Eve (December 24) Christmas (December 25) and Second Day of Christmas on the 26th of December (Bulgarians do not celebrate Boxing Day or St Stephen’s Day per se). Gifts are generally exchanged at Christmas. Another important celebration happens on March 1st, when martenitsas are exchanged as gifts. This is perhaps the most interesting and anticipated holiday of the year, as it is unique to Bulgaria and is the most positive day for the nation. Martenitsas are red-and-white threads in different forms that are worn as decoration. The traditions associated with March 1st and the martenitsas symbolise optimism and the promise of warmer weather, good health and more smiles. There are a lot of legends about the origin of this celebrated day. Today’s martenitsa is presented in a variety of styles and sizes and usually children compete to see who will get the most. However, the martenitsa always carries the same meaning: a lucky charm to repel evil, a token for good health and a symbol of gratitude. Do not be surprised if you have a business meeting on March 1 and you are presented with martenitsas. Working  hours   A typical working week is 8 hours a day, 5 days a week starting at between 8am and 9am. In certain cases, employers may require employees to work extended hours on certain days, up to a maximum of a 10 hour day. Employers may compensate overtime worked by allowing employees to take additional time off on other days. In Bulgaria, employers and employees are also free to negotiate terms of the working agreement to allow for part-time work, shift work and other contractual arrangements, within the bounds of the law. Where employees are working a night shift contract, the length of the normal working week is restricted to 35 hours or 7 hours for each shift. A night shift is defined as work carried out between the hours of 10pm and 6am for minors under the age of 18 and 8pm to 6am for employees. Within normal working hours employees are entitled to one or more rest periods, which are not included in working hours and meal breaks may not be shorter than 30 minutes.Bulgarians have the choice to work during a public holiday (e.g. Christmas or Easter), if they think it will be beneficial for them. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  21   Banks and offices that work with clients generally open from 9am to 5pm, while there some offices have extended hours and are open from 10am to 10pm. Most shops are open from 9am to 8pm and a lot of them work around the clock. Working  culture   The work culture in Bulgaria is similar to those of other EU countries. Working conditions and safety are improving with the changes in the legislation and social-security system. The Bulgarian workers today are becoming more punctual and dedicated to their responsibilities at the work place. Many of them participate in long-life learning programmes and trainings. Health  insurance   Although medical doctors in the country are highly qualified, most of the clinics and hospitals in the smaller towns and especially in the rural areas are poorly equipped and maintained. Therefore, medical care does not meet the standards of the countries in Western Europe. As for medical supplies and prescription medications, these are widely available everywhere in the country, but highly specialized treatment can only be obtained in the larger cities in most cases. All foreigners travelling to Bulgaria may be asked to present a valid proof of health insurance to the Bulgarian border authorities upon entry into the country. There are two types of health insurance – mandatory and private health insurance. Through the mandatory health insurance system, everyone is guaranteed access to a basic package of medical care services. All Bulgarian citizens are obliged to pay monthly contributions to the national health insurance system. Voluntary health insurance is provided by private companies and anyone who wants to can pay extra money in order to receive additional health care services. This is regulated by the Health Insurance Act, which licenses the private companies and regulates the spending of collected funds. Health insurance is deducted automatically on a monthly basis from an employee’s gross salary at a fixed rate of 8% up to a ceiling of 2,200 Lev. The 8% is split between the employer and the workers, with the employer paying the greater proportion of 4.8%. In the case of selfemployed persons (foreigners included) health insurance is also paid at a rate of 8%, but the individual is responsible for paying both the employer and employee contribution. The unemployed also have to pay a contribution for mandatory health insurance at a rate of 16.80 Lev per month. Contact information for local health care centres – Local Hospitals and Clinics The emergency number is 112 in order to contact the ambulance service, fire service and police. English-speaking operators will take your call but it can take 35 min or more for an ambulance to respond, depending on the traffic conditions. If you find yourself with a medical emergency in Sofia, the best option would be to call a taxi and request to be taken to Pirogov. Pirogov hospital is the specialist hospital for treating accidents and emergencies and is the best equipped with modern equipment and highly specialised and experienced medical staff. businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  22   Social  Media  Guide     An estimated 2.5 million Bulgarians, or almost 74.5% of all internet users have Facebook accounts, and their number is constantly growing across the Balkans. More than 21% of Bulgarians use Youtube, 14.3% Google+, 7.9% Twitter and 5% LinkedIn. There are also several copycat social networks and bookmarking sites, which allow you to stay up-to-date with what is going on in the country including upcoming events, important news, etc. It is worth checking the following big social bookmarking sites: Svejo.net (Svejo meaning ‘fresh’). Through Svejo.net you can share websites, video, content and pictures. If the content you share is new and interesting, it immediately becomes FRESH and is promoted on the home page on Svejo.net, which gets traffic to your blog or social network profile. Lubimi.com (‘favourites’ in English) is a social network which is good for publishing articles from various corporate blogs. Lubimi allows shared links to be followed by search engines, so it is good for search engine optimisation. Ping.bg Ping.bg is the most recent bookmarking network in Bulgaria. Although it resembles the two networks described above, some features and options are quite new and it is still too new to have any measurable influence on people. Qko.be, 2p2.us, Favi.info, Slamka.com are similar networks to Twitter, where users share brief status updates with one another updates on what they are doing at the moment. Some networks with more social orientation are Twist.bg which allows users to share links, news, videos and event listings, and Idi.bg (idi meaning ‘go’ in English), which is the Bulgarian social network for tourism. A high number of people in Bulgaria use the professional social network LinkedIn, which they see as a good opportunity to promote themselves and to search for better jobs. Vbox7 is the Bulgarian version of YouTube, which offers many commercial opportunities and is well used by both businesses and personal users. Foursquare has attracted a high number of business customers in Bulgaria and has the potential to become a very successful marketing tool for companies in the field of commerce and entertainment. For instance, one of the leading Bulgarian banks, First Investment Bank, offers excellent information on this network. Plesio, a leading retailer of computers, offers discounts to customers who check-in regularly on Foursquare. Many restaurants and shops are also well represented on Foursquare. Search  and  Social  Media  Marketing  for  International  Business   businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  23     Learn how to use social media for business from one of Salford Business School’s latest business management courses. The course was jointly researched by the Passport to Trade 2.0 project team and prepared in collaboration with some of the leading digital marketing agencies in the UK. This Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) can help businesses and individuals to make the best use of search and social media platforms. The course is called Search and Social Media Marketing for International Business and is applicable to students looking for placements abroad as well as businesses thinking about new trade links; it comprises the following twelve topics: How to develop a personal brand online (1/12) • • Whether you are a student beginning a job search or a business person planning a new business venture, personal branding can make a difference. Learn about personal branding and why it is important for you. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=l9LYw0mgtn4&feature=player _embedded How to use Twitter (2/12) • • Learn the basics of using Twitter to develop an individual or business profile. Remember to use hash tag #SSMMUoS to share your learning journey on this course so far! http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=9CVY3pp91Dc&feature=playe r_embedded How to use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) (3/12) businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  24     • • Learn the principles of SEO to ensure that your website and any social media profiles are found by individuals searching for your name, products and services. These basic principles of SEO include keyword research, on-page optimisation and off-page optimisation. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=zw27cRcwtM0&feature=player _embedded How to use social media for international business development (4/12) • • Social media networks break down the traditional country barriers, but do you know which networks are relevant for the country you are interested in trading with? Find out in this video how to identify the relevant networks and what social media strategies you might be able to use on these networks. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=Bx-B56AHS4c&feature= player_embedded How to use Facebook (5/12) • • Facebook is currently the largest social media network in the world and it can benefit you as a business as well as an individual. Learn how to develop a Facebook business page and see how other businesses use it and what strategies work for them. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=UmRGn-vdcO8&feature= player_embedded businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  25     How to use YouTube (6/12) • • YouTube was identified as the second largest social network amongst younger internet users as part of the Passport to Trade 2.0 project. Learn how to optimise your video content in order to reach wider audiences for your profile. http://www.youtube.com/watch? feature=player_embedded&v=G2 0OVpmTBss How to use LinkedIn (7/12) • • LinkedIn is one of the three main professional social networks – the others being Xing and Viadeo which are also popular in several European countries. Learn how to make the most of LinkedIn for your profile. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=N6e_EAUQqic&feature=playe r_embedded How to use Google+ (8/12) • • • Google+ is the second largest social network as of January 2013. It is one of the fastest growing social networks and one that has the biggest impact when it comes to search engine results integration for anyone who uses Google as their main search engine. Learn how to make the most of Google+ for you and your digital profiles. http://www.youtube.com/watch? feature=player_embedded&v=8ti 3SPHkEWw businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  26     How to use copywriting online (9/12) • • Copywriting is a process of translating technical specifications and product descriptions into engaging and understandable customer focused text. Learn about the basic techniques in structuring your online content here. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=5f1hx_f2ONI&feature=player_ embedded How to stay legal on social media (10/12) • • Everything and anything you do and say online can be potentially viewed by anyone who has internet access. Always respect the law and familiarise yourself with new options offered to you through a creative commons licence which is popular online. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=eQxDpiHsdk&feature=player_embedde d How to use monitoring and reporting (11/12) • • Whether you are an individual or a business spending time on social media – there has to be a return on your engagement online. How do you justify your engagement on social media to your boss? Listen to the industry experts in this area and see what you might be able to measure in respect of your on-line engagements. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=LbEq7jsG0jg&feature=player_ embedded businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria  
  •            |  27     How to blog (12/12) • • http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=OqVjR7oI8Rs&feature=player _embedded businessculture.org     • Blogging is a process of writing text and sharing content with others. It can help your customers or friends to keep in-touch regardless of social media platforms. Think about the voice you might want to adopt and who your audience might be. Share your thoughts with us by writing a blog post about this MOOC. Tweet us the link to your post on the #SSMMUoS Twitter hash tag. Content  Bulgaria  
  •              |  28   Passport  to  Trade  2.0  Project  Partnership   Five Universities: Lead partner: Salford Business School, University of Salford, United Kingdom Elena Vasilieva Aleksej Heinze Alex Fenton URENIO research unit at Aristole University of Thessaloniki, Greece Christina Kakderi Nitsa Papadopouloui TSE Entre Research Centre Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Finland Satu Aaltonen Elisa Akola Institute for Information System Research University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany Verena Hausmann Susan P. Williams Petra Schubert Valahia University of Targoviste, Romania Adriana Grigorescu Leonardo Badea Three Small & Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) Spin, Italy Carmine Antonio Donato Dorella De Tommaso Technology Development & Innovation – TDI LTD Bulgaria Milanka Slavova Ivan Stoychev TIS Praha, Czech Republic Anna Klosova Richard Adekeye businessculture.org     Content  Bulgaria