10 things Bulgarians always have to explain to foreigners

Punch your ticket

Punching a ticket
Photo source: epicenter.bg

After entering the tram, bus, or a trolley, you are expected to punch your ticket immediately! If you are thinking of going for the seats first – well, forget about it! That can only be done by experienced middle-aged ladies who know how to fight for a seat. When they’ve won the battle for it and left their bags there, they would push their way back to the punching machine (possibly getting into one quick fight with another passenger on the bus), then again get back to the seat, TO SIT there happily ever after (with their punched ticket). So, don’t do that if you are just an amateur! You need experience!

Here’s what you need to be eligible for the status “Middle-aged lady on the bus”:

  • You have a minimum experience of 1 year of traveling with the public transport in Sofia
  • You have been in a numerous fights on the bus/tram/trolley
  • You have pushed your way from the back of the bus to the driver, only to hear that he has no tickets left

There is so much more to it, but let’s leave it here. If you need more tips, just message us! As for now, all you need to remember is – punch your ticket first!

We are not Russians

We don’t speak Russian, we speak Bulgarian. We don’t use the “Russian alphabet”, we use the Cyrillic alphabet, which was developed by the monks Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century AD at the Preslav Literary School in the First Bulgarian Empire. It’s actually the Russian alphabet that uses letters from the Cyrillic script. Again: the Cyrrillic, that is developed by us! He-he, you might want to remember this one.

Another thing that always comes up is how can we understand Russian and the other way around. Well, Russian and Bulgarian are both Slavic languages and they are quite similar, but still there are major differences. Bulgarians can easily understand Russian, whereas it’s much harder for Russians to understand Bulgarian.

Basically, what you need to remember here is that we are two different countries, with two different languages. Спасибо!

Shake for yes and nod for no


We are the only country in the world where people shake their heads to mean yes and nod for no! But that’s crazy?! Yes, indeed it is. Plus, it is also very funny.

A: Are you ok?

B: *A shake*

A: What’s wrong?

B: Nothing?

A: But you just…

B: What? What’s your problem???

A: Nothing. Let’s leave it here. We’re fine?

B: *A shake*

A: >S?S?S?*&&*

That’s just one example. There are far more trickier conversations you can get yourself involved in. It’s quite confusing, but we highly recommend that you experience the feeling of being completely lost in a “yes-no” conversation with a Bulgarian. It’s once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience!



Some of you may be familiar with boza, but there are also those who may never hear of it, not unless coming to visit Bulgaria. Boza is a popular fermented beverage on the Balkans. In Bulgaria it is usually produced of wheat or millet. The capital of the boza in Bulgaria is the city Radomir. Remember that fact to impress the ladies! Just joking, don’t. 😀  Still, the boza from Radomir is believed to be the best one! In the center of the city they have a monument of the boza, so these guys ain’t joking about it…

Bulgarians mostly like to drink boza when eating banitsa for breakfast. Of course you can also drink it during any other time of the day, if you are fan of it.

The tricky part about boza is that it is really hard to describe it’s flavour. Here is a challenge for you! Buy one boza, drink it and try to describe it’s taste with one word. Awful or awesome don’t count.


Is it prom day every day?

No, it is not! Bulgarian women just like to wear fancy clothes, that’s it! For instance, they tend to wear high heels on a daily basis which can be quite impressive for the hipsters of Berlin. It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday or Saturday; if you are going out or you are going to your work; if you feel comfortable or not; high heels are a must!

We even have a saying: “Die freezing, but die awesome.” (It’s hard to translate: “От студ умри, гъзар бъди!” 😀 ). There’s no such thing as it’s too cold to be pretty…

We also tend to dress a lot in dark clothes or more specifically – black. I would guess that also has something to do with style…

Go easy on the booze

Photo source: narodna-medicina.com

You have to be careful with the homemade wine and rakia! Don’t try being all hardocre – “I know how to drink. I can drink 5 beers and nothing happens to me, bla bla…”. Our homemade drinks can be really strong. We also like to say “Cheers” a lot of times, which means you have to pick up your glass and drink.

So, know your limits, because foreigners tend to puke all over our top party destination for the Summer, Sunny Beach. And if right now you are thinking “Yeah, as if you Bulgarians don’t puke all over it”, I have to stop you right there and tell you – we don’t. We are… let’s say experienced drinkers ( 😀 ) and we know how to hold our liquor (our homemade rakia).

Alcohol in Bulgaria is much cheaper than many countries, but this doesn’t mean you have to try and drink as much as possible. Our advice is – take it easy on the booze! 


He-he! That’s a hard one for those who have never heard of him. You may be surprised to learn that he is actually worldwide famous! While I was in the States a few years ago, we were talking about traditional Bulgarian music with some American friends. Then one of them just went to his car and said – “You know this guy?” And played a song by Azis. He left me speechless…

For those of you who are not familiar with Azis, he is a Bulgarian Chalga singer of gypsy origin. He is known for his unusual gender expression and his flamboyant persona. His songs are quite provocative, as are his videos. I’ve had more than one foreign friend ask me about him and his looks. I have nothing to say. You explain! *pointing at someone else*

Martenitsas hanging on trees


“Martenitsas”? What? If you see something red or white hanging on a tree, that’s Martenitsa! On the 1st of March Bulgarian people celebrate a traditional holiday called Baba Marta (or Grandma Marta in English) and it is related to welcoming the approaching spring. On that day we exchange Martenitsas, which is a small piece of adornment, made of white and red yarn and usually in the form of two dolls, a male and a female.

When someone gives you a Martenitsa you should wear it until you see a stork. After that you can tie it on a blossoming tree for fertility. Martenitsas usually stay on the branches of trees throughout the whole year, raising questions among the foreign travelers. So, now you know, these are just martenitsas!


That’s an interesting one. Well, first of all – we are not gypsies. Gypsies are just one of the ethnic groups that live in Bulgaria. Bulgarians are the main one, comprising 85% of the population. Turkish and Roma minorities comprise 8.8 and 4.9 per cent, respectively. And there are also some other small minorities.

Back to the gypsies! We usually refer to them as Tsigani (цигнаи) and we tend not to like them (being completely honest), but we still manage to live together. A common misconception is that all gypsies abroad come from Bulgaria. Well, they don’t! There are also Roma minorities in Romania, Serbia and so on.

Another thing you might want to know is that “Gypsy summer” has nothing to do with gypsies! In Bulgaria that’s what we call it when the summer continues throughout September (and possibly October). It’s our fifth season and everybody loves it.

Smart, beautiful & sexy

Yes, yes, yes. We are often asked how can we be so intelligent and beautiful at the same time… but I honestly don’t know what to tell you! It’s just the way we are! We are awesome!


Happy travels in Bulgaria and in the rest of the world! If you enjoyed reading, like us on Facebook, cus’ we want to win the bet we’ve made…  with ourselves. 😀 Here: 99 lives

And if you want to read more about Bulgaria, here: 84 reasons to love Bulgaria



48 thoughts on “10 things Bulgarians always have to explain to foreigners

  1. Then I am kind of Bulgarian – I know all these things haha. For me the funniest thing was when Azis got popular in Poland (on some tabloid-style portal) and everyone was asking me who is that 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, yes. Of course his music was not mentioned, just his looks 😉 And when Maria Ilieva was performing in Sopot (Polish Sopot, we also have one :D) on a big festival, no one really noticed haha


    1. No nie 😛 still no one aske dme who the hell is Azis 😛 and i live here for more then 8 years 😛 , the rest of course i know but believe me major mistake of Polish people is the problem of the Cyrillic alphabet haha, rest is easy to explain even they can accept this easy 😀


      1. Najwyraźniej nie masz przyjaciół czytających Pudelka 😛 / Most probably you have no friends that are reading tabloid websites as Pudelek – he was featured there. I have such friends in Poland, this includes my sister and her husband 😉 Pozdrawiam! 🙂


  2. Haha wonderful! This article take me so much back to my first time in Bulgaria. All the confusion, questions abd stuff I really tried to understand. I was completely amazed by all the martenitsas everywhere. And even thou I know about the shake for yeas, and nod for no its still confuse the hell out of me 😛
    I remember so clearly when I tried to buy bus tickets and once the driver didn’t had any tickets and another time when the driver said he was busy and refused to sell me a ticket because he was eating banitsa haha!

    I aim to become a “middle-aged lady on the bus” on day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And for the boza, first time I tried it I did not like it what so ever, it really has a specific taste. I´ve learned to drink it now with my banitsa. To describe it one word tho, tricky one…will have to come back to that #challangeBulgaria

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh thank God! To say that you don´t like boza is like asking to get killed 😛 But actually I really think its ok to drink now, maybe not my favorite but no problem either 🙂


    2. Haha, Sandra, then I wish you good luck on becoming a “middle-aged lady on the bus”! You will see how much power you’ll have as one! 😀 People would just step out of your way, and you’ll have both the seat and your ticket punched. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeas they completely kick ass! No one with a common sense would never mess with them. Are these the same ladies that from nowhere just run out on the car streets without any problem and with a confidence I can only imagine? Or are there several categories?


  3. On the drinking front, it is my observation that Bulgarians nurse one shot of ракия through an hour or more of simultaneously eating a salad vs. the Russians drinking shot after shot of vodka with at most (not kidding!) sniffing a pickle between drinks. And it is very hard to keep up even a minimum of self-esteem with all of those slim-thighed, long-legged Софиянки strutting easily in their spike heels on cobblestone streets. Боза is also a metaphor. In the mid-1990s, I was invited to a colleague’s house for dinner. Her father told me “Where боза starts, Europe ends.” Love your lists!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, Risa! Love the saying about the boza! It’s the first time I actually hear it. And yeah, the Russians are even more hardcore than us. “Take it easy on the booze” is not relevant in their case, cus’ they can easily outdrink us 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well the first time (and too many other time I´m afraid) I drunk way too much. I taught that I knew how to drink since I´m a Swed, my bad, and therefor tried to drink as much as the Bulgarians and were following every nazdrave there was. I think that I was drunk most of the first time I was in Bulgaria.

    These days I know my limits and how to get around the drinking without making a complete fool out my self.


  5. Great article but to be clear: Cyril and Methodius were not Bulgarian but Bizantian monks; they devised the Glagololic, not the Cyrilic alphabet; their deciples –mainly the Bulgarian Clement of Ohrid — are who devised the Cyrilic. So, the Clavic alphabet is Bulgarian but not for the reasons cited in the article.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is awesome. I just learned a ton! I’m definitely going to save this for future reference too. These are the types of things I’d like to know about every country before I visit.


  7. I’ve been living abroad for I don’t even know how many years now and I have to say, the boza (and tomatoes too!) is probably the thing I miss the most. My mom makes banitsa but it’s just not the same without boza.


  8. Everything is just great. Bravo! Great article! I would only add to be extra careful with the booze especially if you order alcohol first time in Bulgaria. If you say “Double whiskey”, for example, you get 200 ml! The point is, here the “normal” measure is 100 ml, so you say “one little whiskey” if you need 50 ml. And for less than 50 ml, well, it seems you should order “one shot” and hope they offer it at all. Bulgarians have serious drinking stamina, that is from the genes of their predecessors Thracians whose wine was so strong that Greeks had to dilute it 1:25 with water in order to be able to drink it (Thracians did not dilute their wine).


  9. Just… great article!:) Just a few things I’d like to comment:
    1. I know different version of the above mentioned saying: “The awesomeness keeps you warm” (“Гързарията топли”:))
    2. Once in Venezuela, a group of teenagers asked me to name a famous Bulgarian. I was sitting in front of computer, so I googled it, and the first few results were “Azis”:) I found out that many people knew him, in many other travels (most recently – in Greece).
    3. Another thing you can do with your martenitsa, is to make a wish and bury it under a stone. Then you have to check after 10 days, and if there are ants under the stone – your wish will come true!
    Last one: that thing with the head shake always confuses me, because I – being a Bulgarian – am doing it in the conventional way, but sometimes I catch myself agreeing with something by shaking head slowly! And in many conversations, I specially clarify what the interlocutor exactly means;)


  10. I don’t know whether any of you have seen the “Geography Now” series on YouTube but I remember the host mentioning that in Albania they also shake their head for yes and nod for no, so Bulgaria isn’t the only country where this is a common habit. Then again I can’t be 100℅ sure so I will actually have to ask some of my Albanian friends.


  11. Now think about why Bulgaria is the only country who have Boza and what is made of… If you still don’t know then compare it with beer ! And you can see where the beer came from 😉 If you have difficulties.. then Google it 😀


  12. As I commented after your previous article, please correct your possessive pronoun in third person neuter. “ITS” is a possessive pronoun, meaning belonging to IT. (The Earth rotates around its axis.) “IT’S” is a different thing: an abbreviation from IT IS, the conjugation of the verb to be in the third person neuter. For example: “It’s a wonderful day. ”
    I have confidence that you can eventually master this.


  13. I’m a bulgarian living in Denmark and for me it’s very difficult to explain what is name day (имен ден). They just don’t have it.


  14. сегашната боза е пълна гадост поради една проста причина, нещо което сигорно би ви се сторило несъществено, БОЗАТА ТРЯБВА ДА СЕ ПРАВИ ОТ ЕЧЕМИК И ПРОСО, а не от жито, повтарям пак – НЕ ОТ ЖИТО!
    това което сега се намира в търговската мрежа не е боза а бълвоч.


  15. Циганското лято всъщност се нарича така, защото е лъжливо и освен, че прави Октомври и Ноември топли, подлъгва някои растения, които цъфтят веднъж годишно, да цъфнат отново.
    Поздравления за блога.



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