SEMINARS ON BULGARIAN CULTURE
by Yana Arnaoudova
The Seminars on Bulgarian Culture are meant to familiarize members of Western organizations operating in or beyond Bulgaria with the Bulgarian mentality and common cross-cultural issues likely to occur while conducting business or living in Bulgaria.
On a broader scale they could be of interest to anybody who would like to have a better understanding of present-day Bulgarian culture. The focal point of the sessions is not only what Bulgarians do but also why they do it.
In a nutshell, the seminars are an attempt to explain the local culture in the context of (and sometimes in contrast to) Western terms, thinking and practices, and to facilitate cross-cultural communication.
Since 2008 I have held a number of culture talks for a French Association in Bulgaria and a Finnish Educational Organization (for a delegation of Finnish training organizations, authorities and companies visiting Bulgaria).
Some of the seminars have been structured around rather specific topics, namely: “How to Understand the Behaviour of the Bulgarian People on the Job”, or “Handling Cross-Cultural Issues on the Job”.
These sessions are strictly practice-oriented and focused on some specific business-related topics, like: Problem-solving, Decision-making, Risk Management, Planning, Arrangements, Meeting Deadlines, Organizing and Carrying out Meetings, Carrying out Negotiations, Time Management, Strategic Thinking, Delegating, Competition, Prioritizing, Team Work, Hierarchy , etc.
All these basic, yet fundamental business-related categories and activities are viewed in the context of Bulgarian culture (past and present-day mentality) and its similarities and contrasts to Western Culture.
Some of the seminars have covered more general topics like Bulgarian History, The Bulgarian Language and The Bulgarian Family.
Some have been aimed at throwing light on the Attitudes of the Bulgarian People towards Education, Work, Money, Property, State, Laws, Politics, Ecology, Religion, Minorities, Charity, Relationships, Pastimes, Food, Arts, Tradition, etc.
In the course of discussing the above-mentioned topics the talks also touch upon the Bulgarian attitudes towards some moral, social, psychological and even philosophical categories like Success, Failure, Risk, Decision-making, Problem-solving, Punctuality, Planning, Ethnic Tolerance, Politeness, Obligation, Duties, Responsibilities, Hierarchy, Happiness, The Sense of Past, Present and Future, etc.
The presentations are carefully designed to follow the plan initially agreed upon, and are structured so as to introduce and unravel each topic logically in the context of present-day Bulgarian culture with the inevitable touch on historical issues.
Cross-cultural issues are viewed upon from a different, non-conventional angle and the attendees are offered ideas and practical tips of how to handle culture-related ‘soft issues’ with minimum frustration and maximum result, the situation allowing.
The sessions are held in an easy-going interactive style that leaves room for comments and questions from the audience. The attendees are encouraged to share opinions, real-life stories and anecdotes.
Over the years since my first culture talk I have been engaging myself with cross-cultural matters more actively and in a more systematic way.
I believe that my knowledge of Bulgarian culture and its interaction with Western culture would be of interest to a broader audience, too, that is looking to better understand Bulgaria and the Bulgarians.
As my work is very practice-oriented, I will approach each task individually and try to be as flexible as possible. That is, each seminar session is made-to-measure to match the interests of a concrete group of attendees and is specially designed to meet their particular requirements in terms of the choice of topics, the amount of material included in a session, as well the shape and structure of the sessions, time frame, etc.