Cultural Diversities

by Kathryn Donev

Upon arriving in a foreign country there are many things to which one will have to adjust. The first and most obvious is the language barrier. Yet, there are many other nonverbal forms of communication as well as common customs associated with everyday living that may seem peculiar when first encountered. The shock for some may be great, but take comfort in the existence of many universal elements that transcend cultures. In many ways, people are very much the same in the midst of their differences. It is possible for such divergences to be overcome one at a time, one day at a time. The following are some of the observations that I, from an American perspective, have experienced during my first ten days of being back in Bulgaria.

1. Even though automobile speedometers appear in kilometers, you should get worried when it surpasses 200.
2. When heading to a specific location you may end up stopping at up to five others before arriving at your final destination. So be prepared to enjoy the journey.
3. It is customary to let a woman with a child cut you in line.
4. Be advised that just because there is a pedestrian crosswalk you should not expect cars to stop for you when entering or much less to slow down if you are already in the crosswalk.
5. The person that is speaking that “funny” language and who is labeled “the foreigner” is now you.
6. You will no longer get ice in your beverage without asking and asking for ice is a sure give-away of your nationality.
7. If you do not manually open the door to the elevator once reaching your designated floor, it will start going back down. The doors are not automatic.
8. When visiting a restaurant, if ketchup is not already present on your table this is a good hint that you will likely have to pay for it.
9. When a cab driver says he will take a “short cut” you probably will end up paying a bit more than if you were to go the “long way.”
10. Energy usage charges vary according to the time of day. Therefore night energy is cheaper than energy used during peak daytime hours.
11. When the expiration date on your food appears as 02/08/05 and it is already July, don’t worry; dates are written with the day first and the month second.
12. Don’t get too excited when the price for diesel reads: 1.67. The price is per liter and if you multiple this number by about 4 you will get the price per gallon. Ouch!
13. When asking for an item at the market and the salesperson nods left to right, don’t leave. They do have what you are asking for. Bulgarians nod opposite than Americans.
14. If the price on a pack of batteries is marked one lev, you should not get carried away and stock up, the price is per battery.
15. When speaking in the native language, people will laugh, but not to worry they are simply surprised and delighted that you have done so.

To Be Continued …