On Intercultural Management. Bulgaria and Germany Doing Business

Essay, 2014

20 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Historical Development of Bulgaria and Bulgarian Culture Standards
2.1. A Very Brief History of Bulgaria
2.2. Bulgarian Culture Standards and their historical roots

3. Historical Development of Germany and German Culture Standards
3.1. A Very Brief History of Germany
3.2. German Culture Standards and their historical roots

4. Recommendations and Tips
4.1. A German in Bulgaria
4.2. A Bulgarian in Germany

5. Conclusion



1. Introduction

Bulgaria and Germany have been in a close economic relation throughout history. Today, this relation is even stronger, since both countries are part of the European Union (EU) and thus are encouraged to interact more intensively because of the benefits created by free trade and unrestricted movement of people and capital. In fact, Germany is the most important trade partner of Bulgaria. Exports from Bulgaria to Germany in 2012 account for 10.2% of all Bulgarian exports and for 17.5% of all exports to the EU – most of all other countries. Imports from Germany to Bulgaria in the same period account for 11.1% of all imports and 19% of all EU imports – in this case Germany is ranked 2nd worldwide after Russia and 1st in the EU (see Appendix 1). These numbers suggest that Bulgaria and Germany do a lot of business together. Thus, the proper understanding of each other’s cultures and conventions is crucial for creating healthy business relationships between the two nations in the long run.

The purpose of this paper is to provide some basic guidelines and recommendations for doing business for a Bulgarian in Germany and a German in Bulgaria. The main focus will be placed on the cultural aspects of both nations concerning the business environment. In the course of the writing some strong generalizations will be made which may not be valid for the particular individual from a given country. Nevertheless, I will try to be as objective as possible and rely on previously conducted researches wherever suitable. The aim is to create an understandable picture of the “average” Bulgarian and German which can serve as a starting point and ease the communication between two business parties from both countries.

The history of a nation determines to great extent some cultural peculiarities. What’s more, culture standards can be traced back to specific historical events or periods (Schroll-Machl, 2013, p. 37). Therefore, in the first part of the paper, a brief history of Bulgaria and Germany will be presented. After each historical part, Bulgarian and German culture standards will be identified, as well as how they developed. In the final part of the writing I will make recommendations on how to do business in both countries based on my experience, the opinions of some professionals and on conducted studies.

2. Historical Development of Bulgaria and Bulgarian Culture Standards

2.1. A Very Brief History of Bulgaria

There are still discussions about the exact origin of Bulgarians. Dimitrov (2006), a famous Bulgarian history professor, claims that Bulgarians are not Turks or Mongolians, which was supported in the past, but rather have Indo-European origins. Certainly, Bulgarians came to Europe from Asia. After the falling apart of Old Great Bulgaria, which was situated in today’s Ukraine, the five sons of the Bulgarian Khan Kubrat split and led their armies and people in different directions. Khan Asparuh, the youngest son of Kubrat, headed south-west and in 680 AD crossed the Danube River (the Byzantine border). He made an alliance with the Slavic people that lived there and together they defeated the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IV. Thus, the first Bulgarian State was founded in 681, long before other states in Western Europe and it was a mixture between Bulgarian and Slavic tribes. The Khan had the ultimate power but he had to consider his “boili”, advisors with strong influence. The advancement of the Bulgarian Kingdom is connected with Khan Krum (803-814) who expanded the boundaries and killed the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros I after his failed attempt to conquer Bulgaria. Later, in 864 Bulgaria was Christianized by Tsar Boris I and old traditions and polytheism were abandoned gradually. Christianity came from Byzantine and not from the Pope. That is why Bulgarians today are Christian Orthodox and not Catholic. At the same time the Cyrillic alphabet was invented after the students of Cyril and Methodius modified the originally invented alphabet at the order of Tsar Boris I. Today, Bulgaria and Russia still use this alphabet. The “Golden Ages” of the Bulgarian Kingdom came under the rule of Tsar Simeon I (893-927) who expanded the territories to three seas: Black Sea, Aegean Sea and Adriatic Sea (See Appendix 2). After many battles through the centuries, the Byzantine Empire eventually managed to conquer Bulgaria in 1018. After the rebel in 1185 of Assen and Peter, the Bulgarian state was reestablished. Tsar Kaloyan (1197-1207) defeated the crusaders who captured Constantinople and exiled the newly proclaimed Emperor Baldwin IX Count of Flanders in the Bulgarian capital where he eventually died. The fall of the Bulgarian Kingdom came when it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1396. At the time Bulgaria was divided in several different states as the feudal order was modern in Europe. Fighting against each other, Bulgarian rulers made easy for the Ottomans to conquer the Bulgarian lands. Ottoman rule, often referred as “Ottoman Yoke”, lasted for almost five centuries until 1878. During that time Bulgarians were treated inferiorly, they were not allowed to carry guns, they paid high taxes, and every several years the Ottomans collected healthy young boys from Bulgarian villages and trained them to become part of the Ottoman military forces (also called the “blood tax”). Nevertheless, Bulgarians were not assimilated and preserved their religion; they constantly made plans for their freedom and eventually with the aid of the Russian Empire got independent once again in 1878. The Ottoman rule caused a demographic catastrophe though. Bulgaria could never again compete on population with the states in Western Europe. Ottoman rule was thus a national catastrophe (Dimitrov, 2006, p. 140). Later Bulgaria went through both the First and Second World Wars on the losing side. In World War II Bulgaria was forced to align with Nazi Germany, nevertheless distinguished itself by defying Hitler’s methods and refused to send Bulgarian Jews to the death camps. In 1944 postwar Europe was divided into spheres of influence and Bulgaria became part of the Soviet bloc. Travel was restricted and education was manipulated (Greenberg and Erdinc, 1999). I would argue that the communistic regime has the greatest impact on the mentality of people in Bulgaria today and thus is most important to be considered when observing their behavior. Democracy came then after 1989. Nevertheless, the former communistic leaders preserved to great extent their influence by using different methods. On the other hand, new waves of Bulgarians were born from the late 80’s on, who now are in their mid 20’s, and who were not part of the communistic regime. These younger people were able to develop different values by studying and living abroad or by making use of the possibilities which the European Union provides. They are creative and active which explains the boom of technological startups today in the capital Sofia.

2.2. Bulgarian Culture Standards and their historical roots

Fons Trompenaars (1997) included Bulgaria in his studies of cultural values. Based on his investigation I identify three important culture standards: Particularism, Diffusion and Individualism. Based on my experience I further identify Hospitality and Pessimism.

Particularism means that “greater attention is given to the obligations of relationships and unique circumstances” (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1997, p. 8). This is quite typical for Bulgarians. Building relationships is sometimes more important than building expertise. This peculiarity is derived from the communistic past. In order to advance and prosper, a person needed to become a member of the party and to do this one had to know the right people. Then these “right people” would ask different favors from that person in return, and consequently a network of favor-driven relationships is built. That is definitely good for the people inside the network but on the other hand excludes people on the outside which may be more qualified. Another disadvantage is that rules do not apply to everyone with the same strictness leading to unfairness and social discontent.

Bulgarian culture is diffuse. In contrast to Germany, there is no or little separation of the living spheres – work and private. Relationships extend throughout the life space (Greenberg and Erdinc, 1999) and play a major role in doing business. Business is built on trust and this presumes knowing some personal details about your business partner. This type of culture is less stressful because one avoids the effort of adjusting his/her behavior to different life spheres. On the other hand it may distract from the goal and thus lead to poor effectiveness. Historically, the diffuse culture has similar roots as particularism. During communism work and private life often overlapped.

The Bulgarian score on Individualism vs. Communitarianism dimension in Fons Trompenaars’ studies is slightly lower than the score of the USA, meaning that Bulgarian culture is rather individualistic (Greenberg and Erdinc, 1999). Every person is responsible for his/her own well-being. There is one exception though – family. Family comes first and then everyone else. There are situations in which one will have to choose family over self when making a decision but this is typical also for other individualistic cultures. Individualism is typical for Western societies. Christianity has always been based on the conscience of the individual (Schroll-Machl, 2013, p. 213).

Hospitality as a culture standard is really important feature of Bulgarians and their traditions. It is connected to the other cultural aspects but has its own peculiar meaning. Receiving guests is something sacred for Bulgarians. Once a guest enters a house he/she will not be let out without having a delicious meal combined with jokes and friendly conversation. Receiving guests is one of the most entertaining activities for Bulgarians in their spare time. Historically, this tradition has its roots during the Ottoman Yoke. People could only meet in private locations because of the anxiety that the Turks will come and do disrespectful things to them. During communism, people again were forced to gather mainly in their homes because it was dangerous to express their opinions freely in public locations. Lots of people were secretly working for the government and wrote malicious reports to the authorities which then were used for immoral purposes. That is why gathering home and hospitality became one of the most interesting and peculiar Bulgarian cultural features.


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On Intercultural Management. Bulgaria and Germany Doing Business
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Interkulturelle Kommunikation, Intercultural Management, Bulgarien, Deutschland, Geschichte, Cultural Standards, Business, Doing Business
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Dimko Dobrev (Author), 2014, On Intercultural Management. Bulgaria and Germany Doing Business, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/300211


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