Bulgarians prefer to meet their business contacts in person, so you may have to make regular trips to the country if conducting business there. Make appointments in advance, trying to avoid the main holiday periods of Christmas / New Year and July / August.
Punctuality is expected, but not always observed in Bulgaria, where there is a fairly relaxed attitude to life. Business attire is smart, consist of suits for men and smart fashionable clothes for women. It is customary to shake hands on meeting, but also for business contacts to kiss each other on both cheeks. Business cards are exchanged at the outside of the meeting. Initial forms of address are by title and surnames, but first names are used once a working relationship has been established.
Many Bulgarian businessmen can speak English. If this is not the case, interpreters are readily available from tourist agencies and foreign trade associations.
Meetings in Bulgaria are often lengthy, and decisions may be delayed until later, after a range of people have been consulted. Bulgarians are direct in their communications, to the point of sometimes appearing insensitive. On occasion, they avoid saying exactly what they mean, preferring to convey this through their body language and facial expressions. Discussions are frequently lightened by the use of humor.
It is very important to note that nodding means 'no' in Bulgaria, while shaking your head means 'yes'. The principle of reciprocity is important here, so favors should generally be returned at a later stage.
It is common practice for business contacts to have lunch or dinner together following their meeting, and the visitor may be expected to offer hospitality. Heavy drinking is often expected among men, and smoking is common here, even during a meal. When dining with your Bulgarian hosts, leave a little food on your plate to signify that you have had sufficient.
Gifts are not generally expected in business, but a small present such as a pen or wine would be an appropriate choice of gift for your host.