Monday, August 8, 2016

In this country, a no means yes (Conde Nast Traveller)

A random day in December 2003 in Sofia, Bulgaria: Justin Chapmans was waiting for a minibus to take him to the Hadji Dimitar district. When the bus arrived, he asked the driver for his destination to which the driver signalled him to board the bus. In response, Chapmans shut the door and the bemused driver drove away.
Chapmans, an engineer and real estate professional, had recently moved to Sofia from Canberra, Australia, and wasn’t familiar with the local language. He thought he could get by with some body language. Big mistake!
For most of the world, a head-shake from side to side denotes a ‘no’. Bulgarians, however, do that to convey the affirmative. Strange, perhaps, but there’s a reason. Some version of the following tale explains how Bulgarians reversed the meaning of the head-shake: during Ottoman rule in Bulgaria, the Turks were forcing locals to accept Islam by placing a sword on their necks. In this situation, nodding up and down to accept the conversion could mean a slit throat. So, to affirm, they shook their heads sideways.
Read rest of the article on CNT's website here!


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