Bosnian Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Direct Communication: Bosnians have a communication style. They speak straight to the point, being quite forward and open about what they believe. As they rely less on subtle forms of communication, they can give the incidental impression of being quite blunt. 
  • Humour: Bosnians love to joke (šega), especially about themselves. One may find their humour is quite self-deprecating. People commonly poke fun at their marriage, in-laws and politicians. Some humour can also be quite crude.
  • Raised Voices: It is common for people to converse at loud, animated volumes when they get excited about a topic. This does not necessarily suggest that the speaker is angry. Rather, strong expression shows they are engaged and passionate about the topic at hand.
  • Swearing: Bosnians may swear often in informal conversations. This is usually done casually and does not hold strong insulting or rude connotations.

 

Non-Verbal

  • Personal Space: Bosnians tend to sit and stand quite close to one another, especially on public transport. Standing too far away from someone you are conversing with can be interpreted as a lack of trust.
  • Physical Contact: People tend not to touch those they do not know, but among friends, hugs and light contact such as backslapping and handholding is appropriate. Public displays of affection among couples are expected and accepted. However, generally body contact with members of the opposite gender is not common after the initial greeting.
  • Eye Contact: People are expected to make regular eye contact throughout conversation. It is especially important to make eye contact with others when raising your glass for a toast as this implies sincerity and honesty.
  • Pointing: People may point with their fingers; however, it’s best to avoid pointing at a person with the index finger. It is common to indicate the location of something by making a gesture with one’s head and eyes toward the direction of the object.
  • Beckoning: It is rude to beckon with a single finger. People usually use their whole hand, with their palm facing towards the ground, and make a scooping motion. This is more polite than beckoning with your palm facing upwards.
  • Gestures: The Serbs signal ‘victory’ by raising the first three fingers. This gesture should be avoided in front of Bosniaks and Croats. The middle finger up has the same rude connotation in Bosnia as it does in the English-speaking West. Do not wag your finger at someone.
  • Waving: It’s common for Bosnians to wave at people they know on the street or in other public places. It may not always be done to call someone over.

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