Bosnian Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • It is expected that people act more formal and respectful around their elders. In the Bosnian language, they are to be addressed using formal pronouns.
  • Offer your seat to an elderly person, pregnant woman or woman with a small child if they do not have one.
  • It is rude to shout in public.
  • Do not put any holy book or scripture on the floor, anywhere where people sit or in the bathroom.
  • It is common to be late or for meetings or other events to run over time. Bosnians have quite a relaxed view of time.
  • Do not leave two windows open in a room. There is a cultural belief in Bosnia that when wind passes through a room, it will cause people to get sick.
  • Be aware that a Bosnian may feel compelled to gift their possession to you if you compliment it a lot.
  • If someone brings good news, it is customary to treat them with food and drinks.
  • Walking in public barefoot can be taken as a sign of bad taste or poverty.
  • Don’t shake hands over the threshold of a door.
  • When paying a bill, it is polite to offer to pay and refuse other people’s money. However, eventually after protest, the one whose turn it is to pay will pay. Bosnians may find the Australian custom of splitting the bill awkward.

 

Visiting

  • It is normal for Bosnian family members and close friends to visit each other’s homes regularly without notice. Many visits happen unannounced or unplanned.
  • Friends are expected to visit one another to congratulate significant life events, such as the birth of a child, the arrival of a bride, a son leaving for the army or a child graduating school.
  • If you are invited to someone’s home for a social occasion or it’s the first time you’ve visited their house, bring a small gift (i.e. flowers, coffee, biscuits or chocolates).
  • Hosts greet newcomers by saying “Bujrum” (Welcome) when they enter the home. If someone is visiting unexpectedly, they may say “Ima li bujruma?” (meaning “Am I welcome?”) before entering.
  • Remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. It’s polite to do so even if the host says that it’s not necessary.
  • It’s polite to always accept an offer of food and drink by a host even if you do not actually eat/drink any of it.
  • Coffee (kafa) is usually served during a visit, usually three times. The first is the greeting coffee (dočekuša), the second is the talking coffee (razgovoruša or brbljavuša) and the final coffee is meant to signify the time when guests are expected to leave, known as ‘kandžija’ or ‘sikteruša’.
  • Hosts may provide ‘meze’ a selection of small savoury foods.
  • Visits can last for very long periods of time as there is rarely a need to rush. Expect Bosnians to happily talk over coffee or ‘rakija’ (brandy) for hours.
  • If visiting someone’s home to offer your condolences or congratulations, it’s normal to only stay for a short time.
  • You may be invited to stay to eat when visiting someone’s home.
  • When a guest is leaving, it is important to take a moment to watch them walk away for a moment. Closing the door immediately after they step out of the house indicates that they were not quite welcome and the host had been waiting for them to leave.

 

Eating

  • Lunch is the main meal of the day in Bosnia. It is eaten at around 2pm. Dinner is served later on at around 8pm.
  • Pies may be eaten with hands instead of a knife and fork.
  • Try and keep your hands visible, above the table, and do not rest your elbows on the table.
  • It is impolite to speak whilst chewing.
  • It is considered bad manners to eat whilst lying down or reclining.
  • Bosnian friends may share or pick off each other’s plate.
  • Expect the amount of food supplied to be more than what can be eaten.
  • Expect to be offered more servings than you are prepared to eat. You may have to politely decline more than once to insist that you are full.
  • Burek’ (a pastry with a savoury filling – usually beef) and ‘ćevapi’ (a minced meat dish) are typical foods in Bosnian households.
  • Consider that some Muslims may not eat pork. However, many Bosnian Muslims still drink alcohol and smoke. Rakija (brandy) is drunk and enjoyed by most.

 

Gifts

  • If you are invited to someone’s home for an occasion or it’s the first time you’ve visited their house, bring a small gift (i.e. flowers, coffee, wine or chocolates).
  • Gifts are not usually opened in front of the giver or at the same time they are received.
  • If giving flowers to somebody, be sure that the bouquet counts to an odd number of flowers. Even numbers of flowers are given at funerals.
  • Do not give alcohol or pork-based products to a Muslim unless you know them well and are certain they would accept the item.

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