Macedonian Culture

Communication

Verbal

  • Direct Communication: Macedonians generally have a communication style. The intention and meaning of their words is usually explicit and obvious. Macedonians also often have little hesitation in speaking up to get their point across. They tend to correct mistakes as they occur instead of waiting to address them at a later time. However, conversation remains very polite and they tend to soften their tone and body language when talking about serious or sensitive matters.
  • Communication Style: Macedonians generally speak a lot. While they can talk quickly, their points may be drawn out. Be patient and avoid talking over them. It is considered rude to interrupt. 
  • Swearing: Swearing commonly occurs in casual conversation. Macedonians will generally refrain from cursing in formal situations or when talking to someone older or of higher status. However, swearing is not considered particularly rude in light-hearted situations.
  • Humour: Macedonians enjoy integrating humour into conversation. Some of the wit behind jokes may be hard to grasp without cultural context. Many jokes poke fun at friends, politics and personal failure. Light-hearted banter among friends is also common. Some humour may also be quite lewd or rude. However, this type of joke is rarely shared around formal or unknown company.


Non-Verbal

  • Personal Space: Macedonians generally keep a little less than an arm’s length of distance from other people.
  • Physical Contact: While touching among friends you know well is okay, physical contact between strangers is uncommon and unlikely to be accepted. Girls may walk holding hands or with their arms interlinked. However, men usually keep their distance from other men.
  • Eye Contact: People are expected to make regular eye contact throughout conversation.
  • Pointing: People may point with their fingers. It is also common to indicate the location of something by making a gesture with one’s head and eyes in the direction of the object.
  • Beckoning: People usually beckon using their whole hand. Face the palm of your hand towards the ground and make a scooping motion. This is more polite than beckoning with your palm facing upwards.
  • Refusals: Generally, throughout North Macedonia, shaking one’s head means “no”. People may also indicate refusal or disagreement by waving one finger in a back and forth action. Instead of saying a verbal “no”, Macedonians sometimes click their tongue and shake their head slightly.
  • Shaking and Nodding: In Eastern Macedonia, closer to the border of Bulgaria, shaking the head can mean “yes” while nodding the head can mean “no”. This non-verbal custom is becoming less common as the rest of the country is familiar with a reversed meaning of the gesture. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile being aware of the difference.
  • Gestures: It is common for people to raise their hand with the palm facing up and fingers touching the thumb to show appreciation for something. They may kiss their hand as they say their praise. This may also be done whilst making the symbol for ‘okay’ (with the forefinger and the top of the thumb meeting to form a circle, with the other fingers stretched out). The middle finger up has the same rude connotation in North Macedonia as it does in the English-speaking West. 

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