Do's and Don'ts
- It is very important to have an understanding of the sensitivities and nuances surrounding the () Macedonian identity. Macedonians often instinctively make an assessment about whether the person they are interacting with is sympathetic to their position or not. How they are viewed and treated at this basic level tends to determine much of their responses and cooperation from then on. Any challenge to the legitimacy of their identity is seen as a slight and a very hostile act.
- Make an effort to ask about a Macedonian’s family when developing a friendship. Their family members are arguably the most important part of their lives.
- It is important to recognise the legitimacy of North Macedonia’s culture, history and statehood. If the topic of arises, empathise with their situation and show solidarity with their perspective. See ‘National Identity’ under Core Concepts for more information on this.
- Recognise that the Macedonian people are the historical and original inhabitants of the land. Any efforts to trace their heritage back to civilisations that settled in or invaded North Macedonia may be corrected and may make them feel annoyed or offended in some cases.
- Expect Macedonians to talk quite openly about politics. Political analysis and discussion is a pastime for some, and the situation in North Macedonia arguably provides a lot of material to examine.
- A Macedonian may not always tell you when they have been insulted or what has upset them, but may instead become cold towards you or difficult to contact. If you notice this or realise you have offended them, be sure to make amends as soon as possible. Open apologies and sincere remorse are generally accepted and respected (depending on the circumstance). However, reluctance to do so can be interpreted as a sign of arrogance, and further jeopardise a relationship.
- Avoid using the name “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” or “FYROM” to refer to the country of Macedonia. Many Macedonians see it as a faux label forced upon them to suppress their identity and can be seriously upset and offended by its usage. Some may also oppose the official name of the country, “North Macedonia”, preferring it to be referred to simply as “Macedonia”. See ‘The Naming Dispute’ under Other Considerations for more information on this.
- Do not assume that statistics based on citizenship or country of birth reflect the number of people who identify as Macedonian. People in Australia who identify as Macedonian may come from the Republic of North Macedonia, northern Greece (Aegean Macedonia), Bulgaria (Pirin Macedonia) and Albania (Mala Prespa). Meanwhile, some people from the broader geographic area of Macedonia may identify themselves as Serbians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians or Roma.
- Do not criticise or insult North Macedonia. The Macedonian people are very proud and some often find themselves in the position of defending their country against hostile neighbouring opinions.
- Avoid provoking conversation about Macedonian-Albanian, Macedonian-Greek or Macedonian-Bulgarian relations. You cannot presume a person’s position on these affairs.
- Avoid mentioning the 2001 conflict, Macedonia’s partition during the Balkan wars and the country’s pending membership to NATO and the EU. These are generally sensitive subjects. However, it is usually acceptable to talk about the socialist period and Josip Tito.
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