Macedonian Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • It is expected that people act more formal and respectful around their elders. For example, one would refrain from swearing or telling rude jokes.
  • Macedonians have quite a relaxed view of time. It is common to be late or for meetings and other events to run over time.
  • Do not leave two windows open in a room. There is a cultural belief that when wind passes through a room, it will cause people to get sick. This belief is called ‘promaja’.
  • Macedonians generally stay up quite late and may socialise into the later hours of the night.
  • It is not necessary to tip restaurants or service people in North Macedonia.

 

Visiting

  • Macedonian family members and close friends visit each other’s homes very regularly. Many visits happen unannounced or unplanned. However, some people may have concerns about strangers visiting unannounced.
  • Give advance notice of your visit so your Macedonian counterpart has time to prepare for your arrival.
  • Take off your shoes before entering someone’s home.
  • Everyone should usually stand up to meet and greet those who arrive. If everyone is already seated to eat when you enter a room, take the time to shake hands with all people individually.
  • Expect tea or coffee to be offered when at someone’s house. Accept these refreshments even if you do not drink them all. Doing so facilitates discussion, while refusing someone’s offer can be interpreted as rude. Do not start drinking until your host does.
  • If a Macedonian has invited you to their house for a meal, they rarely expect visitors to contribute to the food. It is expected the invitation involves their offer to provide everything served.

 

Eating

  • Lunch is the main meal of the day in North Macedonia. It is eaten at around 2pm. Dinner is eaten later after an afternoon siesta.
  • If you are eating at someone’s house or restaurant, plan to be there for at least two hours. Meals are often prolonged as people socialise.
  • At formal meals, the head of the family may sit at the end of the table with the godmother and godfather on either side. 
  • People serve themselves from dishes placed in the centre of the table. If you wish to have a second helping, you similarly serve yourself.
  • Expect to be offered more servings than you are prepared to eat. You may have to politely insist that you are full.
  • It is polite to eat all the food on your plate and leave it empty when finished.
  • Sometimes, Macedonians may serve ‘mezze’ instead of a full meal. This is a selection of small dishes that accompany alcoholic drinks. The dishes will be paired to match the alcohol served. For example, salad is meant to be the accompaniment to hard spirits.
  • Muslim Macedonians may not consume alcohol or pork in accordance with Islamic principles.
  • Christian Macedonians generally drink alcohol with their meals and make toasts of friendship and agreements. ‘Rakija’ (a fruity brandy) is a popular drink. The common toast is “Nazdravje” meaning “for your health”.
  • If dining out to eat, friends usually discuss the bill prior and agree as to whether everyone will pay for themselves. The bill is usually split evenly among all unless a person volunteers to pay. If someone specifically invites the others out for dinner or drinks, it is expected that they will pay.


Gift Giving

  • There are not many strong customs surrounding gift giving.
  • People may prefer to open gifts in private or in front of the giver only when no other people are watching.
  • Someone who is financially struggling can feel embarrassed if given a very expensive gift as they may feel unable to reciprocate or match the gesture. 
  • 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.
  • Avoid giving pork or alcohol-based products to a Muslim Macedonian unless you are sure the gift is appropriate.

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