Developers can be sourced from many continents. China and India are development hot spots, as are many cities in South America and Eastern Europe. Each country has a distinctive culture and unique set of challenges, but with careful planning and understanding each can be a great development center.
MentorMate is built on offshore mastery. Our CTO Dimitar Dobrev has managed our Bulgarian development offices since 2002. Since then, we have expanded to a total of four development centers in Bulgaria and our collaboration with our offshore teams has become almost seamless.
Why Bulgaria? Initially it was necessity, CEO Bjorn Stansvik and CTO Dimitar were friends and founded the company together. Dimitar lived and worked in Bulgaria and had the connections to build a mobile development operation. Since then MentorMate has had the opportunity to switch countries (even stop offshoring altogether) but after careful consideration, we decided to stay with Bulgaria for several reasons. Primarily, the culture in Bulgaria is similar to our own. They have a western work ethic, capitalist democracy, and similar societal norms (greetings, marriage traditions, relationships). Basically, they think a lot like us, and have similar wants and needs. Additionally, compared to India or China the time difference is much more manageable.
Of course there are still some differences, which are important to understand.
- Land Area: 42,683 sq mi
- Population: 7.36 million
- Monetary Unit: Lev (Lev to USD)
- Government: Parliamentary Republic
- Capital: Sofia (pop. 1.2 million)
- Man Greeting Man: Similar to American customs. A firm handshake with eye contact. A light hug and pat on the back is not uncommon for friends.
- Woman Greeting Woman: Light handshake is normal, a kiss on each cheek is acceptable if two women are friends.
- Man Greeting Woman: Standard handshake.
- Head Nodding and Shaking: One of the biggest communication differences in Bulgaria is nodding your head actually means no, while shaking your head means yes. It is the complete opposite of most other cultures and might lead to some awkward miscommunications.
- Language Breakdown: 85% Bulgarian, 9% Turkish, 4% Romani, 2% Other
- Second Languages: 60% of adults speak a second language. Most common second languages are English, German and French. English is considered the language of business.
- Punctuality: Although always important in a professional setting, has even greater meaning to Bulgarians.If you are unable to make it at the appointed time an apology and explanation should be given.
- Timezone: UTC+02:00
- Vacation Months: Many Bulgarians choose July and August to visit the sea shore or travel.
- Drinking Age: The legal drinking and smoking age in Bulgaria is 18.
- Tone: A direct, sometimes blunt, style of communication should not be mistaken as rudeness or frustration. It is normal.
- Business Lunch: Bulgarians are fond of having meals after important meetings. This is an ideal time to get to know each other and develop a relationship.
- Consensus: Even though the business culture is hierarchical, similar to American businesses, Bulgarians prefer to reach a consensus before making any major decisions.
- Proximity: Bulgarians put greater emphasis than Americans on face-to-face meetings when building a new relationship with a partner or customer.
- Formal: During work hours, dressing formally is recommended unless it is explicitly stated that casual dress is acceptable.
As we continue to operate as a global company with offices in the US and Bulgaria, understanding cultural differences is important not only to us but to our clients. Our advantage in lower costs will only make sense if we are able to maintain high quality development. Communication and team work between American and Bulgarian developers and management is critical in maintaining high quality standards and keeping projects moving efficiently. It is crucial that we continue to innovate with new technology and methods to bridge our differences in location, language, time, and culture, for the seamless collaboration that our clients expect.