Bulgarian Small Talk

Bulgarians use a certain phrase of greeting almost as common as the Bulgarian 'Hello' or 'Hi'. The phrase is a leading question and a sure sign the that the Bulgarian want to spend time talking. Certainly in Bulgarian villages where talking is the main pastime the 'greeting' is used more often than in towns and cities.

"What are you doing?"

This is the greeting and question put to me and many others and of course you have to answer the question, which is a natural tendency.

The most strange thing about this question is that when asked is used just as an introduction for extended talk. It is so obvious in most cases what you are doing at the time of asking that isn't the reason for asking. Even so you still feel inclined to explain what you are doing and the talking starts.

Many instances of this can be giving, such as I have just enter the village shop to buy bread and beer. A good neighbour is already there and knows full well I go there the same time on the same days buying the same things but asks, 'What are you doing?' I of course explain that I am here in the shop to buy bread and beer and the talking carries on from that.

Another example walking down the street with a wheelbarrow full of muck on the way to the local dumping area as I walk on past another villager the question will come forward and it does,'What are you doing? I explain that I am taking some muck to the local dump and another chunk of my time immersed in village life is squandered away with more talking about the obvious in the first instance but the talking doesn't end there.

Furthermore, unless the question is asked by someone when you are talking to someone else in the first place - this also is a high probability - you also stop what you were actually doing, usually farmyard chores!

As mentioned already, on from this initial question the small talk usually continues in the same vein, talking about what we already know. Talking about what they know already is a Bulgarian habit for example we will be eating some home made village banistsa (Skalitsa Banitsa) and ask how it is made even though they have been making the same banitsa in the same village to the same recipe it every other day for decades but still ask!

They will ask whether I have tomatoes being grown in the garden even though they had seen them and talked in depth about them only a few moments ago and even helped pick some for this evening's salad but still ask.

They will enquire when am I going back to Yambol when they know week in week out I leave Sunday afternoon at the same time and personally say goodbye to them at this time and have for over a year now but they still ask.

The list of asking and talking about the obvious is endless which is another reason why Bulgarians talk so much.

So, let's recap on the phrase 'What are you doing?'
- it is a Bulgarian form of greeting
- it is not used to find out what you are doing, (they already know)
- it is used to get to spend more even more time talking
- it is verbal device to stop you and them doing whatever you were doing
- it is a Bulgarian trigger for everything to grind to a halt - again

And finally a Bulgarian equation of this can be made up as:

'What are you doing?'= (Obvious answer + More Small Talk) - Work.