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Macedonia Customs & Etiquettes


In the traditional culture, the young show deference to the old. It is normal for male friends to shake hands and for women to kiss when meeting and saying good-bye. A person entering a room where others are seated will shake hands with each person. Physical contact among friends of the same gender is considered normal. Although staring at strangers was once common, it became relatively rare in the 1990s. It once was the norm to remove one's shoes at the entrance of a home, but this practice is receding among urban Christians.

Macedonian women play large roles in society – they are teachers, judges, attorneys, accountants and doctors. However, they are also expected to juggle a full time work schedule with keeping up the house, taking care of the children, making meals, etc.

While husbands are expected to just work, women are expected to work as well as keep up the house. Foreign women are not as expected to do this as much the locals, but there still tends to be a cultural bias towards that lifestyle.

Traditionally, marriages were arranged by the parents, but today young people are likely to choose their own partners. Pregnancy often leads to marriage among urban youth, but in the traditional culture the bride is expected to be a virgin. Traditional marriages usually do not cross religious lines. Polygyny occasionally occurs among Muslims. Marriage is the norm, and adults who have never been married are rare. Divorce and remarriage are regulated by civil law.

It is not advisable to refer to the country as FYROM. Touchy topics are Macedonian-Bulgarian, Macedonian-Albanian, and Macedonian-Greek relations. Most Macedonians can hold strong political opinions regarding their neighbours and won't shy away from expressing their views in most cases. Politics often finds its way into conversation over a cup of coffee. To keep from upsetting your hosts or new-found friends avoid topics such as the 2001 war against the NLA, Macedonia's partition during the Balkan wars and Macedonia's pending membership into the European Union or NATO. Don't worry about talking about the Communist period or about Josip Tito.

With the current situation in Kosovo, be very careful when talking about politics, as there is also a significant Albanian minority here. Ask as many questions as you'd like (within reason), but don't make any statements. Best to keep in mind that in some western areas, roughly one in four people you see on the street are likely to be Albanian and tensions are high between the Macedonian and Albanian communities. In short, keep your political opinions to yourself.

Meeting & Greeting

Greetings among men is usually a firm handshake while looking each other in the eye for formal greetings. A light hug is acceptable for men who know each other well. Among women, the greeting is usually one or two kisses, one on each cheek for less formal instances. For more formal instances and initial introductions, a handshake is common. Traditional & some formal situations call for three kisses on alternating cheeks. Same goes for good friends and family.

As for greetings between men and women, the norm is three kisses on alternating cheeks for good friends and family. For less formal situation and intial introductions, handshakes are appropriate. One or two kisses, one on each cheek for less formal instances is common as well. In Muslim areas, touching between men and women may be kept to a minimum. When in doubt follow the local's lead.

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