Doing Business in MacedoniaMeeting and Greeting
Macedonia on the face of it is still a fairly formal society. This reflects in the rather proper and reserved nature of initial meetings. Within the business context a firm handshake, direct eye contact and the appropriate greeting for the time of day suffices. The hierarchical nature of Macedonians results in an emphasis on rank and position. As a result if people have official, educational or work titles ensure you use them. If you are unsure then simply use Mr or Mrs followed by the surname. Only friends and family address each other with first names. One should always wait for their Macedonian counterparts to determine when it is appropriate to become this informal.
Some useful Macedonian phrases to make a good initial impression include:
- Good morning. dobro utro
- Good day. dobar den
- Good evening. dobra vecher
- Hello. zdravo
- How are you? kako si?
- I'm fine, thank you. dobro sum, blagodaram
Until a relationship warms up the communication will be reserved and cool. However, once the other person as an individual rather than a foreigner, they will slowly become less formal and more relaxed.
Macedonians generally have an indirect communication style when dealing with people whom they do not know well. They will offer roundabout explanations rather than offer a negative response; they prefer a non-confrontational way of doing business.
Business decisions are often heavily influenced by personal sentiments. It is therefore a good idea to invest time in relationship building. This helps overcome the initial communication barrier as well as increase chances of business success.
Many Macedonians believe that speaking forcefully indicates that the person is overcompensating for the fact that they have nothing important to say. Anyone with a booming voice may want to consider paying attention to their tone.
Meetings are formal. The normal protocol is for the most senior Macedonian to open the meeting with an introduction or statement and to then chair the proceedings. Although a hierarchical culture where important decisions are made at the top of the company, Macedonians seek to have a consensus of all stakeholders before reaching a final decision. Therefore, meetings can be extremely protracted since everyone must have the opportunity to present their case.
Any presentations should be factual and backed with statistics. If possible try to present information visually. Macedonians do not appreciate too much “talk” so avoid over zealous statements. Macedonians are not deadline oriented. They prefer to ensure they have comprehensively covered a topic before bringing proceedings to a close. Be patient and do not rush meetings – successful ventures in Macedonia will never happen overnight.
Business is hierarchical. Decision-making power is held at the top of the company and most decisions will therefore require several layers of approval. At times it may appear that no one wants to accept responsibility for making the decision and it is not uncommon for it to take several visits to accomplish a simple task.
Macedonians can be tough negotiators. They are especially concerned about being taken advantage of by foreigners. If you need an interpreter then hire your own for meetings and negotiations. Avoid confrontational behaviour or high-pressure sales tactics. An indirect negotiating style is preferred as being too direct is viewed as poor manners.
Contracts function as statements of intent. It is expected that if circumstances change, the contract will accommodate the revised conditions. Do not change members of a negotiating team before a decision is reached or the relationship-building process will have to begin anew.
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