Slovenia cultural insights
The following cultural insights are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. The content in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.
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Local and Canadian perspectives for the following subjects:
- Communication styles
- Display of emotion
- Dress, punctuality & formality
- Preferred managerial qualities
- Hierarchy and decision-making
- Religion, class, ethnicity, & gender
- Privileges and favouritism
- Conflicts in the workplace
- Motivating local colleagues
- Recommended books, films & foods
- In-country activities
- National heroes
- Shared historical events with Canada
- About the cultural interpreters
- Related information
When you are meeting someone for the first time and want to make a good impression you can discuss topics such as where you are from, what brought you to Slovenia, whether you are married and if you have any children. It is also very important to express interest in getting to know the person you are meeting with and ask questions about Slovenia. Avoid criticizing anything about Slovenia and delving too deeply into political or religious topics. Having a good sense of humour is always welcome, but it is better not to overdo it because one may not be taken seriously if being too funny with people you've just met.
Where someone is from is always a good topic of conversation. This often leads to being suggested places to travel to and visit. Slovenia has many different regions that offer a great source of pride to many Slovenians. Family and work are also great topics to begin a conversation. Football (soccer) is also a very popular sport in Slovenia and is another great way to begin a conversation.
They are also a very accommodating people. They will not hesitate to offer to share a meal or drink and it is a great way to become more familiar with the person and begin or continue any conversation as their food is of great pride to them. Many Slovene families also make their own wine and a large number of them also distil schnapps flavoured with different kinds of fruit.
There are still some tensions between the Slovene people and other Yugoslav nationals. Many families were broken apart during the recent Yugoslav wars with some brothers, cousins, or even father and son fighting on opposing sides. This is not as pronounced in Slovenia as it would be in a country such as Serbia or Bosnia where the fighting was intense. There are also a number of non-citizens that live or work in Slovenia that have emigrated from other Yugoslav countries. There is some racial tension between these people and Slovenian nationals due to the conflicts of the past decades and former Yugoslavian rule.
The Slovenians have a rather relaxed sense of humour and their humour was very similar to that of many Canadians. The youth would joke about things that happened on a daily basis and their demeanour was quite accepting of Canadians.
Slovenians are a very family oriented culture. People within a family are generally quite close and are very loyal to one another. There are however, exceptions as mentioned with the cultural and societal rifts between some of the different Yugoslav regions.
When speaking to someone in Slovenia your distance will depend on how well you know the other person. Generally, you stand closer to your family members and friends than to people colleagues, clients and strangers. Observe others and take your lead from then when having a conversation. It is very important to make eye contact when talking to others, whether for personal or business purposes. People that do not make eye contact or avoid it are considered not to be trusted and seem to be hiding something.
Family members and close friends may hug each other when they get together. They may tap each other on the back there might be a lot of gesturing, smiling and loud, lively conversation. When talking with family and friends almost any topic is allowed. Political correctness as known in Canada is not observed. When being introduced to someone and when meeting for business purposes, shaking hands is customary. Also, when meeting someone after not seeing them for a while shaking hands is common. When communicating with a client or an associate that you know well, some touching, such as a tap on the back, is acceptable.
Slovenes do gesture quite a bit. There are some gestures that are considered rude, such as showing someone a middle finger and pointing at someone. When driving, it is very common to hear someone use a horn to get other drivers' attention or to see cars passing with very little room. Slovenes tend to speak more directly to each other and about other people than it is customary among Canadians.
Slovenians were very similar to Canadians in their conversational habits. Appropriate distances were not overly close, nor overly far away. It is such that Canadians would feel quite comfortable in conversation.
Greeting someone is quite similar to the way it would be done in Canada. When meeting someone for the first time or in a more formal setting, it is common to shake hands. On a friendlier basis it is common to wave to the person. It is traditional on someone's birthday to give them three kisses on the cheeks, alternating each one. If you are on good terms with someone it is also not uncommon to hug briefly if you have not seen them in some time or as a farewell.
Eye contact is much as it is in Canada. It is recommended to make eye contact when speaking as it might be considered rude to not make eye contact. It also helps establish a friendlier rapport with the person and thus makes both parties more comfortable in the situation.
Slovenes are generally very friendly in conversation and have facial expressions and gestures that Canadians should be familiar with and are made to feel welcome.
Display of emotion
Holding hands among couples is common and considered acceptable. It is common to see young couples displaying affection in public places and it is considered somewhat acceptable provided it is within the limits of good taste. It is also common and considered acceptable to display affection publicly when vacationing at beach resorts. Public displays of anger and other negative emotions do happen, but are not considered acceptable. One should deal with such emotions in private.
The occurrence of public displays of affection was such that Canadians would be used to seeing. Couples often walk holding hands or arm in arm and younger couples can occasionally be seen kissing.
It is not very common to see displays of anger, as the Slovene people have a rather relaxed and accepting attitude. On some occasions though, tempers may flair and heated words may be exchanged.
Slovene people like to engage in sporting competitions such as soccer or basketball as well as card games and such and sometimes people may get excitable. This is usually in good nature though and can be a good source of humour and jokes afterwards.
Dress, punctuality & formality
Slovenes dress for work according to the type of work they do. One should observe how the others dress, but it is always recommended to dress in formally should one want to be respected and make a good impression. Slovenes in general put a lot of effort into dressing well for work and leisure. During the summer people tend to show more skin, especially women.
Colleagues are normally addressed by their first names. Supervisors are also normally addressed by their first names, but it should be the supervisor asking staff to address him/her that way. It is recommended to address them more formally, for example Mr. /Mrs. Novak, until advised otherwise. Meeting deadlines is important. It is also important and a sign of respect to be on time, whether it be to arrive to work on time or arrive to a meeting on time. One can stay at home when sick, but a doctor's report is usually recommended when missing a few days.
The work attire for most Slovenians could be classified as semi casual and jeans and short sleeved shirts were common in many professions. For some of the more formal professions it is customary to wear slacks and a button up shirt. Many work environments also require uniforms which are provided. Women are expected to dress formally in most work environments but when the weather is warmer it is acceptable to wear more flattering clothing.
Addressing colleagues was courteous at first meetings and in formal situations. However, it was very common for people to address each other on a first-name basis when they had worked together more than briefly. In the case of superiors it is recommended to address them as they introduce themselves. If they introduce themselves by their first name then it is generally acceptable to address them in the same manner.
Lateness and absenteeism are not highly regarded. In some situations they may be deemed acceptable but for the most part showing up on time shows that respect is an important part of your personality. Some work environments provide flexible work hours and lateness may be excused if an effort is made to work the expected amount of time. Similarly, deadlines should be respected as they may be inflexible and productivity is generally expected and is very well respected in most professions.
Preferred managerial qualities
I would say that showing respect to staff, praising them for their efforts and good work is most highly regarded. Education, leadership skills and experience are also very highly regarded. It is also very important to pay staff according to their performance and the level of complexity of their jobs. Employees that are satisfied with their manager/supervisor are co-operative, do their best on the job and are willing to work extra hours, if necessary. If staff members do not like their manager/supervisor they will do their job poorly, will avoid eye contact and job moral will be low.
Leadership and success are highly respected qualities in a manager or superior but are not enough on their own. If a superior has a good mix of education or experience and is open minded and personable, they will be regarded more highly. In general, this does not seem to change much whether the superior is local or not, but each person will have their own opinions based on their position.
You may not always know how your staff views you because they may not be direct about it. Generally speaking, they will let you know if they are happy with the way you are doing things but may be more reserved about giving criticism.
Hierarchy and decision-making
Top management normally makes the decisions with little input from employees and ideas tend to be pushed down by them. This is changing though as companies are adapting to global competition and need to find the best solutions and generate new ideas in order to be successful. The appropriateness of going to an immediate supervisor for answers and feedback depends on the company. Good supervisors will make themselves available for questions and feedback, although an open door policy isn't common.
Decisions in the workplace are generally made by those responsible. Smaller decisions on a day to day basis are made by most people with the more important decisions being made by superiors or managers. Ideas are generated by different means. In most cases, ideas can be suggested by anyone and will be considered based on their merits.It is acceptable to speak with your supervisor if you have any questions. They are almost always happy to help and will take the time to discuss matters with you. They are also happy to provide feedback on questions or ideas you may have.
Religion, class, ethnicity, & gender
Women and men are regarded as equals in Slovenia. Men are still considered the main providers in the family and women take a bigger role in caring for the children and the home.Young couples do try to balance and share their family duties. In the workplace, women still face many challenges. There are few women in top leadership positions in public and private sector. Women may be paid less for the same work as their male counterparts. Also, certain companies will recruit men over women because of the possibility that she may have children.
Most Slovenes are Roman Catholic and I believe that religion does not have an impact on the workplace.
The gap between the poor and the rich is widening. There are many positions that are only available to people with connections.Generally though, once someone is hired his class status does not have much of an impact in the workplace. Those with connections and money may still get promotions faster and have access to higher positions.
Ethnic Slovenes represent around 98% of the population. I believe that ethnicity does not have an impact on the workplace as long as foreigners, immigrants or minorities are fluent in the Slovene language. The number of expats living in Slovenia is increasing every year. They usually come for work purposes and hold senior positions in the workplace.
Slovenians are progressive in their attitudes regarding genders. Many women have very good jobs and have the same opportunities for education and professional advancement as do men. This makes for a fairly equal professional relationship in the workplace and women often hold the same positions as men.
Most Slovenes identify themselves as Roman Catholic with small percentages of Eastern Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Protestants. Religion is not that much of an issue and most young people do not attend church on a regular basis. They may however, attend church during important holidays such as Christmas, Easter and the Assumption of the Virgin (Mary). As such, there is little if any religious tension between the Slovene people. There did not seem to be any religious discrimination in the workplace due to the near homogeneity of the Slovene population.
Slovenia did not appear to have very much class division at all. Slovenia was by far the wealthiest and most economically stable republic under Yugoslav rule and still has the best economy of the ex-Yugoslav republics today. There may be more of a visible class division in Ljubljana than other cities since it is the capital city but for the most part, everyone was what would probably be considered middle-class. Since there was no visible class distinction between most people in Slovenia there are no significant effects on attitudes in the workplace. Most people seemed to have very good working relationships and were very congenial.
Most of the population of Slovenia are ethnic Slovenes with small percentages of Italians, Hungarians, Gypsies, Croats, Serbs, ethnic Albanians and Muslims. Most of the relationships are amicable though there are some racist tendencies towards some of the non-citizens that work in Slovenia. In general, Canadians should not have problems being discriminated against in Slovenia since most Slovenes have favourable attitudes towards Canadians.
It is always a good idea to show genuine interest in a colleague and not just focus on business all the time. Everybody likes to feel that he/she matters as an individual and not only as a worker. Colleagues that feel important will try harder to do a good job and will be willing to do extra work to keep a good relationship. Establishing a personal relationship with a colleague is a gradual process and it may take as little as asking how about their weekend; asking questions about colleague's hobbies, vacations taken and being aware of the colleague's important events (e.g. weddings, births, deaths in the family).
Establishing a personal relationship with a client is vital to keeping a long-term business relationship. People like to do business with people whom they trust and they feel care about their business. One may want to invite a client for lunch in a restaurant after a business meeting. It is also recommended to ask the client how his/her business is doing, get to know what is important to the client and gradually talk about some general personal matters as well, such as interests, hobbies and vacation plans.
It is always a good idea to establish a personal relationship with colleagues. They tend to be more receptive and understanding when they have an idea of who you are as a person as opposed to just a colleague. It gives them more insight into where your ideas and suggestions come from and can help establish a better professional relationship as well. This is not to say that your ideas and suggestions will be disregarded if you do not establish a personal relationship; but establishing some kind of personal relationship makes for a more efficient work environment and helps establish better communication.
You can easily establish such a relationship by going for coffee with colleagues. There are a lot of café's in most Slovene cities and it is common for people to go for coffee and chat.
Privileges and favouritism
A colleague that has a personal relationship or friendship with a supervisor/manager may expect preferred treatment, faster promotion or a higher pay compared to his co-workers. Granting those privileges may create tensions among the team members and should be avoided. I would only recommend granting those privileges when such a colleague or employee performs outstandingly well on the job and deserves those privileges based on his/her performance and not just based on his/her personal relationship.
Having a good personal relationship or friendship with a Slovene does not make them expect any special privileges. It is possible that they may ask that a friend or family member be considered for a job but they would not expect that they be hired without being qualified for the position.
Conflicts in the workplace
You would confront a colleague directly and privately. If the work-related problem is affecting your ability to do your job, you should bring it to your supervisor's/manager's attention and seek his/her help.You would know if a colleague is having problems with you or is offended by something you've done by his attitude towards you. He/she wouldn't want to make eye contact with you, may avoid you and respond to your questions very briefly.
If you have a problem with a colleague it is probably best to confront them privately first to try alleviate any issues. If that is unsuccessful, it would be advisable to speak to your superior on how best to diffuse the situation. You may not be aware if a colleague is having problems with you as they may be less forthcoming in their dissent. That may not necessarily be the case though as some individuals will not hesitate to let you know what they think of you.
Motivating local colleagues
My local colleagues are motivated on the job by feeling that they are respected, by being paid well, by having good working conditions, by being satisfied with their jobs and having promotion opportunities.
For the most part, Slovenes take pride in their jobs if they are happily employed. Most are well educated and are very loyal providers to their families. Most workplaces have good working conditions and compared to many other Eastern European countries, the pay is high.
Recommended books, films & foods
I am not familiar with books to read, films to see or television shows that one could find outside of Slovenia and in English language. I can certainly recommend places to visit in Slovenia to get to know the country and its people.
One should visit the capital city of Slovenia, Ljubljana. I would suggest going to Ljubljanski grad (Ljubljana Castle) that can be seen above the city. There are many good restaurants and shopping, Ljubljana Cathedral and many old architectural masterpieces to see and enjoy. Next, one should visit Bled in the hearth of Gorenjska region. This is a nice place by the lake, surrounded by mountains. It is very popular with Slovenes who spend summer afternoons sunbathing, swimming in the lake and attending many festivities there on summer evenings. It is also a popular destination for business meetings and training since there are beautiful old hotels located right on the lake that specialize in the highest quality professional service. There are famous underground caves located in the region of Kras. Postojna Cave is one of the largest and most easily accessible caves where visitors can travel with an electrically powered train. Skocjan Caves are also beautiful and worth visiting. The Triglav National Park located in Julian Alps is interesting for its alpine valleys, mountain ridges, peaks of the Julian Alps, mountain lakes, waterfalls, etc.
There are many national dishes that are typical of Slovenia. Every region of Slovenia has its own various types of bread. There are many flour-based dishes, among which those made of buckwheat - the cereal that gives grey flour. Many variations of struklji are prepared in different regions of Slovenia. The most renowned is delicious prekmurska gibanica. One should also try the potica, a cake roll filled with walnuts, poppy seeds, raisins, various herbs, cottage cheese, and honey. In Primorska region, one can get original fish dishes and delicacies made from local plants, vegetables and fruit and prsut.
Top quality wines can also be found in Slovenia. There are three different wine regions in Slovenia, each one known for different types of wines; the Adriatic coast region, Posavje and Podravje regions.
There is also one website managed by an American living in Slovenia that may bring an insight into life in Slovenia from North American person's perspective: www.carniola.org.
The Lonely Planet - Slovenia book is a handy little guide to have and has a lot of general information on the country and its history. The Lonely Planet guidebooks can be found at most bookstores. The book has plenty of information on interesting places to visit such as castles, landmarks, historical buildings, museums etc. It also lists some places of accommodation. The information for some cities was rather brief though.
There are many museums around Slovenia telling of the history of the people and cultures. The lovely town of Ptuj is one of the oldest and most important historical towns in Slovenia with a medieval castle, several museums, monasteries and churches. Bled Lake is very beautiful with a medieval castle perched on a hill, a lovely lake with a church on an island, and some of Slovenia's highest peaks in the Julian Alps nearby. The Capital city Ljubljana is also a must see. There are many beautiful areas in Slovenia that also must be visited on any extended stay. Any Slovene person will be happy to make suggestions of places to visit and things to see.
I would recommend going for walks around town, going to restaurants, cafes, opera, theatres, concerts or museums in order to get to know the city and its people. I would suggest going to festivities with live music and delicious food organized by local firefighter associations called "veselicas". These take place on weekends throughout the summer all over Slovenia.
One can go hiking in the mountains, take a rafting tour or go to one of many spas with healing thermal water that can be found all over Slovenia. There are also many sporting events worth attending, such as World Cup skiing competitions, World Cup ski jumping competitions, basketball and hockey games, soccer games during the summer, etc. There are also many ski resorts in Slovenia where one can enjoy downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. During the summer one should certainly take a trip to Portoroz and Piran to get to know the Slovene Adriatic coast.
I would recommend reading national newspapers Delo and Dnevnik, although one should understand Slovene to be able to do that. There are many cultural programs, local and international news broadcasted on Slovene national radio and television.
I think the best way to find a "cultural interpreter" is by getting to know the co-workers and asking for their suggestions about where to go and what to do. Slovenes love to show their country to non-locals and I am sure some would be willing to accompany you in your quest.
Soccer has a large following in Slovenia and there are stadiums in most of the larger cities with regular games during the warmer months. There are also many outdoor activities such as hiking, caving, skiing, etc that Slovene people like to participate in. There are cafés in all Slovene towns and Slovene people like to go with their friends for a coffee, beer or snack.
Most Slovene people are very hospitable and open to Canadians and would be more than happy to take you into their home as a guest. They are always happy to suggest places you should visit and tell you a little, or a lot, about the history of Slovenia and it's people and culture.
In my mind there are three Slovenes that everyone respects and regards as national heroes, regardless of their political orientation. One is France Preseren. He is the most loved and important poet of Slovenia. Each year the anniversary of his death, February 8, is marked as Slovenian cultural celebration with literary readings, award ceremonies and other festivities throughout Slovenia. Every school-age child learns his poetry and as one of its first acts of statehood, the newly independent Slovene republic proclaimed his poem "Zdravljica" (The Toast) the national anthem. He and his beautiful, pain-fraught poetry have in many ways come to symbolize and epitomize the Slovene national condition.
Leon Stukely is the second national hero in my opinion. He was called the Iron Man of Gymnastics. He won 6 Olympic medals in gymnastics. He was honoured at the Atlanta Olympic Opening Ceremony as the oldest living Olympian. He amazed everybody by bounding onto the stage at the age of 97. He died four days before his 101st birthday.
Primoz Trubar is the author of the first printed book in Slovene language in 1550. He authored around 25 books and the most important one is the translation of the complete New Testament.
The poet France Prešeren is beloved by most Slovene people. His Slovene writings came at a time when German was the primary literary language and set new standards for Slovene literature. His works also inspired in Slovenes a national consciousness and patriotism.
Melania Trump is also a famous Slovene. She was a European supermodel and recently married the American billionaire Donald Trump.
Shared historical events with Canada
There are around 300,000 Slovenes living in Canada, mostly in the Greater Toronto Area, and that is a very strong connection that should positively affect the Slovenia - Canada relations. Many Slovenes have relatives or know somebody that lives in Canada.
There are no major historical events between Canada and Slovenia. The most significant influence on their relationship is that many Slovene people have immigrated to Canada. For the most part, Slovenians think highly of Canada and Canadians.
Slovenes have a very positive attitude towards Canadians and foreigners in general. However, there is a lack of understanding of the differences between Canadians and Americans. Americans may be considered loud, inconsiderate and somewhat arrogant. It is therefore important to emphasize that you are Canadian.
Canadians may think that because of the cheap living expenses that Slovenia is a poor country. By Canadian standards, Slovene people may make less money but they lead a very rich life and usually have very good family relationships. Slovenia also has one of the wealthiest economies of Central and Eastern Europe.
About the cultural interpreters
Your cultural interpreter was born in Kranj, the third of four children. She lived in Mavcice, in northwest Slovenia, until the age of 26. She graduated with a Bachelor in Political Science from the University of Ljubljana. Afterwards, your cultural interpreter immigrated to Canada to live with her husband and work in Montreal, Quebec. She also lived in Grande Prairie, Alberta and London, Ontario. She is currently living in Whitby, Ontario and is married with 2 children.
Your cultural interpreter was born in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada the eldest of 2 children. He was raised in this town. He studied Computer Engineering in Canada at the University of Victoria. He had previously travelled through some of the Western United States and has also been to Mexico and Russia. He chose to complete a mandatory traineeship abroad in 2004. Your cultural interpreter went to Slovenia, where he lived several months. He is currently living in Canada, in Kingston, Ontario. for the last 18 months. He is of Russian descent and speaks Russian as well as English.
Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.
You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.
The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.
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