Slovenian Business Etiquette

Pozdravljeni (‘‘Welcome” in Slovene)

Slovenia - how much do you know about this Central-European nation? Do you get it confused with Slovakia? Well, if you do, it's high time you do some learning about this country. 

Slovenia is bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and the Adriatic Sea. There are some 10,000 caves in Slovenia, some of which stretch over 20 km. The caves have become a tourist attraction for cave-divers and thrill-seekers alike. Over 60% of Slovenia is forested, and the country is home to 400 brown bears. In addition, there are several wineries in the country (one for every 70 people), the oldest of which is over 400 years old.

Before you hop on a plane and fly on over to Slovenia, let’s first learn about the dos and don’ts of Slovenian business etiquette.

The Lowdown

               A statue of the Ljubljana dragon.

              A statue of the Ljubljana dragon.

  • The capital of Slovenia is Ljubljana, which is also its largest city. In Slovene, Ljubljana means “the loved one.”
  • The official language of Slovenia is Slovene, a Slavic language, but Italian and Hungarian are also recognized as regional languages.
  • Approximately 83% of the population identifies ethnically as Slovene . The remaining percentage is composed of various other European ethnicities.
  • Slovenia is relatively religiously diverse; however, about half of the population is Roman Catholic.
  • Slovenia is a unitary parliamentary constitutional republic (there is both a president and a prime minister).
  • Fun fact: The official emblem of Ljubljana is the Ljubljana dragon, which is included in the city’s coat of arms. Legend has it that the dragon long ago inhabited the Ljubljana marshes and was slain by Jason as he traveled across Europe with the Argonauts.

Dressing Sharp

  • Slovenians tend to be very fashion-forward and take great care in their appearance.
  • An expensive and tasteful wardrobe is a sign of good social and financial standing.
  • Both men and women should wear dark clothing and avoid bright or bold colors. Zany clothing won’t earn you respect in the Slovenian business world.
  • Women should dress modestly and conservatively.
  • Some businesses will have a more lax dress code than others; as such, it is wise to check ahead of time to see what type of clothing you should pack.

Make or Break Meetings

  • Punctuality is extremely important to Slovenian business people. If you are late for a meeting, Slovenians will likely become very irritated and view you as disinterested and/or disrespectful.
  • Greet each person with a firm handshake and confident eye contact. It is polite to greet all women first.
  • If you know the professional or academic title of the Slovenian party (e.g., Dr. or Professor), you should use it. If not, use “Gospa” (“Madam”) or “Gospod” (“Sir”).
  • If the Slovenian party instructs you to use their first name, you may do so.
  • Business cards should be exchanged at the first meeting, although there is no formal etiquette on how to exchange the cards.
  • Slovenian culture is polycentric, which means that Slovenian business people will attempt to modify their communication style to fit that of their counterpart. So, although many Slovenians are indirect in their communication, they will alter this to be more direct to mirror their business contact.

Dining Decorum

  • You may either be invited to dine in a restaurant or at the home of a Slovenian. No matter where the meal is being eaten, be on time! Again, Slovenians value punctuality, even in regards to social gatherings.
  • Dress nicely; a good rule of thumb is to wear clothing you would normally wear to the office.
  • Conversation at the meal will either be small talk (neutral topics) or business talk. Refrain from asking a Slovenian about their personal life unless they offer up information.
  • If you are invited into a Slovenian’s home, you will most likely be asked to remove your shoes.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • Gift giving is not a typical aspect of Slovenian business culture. If you give a gift upon first meeting, make it small – a souvenir from your home country is a good choice.
  • If you are invited to a Slovenian’s home, you can bring flowers as a show of appreciation.
  • Acceptable gifts include: flowers, wine, or company-branded gear.
  • Do not give overly-expensive gifts. Slovenians are sensitive to bribery attempts and certain gifts will have to be cleared by upper management before they can be accepted.
  • Gifts are typically opened upon receipt. 

Down to Business

  • Slovenians may be reserved and hesitant to divulge personal details at first, but may loosen up over time. It’s not imperative that Slovenians develop strong business relationships in order to do business, but they do prefer to negotiate with those they know and trust.
  • There will usually be some small talk before the commencement of a meeting.
  • Slovenian business is egalitarian, so each member of the team is seen as valuable. However, business decisions are made hierarchically from the top down.

Now that you're well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Slovenia, don't forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb!

Zdravo (‘‘Goodbye” in Slovene)