Having lived in the United States for a little over a decade now, I have not encountered many people who know about my country of origin, Bulgaria. Naturally, when they learn that I am from Bulgaria, their curiosity kicks in and I am often asked what it is like to live there. Throughout the years, I have created the perfect answer to this question: Bulgaria is a developing country where the roads are rocky and most are struggling financially, but it’s filled with intelligent, extremely cultured people.
During my years living in Bulgaria, things were very different than they are now. Most did not own computers or smart phones; therefore, nobody would ever stay indoors during the day. Many places are within walking distance and the journey of going from point A to point B is always fun, as you never knew who you would run into. Now times have changed, but the importance of face-to-face communication is not lost among the Bulgarian people. Yes, many own computers now. And yes, I can barely get my cousins to talk to me without looking at their Facebook profiles. But luckily, people have found a way to integrate both social networking and face-to-face communication: The Facebook Café.
Tucked neatly on a street side in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, sits the Facebook Café. This café-club’s purpose is to connect friends from Facebook in an offline space. The owners of the Facebook Café are young guys who have done a great job adapting Facebook applications to the ‘real’ world. For example, the café’s menu is really creative, where if you’re hungry you can order the YoFarm salad – a tribute to Facebook’s ridiculously popular Farmville. Other features of the café include regular customers automatically receiving e-cards whenever entering the café, which will immediately appear on their Facebook profiles to let their friends know that they are there. In addition, if you want to use Facebook while inside, an intelligent system lets you see all messages, photos, and videos on a screen at your table!
It’s no secret that social networking and the online population is growing rapidly all around the world. Bulgaria has over 2 million Facebook users and the country’s penetration of online population is 70.52%. The Facebook Café is a really innovative concept which links today’s digital culture with Bulgaria’s traditional face-to-face communication. The place where I grew up, where I had nothing but love from friends and family is becoming more digitally advanced; however, it’s not losing its traditional customs. Social networking is a powerful motivator of people across cultures, but it’s important for brands to remember that certain cultures still value basic traditions, such as offline interaction. The Facebook Café is a perfect example of how brands can combine both on and offline engagement to provide the perfect blend of engagement and interaction in the Bulgarian culture.