During our past year(ish) in Serbia, Chris and I went from being a couple foreign strangers to feeling like we belonged. We've made loads of friends, participated in a cultural parade, been invited to traditional Serbian meals, had a car accident, saw a local celebrity in concert, and learned so much about Subotica, Serbia. We know most of the servers at local cafes and restaurants and the initial anxiety we felt over not knowing the language has faded. While we are nowhere near fluent (or even conversational) in Serbian, we can understand most everything, and we've become pantomime pros! We have learned to just laugh through the language barrier blunders - because what else can you do?!
Our Serbian expat experience is unique in so many ways. It is a combination of the company that sent us, the friends that have embraced us, the places we frequent, the establishments we steer clear of, and our personal travel style. No one will ever walk the same path that Chris and I have, but there are a few things that we have learned that may be helpful to anyone planning a move to Serbia.
Driving in Serbia - At least from our experience, just about anything can happen while you're behind the wheel. You have to be alert and aware every single minute! You will encounter slow Yugos, farm animals, oblivious bikers, broken down vehicles and people running across the road in unmarked areas. I was so anxious the first time I drove the car alone, but my racing heart has calmed down a bit. It is also a law that you must always drive with your lights on and you cannot hold a cell phone to your ear while driving.
Ebay/Amazon/Pay Pal . . . They just don't really work here. There are some Amazon vendors in Europe who will mail packages to Serbia, but it's still a bit tricky. You cannot use Pay Pall, but there are some things that you can order and have sent to Serbia. The package will arrive, but then you have to deal with customs and the Post Office. . .
The Post Office in Serbia - Once a package arrives for you (from Amazon or from Mom), the Post Office will send you a notice to come collect your mail. Serbia will charge you about half of the value that is listed on your package before you can take your treasures home. I believe you get away without paying a customs tax if the value of your mail is under $20ish. But, if your mom sends you $100 worth of Kraft Mac and Cheese (can't get that in Subotica), you'll have to pay $50 at the Post Office before you can taste that cheesy goodness. I believe companies have a way around these crazy fees, but if you're in Serbia on your own, expect customs to take some of your hard earned money. It is also tricky to get your belongings into the country if you are making a move by yourself and not through a company.
The way you pay a bill in Serbia. Bills are paid to either the post man (when he comes to your door), or at the bank. There is no stable online bill pay system. We often go to the bank and fill out a pink piece of paper with our bank routing number and the number of the account we are giving money to. I asked Chris what happens if you write one number wrong, and he just said, "well, then the wrong person gets your money and it takes a long time to sort out the problem." We have never had that happen, but it is such a curious system coming from a world where everything is paid online.
Biking is for the young and old alike. I bought a bike in Serbia, and while it may not be the safest mode of transportation, it is effective and I get lots of exercise.
The Serbian Slava. When you're invited once, you're expected to show up every year. I still have to write a blog post about the Slava that I went to. A Slava is "The Saints Day." Every Orthodox family has a specific family Saint, and on that Saint's day, the family throws a big party and invites everyone! Once you come once, you are invited to come every year there after.
I know there are more things that I can write here, but I'll have to keep thinking!
Have a wonderful July! I will be traveling for the entire month, so the blog will be a little sleepy! Please feel free to ask questions and comment! I started moderating comments because I am not really interested in some of the negative, political comments I have had posted. I will only post constructive comments to our blog. :)
Thanks for reading!