What will surprise any foreigner in Serbia
First of all, Russians are very warmly treated in Serbia – and quite sincerely. But lately the propaganda of integration with Europe has intensified, and the teaching of Russian in schools has been stopped. So the number of people who speak or at least understand Russian is decreasing. The Serbs in the masses are very good-looking. If you get acquainted with them, you will radically change your idea of a classic Slavic appearance. And the icing on the cake: tall men. All Serbs, like other Southerners, are very expressive. Their speech is built on shades of intonation, and their gestures are much richer than ours (although poorer than Italian). And unlike many other Southerners, they are very open and friendly. Serbs will unselfishly and willingly help you with small things. However, if you do a serious favor, they will expect you to compensate them in some way. If you come to visit, even in slush, shoes are not taken off in Serbia. On almost any holiday, a bottle of wine may be quite sufficient as a gift. Serbs smoke a lot: both women and men. If this is not stated anywhere, they perceive any place as smoking. At home, of course, you can ask them not to smoke. In stores and trains, there was a lot of smoking even more recently. Drinking in Serbia is much less than in Russia. Although everyone adores rakija, and local inexpensive and at the same time high-quality wines are widely available in stores. If Serbs do get drunk, they are never aggressive. They are surprised by this trait in Russian people. Rare cars are not exotic in Serbia. Local men not only drive excellent cars, but also have an excellent understanding of their construction. Accidents are often idiotic, due to rudeness or recklessness on the road. For example, no Serbian driving a car will ever prevent him from having a beer or wine. It is commonly believed that the most Serbian alcoholic drink is shlivovica, or rakija on plums. However, the purely Serbian specialties are pelinkovac, a wormwood liquor, and bermet, a sweet, strong wine produced in Vojvodina. The most traditional Serbian dish is rostil, meat cooked right on the fire. It is basically borrowed from the Turks, but perfected. In Serbia there are two alphabets: Latin and Cyrillic. Both are learned at school. At the same time the Cyrillic alphabet is used in the state bodies, and the society is gradually moving towards the Cyrillic alphabet. Since the nineteenth century the basic rule in the Serbian language is “as we hear, so we write. By regional standards Serbs are very cultured people. After the collapse of Yugoslavia and the elimination of socialism, it turned out that there were too many people with humanities. Serbs get married and have children around the age of 30, until then they live with their parents. Locals prefer cats to dogs. A typical picture of the Serbian street: a girl with warrior makeup stroking a mutt with enthusiasm. Or a mother and a couple of kids are touching a rather serious and, what’s more important, strange bulldog. At the same time, the dogs themselves are not aggressive towards people, and do not pay any attention to bicycles.
Cultured lovers of sports and recreation
A lady’s age is very difficult to assess from the back: she could literally be anywhere from fifteen to fifty years old. Neither her clothes nor her figure give that away. Sports are very popular in Serbia, and in all forms: from fans on TV to actively engaged in sports grounds full to the brim. There are plenty of arenas, but even that is not enough. The popularity of soccer is off the charts. The fan movement is too strong. It’s very hard for the Serbs to get excited about anything. However, they know how to relax and enjoy life just great. Their skills in construction, especially houses, are no less well honed. An ordinary village in Serbia looks no worse than an elite village in Russia, and often much better. Serbs are not accustomed to drinking tea. In their opinion, it is any warm herbal drink, which is used as medicine. Here they prefer Turkish-style coffee, which is customary to drink everywhere and everywhere. Curiously, in spite of the unemployment prevailing in the country and more than modest wages, all the cafes are just full of people drinking coffee. No matter what time of day it is.
Russians can read a Serbian text and understand much of it. However, it is much more difficult to hear when one is not used to it. The fact is that accents and sounds are pronounced differently here. And until a few years ago, Russian was a Serbian church language. For about five centuries, Serbia was under Turkish rule, but its cultural sources were in Russia. Interestingly, Google Translator understands many Serbian words as written in Cyrillic English. But the Turks have also left their mark on Serbian life and culture. “Costumes, cuisine, and music have been “Turkified. Many words have Turkish roots. It is worth noting that the Serbs in general like to borrow foreign expressions and words, even though they blame their neighbors, the Croats. In general, national identification is conditioned by specifics of historical development and goes not through the environment and language, but through religion. The Bosniaks are predominantly Muslims, Croats are Catholics, and Serbs are Orthodox. The languages of all the peoples living in this region are close. If you know Serbian, you will also understand very well: – Macedonian; – Croatian; – Slovenian; – Bosnian; – Montenegrin. Curiously, the popular word “lepota”, uttered by the hero of the comedy “Ivan Vasilievich changes his profession”, in Serbian means “beauty”. Serbs are unable to pronounce the “Y” sound. Characteristically, in Russian and Serbian there are many words that are similar or identical in sound, but different in meaning. For example: – chair (Russian) – capital (srb); – flag (Russian) – outpost (srb); – attention (Russian) – shame (srb); – straight (Russian) – right (srb); – usefulness (Russian) – harmfulness (srb). If possible, do not say the words “chicken” and “smoke” in front of Serbs. They will definitely hear their analogue of the famous Russian “three letters”. Other Serbian mat is very similar to ours. Here is another interesting analogy: the letter in Serbian is “word”, the word in Serbian is “speech”. In Serbia, frogs say “kre-kre” and ducks say “kwa-kwa”. Blondes’ hair color is called “plava kosa,” which means “blue hair.” The Russian slang word has a Serbian equivalent: “riba” (really, fish). “Silicon Valley” is what the locals call the capital’s most party district. The language reflects the developed culture of a strong family institution. Each member of each family branch has its own designation. There are two different designations for maternal aunt and paternal aunt. The same is true of uncles. They replaced the prefixes “pra” for grandchildren and grandparents with completely independent words. And so on up to the tenth degree.
A bit of history
The name of the Serbian capital Belgrade has always meant “White City” – regardless of the chieftains, conquerors and masters. Curiously enough, about a dozen Roman emperors were born in Serbia. The most famous among them is Constantine the Great. Belgrade was conquered by forty armies during its entire existence. Thirty-eight times it was rebuilt anew. According to the official version, the impetus for World War I was the assassination by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian revolutionary, of Franz Ferdinand, the Austrian Archduke. Hitler’s Germany in due course signed an alliance pact with the royal regent. This event led to mass Belgrade protests and then a palace coup. At one time, however, Serbia even had its own SS corps. Serbia is the only country in Europe to have been subjected to foreign bombing, among other things, with radioactive supplies. It is also the only one to have suffered foreign armed intervention at the end of World War II. These days, the military museum in Belgrade displays the suit of an American military pilot who was shot down earlier. These days, Belgrade consists of three parts, very different from each other. The historic city is separated from the other areas by the Savoy River. Novi Belgrade consists of multi-story buildings preserved from socialism. Zemun used to be an Austro-Hungarian border town. During World War I, the Serbian capital was shelled by the Austrians directly from Zemun. When the Serbian statehood was restored, its flag had three colors: red, white and blue. Their locations relative to each other vary from time to time. There is a monument to the Defender in the capital. It is a statue of a muscular naked guy with an eagle on his arm and a sword. At first it was placed in one of the central city squares. But the female public was embarrassed by the statue’s detailed anatomy. The ladies made it possible to move the handsome man to the park. Now he stands at the precipice, with his back to the audience. The country’s currency is the dinar. In the 90s of the last century due to superinflation, 500 billion dinar banknotes were put into circulation. One dinar contains a hundred couples. True, the “pair” is not in circulation.
About food, music, gays, names and local celebrities
In Serbia, red wine is called Crno wine (black). The products, to the names of which the word “Russian” is attached, will surprise us: – Russian kvass – sweet; – Russian salad – Olivier; – Russian bread – sweet and black, often with marmalade. Interestingly, there are many more different dairy products. Serbs love to eat freshly baked goods with yogurt for breakfast – not fruity and not sweet. Dance music with an ethno-component has recently appeared in Serbia – turbofloc. This genre is simultaneously the most popular and the most hated by the Serbs themselves. One of the leading holidays is Slava (family saint’s day). Serbs treat it roughly like a birthday. Trains are the slowest means of transport in Serbia. They run without any timetable. In the summer, you can live off the land. There is an abundance of berry bushes, nuts and fruit trees available to all. This is actively used by the poor. The local riblja chorba is a fish soup, in fact, dark red from peppers, thick and extremely spicy soup. For example, in Macedonia a similar chorba is closer to Russian soup. If there is no sign saying “you must not drink” near a water source, it means the water is good for drinking without treatment. You will not suffer from poisoning. The whole country is predominantly mountainous and hilly. The roads here are extremely narrow. So it is impossible to drive faster than a hundred kilometers per hour in the countryside (without risking your life). The Serbs honor and respect their historical hero, the physicist Nikola Tesla. But they also honor Josef Broz Tito, the founder and sole ruler of socialist Yugoslavia. Despite the fact that he was a dictator. Foreign films are not dubbed here; the translation is only available with subtitles. Only animated films are accompanied by a voice. The Serbs do not like Kusturica as much as the Russians like Mikhalkov. But this does not prevent the authorities of both countries from exploiting his personality as a national brand. The traditional Serbian headdress is the shaikača, a variant of the military cap. It is still worn on a daily basis by many older people. Young people wear it more often in honor of holidays. It is interesting that winter often comes to Serbia unexpectedly, right in January. Women are often named after certain fruits: – Dunja (quince); – Cherry; – Lubenica (watermelon) and so on. In Serbia everyone is a nationalist, even those who are oriented toward Europe, often unknowingly. In spite of the considerable integration into Europe, Serbian patriotism is very strong in Serbia. Serbs also love to whine about life, although they don’t recognize this quality. If you point it out to them, they might even take offense. They invariably hit gay parades – right in the blood. At the same time, the gays in the country live without hiding. They are often much more demonstrative here than in other countries. A curious detail: Patriarch Pavle, recently deceased, was famous, among other things, for going “to work” exclusively by public transport. Famously, he picked up the shoes he had thrown away on the street and then wore them. The argument was that they were perfectly usable. “Sveti Sava, the fundamental temple of the country, has been under construction for more than a century. Interior finishing work is currently underway. The absolutely natural fruits and vegetables in Serbia look as if they have been waxed, doused with nitrates and blown a couple of times with special products. This country is the world’s largest exporter of raspberries.
However, this berry is expensive by local standards in the country’s markets. Serbs do not like to swim in their rivers. The fact is that the bottom of their rivers is a mule, a mixture of sand and silt, which sucks in quite strongly.
And more curious facts.
In Lipenski Vir in the parking lot of primitive people recently found sculptures – the oldest known at the moment. They are about nine thousand years old. Nowadays, the Republic of Srpska and the Republic of Serbia are two different states. Putin is very much loved in Serbia, even more than in his homeland: here he is an honorary citizen of six cities. Serbs use not only the phrase “kako si,” which literally means “how are you” and is analogous to our “how are you. The phrase “where si,” which means “where are you,” is also widely used. Our man may fall into a stupor from such a question – especially if the questioner is standing face to face. A single word “what?” can replace all our “how, why, why and why” for the Serbs. The most pleasant detail for Russians is that Serbia does not require a visa for entry, just a passport.
[Personal experience] Life in Serbia: it’s easy to move, but not everyone will like living here
There are countries where you have to prepare a lot of documents and find a job. And there are others where you settle in and get a relatively easy residence permit – at least for now. One of these countries is Serbia. Our hero today has moved there in 2013 with his family and tell how this country is living, how things are with IT and whether it is worth it to move here.
A little bit about me: How I moved to Serbia
Hi, my name is Konstantin, I’m a Senior frontend developer, the last 5-6 years I’m writing in React. In 2013 my wife and kids decided to leave Russia and I’ve started to look at some available options. At that time we lived in Saratov and did not travel much, so I had to choose countries almost at random. The main condition was to continue to work remotely for the Moscow firm in which I worked – I did not plan to look for work abroad at the time.
At first we flew to Montenegro – we stayed there for three weeks in a few cities. And we quickly realized that it was more a country for leisure than for life: it lacked infrastructure and opportunities. Then I looked on the Internet to see which country to choose for the move, and found the city of Novi Sad in Serbia. And now we have been living here for 9 years.
It was very easy to live officially in Serbia – we enrolled the child in a local school and got a one-year residence permit based on his studies. Then I opened a firm in Novi Sad, and we received a residence permit for the whole family for business reasons. At first I worked with Moscow, but there were some problems with currency control, so I found a job in London and started to work remotely for Europe through my firm.
Why did we settle on Serbia specifically? At first we didn’t know where to go, so we just stayed where we could. Then we really started to like it here – I will tell you why. Nine years flew by quickly, and in that time Serbia became our true home. And why should we leave home?
Territorial features of Serbia
My family and I live in Novi Sad, and everything I will tell you next is only true for this city. Serbia is a rather heterogeneous country, with great regional differences.
For example, there is the city of Belgrade. It is the most economically developed city, a lot of people come here to work and earn money. But it has a lot of problems: traffic jams, lack of parking, lack of subway, hustle and bustle and other ills of big cities.
Novi Sad is different – quieter and calmer. At the same time, it is also developing economically, and in terms of IT, it is probably even better than Belgrade. The city is quite European and it is comfortable to live here.
The other cities are small, cozy and beautiful, but they have no developed infrastructure at all. To live there on retirement, probably, is great, but with children it is better to choose larger cities, where live at least 300 thousand people.
In general, Serbia is culturally divided into three parts. Kosovo is separate, we will not speak about it. In the north, where Novi Sad is – more modern, European. The center and the south are where the Ottoman Empire was for a long time. The culture is more traditional, Balkan, this is important to take into account when moving.
How are things in Serbia with IT?
There is no internal IT market here. There are very few software companies and those that are there, develop products for the global market. In Novi Sad, gaming is developing well – for instance, one of the main offices of Playrix is here, they have bought the local biggest game producer.
Mostly there are branches of European and Russian companies working here. The story is the same as with Poland, Slovakia and other similar countries: European companies here save money, and Russian companies enter the foreign market.
Now the government has noticed the growth of the market and is tightening the screws a bit. Taxes will probably go up. Just open a sole proprietorship and work for foreign companies, too, you can not – if you have 1-2 clients, quickly realize that you are disguising the employment relationship.
But even with the growth, there are virtually no vacancies for foreigners here. Although there is a shortage of developers, but mostly not local – those whom the company moved when opening a branch themselves. Well, you have to take into account that the country is not in the EU.
Features of life in Novi Sad.
I want to say right away that in these 9 years I was in Russia only three times a short time. So, in fact, I’m comparing Novi Sad with Saratov nine years ago, because I don’t really know what has changed in Russia since then and how things work.
I want to tell individual points, without dividing into pluses and minuses – because everyone’s vision is different.
The climate is pleasant. Almost the same as in Saratov, only winter is milder – less snow. In winter the temperature can be +15-16 °С. Summers are hot – I am used to it, but people from St. Petersburg often complain. It may be +30°C, or even +40°C. Plus there can be strong daytime temperature fluctuations.
There are a lot of allergens like pollen in the air, and it’s hard for people with allergies. And there is still stove heating here, and in winter, when there is no wind, it can be difficult to breathe. Although people from Chelyabinsk laugh about it and say that the air is excellent.
The photo is from February – I was walking on the asphalt and grass in +15 °С.
Low crime rate. The level of violent crimes here is at the level of Western Europe. If something happens, it goes to the press at once. The other day a random guy in the street fought with a street musician and killed him – that was discussed as big news. There are no drunken crowds on the streets, people don’t drink much at all and think it’s indecent to walk around drunk. And in general, people are much less aggressive and more friendly.
People don’t tolerate rudeness. Everyone is polite until you start being rude. The attitude to the rude will be very tough, they may take offense and will definitely stop meeting you halfway. Unless the drivers swear at each other, but on the road its own atmosphere.
Tasty meat cuisine. The food here is good, but not for vegetarians – all tied up with meat. It’s like slaughterhouse food, but people are less fat than in Hungary or Russia.
The choice of restaurants in different countries is small: Serbs are very conservative when it comes to food. They definitely won’t try something they don’t know. For example, you can’t find salted herring anywhere – any Serb will tell you he won’t eat raw fish. And so with many other things.
Very careful attitude to children. It’s very rare to hear someone on the street yelling at a child. And if you hear yelling, it often turns out that they shout in Russian – just a Spanish shame.
Fathers are more attentive to their children: they constantly take them for walks and take part in their upbringing. Families are usually stronger, because they get married at the age of about 30.
Children’s hospitals are repaired better than adults, and treatment there is first-rate. All the best for children.
They also protect the little ones from hard schooling. Our son came from a Russian school and knew a lot more than his peers. The fourth grade is a little more difficult, and from the fifth grade serious education begins. In every large city there is a decent gymnasium with a mathematical bias. There are also humanities schools. Serbian students often win at world Olympiads.
By the way, people here strive for higher education less than in Russia. Because in Serbia if you work properly with your hands you will be respected, workers are not second-class citizens and can earn good money.
There is a relaxed attitude to everything. Here it is considered normal to be a little late or not to keep your promise. It seems to be some kind of general southern attitude to life. Those who like everything to run like clockwork, predictable and fast, will not like it here.
Smoking is everywhere. Smoking in restaurants and cafes is not forbidden here. If you go somewhere to eat you will be smoked through.
Little choice of goods, services and services. Only recently it was possible to call a cab through the app. There are no some familiar apps like google-photo. And changing the region on your smartphone won’t help: you need to be formally in Serbia to use, for example, a Serbian bank.
There are no brands of clothing and home appliances – for example, you cannot buy an Electrolux. Only from abroad, but it is expensive and there are a lot of issues with customs.
The quality of some services is also so-so: dentists, repairmen, car mechanics or a beauty salon must be chosen very carefully and it is better by recommendation.
The small size of the country. Despite the fact that there is a lot of interesting things inside the country, the borders are quite close. Accordingly, you have to spend time to travel somewhere. And the Schengen here do only a maximum of one year, there is no five years.
On the other hand, from Saratov I could not go anywhere in particular. And here you can get on a bike and go to Croatia, Hungary, Romania. And by car even farther.
Not very fast Internet and lack of choice. Internet here is not fast everywhere, and you have to sign a contract for at least a year or two. You can’t cancel or change your provider earlier than that. If you’ve gone somewhere, you still have to pay.
There is not much choice. Often, if a house already has one fiber optic, another provider is unlikely to come with it – take what they give you. With mobile communications it’s about the same story: there are three operators for the whole country, and the prices are not the most democratic.
Paid medicine. Those who work and pay taxes have a “free” option – everything is included in payment. If you don’t work, you have to pay about 20 euros a month, otherwise you have to go to a paid clinic.
There are different doctors, both professionals and not so much. In Novi Sad, for example, I couldn’t find a normal dermatologist. They treat injuries and fractures well – a consequence of the recent war. But for serious complex operations they invite doctors from abroad, or even take them to Europe. If there is insurance, the state pays for it.
By the way, the ambulance only rides for something terrible like an accident. Even if you have a fever of 40, you take a cab and go to the hospital yourself.
The language is not too difficult. Serbian belongs to the Slavic languages, although a little further from Russian than the same Polish. You won’t understand it at first, but after a couple of months you’ll get used to it and start communicating. And in six months you’ll be able to talk at least askew. I decided right away that I wouldn’t speak English, and I spoke Serbian with mistakes. There were no serious problems.
The young people, especially in IT, know English very well. There are also people who know German. But even knowledgeable people prefer to speak Serbian. For example, in the police when you apply for a residence permit, they will talk to you in English for the first time and come back a year later and they will be surprised: “You still haven’t learned Serbian?”.
Almost no one knows Russian. The maximum they say is “learned and forgot”.
Is it worth to move here?
Everyone must decide for himself, I can’t give any advice. It makes no sense to go to make a career in IT: other countries are more profitable in this respect. If I was deciding to move now, I’d probably consider other countries, but now we’re at home here, and we like it here.
There are not many foreigners in the country yet. They move here mainly because of the climate, or simply because they are tired of living in their own country. It’s still relatively easy to move here. As an alternative, there is Portugal, where it is also not difficult to go, but there is a different language – it will be easier for Russian person in Serbia to adapt.
Also, the attitude to newcomers here is generally good. I have not noticed any discrimination against us as foreigners. You feel at home here.