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American Expat in Serbia: What I Miss About the USA


Many folks will say ” Charles, You are an American in Serbia for over 6 years now. What do you miss the most about the USA?”. If I had to make a list of things that I miss about my life in the US, it would look something like this:

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1. Being on the same continent as your family and old friends

It’s very hard to be away from home when a tragedy hits. I’ve been unable to attend the funeral of an old friend, the funerals of some family members and the funerals of some of my friends’ family members. I’ve also missed some very important weddings, birthdays and reunions all while living 8k kilometers from home. I get cheap airline tickets because of my job, but 600 euros is still a lot to shell out when you live in Serbia. That amount nearly covers 4 months of my rent and bills.

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2. English language

It’s not always easy being an American expat in a country where English isn’t the native language. There are times when I get so absolutely frustrated with myself for not being able to explain some simple thing to someone. It’s annoying to have to buy a newspaper and slowly translate the meanings in your head. The same is true with listening to the radio or news broadcasts. It’s also tough to be sitting on a bus or waiting in a line and not being able to fully “shoot the shit” with the person next to you. When I’m sitting in a public place, I tend to let Serbian language blur together but the second I hear an English conversation, my ears perk up and I find myself eavesdropping on them. It’s my fault for not being fluent at this time, but i’m working on it.

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3. Mexican food and convenient fast food places

I absolutely adore Tex-Mex cuisine. It’s different from the authentic Mexican food that I had while living in Mexico for 1.5 years as it’s more aimed at American taste buds. There isn’t much that can beat a chicken chimichanga smothered in cheese sauce with a nice margarita and nacho chips. We have very few Mexican restaurants in Serbia. They are pretty good, but the taste just isn’t the same. I also miss having an unlimited supply of fast food places like : Wendy’s, Subway, Taco Bell, Burger King, Rally’s, and the buffet places like Denny’s, IHOP, etc. Serbian rostilj is super duper in taste and quality, but I like being able to eat a different fast food place each day. That’s what us fat folks enjoy .

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4. Clothing that fits

Serbian people don’t have an issue with obesity. The vast majority of the population is always out walking around town, riding bikes, and not just sitting on their butts eating junk food. That being said, it’s hard for a chubby (200lb) guy like myself to find shirts  that fit. I can walk into 5 or 6 different clothing stores and find very few shirts that will comfortably fit me. The fashion over here is slim fit EVERYTHING! Slim fit looks good on those who have a six pack, but it doesn’t on those of us with a barrel. It’s also annoying to buy pants in most of the stores here because the legs are way too tight and they have limited length sizes. You can’t usually find 29″ or 30″ with a size 34 waist. You have to buy them longer and bring them to a little store for a lady to cut them and hem them up. I had the same problems in Mexico. When you complain to a Serbian or a Mexican about it, they think you are nuts or just plain lazy. I like to buy something that’s ready to wear, not something I have to have altered.

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5. Free public toilets

If you are from the US, you are probably scratching your head at this one. You take for granted the ability to stop at any fast food place or public toilet and go without paying a silly fee. It’s not like it’s a lot of money, but it’s the principle of the thing. You must purchase something at McDonalds in Serbia so you can get a restroom code to open the door. If you go to the bus station or any other public toilet, you must pay some Gypsy person 40-80 dinars to use a filthy bathroom.

With all that being said, I would still rather live in Serbia. It’s a more cheerful,lively, fun, relaxed and enjoyable place. It doesn’t matter how small the town is, they have outdoor cafe after outdoor cafe, large walking streets for pedestrians only, people walking and biking at all hours of the day or night, quality food, nightlife that goes 24/7 Mon-Sun, beautiful people, and no strict laws on smoking and drinking in public.

Do you like me so much that you feel like donating? I do accept tips! 🙂 Everyone has told me for years that I should put a donation button on my blog, but I think it makes you lose credibility. I’ve been talking about Serbia for nearly 7 years and have only done it out of love, but if you are so dead set on giving me a tip, I promise I’ll use it wisely. 🙂  My Paypal is charlesserbia@gmail.com. 
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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Through my eyes, USA vs Serbia

 

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The World Media’s Assault on Serbia


 

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We’ve all heard about the crimes that Serb troops committed in Bosnia, Croatia and in Kosovo I Metohija. I’m sure some of the acts we heard and read about in the western media were true, while many of them were intentionally fabricated. Don’t get me wrong, any crime committed is a horrible thing and should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, but be fair!

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One example of media fabrication  would be the claim that Serbs were setting up concentration camps in Bosnia and starving the victims. This  American gentleman explains the photo in detail in this short Youtube clip.

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What about the Croats cleansing hundreds of thousands of Serbs from their birthplace? Why didn’t my media bombard me with newspaper headlines and news stories about that?

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Serbs Being Forced out of Croatia

The Serbs have been tried and convicted for war crimes in the Hague at an alarming rate. Did former Croat general Ante Gotovina and ex-special police chief Mladen Markac receive just punishment for the atrocities committed against ethnic Serbs during Operation Storm in 1995? Nope…..

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Albanian ripping cross off of a Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo

What about the Albanians destroying hundreds of homes and over 100+ churches? Did any of that make the headlines in my country? Nope….. They were friends of the US and NATO and we were about to make a lot of money off of their new “country”. Bill Clinton couldn’t allow Americans to see pics and video of our “friend” and “ally” ripping crosses off of churches. The people might have started asking a few more questions if they had.

The media doesn’t want to talk about that stuff, but they never take a break from finding things that could make the Serbs look bad.

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Take the Serb football fans who chanted derogatory things at that Brazilian football player for instance, that made headlines in every corner of the globe.  It’s sad and uncalled for, but you can’t judge an entire nation by the words of a few football fans! If we judged every nation’s citizens by the acts of football fans, you’d probably think the world was filled with demons.

Serbia shouldn’t be labeled as a country of “racists”. It’s just not true. The U.S. and England aren’t ones that should be pointing fingers and calling anyone racist. If I remember correctly, both of them took part in the slave trade. Slavery wasn’t outlawed in the United States until 1863. Hell, Blacks couldn’t even vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Did Serbia ever have slaves? No!

I’m not black so it makes little sense for me to sit here and tell you that Serbia isn’t a racist country. You should listen to some of my friends who are:

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Sheriff is a young man from Liberia who has been living in Norway for a number of years. I was able to sit down with him and ask him some questions about Serbia and if he had any issue with racism.

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Arthur is another good friend of mine. He’s an American from the great state of New Jersey. He just completed his 6 trip to Serbia and will be back in May for his 7th. Has he experienced any racism? Listen to him and find out.

 

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Dara is a lovely gal who lives in Ireland. She contacted me before her first visit with some concerns about being black in Serbia. She took the leap and loved every second of it! Here is my interview with her.

12936611_10105593675346795_5534105201918857505_nHeather is a beautiful young lady from the state of Louisiana. She has spent the last few summers in Serbia and has never had any negative situations. She said that Serbian people sometimes stare at her, but it’s a stare of curiosity, not a stare of contempt like happens in some places in the US.

There are more folks, but I didn’t get their permission to write about them. One is an African American gal who married a Serbian in a small village here in Vojvodina. She lives with her children and Serbian husband in a tiny village and has no issues with racism. There are tons of African American football players who come here each year and have nothing but great things to say about the hospitality and kindness of the Serbian people.

I’ve been living in this country for close to 6 years now and the media bias is so blatantly obvious. I’m always asking my Serbian friends how they can keep their cool and not let that get to them. It would be hard to have the whole world accusing you and vilifying you all the time. One of my friends said it best “We have gotten used to it. F*** the rest of the world. We have good looking women, good food, and great nightlife. We don’t need their approval”

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2017 in Through my eyes

 

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Serbian City/Town/Village Names Translated into English


 

Serbia has a lot of unique city/town/village names. A friend of mine from Republika Srpska, Hristof Romanic, decided to throw together some translations for some of them.

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Can you guess the names without cheating?

Subotica
Srbobran
Srpska Crnja
Bačka Palanka
Novi Sad
Deliblato
Crna bara
Beograd
Kurjače
Zlokuće
Valjevo
Sisavci
Velike Pčelice
Bor
Krivi Vir
Mokra Gora
Kraljevo
Zasad
Sokobanja
Ribarska Banja
Novi Pazar
Niš
Prijepolje
Žitorađa
Peć
Gornje Žabsko
Baba boks
Begunci

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2017 in Through my eyes, What others think

 

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Top 10 Things I miss About Living in Novi Sad, Serbia


 

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It’s only been two months since I left Serbia, but i’m already missing a few things. I’m spending the summer on the island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts with 8 of my Serbian students to see how they work and to make some money. One of my students from Novi Sad was even featured in BLIC for his awesome  summer experience. My return flight to Serbia is scheduled for Sept 17th when I fly from NYC to Amsterdam to Belgrade. I’ll be back just in time for the world’s largest work and travel conference which will be held in Belgrade. Work and Travel Group is one of the two representatives from Serbia who will be organizing this massive event. I’ll be giving a presentation to over 600 representatives from work and travel offices all over the world.

The boys and I are constantly discussing what we miss the most about Serbia so I thought i’d throw together a quick list of the things that I miss about Serbia. Let’s get started:

10. Srpski Sir

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I’m a big fan of cheese and Serbia is home to lots of it! We have a lot of cheeses here, but the homemade stuff you find in Serbia can’t be beat. I know an American who flew to Serbia to do a documentary on cheese. From Pirot to Zlatibor to Sijenica to Vojvodina, they have awesome cheeses!

 

9. Living alone in my $130 mo apartment 

 

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I moved into my own apartment when I was 17 and only had a roommate once in my life. It’s very difficult to go from living alone to living with 6 others. I have my own room, but feel so uncomfortable having so many others in my house. You don’t know when you can use the washing machine, bathroom, when you can cook and how quiet you must be. I pay $800 a month here in Nantucket for this accommodation, while my little apartment in the heart of Novi Sad was only $130 a month.

 

8. Pekara

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Who would think you would really miss a bakery? Well….. I sure as hell do. In Serbia, you are never more than a few blocks from a bakery filled with fresh burek, jogurt, and bread. You can’t go wrong with a 100 dinar slice of burek on your way to work.

 

7. Trafika

 

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We have a lot of 24/7 stores throughout the USA, but not here on the island of Nantucket. The 24/7 trafikas in Novi Sad really had me spoiled. If you needed a soda, chips, sweets or phone credits at 4 am, no problem. The stores close at 10 here so if you forgot something, too bad.

 

6. Ajvar

 

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The first time I tried this stuff, I hated it. That was back in 2010 and now it’s one thing that I eat on a daily basis. You will find many Serbians growing lots and lots of peppers. They use them to prepare one of the most delicious condiments on the globe. You can find it in some American stores, but nothing beats the homemade ajvar that my friends bring me each fall.

 

5. Sasa Matic 

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Sasa has turned into one of my favorite Serbians.   This man has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. It took me a few years to get into the Serbian folk music scene, but i’m there. My favorite songs are : Kad Ljubav Zakasni, Nadji Novu Ljubav, Kralj Izgubljenih Stvari, Samo Ovu Noc, Reskiraj, Poklonite Mi Nju Za Rodjendan and almost anything else that comes out of his mouth. I listen to him each morning and on my IPOD, but miss hearing him in the bars and kafanas. My buddy is going to do his best to meet me with him.

4. Nightlife

 

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The USA has some great nightlife in certain places, but not 7 days a week like you can find in many parts of Serbia. They just recently passed an ordinance in Novi Sad that has limited the hours, but it still beats Nantucket. The Serbian people like to party and you will find the bars full  Mon-Sunday. That’s not the case here. I like to go out for a few beers after work, but many of these bars in Nantucket close at 11 or 12. The majority are almost empty after 10pm through the week. The crowds give me a burst of energy and keep me from feeling like an alcoholic. 🙂

 

3. Prices

 

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You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to go from Serbia to Nantucket which is one of the most expensive places in the USA. My average meal in a little restaurant is around $40. That usually includes a couple beers and main course. The beer is $7 in the bar that I like to go. A Serb, Macedonian and I went to this little bar by my house the other night. In one hour, we had a bill of $134!!  In Novi Sad, I could go out and have an amazing time on 1,000 dinars. Horus Nargile Bar is my daily hangout. I can smoke a nargile, drink a shot of rakija, two beers and still be under 1000. Living in Serbia with American money, can’t be beat.

 

 

 

2. Serbian summer festivals

belgrade-beer-fest-2013-reggae-rs1-950x532Serbia is home to some of the best festivals. They have Belgrade Beer Festival in Belgrade, Guca Trumpet Festival, Exit Festival in Novi Sad, Nisville Jazz Fest in Nis, Rostiljada in Leskovac,  and many many more. There is always something going on during the Serbian summer months.

 

 
1. Rostilj

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You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve dreamed of a big mixed meat platter with kajmak. The boys all miss the hell out of their meat. The first thing I’m going to do when I return on Sept 17th is hit up this great kafana in Belgrade for a big mixed meat platter! If you haven’t had Serbian rostilj, your life sucks.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in USA vs Serbia

 

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16 Year Old Serb Talking About Uprooting to Indonesia Because of NATO Attacks


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It’s very interesting yet horrible to hear of the struggle so many Serbians went through during the NATO attacks on their country in 1999. I was fortunate enough to discuss the story of one young Serb student whose family was forced to flee the bombing attacks of 1999. Igor Mijovic was kind enough to share some of his experiences in Indonesia.

“I was born in Belgrade in 1999 just 14 days before the start of the NATO bombing. I lived relatively a peaceful and fun childhood, I was never bothered with my family’s money issues, we didn’t have much but I was happy with the way things were, of course I was unaware of the real state of things with my dad’s job and how it was all falling to pieces. When my parents announced we were moving to Indonesia it hit me like a dagger to the heart. I was leaving all of my friends and family behind, going not only to another country, but to another continent I knew nothing or very little about. For me the worst part was that I would be unable to communicate with other people since I thought my English was way below the level of those kids that went to an international school. At first my months at my new school were awful, everything was so different from what I was used to, and everyone whispered about that tall Serbian guy who came from an unknown land, they could not bully me because I was too big for them, I was just ignored and I kept telling myself that this whole nightmare will be over soon, that I don’t need these new people in my life and that I will be back in my beloved country once again. It all changed though when I met a Canadian guy who spent an evening with me and that’s when it all started for the better. I met people from loads of different countries, shared stories and began to change mentally and emotionally. I realized not everything was as I thought, at this time I found Charles Cather’s first video on youtube and it really helped me fight my nostalgia, I’ve watched every one since. After 4 years I made tons of friends from all kinds of backgrounds, but it was not to last, since I was to move to my country once again. It was my choice, since I was old enough to be semi-responsible, but getting something means leaving something else behind. I had to leave all those dear friends I made and return to those I haven’t seen for years. Honestly living in an international community helped to change me for the better and I decided I won’t hate on anyone before I have a good talk with them and get to know their story. I’m planning on studying history and maybe becoming and international teacher to travel around. ”

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Charles:  What were your first impressions of Indonesia?

Igor:  I expected it to be like those Chinese cities you see in movies, lots of tall buildings with flashing signs in unknown letters. I was surprised at what I saw though, the air was humid and hard to breathe, there is a huge difference between lower and high class, with no middle class. There was very little bread and red meat and the way people acted was very strange, I’ve never experienced that much respect and awe of white people in my life.

Charles:  What did you miss the most about Serbia?

Igor: Well for the first year or so it was my friends and my relatives I missed the most until I actually started making international friends. Food was also a pain to get used to. It’s not the usual asian food we eat in the west, lots of rice, many spices we haven’t even heard of, fruits that taste very strange compared to kajsija and shljiva :D. But most of all it was the freedom, I couldn’t walk around and go exploring, I couldn’t hug or kiss my friends in public. It was mostly the staying at home all the time that tortured me the most.

 

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Charles: Where the locals respectful of your faith since it’s a Muslim country?

Igor: Indonesians are a very religious people, no matter what religion they are, they dismiss facts and other pleasures of life in order to be that much closer to their god. I myself am an atheist, I did enjoy celebrating my country’s many traditions and festivities, but that stuff was hard to come by. I did get looks of curiosity but sometimes even disgust and hate for not being a religious person, mostly from radical muslims and christians. My first year at school had mandatory religion and they had Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim, and I couldn’t find a place there, so I went with the protestants (one of my worst decisions since all we learnt about is how only they are right and true and everyone else is false).

Charles: Any similarities between the cultures?

Igor: The cultures are very different. The only things I found similar is the fact that they were under colonial rule for most of the time we were under Ottoman occupation.

 

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Charles: What were the biggest differences in culture that you had a hard time adjusting to?

Igor: Indonesians have everything the opposite of Serbia, they are very radical religious, have more than 300 ethnic groups within the country, some even warring with each other. They don’t like to show emotions, believe in ghosts and spirits too much and due to the lack of education (with every school having to be paid for, and millions in poverty having no money for it) lack basic knowledge and intelligence. It also takes much longer to reach to them and get close to them as friends, than it would with a western person. In the end they proved to be just as good and fun as my Serbian friends.

Charles: Had most people heard of Serbia? If so, what were their impressions?

Igor: Most Indonesians didn’t know what I was talking about when I said Serbia, but when I said Yugoslavia they usually nodded their heads and said things like “Long live Tito, Indonesia’s friend!”, I didn’t really feel like explaining to them that he’s dead and that everything changed. People in my school never showed much interest in my country, most thought its a warzone still, laughed at my opanci and asked me to say random things in Serbian. I tried my best to show Serbia in a good light, and how civilised it is compared to Indonesia, for me that was a must when it came to discussing my country.

This is one story of thousands of Serbs who were displaced throughout the 90’s. 5366_10200496493149514_460826202_n

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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6’7 Serbian Student Spends a Year in Kansas


pan Marko Vignejevic is a young man from Pancevo, Serbia. He spent one year studying at an American high school through the A-SMYLE student exchange program. One day he received a letter from the organization telling him that he would be spending his year in the tiny little town of Sylvan Grove, Kansas. sylSylvan Grove has a population of about 300 residents! What would happen when a 6’7 Serbian student enters a tiny town in the center of the USA? I asked him a few questions to find out…. Charles- “What were your first impressions of the USA?” Marko- “Okay. My first impressions? Well, lets skip all the flying and sightseeing and jump right into Kansas. So, my first impression of Kansas was “Holy shit, this place is flat!” and I live in Vojvodina. 🙂 Then I started mentally preparing myself for the farmer lifestyle, instead of my city lifestyle that I had in Serbia. Then I got to the house and the farm and I liked it! It was way different than my house in Serbia, but I expected that.”  kansas Charles: “What about the family you lived with? Were they nice to you?” Marko: ” They treated me very well! I never once felt like I didn’t belong! They had four kids already. One daughter and three boys. It was a lot of fun living with them as you can imagine with all those kids running around.”  Charles: ” Did you teach them any Serbian?” Marko: ” I tried, but It didn’t work out very well. They kept pronouncing the J and the G the exact same way. :)”  Charles: “Were they a wealthy family?” Marko: No, average middle class family, but they live much better than an average Serbian family.”  serbi1 Charles: “ Were your real mom and dad worried about you? Did your host family speak with them? “ Marko: No, once all my flying was over, they were fine. My dad is a very reasonable man and calmed everyone else. I introduced my host parents to my real parents over Skype and there was a lot of awkward staring until I started translating because my parents in Serbia speak ZERO English.” Charles:How did the residents of this place treat you?” Marko:The town is so small. It only has 300 people in it. The high school was a consolidation of a few little towns and only had 100 students. The people of Kansas were so nice to me, possibly too nice.” Charles:Were the kids at school friendly to you?” Marko: ” YES! The minute I walked into the school kids started saying ” Great! We are going to state in basketball this year” because I was the tallest guy in school. It was funny because they hadn’t even seen me play yet!  I felt like the star walking around this school being 6’7! I was also the only exchange student.”  serbian Charles:How did your basketball season go in Kansas?” Marko: “It was good. We ended up 9th in whole state of Kansas, but lost badly in our final game. We were 5th in the state at one time”  Charles: ” Did you tell the kids at school about Serbia?” Marko: ” Yes. We had my Serbian flag hanging up in my American history class! :)”  serb1 Charles: ” Did you like American food?” Marko: ” Yes, I loved it! Could you find a way to bring a Taco Bell over here to Serbia? 🙂Charles: “What was the worst part of your trip?” Marko: “Probably having to leave everyone.Charles: “Anything else you’d like to tell us?” Marko:Well… I won a free trip to Washington D.C and New York City for winning a writing contest and for having lots of community service hours!”  serbi Marko: ” I’d love to find a way to go back to Kansas again next year!”

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Through my eyes

 

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U.S.A. vs Serbia…… Stop Lights


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My friend picked me up at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia back in 2010.

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There were a few large Serbs and my scrawny ass crammed into a little red Yugo. We were on our way to my buddies house in a little village around Zrenjanin, Serbia. We stopped at a red light and were talking about pure randomness when I saw the light turn from red to yellow and then to green.us1 I found that so strange. The stop lights in the USA go from red to green. us I asked my buddies why they have the yellow before the light turns green. They thought my question was silly because they assumed all traffic lights were that way. 🙂 The more I live here, the more I think it’s a good thing. The VAST majority of Serbian automobiles are manual transmission while the VAST majority of American cars are automatic. The hardest part of driving a manual car, for most people, is getting it into 1st gear without killing it. Maybe the yellow light gives you that additional few seconds to get your car into gear without creating delays. It would also allow you some sort of break from staring at an “endless” red light. It might also allow you to shut your car off and save gasoline.

My opinion? Serbia wins this battle! 🙂

 
8 Comments

Posted by on January 10, 2015 in USA vs Serbia

 

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