I am in an area of of Serbia where there are few expats. All in all, I don’t think there are tons as this is not a huge country, and the economy is not what it is in other places. But! I am pleased to have made friends with a few in other parts of Serbia.
If I recall correctly, I found Kiki via her blog. We have been sharing ideas and chatting off an on ever since.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself. where you come from, how old are you and why did you move to Serbia?
Well.. for starters, my name is Christina. Everyone calls me Kiki, though. I was born in North Carolina, USA but spent most of my life in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ll be 28 in Sept 2013. And can’t wait! As I get older, life gets more amazing and more amazing. So bring on 30! Hah! I originally moved to Serbia for my now ex-boyfriend, who I’m blessed to still call a friend.
How did you meet Nemanja?
My ex and I met online. Can’t remember the forum, but I remember I started talking to him because he had a Slavic basic user name. And I had just started researching my family tree and had surrounded myself with everything Slavic. He started helping me with history and even reading some documents I couldn’t make out the lettering. Then it just went from there. About 1 year later, an unfortunate canceled trip to Greece to originally meet, I moved to Serbia without a job or anything to see what would happen between us. Haha. Crazy, I know!
Did you ever want to go back home?
Not really. I mean… I knew I’d always go back to visit. But when I left on Jan 27, 2010 I never intended to live in the USA again. If Serbia didn’t work out for me, I’d aim for Ukraine since that’s where my family is originally from or some other country. Wherever I could find work. I just took my first trip back to the USA since I moved here 3.5+ years ago. It was nice, but it made me realize I’m not made for the US. I’m a Slavic girl to the core.
What do you do here?
I part-time teach English at the headquarters of a bank here in Belgrade, but I’ve relaunched my own company again, focusing on web and graphic design, and all forms of writing.
How did that get started?
Well with teaching, I got one TEFL certificate before leaving the US and then another one online here in Serbia. I couldn’t find work the first 7 months I was here and had no visa so I opted for a job in Donetsk, Ukraine. Went there and found out things between the school and myself were not going to be as were promised. So I did some digging on legalities of Serbia and found out if I was studying I could get a visa. So that’s what I aimed to do. I came back to Serbia after 2 weeks. The language school I enrolled in said they couldn’t give a visa – I found out later it was because they didn’t want to do the taxes and paperwork but whatever – they put me in contact with a language school that needed a native speaker. After fighting tooth and nail for them to give me my visa, the miracle happened. I had a work visa in Serbia! I’ve been in and out of language schools since then. As for my company… I originally created my company back in 2011 as being a freelance writer. That’s my specialty. I’m a writer at heart. But then I branched out into more things, giving myself the upper-hand of being able to offer a one stop shop for online businesses. And I’ve had my ups and downs.. my personal life sometimes consumes me. I’ve had some real hard moments since the beginning, plus
working a regular job while trying to start and build my company… sometimes it just doesn’t work the way we think it will. But that’s all changing now. Thankfully.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about living abroad?
Oh wow! That’s kinda tough. Least favorite thing…? Hm.. I’d say maybe legalities. Haha! While I’ve never had a single problem with the foreign dept or anything of the sort, I still hate having to deal with applying and getting my visa every 6 months. Favorite thing…? EVERYTHING! The differences between Eastern and Western culture. I prefer Eastern over Western. The traditions, culture, history, people, sites.. just everything. 🙂
Do you have any advice for others who may want to follow your path?
Don’t have expectations. And do NOT compare it to your home country. I cannot stand hearing foreigners talk about how Serbia isn’t like the UK or the US. Of course it isn’t! If it was, then it would be those places. And when I hear foreigners say such things I can only think to myself.. if that’s what you want then why are you in Serbia?! But that’s just me.. I know some people are required to move here maybe for work and so it isn’t their choice.. but that kind of mentality and any expectations will ruin such a great experience you could be having here. Serbia has so much to offer.. don’t ruin it with negativity.
What is your favorite food in Serbia?
OMG – All of it! Hahahaha! I love lepinja, kajmak – though I’m allergic to lactose and can’t consume much of it, the amazing fresh fruits and vegetables that aren’t GMO and sprayed with goodness knows what chemicals all the time, and plazma… oh! Sarma is divine, too!! Oh I just like it all! Hahahaha!
Do you celebrate Serbian and American holidays?
I celebrate local holidays only really. I am Orthodox so I follow the Church holidays here. When I can, I send flowers to my mom and sister in the USA for birthdays, mother’s day, and similar holidays. But I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day…and I haven’t celebrated Halloween since I moved here. Though a part of me definitely misses it. Autumn is my favorite time of the year and Halloween was just awesome because it is drenched in so much controversial history and so much fun and it happens in the middle of my favorite season!
According to your blog Trek for Truth, you’ve participated in a few demonstrations and protests. Do you ever feel worried about being an American there?
Ohh.. good one, Tina! Well.. I have been to a few of them, yes. I’ve never felt unsafe at any protest I’ve attended. Even the times I’ve gone alone, or the ones I thought I’d be alone and ended up running into friends. When the others there find out I’m American, most of the time they just have questions. And when they talk to me they welcome me with open arms and are glad to have me standing beside them in support for the cause. I always like going whether I support or not. Definitely on the protests and demonstrations I support I go to see it all for my own eyes. I want to report to others outside of the event what happened. I don’t want to just post some crap from a newspaper. I want to provide my own photos and video whenever possible. And I try my hardest, when I write about it, to keep it as fair as possible. Sometimes it’s hard, but I do my best.
What’s the response you get from most people when they meet you and find out you’re from the USA?
Hahaha.. most of the time, they think I’m Russian or Ukrainian so they don’t believe me generally when I tell them I’m from the US. Then they ask about my family because I seem to ooze Slavic looks too. So then when I confirm my heritage, then they go back to asking me where in the US I’m from and what brought me here to Serbia. And then minute I tell them my best summary of it – I fell in love with a Serb, then I fell in love with Srbija – they generally call me Srbijanka or Snajka from then on. It’s funny but that accepted feeling is amazing.
I can relate to that. Feeling accepted here in Serbia comes pretty easily. Serbs are warm and friendly people. Thanks to Kiki to letting me interview her! and Happy Birthday Month to her too! If you are interested here is a link to her business website Indigo Creations. You can also find her on her blog: Trek for Truth.
“”I cannot stand hearing foreigners talk about how Serbia isn’t like the UK or the US.”” I must remember this. I know I am guilty of this statement. Especially concerned with Italian drivers
I must say, this is Kiki’s opinion, not mine. Honestly, I don’t think we can help it quite often. Especially when we are asked about the differences… That happens to me almost everyday. I love most of the differences. Living in a foreign land has so many great advantages that living in one country your entire life will never expose you to! Though, I think she is focusing on the negative comments people make. And in a time of homesickness, it can be hard to bit your tongue about things. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Besides, I am sure people are curious about what you see in their homeland. 🙂
Interesting interview. I think comparing where you are living to your home country is hard to avoid – being familiar with both places, it happens automatically. I even compare Germany to Austria occasionally having lived in Austria for a year. Constantly complaining about the ifferences/claiming everything is better back home is annoying though.
My grandad was from the Ukraine 🙂
Hey Bev! Nice to hear from you again! I know what you mean, Heck I even compare different places I lived in the U.S. I really think it is inevitable!
I’m more guilty of going home and comparing everything to France, particularly the quality of the fruit and veg, and the weather. I suppose that’s even worse 🙂 Great post, very interesting!
Oh, I am sure I will do that too! Thanks to Kiki for letting me interview her!
As for the comparing bit… I compare, especially when people ask me about the differences. However, I meant more the foreigners/expats that come here and compare and complain that it isn’t like their home country… they’re like “Oh, Serbia isn’t like the UK/US/AUS/GER/Wherever! It should be more like ______!!” Well, if it was more like that country, it wouldn’t be Serbia! 😉 Serbia is far from perfect… but there is no perfect country. All have their problems… we just have to choose which problems we want to live…
Thanks again, mila!! :*
No, really thank you. Sorry it took so long to post!
great interview!! well done, it’s great to network with others, even if only online. And as for comparisons… I think it’s quite normal, but really any expat should take the good things from both cultures as every culture has its own ways and neither are good or bad, they are just different… embrace the host country, it will be much easier to have a good life there.
Thank you 🙂 and well said!
”I cannot stand hearing foreigners talk about how Serbia isn’t like the UK or the US.” I’ve just got to say that this is not just a ‘Western Foreigners in Serbia’ trait, it’s a trait held by almost every expat I’ve met on my journeys. I met my Serbian husband in my home country and because of this naturally befriended a large number of the Serbian ex-pats in Cape Town and Johannesburg; these lovely folk were certainly not immune to this trait. Neither were the expats, from numerous ‘non-Western’ cultures I had the privilege of knowing on my travels in Asia. This trait is ever so human and merely symbolic of a soul reassessing the notion of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ while simultaneously realising that an over-blown sense of patriotism, lineage or heredity has absolutely nothing to do with either of them.