Coffee and Convos with Friends

I am going home for a month starting at the end of November. I can’t wait, because I will get to eat the foods I know and love. It really is about the simple things. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, PB&J, and PIZZA! It is amazing that such simple things could bring me to drool just thinking of them! Oh, and Coffee! Really good coffee! Quality coffee, I really can’t wait!

Coffee Shoppe in Novi Sad, Serbia. Cute, huh?

The fact that this said coffee will be accompanied with long time friends with the joy of a reunion is going to make it that much more special. Heck, sometimes it will be tea too. So it really isn’t about the coffee so much as the friendship that goes with it. (Though, in all fairness, I can get good tea here, but the coffee is  a little below par.)

Side note: There won’t be any cigarettes at all!! I am not kidding. I am thrilled to be going to a place where some health concerns have been addressed… of course then there is the G.M.O. battle we are losing! Just as significant! Come on Amerika, get with the program!

Often over coffee with friends and acquaintances here in Serbia, I get the same question over and over.  Which is better, here or the U.S.? and I assume they expect me to say the U.S. as they think it would be a wonderland. (Mostly, I think they think money grows on trees and jobs are about sitting and drinking coffee with friends.) Serbia has some great things going for it. So this is not such an easy answer.

In the U.S., overall we have a higher standard of living… in that we have quality products at a lower price, there are jobs if you want to work. There is help for those who need it socially. Sometimes, these things are hard to find. You may have to move to get them, or work hard to find them, but so much is possible in the States. But, life is hard because people work so much more to pay for healthcare, eating out, and mostly for a bunch of stuff they don’t need! They go into debt trying to have the “American Dream” and make their lives a nightmare.

In Serbia, there is less help, fewer jobs and things are lower quality but more expensive in general. Life is hard as a rule, but if you are willing to work, and work really hard, Life can be good. There is time for coffee with friends. Friends are always happy to see you. If you are out and about, you are constantly invited to the houses of people you meet. And children are welcome and valued. Hospitality is warm and so alive in Serbia.

The downside is that social conditions for anyone that is not white male are 50 to a hundred years behind in Serbia.  Ironically, I can’t tell the difference between black and white in Serbia. That isn’t just because I am ever so slightly color blind. 😉 Gypsies aren’t always so dark, and the Turks rule in Serbia has darkened the features of Serbs. Being blonde and blue-eyed is not so common. but not entirely rare.

If you think I am exaggerating the time difference  in the way of life in comparison to the social standard in the States, I promise you, I am not. I can easily make comparisons to the way 30 year old men think in Serbia to that of my 90 year old Grandfather’s ideas on how things should be. In case you aren’t doing that math, that is a 60 year difference! Sixty freaking years!!

Even life in the villages is much the same as what that same grandfather remembers from his childhood. The “little boy blue” style haystacks are alive and well! As are the old traditions and beliefs from that same time period.

The thing I find most pronouncedly different here are expectations for women. Standards for women’s lives are lower. It is something that keeps me thinking all the time. Women are patronized, sometimes beaten, or cheated on, and in general treated as less. I am not saying that this does not happen in the U.S., but it is not acceptable behavior and it is much less pronounced!

In most cases here in Serbia, it is not so extreme, but I feel the second class attitude that men give women. It is like women are children who will never grow up, but they provide the bulk of the labor. Men seem to be lazy in such an exaggerated way more like they children they are setting a bad example for at home.  It saddens me to see it so blatant and with no thought at all. It is just normal. The thought of raising my daughter in this mindset, losing so many years of progress my people fought to achieve really tears me up.

These are the things I can’t wait to discuss with friends back home over coffee or tea. Finding solutions for the things I can change, and learning how to cope the things that are out of my control are my goals for the coveted trip home. I would love to be able to make a difference in a few women’s lives in Serbia. In time, I may be able to help in some way. 🙂

Because I studied the social sciences in college, I can see what has led to this lack of progress, i.e. so many wars and communism that crippled the people and still does to a great extent. There is a serious mental block for change, even good changes!  But I want to have a better place for the little munchkin. So I will work to make a difference.

I want to uplift women here, They should know their worth. Coming from a country with programs starting at childhood like girl scouts, I have seen first hand that there are ways to make the change. Little by little, Serbia can become a better place for everyone.

I am starting with an English class this week. As I learn more Serbian, I will learn more about the problems and possible solutions, then I can address them. I don’t expect to change a lot. but for my little pond. I will be a little cleaner fish.


16 thoughts on “Coffee and Convos with Friends

      • It’ll be very much baby steps I think! I’ve been here for 3 years but hopefully I’ve managed to convince 1 or 2 women of the benefits of not marrying a lazy good-for-nothing cheater 😉

      • Baby steps indeed. Bravo for speaking up to women who need encouragement. I believe the pressure for women to marry in these cultures is greater than we feel. Certainly it is greater then in the U.S. Heck, my parents had given up hope with me. I was sooo anti marriage. They didn’t even bother! lol But then I shocked them with the Serb! ha ha ha

      • I can only imagine how shocked my mum would be if I married a Latvian!! Thankfully, she gave up on me a long time ago 😉 I have a younger sister so she still has hope of buying a hat 😉

        Whenever I publish these posts, I’m always nervous, either about the horrible comments people might post or that somebody might actually challenge me in person. I’ve never made a secret of my identity so it is possible. But hey, if you can get through to even one person, it’s worth it right!?

      • I Met and married my Serb in the U.S. and we then came here about two years later. I did shock my entire family. and having the little munchkin was a further shock. Sometimes it still shocks me! I can’t believe I have a kid!
        I love that you write what you feel, but I do worry about you. If Latvians are like Serbs they are extremely proud and defensive. Please watch your back. 🙂

      • I watch my back and my front all the time! I’m grand. Really! If nobody has done anything yet, I don’t think they will. And if they do, it just means more people read it posthumously. Either way, win win. 😉 I’ve pretty much done everything I’ve ever wanted to with my life!

      • Wow, at such a young age! I still want to go to India, and Back to Thailand. Dude! if things don’t work with the Serb, that is were I will live! I love it there!

  1. Lovely post — glad to see you’re thinking about the tough stuff.

    In general I think “village life” is vastly more conservative, worldwide. Even in America my hometown of 3,000 ish (less when I was growing up) is/was markedly more conservative. That small town vibe lends itself to insular, staid thinking.

    • No doubt! But even the cities are quite similar here, just slightly more advanced. But then travel has been so limited for Serbs and still is. Fortunately for us small town girls it also creates strong minds with innumerable possibilities for life!

      • Thankfully, travel and easily accessible information is making a lot easier to bring everyone up to speed. I can often see the same problems over here and it’s equally frustrating. I’m just glad I don’t plan on navigating the whole bringing up children situation. That must make it especially poignant.

      • Yes Mam it does, but also broadens the spectrum of influence. Children are more open minded!I must be a positive thinker. Thankfully I have some great friends who remind me of these sort of things. 🙂 Don’t underestimate your influence as a teacher! It is greater then you think.

  2. You can’t judge all Serbia and all Serbs from your perspective that you got it in small town in eastern Serbia.
    We are far away from perfect and many things in Serbia drive me crazy but…
    We do travel beyond country borders more than Americans. Somewhere on a Net I read that only 10% of Americans have a passport (percentage actually fluctuates from 5-25%).
    Because of nature of my job I travel to States quite often (southern states) and I work with many “good old boys” from a same States.
    Rednecks are nothing better than what you can find in eastern Serbia, if they are not even worst in some cases.
    Coffee in Serbia is absolutely different than what you can find and drink in States.
    I drink instant coffee (Nescafe) and I am really not fan of Turkish coffee but reality is that majority of people in Serbia adore Turkish coffee and that’s why you can find only that kind of coffee on a market.
    Nobody wants to invest money and import coffee like one you sell in States because they are afraid that nobody will buy it.
    But, in another hand, you can watch on all of these things that you are missing here in Serbia us on business opportunity.
    Wish you a good time in Serbia and nice holidays in States.

    • Hello Pera,
      Thank you for your kind well thought out reply. You are right on all counts. And I promise I am not judging Serbia by only my little part of Serbia. I am going from what I have seen first hand in Novi Sad and Belgrade. I am also going from what I have heard from women all over Serbia and even in from Bosnian Serbs.

      The percentages you quote are right, I heard it was about 14% a few years ago. I find it sad, but there is a reason for that. First Americans are not that big on leaving the States. But then we have beaches on 2 different oceans, we have the tropical islands of Hawaii, skiing in the Rocky Mountains out west and the Appalachians on the east coast. We have glaciers to visit in Alaska, and the deserts and Grand Canyon in the west. Most people don’t feel the need to go out side the U.S. for those things others would have to leave their country to see.
      Living in Serbia, it is easier to travel do drugi zemlja, it is like traveling to another state in the U.S. So close!

      I know it used to be different for Serbians when Yugoslavia was all one piece. You didn’t have to leave your country to go to the sea.. but Still people traveled internationally more than in the U.S. I am really sad Serbia has lost so much of it’s beautiful land, beaches and especially the sacred churches in Kosovo. I know it is heartbreaking for many people.

      For the record, I am not one of those non-traveling Americans. Within my own country, I have lived in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, and in Georgia. Your view of the south is dead on. Good observation! I felt much the same there as I do here.

      I have also traveled a fair bit otherwise. I have been to a few Asian countries, Australia, Great Britain, as well as a few countries surrounding Serbia. I love to travel and learn about new places and the people there. I can’t wait to see more of the world!

      About the coffee ili kafe… I am sure when I go home I will be stunned by how watery it is since I have gotten used to drinking a STONGER brew. 🙂 You are right about people not wanting to drink a different kinds. When I make Turkish coffee for friends in the U.S. they have a hard time drinking it. It is just about what you are used to drinking.

      I do plan to live here for a while if not for the rest of my life and that is why I am looking for ways to acclimate myself. And to find solutions for the things that are hard on me and my friends here. I try to find and share things that will make others lives easier on my blog too! like this:

      I do have a good time in Serbia for the most part. For instance, today we spent the day in the village. I brought home lesnjak, orah, jabuka, kruska, i jaje from our farm. My hands are black from the orah and I feel refreshed from harvesting and a good time with my mother-in-law. I am really lucky, she is awesome!
      Thank you for taking the time to read all this and I really welcome further comments. Cao for now!

  3. Well you aren’t hanging around any of the educated, career/business-oriented men and women of Serbia – only the farmer-manual labor type folk. Serbia has a lot of accomplished women and I believe I read that Serbia has a much, much higher rate of women-engineers than the U.S.
    You aren’t around the people that are talented or skilled either. Serbs (both male and female) win a lot in the classic music competitions in Europe and all over the world, and it doesn’t look like your people there have any music skills either – no mention of violin/piano/guitar playing among the family/relatives. You are with the “peasants”, not the educated, accomplished nor talented/skilled Serbs.

    • Hello JJ,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am sorry it took so long to reply. I don’t know if you only read or took in the things I said about Serbia being behind, but it was not my intention to anger you, only to state what I would like to improve, and I said it was not like it didn’t happen in the U.S. I doubt that you will read this since you seemed so confident and condescending, but I will make the effort all the same.

      The condescending attitude you I got from the letter proves my point a bit. It is that of treating someone as lesser. Like calling the farmers peasants. The farmers aren’t so dumb, they weren’t the ones starving to death during that war you had not so long ago.

      I am sure I mentioned that this is a great country, but every country needs improvements. Sometimes when I watch the news, I am grateful I am not in my father land. It is really messed up like every other place on earth.

      In my blog above I only wanted to mention what I see and hear about from all over Serbia and the whole of former Yugoslavia. Things I would like to see change, not just for me, but for all the people here. It can only improve Serbia and the world if people treat each other with love and respect.

      I know that educations does sometimes reform the way people think, but not always. As for my friends, you are making some large assumptions. In English we have a saying about those who assume. If you assume something it makes an Ass out of “U” and me. I do have a lot of farmer friends, I would not say they are the least educated people. You do know there are Fakultet degrees for agriculture right? And they are also not the worst offenders in the lifestyles I was speaking of. Often it is the more educated who think they are better than others, and treat others as less as a result of their education.

      Reguarding your statement on education in the States: Getting Degrees in the U.S. is crazy expensive. $30,000 a year is mid range. Often Mommy and Daddy are not paying the bill, and we have to work while we study. I would say Serbia is a piece of cake in comparison. While you are studying you don’t work and your parents pay for everything. When you leave school, getting a job is difficult to put it mildly. So, why wouldn’t people work to get the best degree they can? They have a free ride to the end of their education. They are smart to learn as much as possible.
      I am sure there are lots of engineers in Serbia, But how many actually have jobs? I know LOTS of people here who are highly educated, but cannot find work.
      If you are a woman, you are discriminated against in hiring. Men are more likely to be hired as they cannot get pregnant and get years off work and be paid in the meantime. Or they may possibly work crna na bela.

      As for my friends, I had coffee with a Doctor( yes, a doctor) yesterday. Another one of our friends that we see at least once a week is working internationally with NGOs to improve Serbia.

      Finally, my Serbian is improving, but until recently, it hasn’t been good enough to have conversations with people who don’t speak English well. Usually, people are more educated speak English better.

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