Moving to Serbia (the Balkans)~ Info I wish I could have found

This post aims at taking a stab at helping the before and after by providing info others have shared to smooth the edge of your nerves and the process.

Moving from one country to another is an acutely distressing task. It means leaving your friends and family and all the places you know and love. As well as your favorite foods. That will be more difficult that you will believe!

Starting over completely, upon arrival you will need to find a new doctor/pediatrician/vet, grocery store, park, and most importantly friends. This is often made more difficult with the language barrier you may incur.

The people here are amazing! They will help you. There are arses in every country. Don’t let one get you down. Move along and get some help from one of the many wonderful folks here. They out number the jerks.

Helpful Online resources

Skype! Sign up for it! Do it now! Get your friends and family to do the same.

Fortunately, now there are a number of Facebook groups for expats online. Search them out before your move and post any questions you have on their sites. You will be shocked at how helpful people tend to be.

I have found the most helpful ones are on Facebook. In Serbia, there is the Belgrade foreign visitors club, the Circle of foreign moms, and International women married to Serbs. These groups are a new expats best friend. And a great help for those anticipating the move. If you post questions, people are happy to help. They have been there. And they have priceless experience.

http://www.internations.org/ is a great international organization that helps expats to come together. They have groups in every major city, and ambassadors who seem really helpful.

Another FB group would be Flat to rent Belgrade. If you need to find a place to live you can also post on the Belgrade foreign visitors club page. It seems that is a brilliant place to find help, especially if you only want to rent a room in a shared flat or apt!

http://www.expat-blog.com/ is a great site for people moving to anywhere from anywhere. They a blog list for the world.

http://www.expatsblog.com/ This site has lots of blogs listed from all over the world, and they interview the bloggers. Some the interviews are very insightful.

Shipping concerns/preparing for the move

You will have to decide what to keep or ship. Shipping is very expensive. And once your stuff arrives, you may be charged crazy taxes. Making it questionable what is worth shipping.

To find out where to learn about shipping to Serbia we looked online, and at Balkan food markets where we asked and found a magazine with an ad for shipping to all the former Yugoslavian countries. We pondered moving our cars, and all the belongings but opted to sell almost everything.

We were lucky. We had a bunch of friends who were shipping an entire container. We did end up shipping about 15 plastic bins and boxes. I am really thankful we did. It is great to have a bit of home so far away.

But shipping cars would have been senseless (even though I miss our VW and my little red sporty girl.) The taxes and shipping would have been outrageous. And buying a car here isn’t that hard. If you want to get used ones there are sites for that, like http://www.halooglasi.com/.

I posted a question about shipping stuff to Serbia, I got this message in return. I just copy and pasted it as all the info may be helpful.

*****With reference to your post on Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club please find below more details on the import of households in Serbia.

If you are returning Serbian citizen you have right to apply for Repatriation Certificate which will allow you to import used households up to the value of EUR 5000. In order to qualify for this exemption you will need to prove that you have worked minimum 2 years without any gaps abroad. You can contact nearest Serbian embassy for more details and cost of Repatriation Certificate.

You will need to create valued list of goods in Serbian with the values.

If you do not qualify for this exemption, as a returning Serbian citizen, then import duties and taxes are charged at the rate of 45-47% of the value of the shipment.

Please note that value for Customs purposes are different from the Insurance values. Insurance values are replacement value of new items at destination and they are higher than actual value of the used households. Therefore do not declare Insurance value for the transport.*****

You can find some international shipping companies online. Do some research beyond pricing. There are some horror stories. Movers not showing up, or things going missing, etc. Reviews are priceless! I may also recommend writing embassies to see who they use as they are always having people move to and from here and there.

 

These are the things you think about as you anticipate the move. But before that, you must decide what to do with your stuff. Do you ship it, or chuck it all and get new everything?

Also, what will you do with your mail. There are companies who will forward it… $$$ I have mine sent to a friend.  If it is important, she copies it and forwards it.

Things to know about the culture of Serbia and everyday living. This was graciously written by another foreign woman married to a Serb. Thank you SM!!

1) Learning Serbian is hard for the linguistically challenged; perhaps even for those with a gift for languages.
2) Driving can be a challenge; narrow roads littered with pedestrians, strays and owned, people parking in lanes just to pop in to a store for a few minutes, drivers opening car doors into oncoming traffic, drivers overtaking on blind corners with a come-what-may flair and an overall sense of the survival of the fittest (aka if I can squeeze in before you reach me it doesn’t really matter if you have to slam on breaks to accommodate me).
3) Long winters that sometimes swallow up portions of what should have been spring or autumn.
4) Getting a local you trust to enquire/negotiate for you when asking for a quotation or selling price. Any foreigner is immediately assumed to be loaded and prices are multiplied accordingly.
5) Another general rule is that contracts are rare and requesting one is almost an insult. Serb’s run on an honour system of agreement (which generally turns out ok. Until it doesn’t).
6) Most negotiations are a bit like wooing. You need to set the mood for a positive outcome; good food and plenty of it, tons of rakija and pivo, laughter and possibly even music. Set aside a good few hours for this before you get down to business. If you think about it, it’s actually quite beautiful as setting a business relationship on a good footing is very important in any culture. This is simply how it’s done here.
7) Serbian homes are pristine. There’s a reason for this beyond mega-cleanliness, I believe. All visitors pop in spontaneously. From a culture where most things are scheduled, even amongst friends, this can be a little daunting if you’re not the neatest freak under the sun.

Number six maybe taken further. When we need anything done at the local city hall we always take a pack of coffee and some cookies. A bit of sweetness greases the wheels.

I have also heard, that if something is taking a long time, you should show up in person and ask continually, and kindly. Seeing your face will remind them of the task.

Here is one more note from another expat in the north. K wrote this letter about what and how she packed to her friends back home. Maybe her words will be a bit of help for you.

Things I’m so glad I packed!
1. SAMs club bags! Big enough to carry about 4-5 bags of groceries, can use either the shoulder strap or handles for lugging items around. Best thing I bought for the move by far!
2.Toiletries. Yes, I can buy shampoo, deodorant, q-tips, nail clippers… But with all the learning curve that’s involved with a new culture, not having to find out where to buy toothpaste the first week has been very helpful. Now (after 2 weeks) I know where to find these items, but it was an enormous help not to worry about that immediately.
3.Kitchen utensils! Not only did I bring my good kitchen knives, but my favorite spoons, can openers, pizza cutter, potato peeler… Items like that here are SO expensive, yet cheaper made. I’m thankful that while I’m cooking different food, at least I’m familiar with how I’m cooking it. (Oh – and don’t forget measuring cup/spoons. The metric system is used just about everywhere else, so if you have your American recipe that calls for cups and tsps, you’ll not have to guess or do lots of math!)
4.Tools! Just as the kitchen items are important to me, having a few basic tools have been helpful for D. Screwdivers, wrenches, level… finding the tools you need here has been difficult. Grateful that we do not feel at a complete loss when we need to repair something.
5.Those hooks that stick on the walls – the ones you can use to hang pictures, towels, flyswatters, kitchen spoons… you know the ones!
6.Practical, comfortable clothes and shoes. I did pack a few nice outfits, but I’m thankful I downsized. Now that I’m here, I can’t see myself wearing any of the “nice” things. I also packed a few clothes the next size up for the kids to wear if they hit a growth spurt soon.
7.A few toys and favorite items for the kids from home. Yes, just like the toiletries, we can buy toys here, but the comfort of having something from home has been a blessing. The kids also each brought a poster to hang up in their room, which makes their room look more like it belongs to them. Along those lines, we also brought some of our “traditions” with us – the “happy birthday banner,” a 4th of July tablecloth, “you are special today” plate.
8.Music, audiobooks and movies. (I put them on a hard drive.) It’s comforting to have English entertainment at the end of a long day.

Things I wish I would have packed.
1.Ziploc bags! Gallon size, freezer ready. Since they do not exist here, I would have been tempted to pack a suitcase full. (OK, that’s exaggerating, but it’s amazing how many things I used zipping bags for that’s not even food related.)
2.Smaller clothes. Not less clothes, but smaller. I think I’ve dropped a pants size already. It would have been nice to bring 1 or 2 pair of smaller pants. Buying clothes here is difficult as most places are on the street (no trying things on) and there are no returns.
3.D did a lot of work in the apartment before I got here, but if I was here initially, I would have liked to bring a small roll of “big” garbage bags and 1 tub of Lysol wipes. Just to get the place cleaned up.
4.I originally started to pack these, but thought I’d need to downsize more, so I got rid of them. Small, everyday items – the kind you’d get at the dollar store: paper towel holder, office organizers, Tupperware containers, toothbrush holder… These types of items are incredibly expensive here. (Thankfully because of homeschooling, I did bring pens, pencils, scissors, and glue. I did not bring scotch tape & it took a long time to find it here. We wrapped up our Christmas presents in packing tape! When D did find it, the tape dispenser was cheaply made, but we’re making it work!)
5.More American dollars. It depends on where you are going. We get the best exchange rate for dinars by withdrawing them from the ATM. However, rent, schooling, van and other big items need to be paid in Euros. The only way to get them is to withdraw dinars (exchange rate from dollars) and exchange them again for Euros. Double whammy. For our start-up costs, it would have been much easier to exchange dollars to Euros once.

Thanks to those who helped me writing this blog. If you have any other tips, leave them in the comments!! I can edit this and add them.

If you are moving to Serbia or anywhere, Good Luck!! Take it day by day and remember it is an adventure of a lifetime! There are some serious struggles, cultural issues and relationship trials. Xanax might be a good idea. 😉

If you need a bit of a pep talk…. check this out. https://chroniclesofserbia.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/yoda-quotes-for-the-expat-soul/

Please feel free to use the comment section to add your own advice! Maybe you could start a blog of your own! It can help others and be a great form of mental therapy for free! Thanks for stopping by!

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Whatever Wednesday~ Right Now

Right now, things are a bit Crazy! For the past two weeks we were preparing to plant several hundred sour cherry seedlings. It was going to be last week. Then when the hubby pulled one up and saw the roots were green, the date was pushed back to possibly this weekend. If the roots are green, the plant is working on something. If they are replanted, it may injure them or kill them. I have learned lots of new stuff in the last week regarding planting. That was one of the many things.

Planting is on hold now because Mama tripped and fell HARD! She broke the top ball par of her upper arm bone or humerus. Not funny at all. She is sporting a shirt style cast missing one arm, with the broken arm pinned to her middle. Poor lady, I can imagine sleep is difficult for her. And covering herself is a serious challenge.

The Munchkin finds the cast interesting.. She knocks on it like a door.  We all had a good laugh over that.

Taking showers in our house is a bit awkward at the moment. It was 4 AM two or three weeks ago, when I was awakened by a loud CRASH and then more crashing. The acoustics in the bathroom enhanced the sound of the tiles falling from the wall into the tub and even woke the neighbors on the other side of the very thick cement wall.

It scared the crap put of me at first and I was afraid someone was breaking in and even had a flash of fear going back to the bomb in our building 5 years ago. But when I got up and saw the tiles I was at least relieved neither of those scenarios were true.

Because we have been so busy with the farm work, we haven’t been able to get the wall fixed.

 

The day the tiles came off the wall was the day we road tripped up to Krusevac for a seminar. I went to make contacts with a fellow expat who has an NVO with a Green emphasis. He invited me to help me with my English teaching project that is working on  a Green agenda. I did some good networking. But now I must wait til I return from the States to make further progress.

Our work in the village has consisted of: Making markers out of corn stocks from our corn field, marking four fields for planting, harvesting carrots and beets. Oh, and dealing with a guy who was steeling wood from our forest. That is a felony here… We have been busy.

Marking the fields was more difficult than I thought. It takes a lot of planning. The tractor must be able to go around the rows of trees, the trees much be planted super straight, and the fields must be plowed before we do the marking and planting to soften the soil to make marking and planting easier.

Then, when we get to the field, the hubby and the Papa bicker over where to start, what is best… and a bunch of stuff I can’t understand. So I walk around taking pics to share with you. But the new motherboard in my computer screwed it up and won’t let me add pics. The hubby’s computer screen went out last night, so no pics. C’est la vie!

In the end the fields got marked with the help of really skinny trees or long poles cut from the forest. They were measured and used as measuring sticks. About four long ropes tied together were used to keep the rows straight. They were pulled tight and then laid down carefully. Marker corn stalks were shoved into the dirt at measured stick length intervals and after a couple of days the fields, with lots of corn stalks sprouting just out of the dirt wait for a team of friends with shovels and about a thousand seedlings to come and make new little orchards.

First all those seedlings will have to be plucked and have the roots trimmed just before they are replanted.

 

Mama was going to care for the Munchkin, I am not sure if I will be able to help now. She would have cooked to feed the mass of field hands… she is good at making bulk amounts of food. Did I mention it is all Serbian food. Of course!! So now, I am not sure what will happen.  or when.

Adding to that, the Munchkin and I will be flying away for a visit to my homeland in about 2 weeks.

My Serbian paper work, that makes me legal to live here without crossing borders every so often and on my way to citizenship was filed in December of last year. It should be filed at the same time. But I will be in the U.S. The money invested to start the process may go down the drain. 😦 Hubby is going to the police station today to see what we can do about that mess. Either way I am legal. I have papers and I will go home.  And being legal here isn’t really a problem since I am married to a Serb and enhanced by our little Half blood princess. 🙂

Needless to say we are a little busy. Off to make more apple bread cake to make life a little sweeter.

Dobar Dan Y’all!

Foreigner Follies~ Adventures in Baking internationally, Serbian edition * Bonus brownie recipe that works in Serbia

I was reading one of my favorite and funny blogs, Expat Eye on Latvia about her cake making abilities. They turned out to be delicious of course. As I was leaving a comment on her hilarious prose I thought I would share the agony joy of cooking internationally. For me that of course is in Serbia.

The hubby and I had been craving brownies, but no such thing exists here, and I have only ever made them from a box mix. Let the adventure begin. I got the idea to look for a recipe in a peace corp cook book from an ex-peace corp guy.

Thank you Google Search for making that possible! I found one in just a couple of minutes.

That was the easy part.

Next began the mad scientist experiments. You think I kid… nope. You have a recipe, you think will give you a desired product, but what you don’t know is the ingredients are not standard all over the world. Who knew?

I made it once and found that the cocoa is weaker here, and it turned out more like a cake.  😦 SO I reduced it from two eggs to one and changed the 1/4 cup oil or butter to 1/2.

Still not right. With more tweaking I finally got something that we can enjoy, though not 100% like home.  YUM!

One thing that my fellow  gal pal blogger has taught me to do from now on is to cook with wine. I have heard of this concept .

I don’t believe I have ever tried it. Of course I have cooked with whine most recently, toddler at my feet arms up stretched and wanting to be held as I try to create a tasty treat. That is not as fun as you may think.

I try to focus without getting to angry and stare at the recipe  blankly as I think to myself… “Why wasn’t I on birth control?” Yep, just give me the worst mom of the year award or punishment right now.  It is no surprise to me!

With a little wine the little whiner may be less distracting. Then again, maybe not.

The brownie recipe I settled on is below:

I use English measurements…. but here is the untested  metric measurements as well… good luck with that! 😉

American Brownie Recipe

1 cup sugar ~ 250 ML

1 egg… no translation needed!! 🙂

1 teaspoon Baking Soda ~ 5 ml

1/4 cup oil  ~ 50 ml

1/4 butter or margarine 50 ml

2/3 cup flour~ 150 ml

1/4 teaspoon salt~ 1ml

1/2 cup cocoa~ 125 ml

Optional: 1 cup or 250 ml of chopped walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts. or Chocolate bar! YUMMY

1 bottle of wine your choice to drink as you cross your fingers and hope for the best!

Grease a small baking pan 8″x8″ or a small round cake pan. Preheat the oven for 350 F or 175 C. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until not gooey in the middle. They will be soft and yummy if this turned out well.

If they didn’t it is because’
A. You were using British English measurements instead of American English Measurements or European metric instead of Canadian. How is this even possible!! What the French Toast?

B. You drank too much wine and fouled it up.

C. Other ________________________________

Good luck with the Brownies. Enjoy the wine!

Things Grandmas say in Serbia~ Foreigner Funnies!

This is a reblog of a post from quite a long time ago on my Blogspot site. It still makes me laugh to think about all the Grandma’s or Baba’s talking about their grandkids in such a way. Here is the link to the old blog. I hope it makes you laugh.

This is Baba and her “little ducky”.

Babino patcheh or Grandma’s little penis

I have been going to my husbands village for 2 years now. Every time we go, Baba and Deda  greet us at the door. Deda shakes our hands. Baba pulls us in for hugs and lots of kisses that are closer to the neck than the face, so I always get a strange vampirish vibe from them, even though she barely has teeth. While she is kissing us, she is always muttering sweet nothings of love to us like we are children. It is very sweet and I feel loved.
This time, while I was there, a cousin translated one of the things she says to my husband…. Babino  malo Patcheh. Please forgive the spelling. I knew when she was saying Babino she was calling us her’s. It’s like saying Grandma’s baby or something. What I didn’t get was the second part. Patcheh is the word for baby duck and this is slang for penis. All along she has been calling my husband, “grandma’s little penis”. And, as odd as it sounds, it is a sweet thing to say. I did laugh my dupe off when I heard this!! (Dupe means butt.)
Bringing this up to date…. Fast forward 2 1/2 years.
And now that I have my own little girl, and my husband’s Mom has her own little lovey sayings for her. Babina mala riba… that is Grandma’s little fish. Even though it is completely rude to call women’s parts fish in my part of the world, it is proper and even common to hear little girls and women called fish.  Live and learn, live   and    learn!

Link to the original post:

http://lafemmet.blogspot.com/2011/03/babino-patcheh-or-grandmas-little-penis.html

The Lady from Noddy~ Foreigner Funnies?

I am the lady from Noddy. I relish this. probably too much. But I do.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to be from a place called Toyland where the bad guys always lose. Sounds perfect to me.

Last week, I visited a friend who has three little girls. Later the oldest asked her mother when the lady was coming back. She asked what lady and her daughter replied, “The lady from Noddy.”

Children here in my little Serbian town are always interested at first and then later often annoyed at my speaking English. It is new and different. If I am a friend of their parents, they often get frustrated that they cannot understand what we are saying. This is the case even if we are attempting to speak Serbian, as my Serbian is like that of a cow.

They are much more honest about how bad it is as they just tend to ignore my attempts as if I didn’t even say a word. Grown-ups attempt to understand an even humor me by telling me how good my Serbian is… but, I know it is NOT GOOD!

So, I am the Lady from Noddy, speaking English most of the time.

I imagine myself as Tessie the bear.

She is described as clever and kind. I would love for those to be my adjectives! I must admit, at first I fancied myself as Miss Harriet, the pink cat!

Apparently she is fussy and neat. I am fussy, but not neat. Then, I read she speaks with a french accent. Not it! lol

Tessie the bear from Noddy is also a bit naughty… but then frolicking topless is much less of a big deal here in Europe is much less of a big deal in the States! I haven’t indulged in that yet. 🙂 Since I am still nursing, that would be a real milkshake. But I doubt it would bring all the boys to the yard. Na na   na na naa.

In case you didn’t get that reference…

Milkshake http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CIUkmERKA4

The Bear Naked Lady from Noddy wishes you all a Happy Sunday!