Thinking of Moving to Serbia?

December 7,2013


Are you thinking of moving to Serbia?

If you are Serbian, and you know the language and what you are in for, I say go for it! It is your homeland and getting around will not be that hard for you.

This page  is mainly geared towards women who have married Serbs  and are thinking of making the big move to his home country. This is what I would tell my little sister if she were in this situation.

Lately I have been getting lots of emails, comments from people thinking of moving to Serbia. If you are, THINK HARD! I do not post the bad about living in Serbia as I get lots of Haters commenting. I also want to keep this fun, light reading. I teeter between voting for and against it. Especially if you are a woman. If you are bringing children.

This culture is not like the west. Please do research, trial runs or send me a message. I will answer your questions honestly.

My most strong oppositions would be if you will live with in-laws. DON”T DO IT! If it is proposed as short-term… say no! Be sure to have a place of your own before you arrive.

Around the world, there are in-law jokes and problems. Intercultural in-laws are a whole new ball game!  Be advised!

In my humble opinion:

In Serbia, life is much harder for women. Men are catered to. Most mothers cater to their sons. Everyone expects women to cook, clean, and maybe even pack for the men when they go on trips. Seriously!! It is like the 1950’s or before in some families and regions. It is NOT the same everywhere.

One thing you have as an advantage is not being Serbian. USE that advantage. Be different. Be yourself. You don’t have to follow the rules you weren’t raised with. This is my out all the time.

Do Not think your hubby will be the same when you move. He will change. And so will YOU! Trust me! Living in another country is a huge challenge. Going back to your home country has its own challenges, but you snap back to yourself in an instant. This is true for all cultures as far as I can tell from all the people polled on the subject.

Serbia has many lures, beauty, history, and cheaper living conditions. But most Serbians would tell you the cons are a much longer list. If you move there, they will ask you why?!

Expat couples will tell you moving abroad is hard on a marriage, I would say intercultural ex-pat marriage has even more challenges. With the tiny advantage of having a local in the country.

If you are having marital difficulties, this kind of move will not help! My hubby and I almost split after our first visit. Marriages take time and work. Mostly honest constant communication. Get things in order before you go.

Make sure you have your own source of money, or someone other than your husband who can help you. If you think you will find a job in Serbia, Mala sutra (fat chance) is the expression that comes to mind. Becoming an online worker is much more likely. You can do it! This is what I do.

Getting citizenship will be a process that takes a few years for the spouse of a Serb. It is relatively cheap and painless compared to the process we went through in the U.S.  But any children you have will have automatic citizenship even if they were born elsewhere. Once you take your child to Serbia, if you chose to divorce, you could have a huge battle getting your child back to whatever country you came from. Think about this seriously!

Moving abroad is hard enough. Learning a new language, how to shop, and cook are major obstacles. Finding out they don’t have most things you are used to makes your first, second, or millionth trip to the grocery store a challenge they may leave you crying more than once. I am not kidding.

Don’t get me wrong. It can be fun. Life is an adventure daily. I do love my life, but I think of moving home sometimes.

If you are living in a city or close to one, you will be better off. You may find some good ex-pat friends and events.

Healthcare is cheaper, but so is the quality in most places. Not the same level of care. But usually, the people are nice.

Traveling with children in Serbia is easier than in the U.S. Families are catered to. Children are valued highly.

The customs you may be forced or pushed to follow are outdated in some regions. For instance: A draft could kill you. (They call it promaja.) Sitting on the cold ground can ruin your eggs and leave you barren! Going barefoot can do the same. I wonder what Baba created this farce. She wasn’t thinking logically.  The first people had no shoes and no chairs. And, guess what, we made it this far.

Even though life is easier with children, playgrounds are not well cared for. Things are often broken. Trash will most likely be scattered, and going barefoot is not advised. Broken beer bottles are very common. You’re not in Kansas anymore or even NYC Central park. It is dirty.

I beg you to think long and hard and have a plan B if you do decide to make the move. I am all yours for questions. I will be honest.


16 thoughts on “Thinking of Moving to Serbia?

  1. Hi Tina, happy to have found your blog…I am not an American, and have not experienced the American lifestyle…I am Romanian – and my country has had a destiny similar to Serbia’s (Ottoman Turks, Communism, etc) and most people are also Orthodox, like in Serbia – so when settling here, I thought there will surely be few cultural barriers, since we share common history & culture…it turns out it is not quite true…much more different in mentality than what I expected, and sometimes even the simplest things are done differently…which on top of the language barrier (I now speak pretty good Serbian, but still….) sometimes leads to disagreements and arguments with my husband…So keeping all this in mind, I understand how it can be even more difficult for someone coming from America to adapt to the local ways….of a small Serbian town, no less (not the cosmopolitan capital)….I wish you a lot of patience, take everything with a grain of salt – it is a fabulous thing that you have a good mother in law – I have one too, we live in the same house (with separate entrances, thank God!) – she is physically more frail (old age and a hip replacement gone bad) but she is still a great help with the kids…and she likes me a lot and keeps my side in any argument with my husband 🙂
    Enough of my ranting…we keep in touch over FB – and hopefully we meet sometime!

  2. I live in the uk and im looking to move to Belgrade im a qualified chef upto kitchen manager 16yrs experience, I have a fair bit of money to move over with but I am finding it hard to find the information about if I need visa and what else I will need to be able to move and work and wondered if u could help and any advice I would be very grateful

  3. Oh absolutely; if you never thought you had a stoic bone in your body, immersing yourself in a new culture for the long-haul will teach you differently.

    The Serbian culture is both charming and enlightening but it can also be harsh to a Western-bred mentality. I met my Serbian husband in my home country (after he had already been living there for around 7 years) so this made things a bit easier for me as he had already, through his own adventures, become accustomed to a more Westernised point of view. I had also travelled and worked in the far East prior to our meeting and had, to some extent, learned to acclimatise to highly communal cultures. This has been our saving grace in our adventures together in his home country. Serbia is a unique blend of East and West.

    I second all of T’s points! Here’s some additional two cents from my Serbian voyages:

    From experience, the first thing I would recommend is to learn the language (even if you get no further than ‘pidgin’ proficiency). Relying on your husband/partner for constant translation keeps you isolated both on a personal and social level (and also adds a bit of strain to your relationship). I work from home with largely English clients, which minimised the dire need for language acquisition, but because I’ve rested on my laurels with regard to learning Serbian I feel, today, both a burden to others as well as stunted in my life as an individual. Never allow yourself to lose your individual independence in this way; it’s consequences effecting your life can be subtle but severe in the long-term (especially if you’re living in a village and not directly in the more metropolitan Belgrade or Novi Sad). Being able to communicate on your own will better help you navigate all the other difficulties you will face. Claim your life in Serbia as your own; do not ‘sub-contract’ essential portions of it to others (even if they’re generously willing).

    The West prizes individuality, the East prizes community. The strange translation of this on the ground means that wide-arching expressions of philanthropy are rare. Although one might think individualistic mindsets would be less altruistic, it’s actually the opposite. This does not mean that Serbian’s lack the desire to promote the welfare of others, it’s simply a different expression of this than a Westerner is accustomed to. There are many times and situations where it’s expressed in abundance but it does not inform all attitudes in a moment to moment fashion (especially amongst strangers).

    Linked to this…. A Westerner’s idea of being open, friendly and polite can, at times, be seen in Serbian culture as being fake. Serbian language does not use the word ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ as prolifically as English does in interpersonal communication. Smiling is good but, again, us Westerners do it in much more abundance. Some responses you may get in return might appear rude to you. Know that this is simply a cultural difference you need to understand and not take immediate offence to. This ability comes with time. Within more familiar and closer relationships in the Serbian culture, easy-smiling is just as abundant as it is in the West.

    There is a strange stressfulness in the air for most Westerner ex-pats living in Serbia. It’s so subtle it’s almost impossible to put your finger on the cause of it. Nothing seems altogether relaxed or easy-going. Everything from driving and shopping to medical visits and administration seems to induce tension to your overall sense of well-being. Possibly the remnant influences from a communistic approach to life? I really am not sure.

    What I can be sure about is this…. As with all things in life, approach your decision to live in Serbia with a strong sense of self (know who you want to be in this short life) and navigate the cultural differences with the ability to let go of the parts of your Western life that are not essential to who you are while making certain you can building avenues within the Serbian culture that will allow you to develop the parts of yourself that are essential to you. You will mourn many things but if you’ve made the decision to stay here, remove any obstacles (language, especially) that could hinder your ability to build the life you wish to live.

    • WOW, brilliant words. The whole bit about Serbia being a strange mix of East and West is something I have been wanting to post about in my blog. And, I am sure my wonderful Mother-in-law is tired of hearing how this or that is like China or Korea, or Thailand. lol I am thinking of writing a blog post about being married to a Serb and moving to Serbia. Would you mind if I add some of this? Would you like to be a guest blogger on that subject or something else? Do you have a blog? Enough with the questions now. I look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

      • 🙂 First thing I said when catching a whiff of the septic tanks in the centre of a bustling town in Serbian summer was: ‘How weird; I’m smelling Taiwan’, much to the bamboozlement of my husband. ‘Tis strange, isn’t it? There are so many nuances of the East, here, that you wouldn’t expect when thinking about Europe. Possibly the effects of the Ottoman rule not so long ago.

        Yes, please, use any of my ramblings as you see fit. I’d be more than happy to add my two cents worth whenever you’d like to include the thoughts of another Serbo-expat into your blog. I don’t run my own personal blog but I’d be honoured to jump in with you every so often. Feel free to drop me an email so that we can connect.

      • Brilliant!, I am just about to write a post, “10 Things I wish some one had told me before moving to Serbia”. Is there anything you would like to have known?
        I am going to post on International women married to Serbs page on FB. And the Circle of Foreign moms page. I am sure I will get some help there too! Dobar dan my friend!

  4. Hmm…

    Just shooting from the hip:

    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.

  5. hi nice interesting blog about your family life on a farm and the type of life lived by you and the Serbian people bye peter McGrath

  6. Oh wow! This was very interesting for me to read. You are a wonderful writer, and I think I learned so much about Serbia! As for your advice on marriage and moving, much of it also can be said for South Korean men and South Korea. That shocked me the most. 😀

    • I can imagine. I have been to Seoul. I was visiting friends who worked at Seoul Foreign school. it was so enlightening. Such a rich history. Korea seems to have a firm foot in the future and the other rooted in the past. You are lucky to live there. 🙂

  7. Hello! I find your post to be very useful, I am currently considering moving to Serbia with my husband but I am so scared, especially because we have a daughter who is currently in my home country

    • Hello! What you will encounter in Serbia largely depends on where you live. The north has almost everything. We are in the South. It is a bit more challenging. Feel free to ask me anything. I am open and honest. Also, I can hook you up with FB groups that can help. I look forward to hearing from you!

      • His family is based in Belgrade but my concern is that we have a lot of issues in our marriage and they will just get worse there especially for me because I have no support web in there. We recently had a big fight just before our baby was born and he abandoned me without saying a word, now he has come back saying he wants us to be a family and to move to Serbia. We are currently living in Japan and our daughter is in Paraguay where I am from cause I went there to give birth and came back to Japan to finish my master, sorry for telling you my life story but I am considering moving to Serbia with him but I know I shouldn’t

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