Random Q and A about living in Serbia

Somebody sent me a message asking some questions about life in Serbia, in particular Novi Sad, so I took the liberty of posting my response here as I thought it might be useful for others (I didn't answer all the questions yet, will do that when I get round to it):

Firstly, I would encourage anyone thinking about living in Serbia and maybe Novi Sad, whether a returning emigree or someone who has no connection with Serbia - there is much to say in favour of the lifestyle, it can really grow on you, and there are many foreigners who have become "addicted" and stayed here.

However, I would also say that there are frustrations with living here too - not everything functions as smoothly as it does in the US/UK or wherever, social conventions are different, your concept of manners and your expectations of other will be different. It can be hard to adjust, and I must say it seems to be most difficult for people of Serbian origin who have lived abroad somewhere and are now returning - they seem to get worked up more than most about things that don't work "like they do in the US" and will often complain to that effect. I say you have to drop that - this isn't the UK or US, just relax, or keep your comments to yourself, you won't change anything that way, you'll get frustrated and you'll possibly annoy others who are just as aware of the shortcomings but have to live with them!

1) What do I like about Novi Sad/Serbia?

- despite many frustrations, Serbia is a pretty relaxed place to live. Living standard is lower, yes, but the pace of life
is more relaxed too - a trade I am happy to make.

- Novi Sad is small enough to walk almost everywhere, quite green, less chaotic than Belgrade (though not as tranquil as people think), services are generally good, attractive town centre

- Fruška Gora national park nearby – a HUGE plus for me – you can be in the hills/forests in 15 minutes by car (45 minutes by bike :), which is certainly not true of Belgrade!

2) What do I not like?

- sigh, Serbia suffers from a large minority of rude, aggressive, poor-driving people who have no respect for anyone else. Generally, there is a lack of social solidarity of the sort you will experience in, say, England, where people abide by certain rules in the knowledge that it is for the good of the community. Often it’s little things like parking on cycle paths, throwing trash out of cars, not stopping at pedestrian crossings (EVER!) - hmmm… cars are a theme here I feel… You HAVE to have a little bit of a thick skin, and also sometimes realise that the rudeness isn’t personal.

- bureaucracy: it IS possible to wade through it, but there's just too much pointless paperwork in just about any area. Counter staff are often not very helpful, and there is often nowhere you can get accurate information on how to get things done.

3) Problems being American?

I am actually British, not American, but I can categorically say that you are HIGHLY unlikely to have any trouble just for being an American, especially if you try to fit in, and even more so if you are Serbian in origin. People are fine with foreigners – frankly they don’t pay them much attention these days. I suppose it’s just conceivable an American could get into trouble if they wandered down some dark street and bumped into some nationalist drunk or something – but even there I think you are far more likely to get into trouble in London or somewhere!

4) What do I miss about the US?

Or Britain in my case – well, I can honestly say, almost nothing! I guess sometimes I wish that there was a little of the order I enjoy in Britain, especially in the bureaucracy and in the sense of a general respect in society of people one for another - frankly, waiting in lines in the UK might look funny to outsiders, but it works and makes waiting for things a lot less stressful and fairer!

The only other things I would mention are some VERY small food items that you just can't get here, Shredded Wheat, "proper" teabags. It would be great to have more international foods/ingredients available too, though there is some stuff appearing now, though expensive. But I've learned to live without that stuff and now I only ask for very little things when anyone goes to the UK.

OK, run out of time, but those are some of my comments, and will try to answer the rest of the questions I was put in a day or two!


Odista - Professional Serbian-English-Serbian translation services

I found this to be very helpful.

Sigh, I still haven't got round to writing some more in answer to the original questions that were asked me - I haven't forgotten, just haven't had time with a baby on the way (now THERE'S a topic for an entire discussion re: services in Serbia) and tons of work. Will try to do it soon!

Congratulations on the baby.  I would be very interested to know your experience of raising a baby in Serbia and the services related.

Baby appeared on 29th October, earlier than expected! So I never did write my follow-up and will probably have trouble doing so in the near future (un)fortunately :D

In short, what can I say about having a baby in Serbia? Well, on the medical side, the care is as good as anywhere, but as with everything medically-related in Serbia, the "human touch" is often woefully lacking. For instance, in Novi Sad, it is impossible for the father to be present at the birth (hence why we went to Belgrade for the birth, where most hospitals allow this). It is generally hard to get information out of doctors who often seem to be more focused on covering their own backs than keeping their patients (or the parents of the patients) informed and happy. Also, maternity wards are very regimented, which can play havoc with the mother's relationship with the baby in the all-important first couple of days - it really can be like boot camp sometimes, with midwives and nurses as unforgiving drill sergeants, much like in the West 30 years ago or so. Maternity wards in Serbia used to have an appalling reputation, for corruption, bad conditions and all these other things I have mentioned, and it's only recently that public pressure has led to vast improvements. But if you have a baby in Serbia, all I can say is, get out of the hospital as soon as possible. Things get better then, you get a number of home visits in the first few days and then in subsequent weeks/months, and at least in Novi Sad there is a dedicated "Dečje savetovalište", a sort of fast-track children's clinic within the main health-centre. All the necessary vaccines are provided by the state of course. Typically for Eastern Europe (where the "managers" haven't started their cost-cutting in the health system yet), they probably go over the top many times, like the baby gets a brain ultra-sound at birth and a few weeks later, a hip ultra-sound at 6 weeks (to screen for hip dyplasia, something the West doesn't seem to worry about too much) and interestingly our little fella got a newborn hearing test in the maternity ward, which may not be standard.

Generally Serbia is TRYING to encourage people to have more children because the demographic state of affairs is so bad, so they are trying to make things more "child-friendly". Women do get a year's maternity leave, I believe in some cases on full pay, or at least 60% pay. There are also reasonably generous one-off payments from the state, which increase with each child. But with so much needing improvement it's still too little - for instance, baby changing facilities are the exception rather than the rule and towns are full of steps, stairs, terrible pedestrian surfaces, making getting around with a pram (that's a stroller Americans :)) difficult. Also, PDV (VAT tax, at 18%) is payable on baby supplies, which it is not in many European countries.

Still, people have kids, they grow up normal, mostly, so I guess it can't be THAT bad! At the end of the day, the job of raising children is still mostly that of the parents, just like anywhere else.

Thank you.  That is great information.  I would be curious to know what the nanny situation is like too, if both parents work in Serbia.  I had no idea the VAT tax was this great. It's good to know that medical attention is well provided in the first couple of months.  That's definitely not the case in NY.

Congratulations on the birth of your son. Hope the diaper duty isn’t too tiresome:)
About the info I've asked you about – pay no attention to that anymore. I do appreciate the pros and cons you’ve already gathered and relayed and do not need anything additional at this time.
I have decided to take a plunge and move come hell or high water. We’ll see how that turns out!!!
Have a good day.

Hello.  I will be moving to Novi Sad in August 2010 (with my daughter).  In March, I will be studying for my CELTA and will be living in Hungary for three months prior to moving to Novi Sad.  Do you have any suggestions/advice to offer?

kracevaya :

Hello.  I will be moving to Novi Sad in August 2010 (with my daughter).  In March, I will be studying for my CELTA and will be living in Hungary for three months prior to moving to Novi Sad.  Do you have any suggestions/advice to offer?

Eat more vegetables, do exercise, spend lots of time with your family :) Oh, you mean specifically about living in Novi Sad? I've written a lot above already, so I don't know what I would add to that - what kind of questions do you have?

What i like in my Serbia:Pljeskavice,ćevap,burek,ražnjiće,nasuvo,leskovačke ražnjiće,roštilj i ostale papazjanije....not to mention girls :lol:

They are all still here, you should come back!

@dernhelmyu -> Can you please write in english on this Anglophone forum? :)

Thank you,

Well the question was what i like in my Serbia,right?So i answered(and named some of my favourite food+girls)..Also i would like to add Fruška Gora,one of our national parks(basically smallest mountains on this planet ;-),as well....so,go figure....anyone of you like our food?Especially pljeskavice or ćevap?Or maybe burek with cheese(my personall most favourite-it doesnt scream when you cut it,unlike woman ;-D...:D

Would it be safe for a thirty year old women to live in serbia? I planed on moving there and geting a job in september. someone frightened me told me it's very dangerous high risk of sex trafficing and could be abducted off the street. I disputed this with the person that it's unlikely and I would be as safe as any other country but she insisted I was wrong. Who is right am I going to one of the top most dangerous places in the world

Hi Mark
Just been staying in Novi sad a year
Not met many Brits here accept a guy called Steven and briefly a James
Good to meet up with more people

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