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