This feels like some kind of official statement because I have been asked uncountable times how I like Serbia. Of course all Serbians want to know how a German girl that happens to live in Serbia likes their country because this is not a very common occurrence. It is probably more likely for a Serbian to see a live car crash than to meet a German girl who has moved to Serbia. I recognize the surprise by their facial expression when I tell them my origin. Sooo, dear Serbians and everybody else who’s reading this – fasten your seatbelts because I am gonna throw my genuine opinion into your faces now!
Of course I have to start with food, what else. And instead of being the typical annoying vegan answering “Serbian food sucks” (cuz it’s mainly meat, cheese and white bread), I am honestly gonna list the foods that I really like here in Serbia:
- Ajvar. According to Wikipedia, Ajvar was invented in Serbia and therefore counts as a typical, traditional food. In Serbia there are dozens of different brands and kinds of Ajvar or generally smoked paprika products. And expcept for the 2 cheapest brands (starting at 2 EUR per glass), all of them taste simply divine. I strongly recommend trying homemade Ajvar in a traditional Serbian restaurant.
- Locally grown strawberries. Nothing more needs to be added here.
- Loacally grown cherries
- Pita! (I found vegan pita in a health store bakery that produces pita made from buckwheat filled either with cabbage, other vegetables or even chocolate.)
- Burek. In that same health store mentioned above I found burek filled with tofu-cheese. Oh. My. God. It’s soaked in fat so that your paper bag will be drained in oil when you bring it home, but it’s an absolute must-try when you want to experience the local cuisine. Traditionally bureks are filled with meat or cheese and rolled in the form of a spiral. However, I have also found vegan bureks in regular bakeries, filled with cooked broccoli and spinach.
- Buckwheat. BUCKWHEAT EVERYWHERE! They call it heljda and they like to make bread, pasta and pastry from it. I like to buy whole buckwheat pasta for less than 1 EUR per pack, or cook up porridge with whole buckwheat for less than 50 cents per 500g, or make banana bread with whole buckwheat flour priced at less than 2.50 EUR per kilogram.
- Tofu cheese. While tofu might not be a traditional Serbian food, it is quite common to eat it here and they have delicious tofu “cheese”, a product which I have never seen in any other European country before. I think they mainly use it as a vegan cheese-substitute for traditional foods such as burek
2. Let’s progress with the Serbian mentality. Although I am not an expert in the field of cultural diversity, I have an open eye for cultural differences and due to dealing with Serbians every single day I have collected some experience that I want to share with you:
- Punctuality. Even though this clearly depends on the individual, one characteristic that they have in common is that they don’t mind if you’re late (unlike Germans who will find it disrespectful, even if they say it’s okay). I love this! Mainly due to the fact that I personally struggle with punctuality.
- Chatting at work is okay. Coming from THE most efficient country in the world, I find this quite relaxing, even though it made me slightly nervous in the beginning.
- My stuff is your stuff. This rule is valid both ways. When you have sweets on your table, you brought it for everyone to share. If you spot tea, candy or fruit on someone’s table, it’s yours to take whenever you like. Coming from a very individualistic country, I am still struggling with this one. I prefer to ask for permission before I take something and I would like to do others to do the same. But they won’t. You’ll just have to finish up that drink before it’s all gone.
- They’ll always pay for you when you’re the guest. Handling money and bills is very uncomplicated here in Serbia. If you want to pay them back for something, you can do. But if you don’t wanna pay, it’s okay too. But please don’t take out your phone and start calculating something. Please. Don’t be that German. We are friends, not business partners. 😉
- Plans are not binding. If you talk about going to a bar, restaurant or simply meeting up for a picnic, talking about it does not mean that you will ever implement your plans.
- The well-being of everyone is the highest priority. People keep asking me if I’m feeling okay and offer me food, drinks etc. People care about everyone equally and don’t prioritize single beings so much.
3. The country
Serbia is still recovering from the last war, which ended only two decades ago. Therefore many people are suffering from financial poverty and poor health. People usually speak negatively about Serbia as a country, its politics and its economy. My personal impression of Serbia is that it is a beautiful country with lots of cute little villages where people have a lot of space with huge gardens. There is still a lot of nature that is more or less untouched and a large part of the agriculture is still (!) organic. The people don’t realize that they have a very valuable resource: fertile soil. And in addition to that, their regulations are not nearly as strict as in countries like Germany. Which means, they can grow their own crops and sell them without having to go through complex processes. I really wish Serbians could be more grateful for what they have because they are a great people.
This is just a collection of my experiences as an individual, not an official guide to Serbian culture, obviously. If you have made any experiences with Serbian or Yugoslavian people, feel free to share with me in the comments.
Hope you liked this blog entry. <3