Life Lessons From Living in Serbia

As I prepare for my next big adventure to go teach English in Seoul, South Korea for a year, I can't help but reflect on the life le...

As I prepare for my next big adventure to go teach English in Seoul, South Korea for a year, I can't help but reflect on the life lessons that I have learned while living in Serbia over the past 6 months. Although my family is originally from former Yugoslavia, and although I have been raised in a similar culture while growing up in Canada for over 20 years, I still experienced a major culture shock while living here over the past 6 months. The lessons I have learned have taught me a lot about life and some other things I didn't know how to do before.

How to make Turkish Coffee

Drinking coffee is a favourite pastime for Serbians, and anyone really from former Yugoslavia. Even though people may complain that they are oh so busy, those words don't ring true when you see them taking frequent coffee breaks. I am not a coffee drinker but I have now mastered the skill of making Turkish Coffee. It is a must if you ever want to live and have friends in Serbia.

There is no place like home  

This is the longest I have spent living outside of Canada since moving there over twenty years ago. Not being home has opened up my eyes to many things, including how awesome life in Canada is, and that what you see on vacation is much different than what you see while spending a significant time interacting and living with the locals. There are many things I took for granted while living in Canada, and I am glad I spent some time away to be able to appreciate them when I come home. Canada, I miss you, and I can't wait to see you again!

Customer service is a luxury

Customer service pretty much doesn't exist in Serbia. I have gone into stores where one of the employees argued with me about what size I was, numerous cashiers that threw change at me, countless store clerks that greeted me with a frown, and it seemed that any question you asked was an inconvenience. This ranged from store clerks, to healthcare professionals, and even embassy administrators! It is sad to see especially in a country where the unemployment rate is so high. You would think people would be happy to have a job?!?

How to use a wood burning oven

Electricity is another luxury when it comes to heating. I was surprised  by how high our bills were because of electrical heating. That is why wood burning ovens are a cheaper alternative. An added bonus: they also make some delicious meals as everything is slowly cooked to perfection! 

The importance of getting your pets neutered or spayed

I always knew this, but it wasn't until living here and seeing the numerous cats and dogs, especially kittens and puppies, being abandoned by their owners by the side of a road, in the city center, basically anywhere that is not their home. As a huge animal lover this always breaks my heart to see. I hope one day that I will be able to rescue at least some of these animals and bring them home with me to Canada. If you are happy with the pet you have and don't want more, please consider neutering or spaying them, or at least keep them away from other animals when they are in heat. 

Dealing with the draft will kill you theory

People from former Yugoslavia are OBSESSED  with the draft. They are convinced that the draft is a cause of a majority of health problems. Just learn to smile and nod if you don't agree. The amount of time you waste arguing is not worth it. It's equivalent to arguing with someone that the sky is not blue.

Not to complain about Canadian healthcare

Our healthcare may be slow but at least it is adequate. Since arriving in November  it seems that I was sick each month and on one antibiotic or another. Visiting doctors was an experience. It was cheap to see a doctor (about $5 Canadian) but was often shooed away with antibiotics with little consultation. At the pharmacy, I was often given medications without being told when to use them and any other interactions the drugs could cause. 

I could never be a housewife 

Despite having my schoolwork to focus on, I spent a lot of time at home, which tended to drive me to boredom. I give credit to all the hard work that housewives do around the world. For me, I found no pleasure of being at home and was always itching to be on the move. 

Not to live with in-laws

Your in-laws are nice people. Mine are nice people and I love them, but in order to have a healthy relationship, my advice is, don't live them. You won't see eye to eye on everything, you won't have your own privacy, and more than likely, you will end up in more arguments with your significant other over silly differences than need be. Props to those who live with in-laws and who have found a happy medium. 

What I want out of a relationship

I saved the best life lesson for last. Being in a relationship with Radojko has opened up my eyes to what I want in a relationship. I always looked up to the relationship that my parents have (and some of my friends have commented that they want a relationship like my parents do as well), one where you work as a team, where problems are solved together, where you would do anything for the other person, and where communication is key. Living with Radojko and spending almost every waking minute with him has given me this sense of feeling. He is more supportive than I ever thought anyone could be (aside from my mom, dad and sister), and I am lucky to have chosen to spend the rest of my life with him. 

Now that my life is taking me to a different country, on a different continent that I have never visited before, I am sure that there will be many more life lessons while living abroad. Although it may seem that I experienced a lot of negative things while living in Serbia, there were many positives as well. I am glad that I spent the time I did living here as it has helped me grow as an individual and has taught me lessons I might have not had the chance to learn before. 

Thanks Serbia for your hospitality! 


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