Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Serbians Are Unrelentingly Social

This place feels like living as a student on a small college campus in the States. Remember back when you lived in a college dorm room and your friends were constantly, casually dropping by your room? And if you weren't in your room, you were probably at the college coffee house or student lounge just hanging out and socializing a bit?

Welcome to Serbia. Here, friends come over to your house without warning and ring the bell and then you are supposed to drop whatever you are doing, be very happy that thank goodness it's Social Time, make coffee, and sit around for 30-45 minutes. Then they leave. Then, a few hours later someone else drops by.

If you are at home but do not want to answer the door (let's say you are having an intense discussion with your husband) that's OK. You do not have to answer the door because your neighbor, after a polite waiting period of 90 seconds, will open the door and see herself in.

To help you cope with that alone time between social visits, you'll get a half dozen phone calls from yet more friends and acquaintances. No reason, just how are you doing? What's up? If you don't answer the house phone, then they'll buzz the mobile.

If you have an aching void in your social heart that the visitors and calls don't quite fill, no problem. Just stroll outside.

Older women, you will be expected to talk with each other, for minutes or even hours while standing on the sidewalk. You can lean a bit on your bike a little, but no sitting! Younger women and men, you are obviously more feeble so you are supposed to sit down, again sometimes for hours, at a cafe. Most cafes do have inside rooms, but these are reserved for the depths of winter, perhaps an ice storm. Otherwise, regardless of bracing cool fall weather, you must sit OUTSIDE so as to be more social with passers by.

To the outside world, who mostly know next to nothing about Serbia, the one thing they do hear about: civil war, war crimes, and genocide. None of which paint a picture of the exceptionally social and warm hearted people. Complete dissonance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with this description. This was my experience in Serbia as well, and I felt like got very lonely when I returned to Canada, even though I had never been a very social person!