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

Monday, February 18, 2008

Valentines Day in Serbia: Commercial Propoganda or a Darn Good Time?

It's cold, it's grey, coal smoke hangs heavy in the damp air, it's Lent, and anyway everyone is broke after nearly a month and a half of Holiday celebrations (first Western ones, then Orthodox)... which is why cafe and restaurant owners in Sombor Serbia are wondering if they should even bother to pay to keep the lights on this month. Filled with my Amerikanka pep, I suggested to two of them, "Why not promote a Valentine's Day celebration to get people out of their homes and into the cafe?"

No, no, no, no. Or rather: Ne, ne, ne, ne.

Apparently Valentine's Day is a crassly capitalist idea that no Serb would be foolish enough to fall for. Customers see right through commercial propoganda of that nature.

Well, maybe they do in Sombor, but in Belgrade Valentine's Day was a nice business lift for cafes this year. I was a bit disappointed to see no romantic couples in the fancy restaurant in Belgrade's new mall Delta City. But then we went up to the foodcourt on the next floor and there they all were... clustered around McDonalds. Ah yes, McDonalds was the most romantic place to be in Belgrade this Valentine's Day. It's cheaper than a fancy place, plus they gave out free romantic balloons on a stick to all appropriate couples. (My 40-something husband and I, still wearing hiking togs left over from our Nepal trek, were not given balloons; everyone in their 20s who were dressed up in Date Night Clothing flaunted theirs as they cooed.)

According to our buoyantly cheerful waiter Bojan Laluderovic at the (very fancy) Restoran Nacionale in Cetinje Montenegro the next night, Valentine's Day had been a surprise success there as well. The owner, not expecting any business on a weeknight, had scheduled just a single chef and one waiter to handle the whole place which seats about 50. By 7pm Feb 14th, it was completely packed, absolutely heaving with romantic couples. Such is Bojan's nature that he delighted in the crisis, zipping from table to table, cracking jokes, helping out in the kitchen in a pinch, and cleaning up on the tip-front. His own girlfriend had to wait until the next night for their Valentine's date. And then, we Americans showed up ordering a four course meal just before closing on Feb 15th... he kept her updated via mobile phone as we ate and we popped him a massive tip to make up for the trouble.

I absolutely believe Serbs and Montenegrins see right through the crass commercialism of holidays such as Valentine's Day - far better, in fact, than Americans do. Why then are they falling into the "trap" of celebrating them anyway? It's human nature. Any excuse to get dressed up, to flirt and snuggle with your beloved, and pretend like this horrible cold blah February is a place of cinematic dreams... why not? Life is too short to be politically correct all the time.


Bojan said...

that's me ihihihihih Bojan

Anonymous said...

go a head NACIONALE...thay have support from us -USA-:)))
bojane next time leave your phone on the side..u ll have time to text your girl after u give a good service to coustamers...thats why you ve been paid right?:)

Bojan said...

ahahahah..i like you,because u r a fany lady ahhahaha kiss from >Montenegro..and i hope to see u but i work now in Hotel Sport in Cetinje and we have motel whith rooms:))..see u son i hope:)