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

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Serbian vs American Working Styles

Just saw this very funny blog post by Alexis Hughart (born in Novi Sad, lives in the US now) where she explains the differences between Serbian and American attitudes toward work. Two examples:

West: Time is money.
Serbia: I prefer to be rich in time.

West: Follow the rules.
Serbia: What rules?

Having in the past worked at a US company which had some Serbian contractors, I can tell you both sides - the Americans and the Serbs - bitched about each other. Both sides think the other's values are skewed; the others are a bit lazy; the others are far harder to communicate with than seems reasonable; the others are greedy for money; etc. I can also tell you both sides respect each other's intelligence and are excited by the idea of visiting each other's countries in person.

In short, it's far more stressful than I ever thought it would be to work with Serbians-in-Serbia in a US business context, even though the rewards on both sides are plentiful.

What about Serbs in America? In my experience Serb expats, just like every other group of expats I've worked with personally in the US (Latin Americans, Koreans, Pakistanis, Indians, South Africans, Phillipinos, etc), are often harder working than both "normal Americans" and "normal Serbians". It's due to what I call "Immigrant Syndrome". You left so much behind - family, friends, language, culture, etc., - to make a life in this new place and now by golly you are going to make it pay off! Starting, often from nothing, you learn to work extra-hard to make ends meet. Having acquired the habit of work, and perhaps gotten a taste of success and/or money that's better than the old country, you dig in and work harder.

"America's for making money", says my hardworking sister-in-law, a Serb in the US planning her retirement back home. "Belgrade is for living."

So, I guess you can see how the work-life cultures in both places take a sharp divide!


Anonymous said...

Totally understand what you mean re time....service here is so slow!!! Greetings from Nis.

gogili said...

I read your blog from May talking about experianced business people from the West needed in Serbia to work for the Western companies. Would you please expand your knowledge about how to get connected with the right people. I know (indluding myself) many Serbs living outside of Serbia (educated, and experianced), working for very large US coporations that would love to move back to Serbia to work as hard as in US. How can we realize our dreams? I've been on Linkedin for a while now. Please share more ideas! Many Thanks!