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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Astrology in the Workplace: How Serbs Hire the Right People

I find it really tough to hire the right people for my company in America. I've studied HR books, developed applicant quizzes and tests, honed my interview skills, contacted references, checked Facebook profiles, etc. And yet, usually about half the people I hired turned out to be the wrong match. For a small, entrepreneurial company that can be very painful.

My husband tries to be helpful and supportive as I agonize over a stack of applications. "Get their birthdays and I'll check their astrological charts for you," he says.

Huh? But when I had a few openings in Serbia in 2005, I noticed that every Serbian applicant featured their astrological sign at the very top of their CV or resume. "Here's my contact info, my sun sign and a list of my past employers...."

Huh again. Well, maybe it helps to pick the right people. The only problem, for a useful astrological chart you need birth year. And in the US, you can't ever ask what year a candidate was born in, or you lay yourself wide open to age discrimination lawsuits, a constant danger here. (In fact, some creeps apply for jobs just so they can try to sue when they don't get them.)

Which is too bad. I'd like to try this chart stuff.

P.S. If you are looking for a job in Serbia, please don't contact me. Here's my blog entry with everything I know about jobs in Serbia. I can't help you other than that.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Government-run Pensions: Perhaps the Only Political Promise Former Yugoslavs Believe In

Former Yugoslavs are famous for being cynical about almost anything to do with governments and politicians. Tell them you trust a promise made by the US, Serbian, or Croatian governments and they'll scoff loudly at your naivete.

Except for one thing.

Their credulous, child-like faith in government-run pensions.

I do not have any American-born friends who honestly, completely trust that Social Security will be there for them when they hit retirement age. Not 100% guaranteed. We love America, but we're not blind to her failings.

My husband just can't imagine this. Of course there will be Social Security!!!

I guess you base your beliefs on your experiences. In his experience, countries may fall apart, your neighborhood may be bombed, inflation may hit 10,000%, the economy be wrenched from socialism to capitalism, etc.; but, no matter what, old people will always get their government pensions. True, the payments may not be as high as originally promised, but you'll get something, and you'll get it every month too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Insuring Your US Car for Serbia & Croatia: Latest Info

After several years of research and fruitless attempts, we're at long last really, honestly shipping our car from the US to the Balkans. This time I'm using one of the best shippers,not the discount idiots. Luckily, shipping prices have come down since last time I checked. Now it's $1100 RORO (roll-on, roll-off) to Bremerhaven Germany or $3100 container (no RORO avail) to Rijeka Croatia.

We're leaving our car on US plates for now. (There's a bunch of legal research and strategizing around the whole which-country-to-register-your-car-in conundrum, which I'll write about someday when I fully understand it. Suffice to say, most people moving to the Balkans who have US, Canadian or EU plates seem to try to keep those plates as long as possible, for whatever reason.)

Today I researched the whole insurance situation and here's what I found out:

1) Marine Insurance:
This covers your car as it's being transported on the ship. It's not required, but as Isabella Snow explains you really should have it. DAS Global told me their cost would be $100 for every $5,000 of car-value I wanted covered. Geico Overseas quoted me about the same price, although they did fancier calculations to get there.

2) Employment Requirement:
According to both reps I spoke with, you must be employed to get international car insurance on your US car. So, you can't be (officially) retired. However, it seems like you can be a virtual or part-time employee, or even a missionary. I don't know how official that employment has to be - can you just say you work for a particular company, or will they check?

3) No More "Green Cards" for US cars:
If your car is registered in Europe or the UK, you can buy a "green card" from your local insurance agent that allows you to travel throughout the area, merrily crossing national borders without getting different insurance for each country. Until last year, cars with American plates could do the same. However, AIU, the only company that apparently sold green cards to Americans has now ceased doing so. According to the reps I spoke with, the cries of pain from US nationals living oversea are vociferous.

4) Country-by-Country 3rd party Liability Insurance:
Since you won't have a green card, you will be required to buy 3rd party liability insurance in each country you visit. It doesn't seem like you can buy this insurance from any international company... you can only buy it from a local in-country insurance agent. If you're shipping your car to Serbia, you'll have to buy this insurance at the dock where the ship deposits your car (for me, that would be Germany or Croatia), and then again in Serbia. If, like me, you have friends and relatives you plan to drive to see in several Balkan countries, you'll probably need separate insurance for each country. Blech!

This liability insurance only covers damages to the other guy if you are in an accident. Your car and your passengers are not covered.

4) Non-Required Physical Damage & Theft Insurance:
Not legally required but strongly recommended by everyone I know. Physical damage and theft insurance covers damage to your car in case of accidents, etc. Clements International quoted me a little under $2000 per year to get this insurance on my brand new SUV. You can get an instant online quote here.

That includes an add-on of 25% for "duty coverage" (you can get up to 100% duty coverage). If your car is stolen or totalled in a country outside your own, that country will charge you duty on it because it's not leaving. Officially it's staying and is suddenly considered an "import." In Egypt that duty can be 200% of the value of the car. I don't know what it is in the Balkans... yet.

The good news is, this insurance will cover my car in every country I take it to except for US, Canada and American Territories. I can drive to Belgrade, Zagreb or Timbuktu worry-free.

The bad news is, your car is only covered for its replacement value in the country "of its specs". A US car would have US specs. If your car is stolen or totalled in the Balkans, you'll only get the US bluebook replacement value for it. NOT the Balkan replacement value. The latter is often at least 50% higher than the US sticker price. Ouch.

5) Geico vs Clements:
I'm a happy US Geico customer so I called them first. It was very disappointing. Their International office is only open during continental European business hours - which means if you call after 11am US East Coast time, you missed them. The rep spoke fine English (he sounded like he was in India actually), but he was pretty clueless and easy to fluster with basic questions. He kept on insisting I would probably have to register my car in Croatia to drive it there, which is incorrect. He said Geico would only sell me "access liability" but couldn't explain what that was aside from reading out loud a snippet of gobbledygook from his manual.

Next I called Clements. They maintain US office hours as well as international office hours. Matt Willinger, the rep I spoke with, really bowled me over with his expertise and willingness to explain things in detail. Although Clements does not offer marine coverage (he said just to buy it from my shipper), their other coverage sounds great. So, I guess we'll be going with them for the Damage policy and supplementing with (required) local Balkan liability policies which we'll buy over there.

6) Your input??
If you've dealt with insuring a foreign-plated car in the Balkans, please post your comments below. Thanks very much.