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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yugoslavs Use Landmarks, Not Street Signs, to Find Their Way

My husband calls me as his train pulls into Manhattan's Penn Station. He is slightly panicked. "This is not Grand Central Station!" I say it's OK. Penn is the main New York station for North-South trains and he should get off the train immediately because he's in the right place. Now, all he has to do is walk 30 minutes to the Croatian Consulate where he has an appointment.

"But I only know the way to get there from Grand Central! How can I find the Consulate if I am walking from a different place?!"

I suggest he get directions from someone or take a cab maybe. "Don't be stupid. Most New Yorkers do not know where the Croatian consulate is," he replies crushingly.

As it turns out, he himself has no idea of the actual address of the place. It's never even occurred to him to research it or to carry it with him on a slip of paper for easy referral. After all, he already "knows" how to get there. By landmark. Isn't that how everyone knows how to get places?

Suddenly I remembered a remark his sister had made a few years ago, which I hadn't really understood at the time. She said, "It used to be impossible for me to find my way on the highways in America. Every exit looks so much the same! I could never recognize where to turn." At long last it had occurred to her to read the signs.

I never realized that relying on road signs, addresses, or even maps could be such an alien concept to some people. People who are from a smaller country, a place that's rife with landmarks, where everyone knows where to go because they've been going there all their lives.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Belgrade Serbia named #1 "Ultimate Party City" on the Globe by Lonely Planet

And well deserved too.

Personally, I've always described Belgrade to people as "the New Orleans of Europe." A little corrupt, a little scruffy, a little impoverished, but my god the spirit and fun of the place.

Note: As a businessperson, my next thought is how to monetize this burgeoning party reputation. If only the Belgrade tourism board could get their act together and copy New Orlean's incredibly organized convention services bureau. Putting on a conference in New Orleans is a pleasure because they make the organizer's job easy every step of the way. The hotels, the taxis, the entertainment, food, and even the drinks in the airport are all set up for a smoothly functioning and pleasurable event. With a few fact-finding missions and serious government support, Belgrade could become the coolest new meetings and conference center in Europe, especially now that we're all bored of Barcelona which practically became the Orlando of the European event industry in the past decade.

Just an idea....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

At Long Last! Our Car is Floating Across the Atlantic to Rijeka Croatia

Dropped off our car at DAS Global Services's New Jersey location about 10 days ago, and now she's all packed up in a shipping container in the bowels of a giant ocean-going vessel. Next stop Rijeka!

After my past experiences trying to ship a car to the Balkans using an el cheapo shipper, I was relieved to see DAS's warehouse is in a well-lit, high-security, nicer area of the port district. In fact it's just behind a giant Wal-Mart. Our customer rep Sergei came running downstairs to meet us and help with final paperwork when we arrived. Then another staffer came out to personally inspect the car with us, carefully noting any and all dings on a form we co-signed so we won't blame them for pre-existing problems when the car gets to the other side of the ocean. Two days after we got home, a third customer service rep contacted us via email to let us know about final shipping dates and tracking contacts.

So, far the experience has been throughly friendly and professional. My favorite part -- the big sign in DAS's lobby covered with 23 different countries' flags and the headline "Those who work here are all Americans. This is where we came from!"

It was one of those moments when you're proud to be an American, looking at the original home country flags of your fellow-citizens. From Russia to Peru and so many places in between.