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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Belgrade You Don't Have to Throw a Party to Have a Party

My husband calls me from the bathroom of his sister's stan in Belgrade on the evening of her birthday. He's in there because it's the only place to have a quick, private conversation out of the noise.

The noise from the non-party. She had decided not to throw any sort of party because this birthday isn't a special one (with an "0" or "5" at the end.) So a quiet evening at home with her brother was in order.

People just started showing up anyway... one bearing a gargantuan torte he'd spent hours creating. When my husband last counted, the total was up to 26 unexpected guests. In a 450 square foot stan. No problem!

Then the expats started calling in via Skype because they didn't want to miss anything.

Sure I'm a little jealous, and not just of the torte either. I've had plenty of friends in my day, and often thrown parties for 50 or more. But over time it's become tougher and tougher. In America, as you age your friends winnow down, mainly because people move frequently (on average every 7 years.) With more than 100 cities to chose from, they go on to new horizons. Maybe it will be different for the social networking generation, but for people in my age group, you're likely to have lost close ties to many of your old friends over the years. Everyone from high school, college, first jobs, your 30's... they're all scattered across 3,000 miles, with new lives and new friends.

Not to mention how busy everyone always seems to be. It can easily take up to a month to arrange a dinner date with my best local girlfriend as we juggle our schedules and obligations.

But, as my step-daughter says, "Everybody's always got time to be social in Belgrade."

And there's just a huge advantage to living in a capital city in a country with very few other cities. People come and they stay.. for life. You make a friend and they are always there. Or, they are working overseas while saving up and plotting their way to getting back to staying there for life.

To me, a single central city seems like an incredible luxury. I lay back in bed and imagined what it would be like if all my old friends from all those passages in my life were living in the same place. Gorgeous fantasy. Or, I guess you could say 26 people showing up for your birthday when you're NOT throwing a party.


Lisa Petrarca said...

I love this post! So cool to see how life in my Grandparents home country is like.

It's so true what you said about America. Thanks for sharing & Happy Birthday to your hubby! Sounds like it ended up very special.


Zvonko said...

Another great insight, Rosemary.

I was glued to your stan-hunting saga over the past weeks. Each post was even more exciting than the one before. Sorry you got disappointed after you came so close to getting an apartment you liked.

Do you read Belgrade FVC? You might want to talk to Jonathan and his wife and compare notes: http://www.belgradefvc.com/balkan-interiors

Anonymous said...

I love this post, it is so true! In Belgrade, socialization was a way of life. Here in the states, its really a chore. Endless emails and calls and reservations and internet research on Yelp or Urbanspoon.com, and end the end, half the people don't show, cancel, or can't make it because of work or other obligations. It leads to a much more isloated lifestlye. And yes, every one of my family members lives over 1000 miles apart. Its the American way, boo!