If not in the USA, then...: the pros and cons of living in the Balkans
The Balkan countries are deservedly considered a favorite holiday destination for residents of the post-Soviet space. However, recently, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia are increasingly becoming an attractive place for a full-time move not only for new refugees and relocants, but also for immigrants who have been living in the United States for a long time. Croatia, as a rule, is chosen by those who already have American citizenship, while Serbia and Montenegro provide good opportunities for legalization even with a Russian passport.
An excellent climate, relatively inexpensive living, the possibility of remote work, kind and sympathetic people, as well as the Slavic culture close to us - all this makes the Balkan countries incredibly attractive even for those who have managed to make a successful career overseas. However, life in these countries has its own characteristics, which may not appeal to everyone. However, the shortcomings of the Balkan countries are, first of all, a continuation of their advantages.
The magic word "polako"
I'm not entirely sure about Croatia, but in Serbia and Montenegro this word literally defines the lifestyle. It can be translated as “slowly, calmly, relaxed.” However, the atmosphere of relaxation, which is so captivating not only on the serene Montenegrin coast, but even in the bustling, capital Belgrade, has its own price. Trying to live a measured life and avoid stress, Serbs and Montenegrins are not too eager to keep their promises and are not punctual. Don’t be surprised if your Serbian or Montenegrin friend, having made an appointment, disappears safely and shows up only in the evening, saying that he has urgent matters, but he will definitely find time for you tomorrow. Just be prepared for the fact that the situation may repeat itself the next day.
What can cause particular irritation is that even banks and government agencies often operate in a similar mode. If they make an appointment for you on a specific day, don't be surprised if they ask you to come back at a different time. It seems that the inhabitants of the Balkan countries follow the motto: “There is no task that cannot be postponed until tomorrow.”
The relaxed lifestyle also affects the service. Those who lived in the United States before moving to the Balkans will have to forget the tenet that “the customer is always right.” The client in the Balkans is, of course, treated with respect, but this does not mean that the service staff will rush headlong to fulfill your every whim. A serene lifestyle and low stress level in society is only possible where the majority of the population can afford to relax. It must be remembered that service sector workers are people too, and they also prefer to live and work in calm conditions, without fear of being fired for the slightest offense.
As already mentioned, in the Balkan countries there is a very clear sense that service workers, bank employees and even government officials are also people with inherent weaknesses. However, the huge benefit of this “license of humanity” is that in the Balkans you can find real support from complete strangers, including those on duty.
It is generally believed that there are few things that can compare to the politeness of American staff, and this is true. However, there is a big difference between politeness, formal friendliness and real help. An American, and almost any Western European employee of either a state or a private organization will never dare to break corporate rules for your sake, not to mention the law.
Only in Serbia or Montenegro may a bank employee suggest that you need to make a fictitious registration with a private landlord, since registration documents issued by hotels are not suitable for opening an account. One day, the manager of a Belgrade restaurant forgot to warn customers that the credit card payment system was not working that day. As a result, he invited visitors to bring money the next day, without asking not only their phone number, but even their names.
When the clients, amazed by his generosity, brought money that same evening, another waiter, a colleague of the manager, having listened to their story, was not at all surprised that his boss allowed himself such a risk and let the clients go without payment and without the slightest safety net. If in America a generous manager would probably have been reported to management, then in Belgrade a fellow waiter was only surprised that the customers returned the money so quickly and did not wait for the next day.
Of course, in the United States there are also small towns where people have known each other for decades, and relationships are built solely on trust. However, it is quite difficult to imagine a similar atmosphere in an expensive restaurant in the city center, and even in relation to foreigners, somewhere other than the Balkan countries. A huge plus of Serbia and Montenegro is that there are practically no hopeless situations here if you are ready to negotiate and make compromises.
The opportunity to reach an agreement in any situation is very attractive for people from the post-Soviet space. However, it also has its downside – a high level of corruption. In small countries like Serbia and Montenegro, personal connections matter a lot. People who, for some reason, are not liked by influential officials can simply leave the country, and vice versa, for “their own” there are exceptions to any rule. To be fair, things like personal vendettas and corruption do exist in the United States. However, in Western countries, corrupt officials still have somewhat less opportunities to deal with those they dislike.
But in general, the Balkan countries are truly a comfortable place both for relaxation and for living. Most likely, you will be welcomed here very cordially, they will meet you halfway in your problems and help you in your difficulties. In this corner of the world, even strangers can help you like true friends. In general, in the Balkans it is quite easy to find friends in our “post-Soviet” sense, that is, people who will always come to your aid and will be truly happy to see you.
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