We live busy lives, always trying to compete with time, being blind for everything and everyone around us. Things are so bad lately that we don’t even know who our neighbors are anymore. We don’t know their names, we really know nothing about them, besides perhaps what they look like. The same applies to our neighbor countries. We know the names of the countries we are surrounded by, but we don’t really know anything about them apart from some historical facts and thousands of stereotypes.
That’s why when I recently got the chance to go and spend a month in Nis, Serbia, I was really excited and also a bit scared, as I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that:
- Serbians and Bulgarians don’t get along.
- Serbian people live worse lives, because Serbia is not in the European Union.
- Serbians are tall, tough people, which you wouldn’t like to mess with and upset.
- Serbian language is very, very similar to Bulgarian.
Everything I knew, apart from the language, was just stereotypes. Here is what I saw for this one month I spent with Serbian people.
1. Bulgarians and Serbians don’t get along
I don’t know who came up with this b*llshit, but saying this is similar to saying that two brothers cannot get along. We are the same people, the same culture, the same language (just different dialects really), we have the same beliefs and values, and if at any point we haven’t been best friends, this is only because of the bad “parenting style” of our politicians.
When I got there I was welcomed warmly. A local boy was assigned to me to be my personal tour guide and help me get everything I need. Later on my first day we went to the center of town so I can get a local SIM card. I was speaking to him only in English, as I was afraid he might not understand me if I spoke in Bulgarian. So we walked in one of the mobile operator’s shops and he came with me to the cashier desk to translate for me. Of course the lady at the desk was curios where I am from and asked him in Serbian (I was actually understanding about 80% of everything they were saying). His answer was the sweetest thing I have heard for a very long time: “Бугарка, наша”(Bulgarian, from ours). That very moment I felt at home.
2. Serbian people live worse lives because Serbia is not in the European Union
Yes they are not part of the European Union, that’s true. However their life is definitely not worse than ours because of that. As a matter of fact, even though there are many jobless people in Serbia I wouldn’t say their lifestyle is worse. To me it even seemed better. They still have factories, they still have production and moreover, they still grow their own food in the old traditional way which gives you vegetables, meat and milk products with real natural taste. Apparently, no regulation in the food growing industry means no chemicals and hormones in it. That makes me truly doubt the “good” intentions of all those rules of the EU.
3. Serbians are tall, tough people, that you wouldn’t like to mess with and upset
Yes the majority of them are perhaps a bit taller than the average European. Though – yes, they gotta be; the life they live it’s not easy. I believe all the people from the Balkans, apart from Greeks, will understand what I mean. We all know how we have to work for those 300 Euros salaries, and what exactly we have left once we pay our bills.
As for the last part of this stereotype – no, Serbians are not as scary as everyone thinks. They are just straight forward. You won’t see them being diplomatic asking you nicely to leave when you are standing in their way, but they definitely won’t beat the sh*t out of you unless you are the one to start the fight.
They are warm and nice people who know how to enjoy life. Around them you can have your own opinion, you can disagree with them, you can joke, and as long as you respect them as human beings, you will have no problem: they will treat you the same way and even better.
4. Serbian and Bulgarian languages are very, very similar
As I mentioned earlier, to me those two are just different dialects of the same language. The language spoken by the people in Rhodope Mountain is more foreign to us, modern Bulgarians, than Serbian is.
At first when my flat mates started speaking to me in Serbian, I felt a bit weird and it was hard to understand everything. In about couple of days I was able to get almost 100% of what they were saying.
Yes, of course I had trouble with some words, but I also had a lot of fun with others that we have in Bulgarian too, but with a completely different meaning. For example the word they use for theater – “pozorishte” means “disgrace” in Bulgarian. So seeing the huge sign „Национално Позориште“ (National Disgrace) made me laugh every time and I am still giggling now that I think about it.
In conclusion I can say that this month I spent there made me feel as if I have gotten to know a part of my family I haven’t met before. I was warmly welcomed not only in their country, but also into their hearts. The people I met there reminded me what it is like to develop a genuine, pure love for another human being and to be loved back as a person.
If you feel like visiting Serbia yourself and checking out the locals’ lives – there is no better way to see what are Serbian made of, but party with them. You can check out this article about the Nightlife in Belgrade that we found very informative.