As time goes by living in Serbia, I’ve noticed a pattern of questions that I’m commonly asked when people find out that I’m from America. In a very minor way, it’s actually detoured me from socializing when I’m out in the city. I prefer to blend in and it’s impossible when people are asking you a million questions loudly and in English. However, it’s part of the territory when you choose to go on these adventures of living in different parts of the world. When I get home again I’m sure I’ll be asked the same questions about Serbia.
So…here are my observations for the top four questions.
1. Why (hint of disgust) would you move to Serbia?
This one is almost always asked in a negative manner. No one from here is really impressed with my decision to move my life here except those who know the whole story behind it. Usually, this is intended with the whole “you had it all in America and you chose to move here” kind of attitude, but the truth is, Serbia is wonderful. I enjoy living here and when I explain differences in lifestyle, pace, safety, etc, they get a better idea of why I’m happy here. It’s not a burden for me to move here instead of Nenad to America. In fact, it was a choice that I made with great happiness after weighing both the pros and cons.
This country isn’t perfect but neither is America and I think it’s important to always be happy where you are. My dad always quoted this to me growing up and here I am now quoting it to you, “The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time,” – James Taylor. I’m enjoying every moment that passes here and I hope I’ll have this attitude with wherever I’ll end up next.
2. Are you learning any Serbian?
This one kind of annoys me although I don’t necessarily have the right to be annoyed. Yes, I’m learning Serbian now that I live in Serbia… It seems silly but I guess the matter of fact is that plenty of people move to a country and don’t care to expand their knowledge in language and culture. Well, I sure do and I am indeed learning tons of Serbia. I’m not learning as fast as I did in Spain but that’s not disheartening when I realize that it’s a language far more complex and has nothing in common with English – from words to grammar. I’m past the basic level and finally into an intermediate stage which is SO EXCITING. I don’t want to move away from Serbia until I feel like I’m at a level of advanced fluency because the truth is, I probably won’t have as good of a chance to learn it at any point in my life as I have now.
My boyfriend’s parents don’t speak much English, although now they’re trying to learn, so the importance of learning their language is far more to me than just because it’s Nenad’s native tongue. Family has and will always be so crucial to me and I want to have the best relationship with them as possible, meaning I was willing to move across the world to make that happen. I used to feel confident that I would only need a year but now I think more realistically I’d need a year and a half – maybe two. If I was genuinely learning every day then I think my goals would be feasible, but I have a job, puppy, friends, apartment to take care of, etc and I really don’t spend as much time learning as I wish I did. It’s a balancing game that I often feel like I’m losing.
3. What’s the best/worst thing about living here (in Serbia)?
This one kind of depends on the week, to be honest. But in general, my answer remains along the lines of, “the best thing is being able to learn a new language and also spending so much time with Nenad’s family… and the worst thing is simply being away from those who keep my heart full.” Nenad does what he can and of course, he takes up 90% of my heart – but those missing 10% really do sting. My parents, siblings, and two best friends at home just make my life feel more full. Traveling is amazing and I’m grateful, but honestly, sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong.
I think about the time I’m missing out on with those back in America and it sends me into this panic mode where I’m full of self-doubt, wondering if I’ll regret this time away from home if, God forbid, something was to happen to those that I love. But then I think about how I would want my siblings or parents to think being away from me. I wouldn’t want them to sit around and make themselves worried to tears imagining all of the worst scenarios. I would want them to know that I love them wherever they are in the world and that I’ll always be waiting for them to come home. I know they’d want the same for me and that eases my mind tremendously.
I also have to focus on the positives of being here, because I know that I won’t be living here forever and if I spend all my time wondering if I should have stayed home, I’ll miss out on the time and opportunities that are surrounding me. How lucky I feel when I get the chance to reflect on my circumstances. I was able to study abroad, meet the love of my life, stand a long-distance relationship, have him visit America his first time, fly myself out to Serbia, come home and graduate college, and then be able to move to Serbia to start my life with him. WOW. THAT IS SO COOL. So I should really just wipe any tears and be grateful.
4. What thing is the most different for you?
Not understanding your surroundings is definitely my answer to this one. I feel like this is one of those things that people either like or hate. I can probably be a control freak but I don’t go so far as trying to control things out of my reach. My environment around me is far out of my reach… pretty safe to assume that. I’ve actually learned to enjoy the peace and quiet I get to have inside of my own head. When I’m out now I can understand when I listen with intention, but most the time I don’t because I just don’t care. I’m able to be at work and mind my own business, be at coffee and mind my own business, listen to people argue and mind my own business… I mean I really just do my own thing! Sometimes Nenad will go to translate and I’m like, “Nope! I’m good! Don’t want to know!”
I think humans are nosy by nature but I enjoy the peace of mind I can find when I’m surrounded by chaos. I had this same thing in Spain before I learned Spanish, and I remember going to Barcelona with a friend for the weekend and being SO overwhelmed by all of the people around me. It’s a tourist destination and a lot of that population was speaking English, so after 6 months of being in my own head, I was suddenly hearing the thoughts of everyone else as well as my own. It was sort of an out-of-body experience and something I never previously thought about! It gave me a very high level of stress and anxiousness and I’m not looking forward to that part of going home. I’m sure it sounds crazy and I’m probably not doing a very good job of explaining it, but bottom line, it’s extremely overwhelming.
There ya have it, folks! These are some of the most common questions I’m asked as a foreigner living in Serbia!