12 surprising culture shocks experienced after moving to Serbia

Culture shocks! We all have them after travelling into something new. Love them or hate them, sometimes you just got to get used to them in order to thrive.

After my first year of living and working in Serbia, I have seen and experienced all sorts. Culture shocks from all ends of the spectrum – interesting, weird, lovely and just random things.

Here, I’ve listed the most interesting and hopefully the most surprising ones I’ve experienced so far!

Keep reading if you want to find out what they are and do let me know if you find them as bizarre as I do or if you’ve had similar experiences!

1. Food is the holy grail

Food is everything over here! Hence, why a good proportion of this text is about food…

If you really want to dive into the Serbian culture, you need to understand that food is not just a proportion of calories, but rather it’s an expression of you as a person.

If you don’t appreciate good food, then what are you even doing in Serbia?!

2. Serbian women are more into fashion than most Europeans

I don’t think I’ve ever seen women more fashionable than here. In Scandinavia, we value comfort over style 100% so it is a change being in this environment.

It makes me want to dress up way more often!

3. Serbian words are pronounced as they are written

Despite the differences in the language between Serbian and Finnish, the words are (surprisingly enough) pronounced as they are written! BUT what I was shocked about, is that it is the same with the names of celebrities or the names of places.

  • New York = Njujork
  • Los Angeles = Los Anđeles
  • George Clooney = Džordž Kluni
  • Jennifer Lawrence = Dženifer Lorens

I’m not sure how it is in your language but in Finnish we would never change the English versions of these types of words into our language but as you can see, in Serbian this is not the case!

4. You can find fresh popcorn everywhere, even outside movie theatres!

I love this about Belgrade! There are popcorn stands around the city where you can get yourself a snack whenever you want to. I’m only used to ice cream stands or similar, but I never saw popcorn stands before.

My favourite one is called ‘the cave’ or ‘pecina’. They are by far the best! Also, they have the cutest branding, that I appreciate as a marketer.

5. Serbs don’t drink while they eat

I didn’t even know this was something that would catch my attention before I came here but it did!

I’m talking about the fact that it is not so common for Serbs to drink a beverage during a meal time. Okay, sometimes the occasional Rakija or odd glass of wine is welcomed but in general, it’s really not common to drink while eating.

This is bizarre to me as I was brought up to either drink milk, water or juice during a meal ever since I was a child, even at school. Thus, I’m really struggling to finish anything if I don’t have some liquid to wash it down. This is why I carry a water bottle wherever I go. This solves most of my problems, hehe.

6. Christmas lights are up for 6 months out of a year!

This is too much for me! Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I do not want to see Christmas lights up from the end of September until March! It is just wrong… Nothing more to add.

7. There is a drink made purely out of cabbage!

I consider myself a foodie and I can eat almost anything. The first out of the two times I wasn’t able to finish what was on my plate was when I ordered snails. Now, I know some people like them but they are just not my cup of tea.

The second time was when my good Serbian friend gave me cabbage juice to try. This is called rasol in Serbian. I just couldn’t drink it!

For those who are wondering, the juice consists of salted water and cabbage. This is full of vitamin C and extremely healthy (I really did give it a go), but the smell is so strong it fills up the room and thus, makes it really off-putting.

8. Dogs are rarely on a leash and they are so well behaved!

Okay, so this is the only place where I have seen so many dogs! I mean the number of dogs as pets but also street dogs. Both are super well behaved.

Surprisingly, the pet dogs are rarely taken out on a leash! They are following the owner almost religiously and listening carefully for any commands that the owner might give them. I’ve also seen them waiting for the owner outside the shops alone.

This has made me wonder about how it is possible exactly. I’m not sure if you’ve owned dogs but I grew up with a collie and now my parents have a bulldog and let me tell you, the training is hard! Or is it just us who don’t know what we are doing?

9. Sparkling water is more common than normal water

Everyone drinks sparkling water (kisele voda) over normal water. Even waiters can assume that you want sparkling water if you ask just for water.

I never used to drink it until recently. Now I’m addicted.

10. Not mine? Not my problem!

If you live in an apartment house it is more than common to see ‘incomplete houses’. I mean, housing that has more than one family living in rarely has the same appearance.

This is because there is no such thing as a house manager who would take care of the outerior of the building (outside walls, roof etc) or the common areas of the house. Everyone is on their own in that.

This means that if one family doesn’t want to participate in fixing the outerior, the house can look like in the picture.

This is something that bugs me a lot.

11. Meat-eaters haven!

This country is designed for meat-eaters.

Any type of meat is a common thing to have on the plate at home or to order from the menu at a restaurant.

After the first week, I spent here I had to turn to a vegetarian for a while coz I felt the effects of the amount of meat I was eating as my body wasn’t used to it quite so extensively.

Now after a year I’m pretty much used to it and I know a few vegetarians who are living here and they are doing fine so I guess it’s possible also!

12. The Serbian language has the most creative swear words

This is true, just ask any Serb!

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