Amanda, a 25-year-old American woman from East Hampton (New York) went to Serbia last year in March. She had a great time in Serbia and she posted yesterday to Youtube her “opinion of Serbia” explaining that Serbia is a great country, and that Serbs are not monsters:
Two Americans found Serbian people to be some of the most friendly people on this earth. After 15 weeks in Serbia, Lana and Chris McCoy, two American travelers living in Subotica (northern Serbia), wrote:
I mentioned to my parents that they really would love Serbia.
“You should really get over here and experience Serbia. It is great, and the people are some of the most friendly people on this earth. Plus your daughter and son-in-law live here; as if you need another reason?!”
There’s an absolutely fascinating post by Rodan examining whether or not the United States should intervene in Libya. Rodan went on to talk about Serbia:
These same fools continued to demonized the Serbs was able to convince enough Americans to go along with Clinton’s illegal bombing of Serbia. The result of this shameful act was the creation of an Islamic criminal state in Europe involved in drug trafficking, child sex slavery and organ harvesting.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Glenn Stevens, an American who grew up overseas, currently living in Doha, Qatar, likes traveling – been to 83 countries and he is trying to reach 100. He made an unplanned two-day stop in Serbia. His two-day detour to Belgrade turned out to be one of the highlights of his Eastern Europe trip. He visited Saint Sava‘s church, Nikola Tesla Museum, Kalemegdan, and enjoyed Belgrade’s nightlife. Here’s just two excerpts, though you should read Glenn’s blog post titled East Europe Tour 2010 – Part 2: Serbia in full:
I thoroughly enjoyed my deviation into the ex-Yugoslavian capital city and found myself leaving wanting more. I think a return trip to see the ‘greater-Serbia’ will definitely be in the cards in the near future.
Glenn Stevens also found Serbian people to be exceptionally open and friendly:
A third thing I really enjoyed about the city was my encounters with the locals. While Serbians may get a bad rap, I found those I talked to be very friendly and approachable… I also found that, despite the US-led NATO bombings on the city a good decade before, Serbians were equally as interested in me as I was in them – wondering what an American was doing in their city.
That’s what we’re saying (again and again and again and again). Even Americans are welcome in Serbia.
We’ve already seen a bunch of nearly identical articles, but it’s worth pointing out that there’s yet another article (written by Joshua Clark for Cheapflights.com) that says that Belgrade is beginning to appear on the American radar – and for good reason. Joshua Clark went on to say that Americans are quite welcome to Serbia. Of course he’s right on that point. Serbs are not the “brutish men” as portrayed in U.S. Media. Americans are also welcome to party in Serbia with U.S. flag. And yes, contrary to popular belief, Serbs don’t hate Americans, they only hate their policies.
It looks like moving to Belgrade, Serbia from the United States has been a very positive experience for Christina Spiwak (known as Kiki), a 25-year-old American girl from Tennessee, but originally born in North Carolina. Kiki recently moved to Belgrade, Serbia (February 2010), and put up an interesting blog post talking about her experiences of living in Serbia. The whole thing is a great read, but a few key snippets:
I remember telling people back in the States that I would be moving to Serbia and they would freak out. They would tell me I would be treated like shit, greeted with AK-47s, or even beaten up in the streets. That might happen if I was to stay drunk and loud, screaming in the streets that Serbia is the scum of the world. And I am not sure that would all those things would happen even if I was doing all that. I have met nothing but kindness, open-mindedness, and intrigue. Most people always ask me “Why would you want to move to Serbia!?” But I love answering this question.
Kiki then goes on to talk about why it’s not so bad Serbs are proud about who they are as a people. She also notes that many different peoples of different countries could take lessons from Serbs on manners and hospitality – especially the US. She also points out that being around Serbs has helped her realize that she doesn’t have to be perfect.
Serbia has been quite a healthy thing for me. I’ve found myself to be more confident and accepting of myself as a human because of being here in Serbia. Something I am not sure I would have ever grasped in the US. And yet if you read anything about Serbia from the US it usually degrades Serbs and Serbia for so many things that just aren’t true. Maybe one day I can find a way to educate the masses in the US that Serbia and many other Slavic nations are quite misunderstood and aren’t so monstrous as they are made out to be.
Again, don’t just read these snippet, read the whole thing. This is yet another example of why Americans need a better understanding of Serbia. Serbia is one of the most welcoming and safe places for American expatriates to live in. Unfortunately, that’s not the message we tend to get from the media, especially in US media.
Set up in the UK in 2008 by a group of close friends and serious party enthusiasts, Into Exit, strive to get more music into American’s people’s travels. They had various venues and parties around Novi Sad during EXIT Festival 2010, and DJs played tunes all day long on the popular hostel Milka roof terrace:
This year saw the Hotel Milka roof terrace smash it like it was meant to be. With a unbelievably large mix of lovely people, sunny skies, great tunes and delicious cocktails the vibe was what we’ve always dreamed it would be.
It’s repeated so often that it has almost become a cliché: Serbia is a dangerous place for Americans. We recently wrote about how Staci, an American woman, was planning to go to Serbia, the scariest places she can think of in the world. Hopefully, not all Americans think that Serbia is a dangerous place, and travel there or even move to Serbia permanently.
The latest example comes from Christina “Kiki” Spiwak, a 24-year-old girl from Tennessee. She has moved from the USA to Serbia. Kiki has been living in Serbia since February, and she put up a blog post talking about a couple of things she has come to realize already in her short time in Serbia. She points out that Serbia has some of the nicest people she has ever met, talks about Belgrade’s graffiti, and notes that she feels safe walking the dangerous streets of Belgrade:
“Lack of crime – I’m definitely not used to that! But it’s awesome. I feel safe here. Not just because of Nemanja, but because Beograd doesn’t have the same crime problems Memphis did. I don’t fear being mugged on the buses, harassed on the streets for being a foreigner, or anything in between or beyond! It’s amazing. And somewhat surprising to many since the opinion of most about Serbia is that it is a political wasteland with no morals and simply a breeding ground for immoral behavior and genocides. However, in the month I’ve been here.. I’ve definitely seen the exact opposite.”
The whole thing is yet another story showing that Serbia is one of the most welcoming places to expats. Unfortunately, that’s not the message we tend to get from the media. The Balkans have long had a reputation for being one of the world’s perennial trouble spots. But for expatriates, the Balkan country Serbia ranks as one of the most welcoming and safe places to live. Oh, one more thing, don’t bring your salt and pepper shakers with you if you plan to travel to Serbia. Serbia is so dangerous!!
Jayne Cravens writes: When I announced to a Girl Scout troop leader here in Canby, Oregon that I was going to Serbia, she said in a cautious manner, “Oh, really? They hate us there. It’s not very safe” I asked her if she meant because of the NATO bombings years ago, or because of the USA stand regarding Kosovo. She looked at me confused and said, “No. They just hate us over there.” I’ve since found out she is of a different political persuasion than myself, one that cultivates a lot of fear and mistrust among Americans regarding Europeans. Sigh. All that such people miss… so sad…
Pozdrav iz Srbije! My name is David Faber. I’m on a month-long trip to former Yugoslavia and Karl Haudbourg asked me to write something regarding safety in Serbia (I went ahead and expanded the subject to include the rest of former Yugoslavia). I’m honored to be able to offer my views on the subject.
Each of the three times that I’ve departed my home in Washington State for the constituent republics of the former Yugoslavia my friends and family are full of questions such as “isn’t it really dangerous there?!” or “don’t they all hate each other?!” or “aren’t Americans at risk for being killed in the Balkans?!?!?!” And chances are that if you’re considering a trip around the region you’re experiencing the same thing. Just treat it as an opportunity to educate and inform those who’ve heard only bad things about Serbia and the Balkans.
Let my start by saying: It is a common misconception that A.) Americans (and other foreigners) are in danger when traveling through former Yugoslavia (that’s: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Macedonia and, depending upon your opinion on the subject, Kosovo) and B.) that the average citizen of the former Yugoslav republics generally feel ill-will toward their ex-countrymen-and-women.
There are of course subjects that should be avoided until you get to know those around you – much like in the rest of the world. Such topics of conversation include issues of politics and religion. If you wouldn’t
randomly discuss a given issue with people in your home country you should probably avoid such topics while in, say, Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is also true that in the hinterland of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Croatia (though it may no longer be accurate in the latter) one might run across the odd landmine or two, but you’re unlikely to find yourself in those dangerous locations randomly. Lastly, there are nationalists in Serbia or Croatia who are full vitriol toward those ethnic groups around them – much like you can find racist nationalists throughout America or France or Russia. It would be disingenuous of me to continue with this post without mentioning those things.
To combat point A from above (that Americans and other foreigners are in danger while traveling through former Yu.) I only offer anecdotal evidence – I’ve never been harmed, mistreated, yelled at or even felt anything other than incredible levels of hospitality and warmth. In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that while in Serbia I’ve almost exclusively stayed with locals which has potentially (thought doubtful) insulated me from such unpleasantness. I’ve also rarely, if ever, heard reports from foreigners traveling there that indicated were treated poorly and the only foreign fatalities I’ve heard about were either military (in Kosovo or Bosnia during the 1990s) or due to accidents such as transportation accidents or drunken idiots at the EXIT festival in Novi Sad. HOWEVER, It is true that an American, or other foreign visitor, acting foolish or disrespectful can quickly earn the ire of the people around them in the Balkans – much like they can elsewhere in Europe and indeed the world.
I’ve spent more time than I care to remember busting the myth about “ancient ethnic hatred” in the Balkans. Too many people are guilty of making the claim that Serbs hate Croats, Bosniaks hate Serbs and Croats hate Montenegrins, etc…. I’ve even heard people in Croatia and Serbia repeat those rumors (though they’re quick to point out that they don’t feel that way, only that other ethnic groups do). Such erroneous assumptions don’t flush with the facts on the ground in the 1990s let alone any other decade.
Prior to the first World War most of the resistance movements started by Croats and Slovenes living under Austro-Hungarian rule and Serbs and Macedonians living under Ottoman rule were undertaken with the explicit goal of uniting the south Slavic people. Croats fought to be bound in a state with their eastern neighbors and visa-versa. The first Yugoslavia, established following World War 1, wasn’t universally welcomed by its inhabitants but there was significant support for a sovereign state of the South Slavs. Much, though not all, of the resistance to the new state took the form of dissatisfaction with the way government policies were implemented and rejection of the form of government (monarchy).
It was the communist and multi-ethnic Partisans, led by Josip Broz “Tito”, who beat back the Nazis, Croatian fascist Ustashe and Serbian pro-monarchist Chetniks, among other groups, in Yugoslavia during World War 2. The partisans attracted people of all Yugoslav nations in full knowledge that they were working to establish a new form of Yugoslavia. This despite the fact that the allies initially supported the Chetniks and the Nazis supported the Ustashe. Who, then, appears to have garnered the largest amount of public support during the war? Conventional wisdom points to the partisans.
Ante Markovic, a professed Yugoslav and pro-unionist, was the most popular politician in 1980s Yugoslavia. Milosevic used dirty tricks to destroy Markovic’s political life. Milosevic did not, in general, enjoy popular
support. This is highlighted by the fact that Serbia had an ~80% military desertion rate during the 1990′s (and in larger cities that rate was closer to 95%) which tends to suggest that there was not popular support for the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, nobody had the political capital to resist Milosevic in Serbia, Tudjman in Croatia or Izetbegovic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, among others. Yugoslavia became the victim of shock-capitalism and warfare. Serbia lost more than a decade of potential economic growth. Had Yugoslavia remained a unified state they would have walked straight into the European Union, been on the Euro by now and been one of the largest voting blocks in Europe. As it stands now they are a fractured group of small states with economies still trying to figure out how to catch up with much of the rest of Europe. It’s a very different story from the post-WW2 era Yugoslavia which experienced the fastest rate of industrialization and economic growth internationally at that point in time. It’s a very unfortunate story and one that – if each state gets its wish – will end with them all being reunited in a common state once again: the European Union.
So, despite what people may say – even some people of former Yugoslavia – the average person in Bosnia or Montenegro tends to have (both now and historically) no general feelings of hatred for any ethnic group. As long as Americans (and other travelers for that matter) behave in a reasonable manner they’re likely to find Serbia and the other former Yugoslav republics a bit safer than most of the rest of Europe. Street crime is virtually unheard of. For me it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience being in this part of the world. Unprecedented levels of hospitality abound, the food is fantastic, the scenery incredible and varied, the cultures are deep and intriguing and the history is fascinating and complicated. I make no promises regarding your safety here because I’d hate to be proven wrong but it’s highly likely that your travels in Serbia and the rest of the Balkans will be wonderfully unforgettable and amazing.