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3 Things I Will Miss When We Return to America

by Laura on February 15th, 2013

1. I will miss … Un-P.C. Humor

I admit: I’ve gotten lazy in my political correctness, and in anticipation of returning to the United States, I’ve got to re-up my game.

Racist, homophobic, sexist, religious, and fat jokes are all par-for-the-course here. Is it because Serbia is so “ethnically clean”? As in, it’s un-diverse, and therefore few varied ethnicities, gays, feminists, Jews, Christians or even overweight people who might take offense? Perhaps. Or maybe, it’s just the straight-forward mentality mixed with the expectation that everyone is tough enough not to take offense …

One Serbian grandma did say (with a straight face), “There are no gays in Serbia.”

“No gays, really?”

“Homosexuality doesn’t exist here.”

Her daughter, a good friend, corrected her, saying, “No one says they’re gay. Homosexuals exist,” to which the grandma just shook her head and walked away.

At first I was a little taken back by the un-P.C.-ness of the Serbian mentality. Just tell-it-like-it-is, no hand-holding, or equivocating.

This temperament, for me, aligns with Serbian sense of humor, as exemplified most memorably in the Target T-Shirts worn by Belgradians during the 1999 bombing. It was: NATO, you’re sorry about collateral damage? It was accidental? Well here, let me help, we’ll wear targets on our t-shirts and stand on bridges in the middle of the night.

Hell we’ll even pin targets on our kids. (Not kidding.)

Which brings me to violence …

2. I will miss … My feeling of personal safety

Warning: an un-P.C. statement is coming up, please scroll down to #3 if you are easily offended …

The local elementary schools may be at times reminiscent of an urban jungle with Lord of the Flies undertones, but no one has guns. The mafia can afford guns; but they seem uninterested in wasting time, effort and bullets in the mass shooting of innocent people. Throwing salt over my shoulder.

There is no 2nd Amendment in Serbia; no guarantee to the right to bear arms. And you know what? I like having that right in the U.S. It’s just that, I feel safer here. I’m much less concerned about the safety of my kids walking around the neighborhood here, in a country without a 2nd Amendment. I admit it: I feel more free. I feel my kids have more freedom. Go figure.

This last one is rather benign …

3. I will missNot having to wait in line

When we first arrived in Serbia, my son was six months old and my daughter 2 1/2. With M in the stroller and D close by, we’d wait patiently in line, chit-chatting and munching on bread.

So I was taken aback each time a grandma would run up to me, saying something emphatically that I, of course, I didn’t understand. Then she would start yelling at the people waiting ahead of me in line. I still didn’t understand, but could see the shamed looks on their faces, and then in unison, they would step aside and physically usher me forward.

As I’ve learned more Serbian, I understand now that people absolutely do not expect children to wait in line. Those people in front of me actually did quietly ask me to move forward, but I had always declined, figuring I didn’t understand them, or I would be considered rude (how American of me!).

But, I guess I’m Balkanized … Take a wild guess as to who always comes with me to the busy bank with slow tellers, so I can jump to the front?


From → Expat Mommy

  1. Wow I couldn't imagine living in Serbia! I'm an Aussie expat in NYC and that was enough of a challenge. Whena re you due to come back to the U.S.?

    • Laura permalink

      I would never have guessed that I'd end up living in Southern Europe, but I did marry a Serb! … The current plan is to move back to the U.S. in late 2013. Thanks for visiting the blog, it's great to see you here!

  2. Good post, Laura. I find myself considering those things I will miss about living in America when we move back to Canada within the year. It's interesting how we adapt to our environments, isn't it?

    • Laura permalink

      You're totally right–we can adapt; although having healthy expectations can be key for a smooth transition. I realize now that I had unrealistic expectations when we first moved to Serbia, and I struggled as a result. When I take off my "American glasses," Serbia looks very different.
      I'm excited about your impending retirement–I know you'll have more time to enjoy your grandkids! Have you lived in Canada before?

  3. You're returning??? I bet there's a little part of you that's excited.

    But you made me laugh at how the Serbians tell it like it is…it's this way EXACTLY in Greece too!

    I have to remember, whenever I return to the UK for a holiday, to 'reign myself in' and not be so blunt. And the Greeks think I'm ever so polite!

    Good luck Laura – let us know how it goes for you and yr family.



    • Laura permalink

      Well, the plan was always to return, it was a temporary "expatriation," of one to two years. All told, we'll have stayed 3.5 years, and I think it's been worth it for my children, especially from the language standpoint.
      Yes! Well, especially in the UK, I could see how you might raise a few eyebrows. For me, Brits are more polite and reserved than Americans.

  4. Nice perk to having kids! I'd like to see you cut in line here out of habit ;-)

    • Laura permalink

      I know, right?! People would look at me like I have two heads! I have heard of Serbian grandmas trying to cut in line with their grandkids–while in the U.S. I don't think it went over well :)

  5. Great post, Laura! Interesting contrast in your words between our cultures. Something we should probably all tuck away for those days when certain things bug us. :)

    • Laura permalink

      Thanks! Yes each place has its positives and negatives, it's often a matter of being aware of the differences, so we can appreciate what we have or what we've gained.

  6. Laura, I can only tell you what happened to me. After 4 or 5 years in London, I realised that I had turned a corner and I was more British than French. It was little things, just like you: a certain sense of humour, British cakes…

    Be careful…if you stay too long, it will happen to you too.

    • Laura permalink

      I know, right? Well, we are planning on returning, but we do have a lot of Serbian friends in the U.S. I like the sense of humor, it sometimes feels more real. I know, I'm becomming more-and-more "adjusted." :)

  7. Sounds like Morocco. It's illegal to be gay, but the definition of gay is different. You can be the" taker", you just can't be the "receiver". But of course, at least half are "receivers"….

  8. The not waiting in line would be the one I would miss too. It feels like a huge chunk of my existence is spent idly waiting – although now with smart phones and e-readers that idle time at least is spent in idle "productively" :-)

    • Laura permalink

      Definitely! I always have my ereader (for when I'm alone, because my kids will ursurp it when they're around) … and not having to wait in line is such a luxury!

  9. Leah permalink

    Oh wow!!! I did not KNOW this. Oh it makes so much sense now. With each of my Serbian adoptions, I have brought my children into various shops (for the first time EVER in their entire lives!!!). Keep in mind, all of my adopted children have Down syndrome. I thought we were being ushered to the front to get the poor handicapped kid out of the store, NOT because they were a tiny child. (they were 10, 10 and 7 at the time of their adoptions, but each looked to be more like 3 due to severe neglect.) The next time I go to Serbia I will have all four of my kids with Down syndrome with me. ( gasp ) Let the line crashing ensue! But wait, my husband just reminded me that we stood in line for FOURTY FIVE MINUTES at the grocery store in the USCE mall with our newly adopted son who was freaked out by the fact he was in a public place WITH FOOD all around. It wasn't one of our better moments in Belgrade.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Yes you can TOTALLY cut in line. It's definitely "a thing." I'm sorry to hear about Usce … someone should have told you to cut in line. Next time just point to your kids (it's also good to have an attitude). Be kind of indignant, like "Why didn't you *offer* to let me cut in line?" People should apologize for not letting you cut. Kids come first!

  10. Mrs. Bo permalink

    I loved not waiting in line through my pregnancy as well! (The only time in my life I have ever wanted to stick out my stomach and have someone notice)

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