30 signs that you’re a Serb, or becoming culturally Serbian

Clearly these are generalisations and in the spirit of good fun, but you know you are Serbian, or are becoming culturally Serbian, when…

  1. You keep saying “bre” after a sentence, for emphasis.   You know you come from Belgrade, or spent time there, when you opt to say “jebote” and “bre” at the end of the sentence for emphasis. Basically, it means “f**k you” bre!
  2. Swearing isn’t as big a deal as in the West, because it will always enhances the context of what you’re saying.
  3. It is unthinkable to have a wedding or any other big social event without sarmapečenje and rakija.
  4. You believe in, and fear, the promaja. It is responsible for all kinds of illnesses – even death – and is to be avoided at all costs, if you want to live a healthy life. This also means that as a woman or girl, you should not ever sit directly on a cold floor. Your eggs will freeze. Don’t think of going barefoot, even in summer. Going out with damp hair? You’ll get pneumonia, guaranteed.
  5. You immediately correct non-Serbian speakers if their pronunciation is incorrect. Hey, what other way is there to learn “the hardest language in the world”? But then you’ll make them feel better when you remind them that “even Serbs don’t know their own language, don’t worry!”
  6. You’ll complain about not having enough money but choose to spend it on clothes, nightlife, eating out and having a good time. Live for today, who knows if there will be a tomorrow! In fact, eating out can be cheaper than cooking at home!  You’ll still find a way to pay bills on time, with the little left over.   Serbs are resourceful, know how to spread their budget, and at the same time,  as live their social lives to the fullest.  None of this staying at home in pajamas after work on a regular basis – there is always some place or someone’s house to visit!
  7. Gifts are not given at Christmas but on New Year, ie 1 January. As a kid, you should be happy with getting one gift, which could be as practical as socks or pajamas, and not necessarily a toy.  (My kids complained this year but then they realised that it’s the giving that’s important, and not the actual gift itself, which is often the focus in Australia.)
  8. It isn’t a real Christmas unless it snows.  When there isn’t any snow, it’s a national news headline, it itself, not just a weather report. It’s even mentioned in the ticker at the bottom of the TV news screen, alongside other national and world headlines.  When it finally snows, it’s a national headline.
  9. You’ll celebrate Serbian New Year (14 January) with more excitement than 1 January.
  10. No matter where you live in the world, you will have a tumultuous relationship with Serbia, and Belgrade in particular. You will have moments when you’ll curse ever coming back after leaving, declaring “this is why I left” or “I won’t be back”, or “no wonder this country is where it is today”, but you’ll end up feeling very heavy hearted at the airport or after you’ve left and crave it.
  11. You drive like there are no road rules. Rules only get in the way of getting somewhere on time, which you most times are not.
  12. Time is a flexible concept. There is real time and there is Balkan time. Balkan time will always apply to administrative matters.
  13. In Belgrade at least, no matter what, you will always dress on trend and look well groomed when you leave the house.
  14. You have a supply of slippers at your house for when guests arrive, and need to take off their shoes. Go back to point 4 above for reason.
  15. It’s ok to have rakija with your morning coffee.   Rakija is an any time drink which cures all.
  16. Red Star or Partizan?   That is the question. Think carefully : friendships could depend on it come derby time! Also, it could affect where you choose to sit at the game.
  17. You always talk politics at any function or get together and it’s usually agreed that Serbia won’t progress anywhere with the government of the day.   You’ll also insist that 80% of Serbs are against joining the EU, yet someone must have forgotten to tell the PM about it, as he stands near the Serbian and EU flags and talks about Serbia joining the EU.
  18. You’’ll visit someone for “just coffee” and it always ends up that they’ve made a cake and/or meze, perhaps even a three course meal, just for guests to try! Hey, that’s Serbian hospitality! You won’t leave without eating, I can assure you so you’d better be prepared when your Serbian guests arrive next time.
  19. Autumn has arrived and you’re at the pijac buying all sorts of vegetables to pickle for winter, even though pickled foods are available in supermarkets all year round. Your mother in law’s will always be the best. In fact, everything your mother in law makes is the best. Period.
  20. You think it’s normal to apply cut onion to bruises or potato for headaches, and know well about the other natural remedies to cure every disease known to humans.
  21. You will understand the concept of extended family, including kumstvo (godparents) who become part of the family. You will be a grandparent to your third cousin, even if you are in your 20’s or 30’s! Come sit with your “baka” you’ll say, and your “grandchild” will laugh out loud because you have kids their age
  22. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, usually started with soup. “Eating with a spoon” is very important. Breakfast can also be a decent feast. Dinner is the smallest meal of the day.
  23. You tell, scream or threaten your kids to be quiet between 2-4pm, because people are resting after lunch.
  24. You unquestionably believe in luck and fate, such as when a bird poops on you or your car or when you drop money.
  25. You never ever put your handbag on the floor, ever. This will definitely mean that you will lose money.
  26. It is considered uncultured to eat whilst walking around. Don’t do it. Sit down and enjoy!
  27. You wear a brojanica (prayer bead bracelet) as a fashion accessory.
  28. You place crocheted doilies on any piece of furniture, some of which were given as gifts by your mother, grandmother and mother in law. You just do it.
  29. You know that tea is only drunk when you’re sick, and you have a herbal tea for every illness in your cupboard, with the three standards always in supply : mint, chamomile and rosehip.
  30. You have a barrel in your garage or basement with fermented cabbage (kiseli kupus) and when buying an apartment/home, you consider whether it has a basement for this purpose.  Seeing people walk into your building with cabbages under their arms is a normal sight in autumn.

There are so many more…please feel free to share them in the comments!

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