Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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Monday, June 10, 2013

"A Bridge between East and West"

File under "dumb shit Serbians love repeating amongst themselves"

Some Serbs love thinking that they have a magic ace up their sleeves - Something that will erase all their poverty, their stagnation, their bad international reputation - and lift them to vaunted heights.

And that is..... that they are "a bridge between East and West"

They believe this literally as well as figuratively.

Now, it is true that Tito, in the time of Yugoslavia, played the USA and the Soviet Union against each other and got tons of forgivable loans.  These loans were used to subsidize a society that didn't produce much and provide a standard of living for the people that was higher than most communist countries.

In the literal sense, this belief is that Serbia is in a key geographical location and without Serbia, the world falls apart.  Serbia is on an important crossroads and nothing can get anywhere without the blessing of Serbia. The conveyance of perhaps all international trade happens through Serbia. This, of course, is absurd.  Rail infrastructure is abysmal.  Most trains go less than 30 miles per hour where the European standard is about 120.  The main highway from Hungary to the north and Croatia to the east is 2 lanes each way and acceptable until it changes to an unlit 2-way country road until you get to Macedonia.  Belgrade doesn't even have a ring-road so all through-traffic has to pass through the city!

More common is this belief manifesting in a more metaphorical sense.  They believe that since Serbia was under the Turks for 600 years and also since they were communist but not part of the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact, that they are somehow (still, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall) in this magical position between "The East" (I think they mostly mean Russia, 2000km and 3 countries away) and "The West".

Doesn't matter that they haven't done anything but wars and cry about how everyone hates them in the mean time, THE BRIDGE REMAINS!

What are these people unintentionally saying about Russia?  They they are incapable of diplomacy?  That they can't send their own diplomats somewhere but need Serbia's help, without which there will be no understanding in the world?  What about Germany?  Half of Germany was a semi Russian colony for 40 years.  They know nothing about Russia?  They are incapable of diplomacy with Russia without the intervention of Serbia?

file under "ridiculous"

A Taxonomy of Foreigners in Belgrade:

95% of long-term foreigners in Belgrade fall into two basic categories- Losers and Schmucks.
(embassy staff excluded)


Male schmucks are guys who have followed their typically-much-more-attractive-than-they-would-typically get girlfriends to Serbia.  Pretty much sums it up. Most of them do some sort of minor online thing - website freelancing or selling stuff on ebay.

Female schmucks (less common than the male variety), tend to be older who met and married outside of Serbia and followed their husbands to Serbia.  This move is usually explained as a function of cheaper childcare, but this explanation doesn't withstand scrutiny.  (why move somewhere to save $800/month and then earn $400/month instead of a normal salary abroad).  Current theory is these men they married are domineering momma's boys who let their parents guilt them into returning.


The Losers all have some sort of great calamity or catastrophe that they are running from back home.  Divorce, bankruptcy, death of a loved one, career failure, mid life crisis -  personal disaster of some kind.

I think many of them like to surround themselves with misery in order to make theirs seem less miserable.  Many of these people become hard-core Serbian nationalists that you wouldn't find in the most hard-core Serbian church basement or nationalist kafana.  I must admit to indulging in a little schadenfreude when reading about one of them (www.ambassador-serbia.com) getting bashed by Serbian thugs for rollerblading (ie, being a faggot).

Perhaps a kind of feedback-loop happens.  Perhaps The Losers are happy to tell the Serbs who expectantly ask them "how do you like Serbia" what they want to hear.  Then they get lots of friends.  Then they forget their problems.  I have noticed that The Losers tend to have more stidently nationalistic friends than average.

Dear other expats with terrible impressions of Serbia,

Some of you have posted in the comments enthusiastic agreement with my sentiments and promises to make your own blogs.

Seems like I'm not the only foreigner here who's extremely frustrated.

Please. Don't just promise to make your own blog. Post your bad experiences in lurid detail here!

Many thanks  :)