From USA to Serbia - Interviewing Expat Tina

Published: 9 Feb at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Serbia
Tina always planned to be an expat, but in Asia. Now living in eastern Europe with her Serbian husband and baby, she makes her way through cultural differences and language issues. Albeit, not always as smoothly as she would like. Diplomacy is a challenge to say the least, but my goal is to befriend everyone I can. Friendship is the key to survival here. Fortunately, we have a wonderful family as well as a close knit group of friends that support us and make me feel at home. When I have questions about the customs or what is normal, they are always willing to help. Tina's expat blog is called Chronicles of Serbia (see listing here)

Meet Tina - US expat in Serbia
Meet Tina - US expat in Serbia

Here's the interview with Tina...

Where are you originally from?
I am from the United States, most recently Ocean City, Maryland. I was born in Pennsylvania. I have lived all over the U.S. literally.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am living in Serbia with my husband and daughter. The closest city is Nis. Our town is called Knjazevac.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We moved here 2 months ago for a long term stay, we aren't sure how long we will be here. Maybe permanently. We were here two other times for five months each time.

Why did you move and what do you do?
We moved to Serbia because it is my husband's home country. His family has sour cherry orchards and we are planning to make a go of producing cherries for a living.

Milan and I on our first road trip to Annapolis, MD
Milan and I on our first road trip to Annapolis, MD
Did you bring family with you?
yes. well the three of us.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?

It was very difficult the first time coming. The language and the culture were very difficult. Even now, I find it very trying at times. Having a baby makes it even more of a challenge. Having family and friends here already makes things easier though.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialize with other expats?
We live in a very small town, only one other expat. My friends are wives of my husband's friends. It was easy to make friends with them, but Culture shock really paralyzed me the first time I was here. Getting out of the house took real effort. This time it is the same for different reasons. It is winter time. Too cold to take the baby out for long walks. That is making this time almost as difficult as the first time.

A picture of myself in Chinatown, my favorite part of any city!
A picture of myself in Chinatown, my favorite part of any city!
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
In the winter there isn't much to do. Skiing at Babin Zub is kind of close by. There is a hot spring at the edge of town, some people swim there in the winter! But drinking coffee at a cafe or going out to dinner is all I really have to offer for this time of year. Cities have much more than our little town. Summertime is the best here, there are many more activities and the country is so much more attractive when the trees are green and flowers are blooming. Summer time brings much more to this area. Felix Romuliana, the ruins of a roman settlement where Constantine was from is only 30 minutes away. Ancient churches can be found close by as well. Ah, I can't wait for summer!

What do you enjoy most about living here?
It is a less harried way of life. There is always time for friends. Time is more fluid and no one will hold you to the clock if you are not working for a dinar. Even then... things are a bit more laid back. I don't have to work here accept in the orchards. I think that is a plus and a minus. I miss working a bit. For a little change, I am helping with a break dancing group a few nights a week. I love that! Mostly I help the younger kids, I have a history of gymnastics and dance. I love that I can do something with local kids.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
It is much less expensive, but the wages here are so much lower. If we were depending on work here to get by we would go back to the U.S.

Milan and I in Love Park. Philadelphia, PA
Milan and I in Love Park. Philadelphia, PA
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
This country is wonderful. I love my second home, but the cultural differences are vast.The way people think here is similar to the way my great grandparents used to think on many levels. At times to the point of humor. That is probably the hardest part.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Think twice about it, it is not as easy as you may imagine. Visit for a few months if possible to see what it is like. If you do move here, make sure you have a backup plan. Remember the grass is always greener. That goes for Serbians to who want to live in the U.S. too.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The first trip it was the differences and language I had to overcome. This time it is the differences I have with family. I have the most wonderful in-laws. They love me and take wonderful care of me and my husband. But this trip with the baby has changed the dynamics. Now my mother-in-law wants to stay with us all the time. I feel a bit smothered, overwhelmed by the constant presence. Having to speak in Serbian with her at all hours and cope with a different cultures way of caring for my child is tiresome, even frustrating. Trying to assert myself without offending is next to impossible. My diplomatic skills are stretched most of the time beyond my level of competence.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I am sure we will return, I am not sure if it will be long term or not. No doubt it will be a challenge. Once your mind becomes accustomed to one way of doing things there is always a period of readjustment. With expats there is always something you miss from one culture or the other. Day by day is the best answer.

Enjoying the view in Greece, at a Serbian monastery.
Enjoying the view in Greece, at a Serbian monastery.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be patient with yourself and your new home. Time is needed for adjusting, making friends and learning the language/culture.
  2. Learn about culture shock before you move. The symptoms are real and can be overwhelming. Knowlege is power.
  3. Have realistic goals for your life, be flexible enough to change when needed. having a backup plan to fall back on is also a good idea. You never know what may happen. And sometimes when things are tough as you are plowing forward, it is nice to know there is something else you could do even if you don't fall back on it.
  4. Try everything, you never know what you will like. life is an adventure to be had. Enjoy the experience.
  5. Write about your adventures and everyday life. Whether you blog or just write letters home, it will help you sort things out. Your family will see what you are going through, and you will have a nice record of the crazy experiences and feelings you had.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My primary blog is Chronicles of Serbia which has moved to WordPress. It is where I write about life here in Serbia. I share pics of the family, cultural goodies, and vent about whatever. It's like an international travel diary. I'm doing the 365 thing... so it's daily this year! I have just begun a new blog called Culture Shock is like PMS CS and PMS share many of the same symptoms. The second blog is for stories about how culture shock affects expats. I list things that have helped relieve CS, such as writing, getting out of the house, and talking with other expats. I welcome others to write and send me stories they have about their CS experiences and remedies. I give full credit for all the stories, remedies, and will advertise other expats blogs as well.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Please feel free to contact me via either of my blogs. I would love to make your acquaintance!

Tina blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Chronicles of Serbia has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Tina, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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Comments » There is 1 comment

Dejan Petrovic wrote 9 years ago:

Mother-in-laws can be very painfull. My wife has the same issue, although she is serbian. It is very nice you like this God-forgotten country.

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