Came back to Belgrade after all that jazz. Went on a communist themed walking tour the following day. Interesting random fact about Yugoslavia: in their version of socialism, Workers’ Self Management was legalized. In this model the workers own the business and are thus incentivized to make the company do well because it is in their own best interest. Very cool!
I went to a grocery store with Kristina and Jelena the other night, and as we were checking out the clerk told Kristina (in Serbian) that she needed to go weigh and price her fruits and vegetables. The girls walked off and while I was waiting the clerk asked me something in Serbian. I stumbled out: “Uhh…ne prechash?” based on knowing dali prechash angliski? means do you speak english? The girls came back and the woman was extremely rude to them as they were bagging the groceries. As they were complaining about how rude this clerk was on our walk back I mentioned the previous engagement that I had had with her. As it turned out, “ne prechash”, my attempt at “me no speaky your language” was actually more along the lines of “you don’t talk anymore” or “stop talking”. And here we were wondering why she was so rude?! Because I told her to shut up!!! Lesson of the day: be careful when making your own sentences in a language you barely speak.
I have to admit this is my first real experience in a developing part of the world so I’ve been thinking a lot about these differences from the developed world that I know so well. A sandwich is $2. Kristina just got a filling at the dentist the other day: $20. One thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes the quality really reflects the price. Yeah, you’re sandwich was only $2, but the quality of the meat inside makes you question if you wouldn’t rather it be $4 and then not have to concern with the meat being rotten. But what if the product is quality but the price is still low? Where are the costs being cut from? The other answer is that the employees here are underpaid. Working as a psychologist, something that puts you in upper-middle class in the USA, is instead a rough means of getting by in Serbia. It makes me feel that every time I walk in a store and say, “Look how cheap such-and-such is!!!” what I’m really saying is “Look how underpaid this employee is!!!”. I don’t think tipping is part of the etiquette here but I started doing it anyway.
We checked out the fortress in Belgrade. It’s an old Turkish fortress used to defend the city but now it just acts as a free park to explore. I was honestly impressed with how much freedom we had to explore yet how clean it was. I kept expecting homeless drug addicts to be hanging out around the next corner. Even in the states I would expect that but it was surprisingly safe and clean. Worth checking out!