Balkan Men “All Manly” and “So Well Behaved”, Say Western European Expats (Story Series Concluded)

August 7, 2020 7:00 PM

 

From navigating a culture that preserves traditional gender roles, to being professionally and interpersonally hindered by language barriers, to facing overwhelming scrutiny for having an ‘exotic’ look, seven women originating from across the globe tell the Sarajevo Times what it’s really like being a female foreigner living in the Balkans.

 *All stories are unedited to maintain the interviewee’s authentic voice.

Jeanne, 34 year-old Stay-at-home Mum from France in Budva, Montenegro

 

‘As a female I enjoyed a lot that the men in Montenegro are so well behaved if I compare to French. No men would flirt with me ever and it was really nice.’

 

  1. What were the best aspects/most meaningful perks about living in Montenegro for you, particularly compared to your home country of France?

 

  1. Living by the sea, a life more polako than in Paris. Life in the Balkans is so quiet, so calm, it’s real happiness. I don’t enjoy city life anymore. And also Montenegro is a perfect place for families! I used to go to Montenegro for holidays, to meet a friend of mine living here. Fell in love with the country and few years after we decide with my husband to open a restaurant here. This place is not anymore in business by the way. We thought it will be easier to open something here because it’s way less expensive than France and also because we wanted an adventure. We came back to France just before the coronavirus lockdown.

 

  1. What did you find most challenging about living in Montenegro as a female foreigner and why?

 

  1. The language is really hard for a French, I learned it but still it was difficult. As a female I enjoyed a lot that the men in Montenegro are so well behaved if I compare to French. No men would flirt with me ever and it was really nice. But to build friendship with women is really really hard. I found women in Montenegro really cold and hard to reach and I am a really friendly and funny person. I never had such hard time to connect with people and I travelled a lot in my life.

 

  1. Q. Can you describe your average day in a sentence or two to provide a snapshot of what your everyday normal life was like?

 

  1. At first I had the restaurant to take care and then when it stop I was pregnant, I had my baby so I became (and enjoy) the life of a mom at home in Montenegro. Walking by the sea, taking care of my house, enjoying every place of the country, going for groceries, trying to make friends.

 

  1. Can you share a specific instance where you thought to yourself: ‘I am so happy I am living here’, or perhaps, a time where you thought: ‘I wish I wasn’t living here’?

 

  1. I was so happy to live here every time I came back from France. Small beautiful roads, not a lot of people, beautiful mountains and sea. Every sunset, every morning, I was amazed by this country. And sometimes I wish I wasn’t living here when the loneliness was too hard for me. But most of the time I was very happy.

 

Kathrin, 30 year-old Digital Nomad from Germany in Sarajevo, Bosnia

 

 

‘A lot of traditional gender roles here…Sometimes it happened to me that we would meet friends of my husband on the street and they would only address him and not even look at me.’

 

  1. What are the best aspects/most meaningful perks about living in Bosnia for you, particularly compared to your home country of Germany?

 

  1. I love how warm and friendly Bosnian people are. Coming from Munich, I also feel that Sarajevo is much livelier and offers more creativity (art galleries, boutique shops…) and places to go out. Also, the coffee in Sarajevo is exceptional. (My husband was born in Sarajevo and grew up here most of his life. Due to the pandemic our move to South Africa got postponed, so we decided to spend the summer in Sarajevo. For me, it’s such a great opportunity to get to know the city he grew up in as well as his friends and his family a lot better.)

 

  1. What do you find most challenging about living in Bosnia as a female foreigner and why?

 

  1. I sometimes have the impression that you still get a lot of traditional gender roles here, like men are all “manly” and a bit macho and women need to dress up and care about the household. Sometimes it happened to me that we would meet friends of my husband on the street and they would only address him and not even look at me – as a German, this felt quite rude to me.

 

  1. Can you describe your average day in a sentence or two to provide a snapshot of what your everyday normal life is like?

 

  1. I work from home, so I normally spend my mornings at the house, then go to some café in the afternoon and work from there. In the evenings we either take walks around the city to take some pictures and explore (I have a travel blog on the side which I run in addition to my day job) or we meet up with some of my husband’s friends. I love to explore the different restaurants in the city and think the food here is excellent.

 

  1. Can you share a specific instance where you thought to yourself: ‘I am so happy I am living here’, or perhaps, a time where you thought: ‘I wish I wasn’t living here’?

 

  1. I had this feeling quite a couple of times already. When I have my morning coffee on the balcony, watching Trebević mountain, when we drive out into nature for just a day and I am once again amazed how beautiful nature is here, or when we sit with a group of people and get to know each other better. There was this one specific evening where we were at Barhana with a couple of friends and found words that are similar in the Bosnian and German language. That night I was very grateful and happy how everybody accepted me and was happy to teach me more about Bosnian culture and language.

 

This concludes the three-part series on what it’s like for expat women living in the Balkans. Click on the links to read part oneand part twoof the story.

 

Interviews by Miya Yamanouchi for the Sarajevo Times

 

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