Business Owner from Britain reveals Advantages of living in Bosnia and Herzegovina

July 30, 2020 7:30 PM
Kathrin, one of the seven expat women interviewed in this story series, in Sarajevo. Photograph: @kathi.daniela/Instagram

Kathrin, one of the seven expat women interviewed in this story series, in Sarajevo. Photograph: @kathi.daniela/Instagram

 

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. Some women have been asked specifically about their experiences as a female foreigner of colour.

Juliet, 41 year-old Business Owner from Britain in Sarajevo, Bosnia

 

‘It’s not always an easy place to be, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else.’

 

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

 

  1. The most meaningful thing to me is the sense of community I experience here, not just with neighbours and friends, but with all the people I see every day while on my rounds. I decided I wanted to immigrate here because those small interactions are a big part of the way you feel in a place. When you move here as a Westerner people usually think you’re insane, but they don’t mind that you came. I’ve always felt welcome in Sarajevo.

 

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

 

  1. The gender roles are fairly rigid here, but I tend to ignore them. As a foreigner I think I have more freedom to do that than most local women, because I don’t have to adhere to the same social expectations.

 

  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 live in Vratnik [Sarajevo], and have a shop in the old town. I walk to and from work, and then I’m in the shop until the evening. Friends come and visit, and sometimes I visit other people. Everything has changed this year because of the pandemic —my main business is centred around tourism, so there’s a lot less work at the moment and a lot more time for coffee!

 

  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 think this every day. It’s not always an easy place to be, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else. Some of the friends I’ve made here are so close that it’s hard to imagine there was a time I didn’t know them. It hasn’t quite gotten to the point that I thought “I wish I didn’t live here”, but there are times when I’ve felt helpless, especially when dealing with bureaucratic processes or decisions.

 

Anonymous, Housewife from Brazil in Zagreb, Croatia

“It bothers me a lot that I am seen and observed like an animal. I am trying to give back the creepy stares so people know how uncomfortable that feels like.’

 

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

 

  1. Croatia is much safer when compared to Brasil. I decided to move here without quite knowing much about the country, but I like how safe it is. Life is simple here (in its vast majority). And safety, as a Brazilian, is really important to me. It gives your freedom back to you.

 

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

 

  1. My color and my features. I am a brown/black Brazilian with very curly hair and a curvy body. My own existence here defies local standards. I live far from the center, so there aren’t a lot of tourists here. I am seen and not in a good way. Not to make a racist correlation, but I often say I feel like a monkey in a zoo here. It bothers me a lot that I am seen and observed like an animal. I am trying to give back the creepy stares so people know how uncomfortable that feels like.

 

  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 don’t work because it’s very hard to find a job if you don’t know the language (working on that!). So I’m a housewife, which mostly leads my life to taking care of my house, going out to meet fellow Brazilian expats and of course, a lot of trips to the supermarket.

 

  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. Whenever I feel safe to go out by myself, especially at night, I tell myself how fortunate I am to live here. However, whenever someone looks at me differently or when I get very bad treatment for looking the way I do (like followed at stores – it has happened a LOT of times, even in empty stores) I just wish I could be back home in Brazil and be normal. Just be normal.

 

Interviews by Miya Yamanouchi for the Sarajevo Times

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