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Learning the Social Customs of Serbia

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Serbia is known to be very hospitable, especially in rural areas. If you are in someone’s home, you will be offered tons of food and drinks. It can seem a bit overwhelming.

In terms of greeting, handshakes are common in Serbia. If you are seated, it is polite to rise when you meet other people, particularly women and elderly men. Women who know each other better usually kiss each other on the cheeks. Maintain eye contact when greeting a Serbian person. They may ask questions that you are usually unaccustomed to answering, like about your personal life or likes and dislikes, but this is just to get to know you better.

If you go to a Serbian home, you will likely be offered black coffee and juice and Rakia. Rakia is a very strong liquor, so be careful with it, especially if it’s home made! They may also offer you sweet preserves, or “slatko,” to eat with a spoon. It is customary to bring a gift, such as a bottle of alcohol, chocolates or flowers.  When Serbians toast, they say, “Živeli,” and touch glasses. When you are toasting, make eye contact with everyone at the table. When you finish your drink, it will be refilled by someone else, so if you don’t want more to drink, just leave some liquid at the bottom of your glass. Dining is not extremely formal in Serbia, and there are no strict eating rules. Dinners often have several courses, including starters, soup, a main dish and then dessert.

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If you are out at a restaurant, it is customary for everything to be paid for by the host. Do not offer to pay, as this can be considered rude, but you can offer to buy another round instead.

Smoking is very common in Serbia. There are hardly any no-smoking places. It is customary to ask for cigarettes from strangers.

If you are visiting a church or a monastary in Serbia, do not laugh or speak loudly while inside. If it is warm out, refrain from wearing shorts or mini skirts into a religious house. If you are wearing a hat upon entry, be sure to remove it. If you wish to take pictures, ask for permission. Some churches do not permit women in the altar space.

Comments

4 thoughts on “Learning the Social Customs of Serbia

  1. I just wanted to add that now there are a lot of non-smoking public areas as smoking is prohibited in those areas. Also,nobody will get offended if you offer to pay for your or the drinks of others but one might start arguing that you don`t have to pay for she/he will.
    And,yes.Serbians are very hospitable and love to joke : )

  2. In the case that you propose a dinner in a restaurant, according to custom, you pay the entire bill. Similar as hosting friends in your house. If you pay the bill just for yourself, you might be alum.

    When you are a guest in someone’s house, do not refuse to taste what ever your host offers. Can be offensive. Commend a dinner, laud a music, say thanks for their hospitality when you leave.

    But that is traditional way. Most things has changed in past years. Now, Serbs will not get you wrong, if you failed 😉

  3. I just wanted to ask a question or two or to have something clarified.

    So, the HOST usually pays if he or she is the one that asks a person out to a restaurant in Serbia.

    1) If a Serbian man is dating a woman…who usuually pays…regardless of who asks who out to a restaurant?

    2) If it is in a different country….and a married Serbian man has lunch or dinner with a foreign female friend…should it be both that pay or quite normal for him to pay still?

    3) Is there a difference how Serbian men treat men compared to women when eating out…when it comes to paying for a meal? e.g. Host pays vs men pay regardless when out with females.

  4. I have to add something since I host a lot of foreigners. It is not rude to offer to pay, actually it is better to offer(even most times the host wouldn`t allow you to pay) than to look cheap. Yes we are hospitable but do not like people to get advantage from us all the time. Some people get the wrong impression so even when they are coming to Serbia again they say things such as “I know you won`t allow me to pay” – first time no, second time probably. Don`t be cheap

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