How’s it going in Bosnia and Herzegovina? How do you feel? Have you settled a bit? Here’s a couple of questions you asked me in the last couple of weeks. So here is my first life (live) update from Sarajevo.
1 || why bosnia and herzegovina?
My husband’s (can we all take a moment to acknowledge that this still sounds weird to me, even after three years of marriage) family lives in Sarajevo and he spent most of his life here as well.
When it became clear that we will move to South Africa sometime this year, we decided to spend the summer in Bosnia and Herzegovina so that he can spend some time with his family and friends. I happily jumped on the opportunity to learn more about his home country, meet his friends and spend more time with his family.
When you have a partner from another country, it’s sometimes difficult to understand their upbringing and childhood, just because it was so different from yours. I really hope to get a closer understanding about his home, education and childhood in the next couple of weeks and months here in Sarajevo.
2 || IS BOSNIA VERY DIFFERENt – DID YOU HAVE A CULTURE SHOCK?
Yes, there are a couple of things that are different from Germany. People are much more open and friendly, everything is way cheaper, you can still smoke in restaurants and traffic is very is bad… but I wouldn’t say I really had a culture shock.
3 || what shouldn't you miss in sarajevo?
I totally love the food and restaurant scene in Sarajevo. There are many great bars and restaurants to discover – I try to save them all in my Sarajevo highlight on Instagram for you to check out if you should ever come here.
4 || is there something you don't like?
You might know that Bosnia and Herzegovina has been torn apart by war in the early 1990s. Following the breakup of the Yugoslav states, a series of war and ethnic conflicts raged through the former Yugoslavian states. War crimes and genocide were conducted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the country hasn’t recovered from the lives lost and the economic damage since.
Which brings me to my point: Racism and discrimination are still strong there. People are divided according to their ethnicity which is often synonymous with religion. This leaves the country divided into Bosnians (muslim), Serbians (orthodox) and Croats (catholics). The government is just as torn, resulting in high unemployment and bad economic decisions.
I am far from understanding the whole conflict but I can feel tension, resignation and loss of perspective in many people even though they are still trying their best.
5 || what does it feel like to live in a muslim country?
51 percent of the population in Bosnia and Herzegovina is Muslim, in Sarajevo the number is as high as 80 percent. Many people are not very religious though but use religion as a synonym for the ethnic background.
You will hear the Muezzin in Sarajevo as well as church bells on a Sunday and some restaurants in the city center won’t sell alcohol.
But to be honest, Bosnia and Herzegovina doesn’t feel like a restrictive Muslim country at all, people are open and progressive. And even if I had to adhere to some cultural and religious rules I wouldn’t mind – after all, I am a guest here!
6 || are you still working?
I am very lucky to have an amazing, open-minded and technically experienced boss how allows me to work remotely from home – wherever home is. So for now, I will keep my job with the German communication and PR agency I have worked for in the last couple of years already.
7 || do you speak any bosnian?
I did a Croatian class (which is basically the same language as Bosnian) when we still lived in Munich and am officially language level B2. Accents, dialects and the speed with which people speak makes it very different to even understand basic things though.
I have to be honest: The language has been my biggest challenge here so far. In big groups it’s difficult to be part of the conversation and I am still very shy to speak – even though I know that it’s the easiest way to break my tongue.
8 || are you staying in touch with your friends back home?
YES, of course! It’s not the first time that I live abroad and during my time in South Africa and the Czech Republic I learned that people that want to stay in touch, will stay and touch and people you want to be part of your life, will keep on being part of your life.
I have a group of friends that is very spread out from Spain to Brazil to South Africa and all over Germany so we are used to staying in touch without seeing each other much.
I have to admit though that the last couple of months, the insecurity, the waiting have taken their toll and I haven’t been the best friend during the whole moving process. I just didn’t feel like talking on the phone, I was exhausted and anxious.
So know I am happy to catch up with everyone. And on a sidenote: You always have to invest in your friendships, not only when you live abroad. But that shouldn’t be anything new for you 🙂