Quality of life is important to Serbians, and they view social interactions as one of life’s great pleasures. They are generally warm people who spend a lot of time with others and value relationships highly. People regularly socialize with colleagues outside of work, and they view these outings as an integral part of building a workplace “family.” The bonds of trust and human connections that are formed during social interactions are carried into almost every aspect of workplace life.
Building and maintaining strong personal relationships over time is important in all areas of personal and business life — teamwork, problem solving, negotiating, getting information, giving and accepting feedback, and finding growth opportunities. Strong relationships are the key to working effectively with colleagues in Serbia: the closer the relationship, the stronger the trust, and the stronger the trust, the greater the collaboration. Their strong preference for being together in groups also makes most Serbians particularly good at and receptive to working in teams. Relationships are taken seriously, and everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of the group.
Serbians are very proud and resilient people, and these traits are reflected in their sense of humor.
Most Serbians have a strong sense of pride, and they can be deeply offended if they perceive that they are being insulted or underestimated. This sense of pride is linked to Serbian nationalism. Serbians tend to view themselves as a nation of brave and bold people who have fought and endured in spite of many seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Serbian pride and resilience are reflected in the popularity of the dark humor and witty aphorisms that have helped the Serbian people weather difficult periods in their history. It is also present in “inat,” a concept that is unique to Serbian culture. Though it is difficult to translate, inat can be described as an attitude of proud defiance. Inat is often expressed through dark humor, and it is viewed by most Serbians as a reflection of their strength and courage in the face of overwhelming adversity. An example of a typical inat quip would be, “Who says we cannot swim?” Sometimes this defiant boldness of inat can lead to high-risk activities performed in the spirit of resistance. For example, during the NATO bombardment in 1999, many Serbian citizens displayed “target” symbols on their backs and went about their daily business. Some even held rooftop picnics and concerts.
Serbians are warm, friendly, and open communicators. They can be quite expressive when they talk.
Serbians are highly personable, and they are known for being very friendly and outgoing communicators. In fact, they might be seen as too friendly or too open by people from more reserved cultures. Serbians tend to say and do things from the heart, and their reactions can be very emotional. People are comfortable expressing their feelings and talking openly about their likes and dislikes or what hurts or frustrates them. Loud and passionate discussion is quite common, especially when socializing.
Conversations are often very lively and expressive, with many hand movements, gestures, and frequent changes in voice level and vocal intonation. The Serbian communication style has been described as somewhat similar to Southern Europeans such as the Italians and Greeks in both form and temperament. Most Serbians are not comfortable with silence and will try to fill the space when there is a pause in the conversation.
Relationship building is a key element of working effectively with Serbians. Trust, sincerity, and expertise provide the foundation for building successful workplace relationships.
People in Serbia tend to make strong connections, and they rely on those connections in all areas of business. Establishing mutual trust early on is crucial, so it is important to go into any first meeting with an open style that demonstrates both honesty and sincerity. Serbians have great respect for professional experience, and they seek out connections who can demonstrate that they are experts in their fields, but who are also enjoyable to be around.
Serbians are generally very welcoming to their international business associates.
In Serbia, foreign people are usually respected and well-liked. It is common for a foreign visitor to be invited for a beer or to watch a football match. In some cases, foreigners may be treated like royalty by the locals, so it is important to be mindful of professional boundaries when enjoying the warmth and generosity of Serbian hospitality. Issues may arise if locals sense that foreigners are judging them, so always be careful never to underestimate your Serbian hosts.
Foreign guests from countries with a high degree of global economic influence may be particularly attractive to some Serbians, as building valuable connections is almost always a goal in social interactions.