Child friendly Serbia: what Serbs won’t tell you
As soon as you talk about raising a kid here as a foreigner, locals will quickly point out the disadvantages: The bad air quality in Belgrade, the mess in the education system, cars on the sidewalk blocking your stroller, the “poor” look and feel of the city’s swimming pools…
What Serbs won’t tell you is that a superb child friendliness seems to come natural to everyone here. Rationally speaking, other people’s children are a nuisance. They slow you down, they can start crying any moment, disturbing the other customers in your bar, they’ll leave a trail with their chocolate stained fingers. Things you’ll gladly put up with if the child is yours, but others…
None of this seems to apply in Serbia. In fact, I’m getting used to taking second place behind my toddler, waiting patiently for my turn to get attention. For a confused while I even thought gde si ti, srce moje! was a standard greeting in Serbian.
Those apprehensive about Serbia are invited to play the following game; find the most negative stereotype and wave a child in his face: the taxi driver looking like a double-door fridge? He took me aside to point out my son’s water bottle was upside down. The tough looking, hoody sporting young hooligan? Played a waving-game on the trolley. Needless to say a square waiter in a restaurant sang songs to my child while we were having an easy-going one-hour dinner.
Queuing with a child is actually impossible, I found out. Give it a second or ten, maybe twenty, and people will start ushering you to the front. Polite refusal amounts to child abuse it seems. You don’t make a toddler wait. Something that may come in handy when dealing with the rightly famous bureaucracy.
I tried all these tricks abroad a few times, but no matter how smooth and accessible the sidewalks, the attitude towards children made me rush back to Belgrade.
Joost van Egmond
Travel to Serbia
what to see in Serbia