Serbian Culture: Serbian Parents and How to Deal with Them

family, parents

Have you ever experienced a cringe moment when you heard a dad joke in front of your friends? 

Remember that feeling and be happy that you don’t have to experience the same in Serbia because, in Serbian culture, dad jokes are really something else.

We love our parents, we really do. But sometimes, they can be overwhelming. As per Serbian parents, you definitely need a guide to know what to expect and how to treat them. With it, you’ll avoid unnecessary arguments and make all included parties happy. So, let’s research these unique species, the Serbian mom and dad!

You vs. other kids

For Serbian parents, the success of their child only exists in relation to other kids. It begins at the elementary school – if you get trojku (C in the American school system) in math, their first question will be Šta je Marko dobio? (What did Marko kid get?). If the answer is petica (A in America), you’re in trouble. But even if the whole class gets a C, and you try to mention that to them to prove that the problem isn’t you, you’ll get the answer: Ne zanimaju me drugi (I am not interested in others)!

mother scolding her son while daughter is laughing
Zašto se ne ugledaš na sestru? / Why don't you look up to your sister?

When you grow up, you’ll be forced to hear about their friends’ successful son or daughter who is happily married, has three kids, and lives in the perfect house in the suburbs while you’re in a rented flat trying to survive till the next month.

(Not) Expressing Emotions

Balkan parents love their children, but public display of emotions and love simply isn’t our thing, at least when it comes to the parent-child love.

Affection is often shown in the mother’s kitchen. She will feed you with an enormous amount of food, even if you keep saying Nisam gladan/gladna (I am not hungry). You need to eat domaću hranu (homemade food), and she thinks she’s the best cook in the world. Even though you sometimes want to eat a meal in a restaurant or just pick up some junk food, you’ll be forced to eat whatever your Balkan mom wants you to eat. We often don’t enjoy these foods while they are available, but when we move out we start to appreciate our moms, and especially their cooking.

cooking with children, kitchen
We enjoy our mothers' cooking

What we don’t miss is their constant nagging about how messy our room is. They’ll often say that your room looks like Kao da živiš u svinjcu! (As if you live in a pigsty) even if it is tidy, with only one or two pieces of clothes out of their place. They want our rooms to look kao apoteka (like a pharmacy) and be tidy and clean as if we don’t live in there.

And while moms know everything about cooking and cleaning, dads know everything about, well, everything. Whether it is which car to buy or what tool you need to use to unclog the toilet, they know it all. They also teach their kids how to drive, because, of course, a licensed driving instructor doesn’t know anything. Also, his duty is to embarrass us in front of our friends. If you invite your friends for dinner, in most cases, he’ll join you and tell them all about your greatest weaknesses and that one situation when you pooed yourself in public when you were, like, three. Don’t worry, they will understand – their dads are probably the same.

driving car with father
He knows better 🙂

Balkan dads are often different depending if you’re a boy or a girl. If you’re a girl, you’re his princess, and the world is yours. Still, he’ll call you sine (son). If you’re a boy, the sentence you’ll often hear during growing up will be Budi muško (Be a man).  A Serbian dad expects you to be tough, to like beer and soccer, and to enjoy the same things he enjoys. But he has the most sincere heart in the world, and beneath the rough appearance, you’ll find the most tender, loving, and caring person you’ll ever meet.

Except when it comes to school. School problems are the most serious problems for most Serbian parents. You need to be a good student, carefully listen to your teachers, and respect them beyond words. Not that something is wrong with that, but it’s funny how even the parents who weren’t such good students expect that of their children. They also describe their school days as filled with hardships of all sorts. Probably one of the most famous sentences when it comes to studying is Ja sam išao peške deset kilometara po snegu do škole (I was walking ten kilometers in the snow to the school), and it’s often used to describe how spoiled we are. Most of them didn’t walk such a distance, but it’s more like a modern legend of Balkan parents, especially in Serbian culture. 

snow, walking, winter
That’s how they were going to school

How to Worry like a Serbian Parent

We must admit that their life was harder than ours though. Maybe that’s the reason why they worry so much about our well-being. In some cases, it can be overwhelming and sound unreasonable, but they’re taught to worry and be careful. A great example is how they are afraid of what would happen if we sedimo na hladnom betonu (sit on a cold concrete). Serbs are taught that sitting on the concrete floor or stairs will inevitably lead to health issues. The same works for promaja (the draft), which is the biggest malefactor in Serbian culture.

Another thing Serbian parents often worry about is how other people, especially their neighbors, will see them. Every time you argue or yell at someone inside your house, your mother will say something like Tiše, čuće nas ceo komšiluk (Be quiet, the whole neighborhood will hear us). So yeah, they are worried about the public impression almost as much as they are worried about you. 

You must listen to her

Serbian Parents’ Famous Lines

While you live in their house, you’ll be obliged to follow their rules. You’ll often hear Dok si pod mojim krovom, radićeš šta ti ja kažem (While you’re under my roof, you’ll do what I say). Why? Because they say so. When you try to question their opinion or decision and ask them why they decided to do something you don’t agree with, you’ll only get an answer Zato što ja tako kažem (Because I say so). You may try to argue, but you won’t win the argument. 

So, their authority mustn’t be questioned. If you try, you’ll probably get an answer Ko je koga rodio, ti mene ili ja tebe? (Who gave birth to whom, you to me or me to you?). These sentences are imprinted in every Serbian child’s childhood memory.

However, at the end of the day, parents are people who would give everything they have to their children. Children are the most important thing in their whole life – so it’s not strange that they worry too much and try to protect them at all costs. Yes, even when a child is a 40-year-old man with his own family, job, and, well, life. In Serbian culture, he will always be mamin sin (his mother’s son) or tatina ćerka (father’s daughter).

There are ways to deal with them – and you’ll have a head start if you understand what they’re talking about in the first place. So, we recommend one of our online courses, which will help you better understand your Serbian friends and their parents.

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