Read, Write, Run, Roam

The RHOB Guide to Survival Serbian


Maybe you already know Serbian. Maybe you ARE Serbian. (Zdravo!) If not, and you’re coming to Belgrade, it’s good to know some words beyond dobar dan (good day) and hvala (thank you). It’s even better to know a few sentences and phrases that will get you through some typical Serbian experiences. These may not be grammatically perfect, but you’ll get your point across.**

Scenario 1: Finding a meal.

You’re starving. You see white tablecloths, outside seating, and a waiter hovering in the doorway. “Lunch!” you say to yourself. But not so fast…

You: Da li imate hranu ovde? (Crudely, do you have food here?)*

Waiter: Ne. (No.)

You: Mogu da jedem burek ovde? Super. (Can I eat burek here? Great.)

Note: cafes often look like nice restaurants but serve no food. Ask to bring in food from somewhere else (like a bakery or burek stand) or risk running around from cafe to cafe until your blood sugar drops faster than a Yugo’s value.  

Scenario 2: Ending a meal.

You’re at a kafana, or ever better, someone’s baba is cooking for you. Food has been coming out of the kitchen for three hours. You have to stop this madness before you explode like that dude in Big Trouble, Little China. 

You: Sve je bila odlicno. Ne mogu vise. (Everything was excellent. I can’t eat another bite.)

Baba: Moras da jedes malo vise. To ce pomoci da beba. (You must eat a little more. This will help you make babies.)

You: !?!?!

Baba: Napravna sam tulumbe, baklava, tufahije i torta. (I made tulumbe, baklava, tufanije and cake.)

You: Necu, ali hvala vama. Ako jedem nesto vise, mozda ja cu umreti. (I can’t, but thank you. If I eat anything else, I might die.)

Baba: Ti ces jesti tufahije. (You will eat tufanije.)

You: Mozda samo malo. Hvala vama. (Maybe just a little. Thank you.)

Note: While in Serbia, prepare to eat until you feel like dying. People will try to feed you until you clutch your heart and run out the door. Argument is useless. Besides, tufahije is awesome.

Scenario 3: Ending an evening at a friend’s house

You: Ne vise vina za mene. Mislim da je moj jetra je kiseli. (No more wine for me. I think my liver is pickled.)

Friend: Stravno? Imam dunya rakija iz cela mog dede. (Really? I have quince rakija from my grandfather’s village.)

You: U redu. Moja jetra nije važno, zar ne? (Ok. My liver isn’t important, right?)

Note: There is little peer pressure to drink alcohol in Serbia. But when you’re offered someone’s homemade rakija, peer pressure isn’t needed. Imbibe carefully. 

Scenario 4: Ending an Evening, Part II

[Ring, ring.]

You: Molim? Sta? Ne, ne mogu da idem u klubu veceras. To je tri ujutru i imam sastanak sutra u osam sati. (Hello? What? No, I can’t go to the club tonight. It’s 3 a.m. and I have a meeting tomorrow at 8 a.m.)

Friend: Nole je ovde. (Novak Djokovic is here.)

You: Ja cu biti to za deset minuti. (I’ll be there in ten minutes.)

Note: Just go. You can sleep on the plane. Or when you’re retired. 

***

Enjoy Serbia!

*There MUST be a better way to ask this. Srpski speakers, help a housewife out.

**I realize that there are probably several errors here, especially with cases. (Posting late, can’t find my cases cheat sheet, lazy, etc.) Feel free to correct major errors in the comments, but I probably will not correct the main text unless I wrote something offensively incorrect. Have a great weekend, everyone.

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3 responses

  1. Andrej

    This is the most charming broken Serbian I’ve ever seen. 😀 ❤

    I won't correct the grammar etc, but I have to point out that the apple dessert thingy is called 'tufahije', not 'tufanije'. There, I'll stop now. 🙂

    September 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  2. I know, it’s terrible! I’ll correct the tufahije spelling–the dessert is far too important to mess up.

    September 24, 2011 at 10:08 am

  3. Morgan

    Even one of those Baba-cooked meals can be survived more easily when ended with dunjavača. My favorite rakija of them all. :))

    September 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm

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