Friday, 29 June 2012

Ten 'Only in Bosnia' discoveries.

There's little doubting that Bosnia is, well, uh, let's just say, an 'interesting' and 'unusual' nation where certain things occur which make you utter under your breath, "Only in Bosnia!"

Here are ten that spring to mind. Enjoy!

What do you do when you're missing a ball to play Table Football?
Sometime in April this year, my girlfriend and I travelled to a small Bosnian village to visit the weekend house belonging to some family friend's of hers.
As I arrived, some young'un's were already there playing some table football. After walking closer, I noticed that - for the ball - they were using......a potato. Only in Bosnia!

Table football with a potato!

Three separate presidents.
As laid out in the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Presidency should 'consist of three members: one Bosniak and one Croat, each directly elected from the territory of the Federation, and one Serb directly elected from the territory of the Republika Srpska'.
As you can imagine, the three often have very differing interests - so, it's fair to say that not a whole lot gets done. Only in Bosnia!

Odd way of greeting.
The other day, I was reading a piece in The Age by Ben Groundwater which described the Australian greeting of, "How's it going?" as 'weird' and 'nonsensical'. Groundwater compared it to the American "what's up", but I believe the trophy for the strangest method of greeting has to go to Bosnia, with people saying "Dje si?" when they see another person, which, in English, translates to, "Where are you?"
Everytime I hear this, I am confused. Erm... I'm right here. You can see that, why do you need to ask!?

The nature of gypsies and beggars here.
For the first 19 years of my life, I had never come face-to-face with a real gypsy, but, after a trip deep into the Balkans in October of 2011, that all changed!
There've been some very bizarre places gyspies have approached me to beg for money. Earlier this year, I endured an 8-day spell in a Zenica hospital. For one hour each day, there was a scheduled 'visiting time', in which I was able to speak with my girlfriend, albeit through a window. Even at this time, on this hospital balcony, there were small gypsy boys walking around asking for money. Only in Bosnia!

                                           Gyspy boys sings for money in central Sarajevo, 
                                                                    October 2011.

"Oh, I have a cousin in Australia!"
Whilst it somewhat interesting at first to meet people here who had a brother or sister in Melbourne, Sydney or somewhere else in Australia, I soon realised that literally everyone in Bosnia has a relative down under.
When I meet a new person and they discover I'm Australia, I can already foresee that they will inform me which of their relative(s) live in Oz. In all truth, it's more unusual for me to come across somebody who doesn't have a cousin, or something, living there!
Perhaps the most ridiculous situation I have encountered whilst here was a Bosnian lady who asked me if I knew her nephew from Melbourne by the name of 'Matthew'. Fair to say, I found it quite difficult to inform her the ridiculousness of the question... But suffice to say, I didn't know her 'Matthew'.

Motorists here are clinically insane.
Put simply - there is no such thing as 'road rules' that exist in Bosnia. Yes, there may be signs stating a maximum speed limit, or other supposed 'regulations', but, after one-minute on the Bosnian roads, it doesn't take long to realise that almost nobody follows these rules. People overtaking on blind turns at 150 km/h is virtually commonplace.
I thought I knew everything there is to know about driving once I mastered the Melbourne 'Hook Turn' and reverse parking, but nothing prepared me for the experience of driving here. Only in Bosnia!

Navigating my way up a treacherous Bosnian mountain.

Whatever you do, don't say, "No, I can't anymore," at the dinner table!
Once upon a time - long before I ever ventured to the Balkans - I read a warning on the Internet which clearly stated that one should never tell a woman (usually a mother or grandmother) in a Balkan kitchen that they are full (if there is more food on offer), as it is taken as an offence.
Until I came to this part of the world, I thought it was a joke, but now, I realise how very serious - and wise - words they were.
At least the food I'm forced to eat is freakin' amazing!

Stray animals everywhere.
The amount of stray animals in Bosnia - whether it's dogs or cats - is absolutely ridiculous. Particularly when there are hundreds spread out across the city (take Zenica or Sarajevo, for example).
I recall the day I first entered Bosnia. I was pulling into Zenica on the bus when I saw a dog running across a busy road. My initial thought was as it would be if I saw this in Melbourne, 'Gee, where's the owner?'
As the bus drove further down the road, I spotted two or three more dogs freely running about, until we drove past a side-street, which must have contained up to fifteen more dogs.
Now, the thoughts going through me head were more like, 'Where the hell am I?'
As I type this, the two local dogs outside (who I, personally, have had some, well, lets just say 'skirmishes', with) are chasing two young men down the street. Only in Bosnia!

Wild dogs in central Sarajevo.

Weather extremes.
I know I'm from Melbourne, where the whole 'four-seasons-in-one-day' is an annoyingly-overused cliche, but what I've witnessed in the weather conditions in Sarajevo in recent months eclipses anything I've seen in Melbourne.
In February, I flew into a Sarajevo that was blanketed under about 1.5 metres of snow. Cars were completely covered, and I could barely open the front door of my apartment building without some snow falling in.
When May 14 arrived, and it had seemed that, after a number of hot days, we were set for a warm summer, Sarajevo was, once again, covered in snow. Incredible that this could happen just weeks out from the start of summer! Now, it is June, normal service has resumed, and we are sweating our butts off day through night. Give me back snow, please! I beg you.

Sarajevo is blanketed in snow just weeks out from
the start of Summer.

Reactions to the Australian accent are very amusing.
The title here says it all. Have had much fun speaking with friends in public in my Aussie accent, and using my peripheral vision to see how quickly people swivel their head to stop and stare. I can only assume they're thinking, 'What f*#$%^# language was that!?' I have had Bosnians previously tell me that I do not speak English, after they hear my accent combined with the use of typical, Aussie slang. Of course, it's stupid, and contains a bit of a 'look at me' attitude, but it can serve as a bit of light humour when you're bored out of your mind!
Though, the best success rate occurs in towns outside the capital of Sarajevo - as it is very uncommon for people to hear an accent originating from outside of Europe!

Thanks for reading! :)


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  3. I am glad you find the stay in Bosnia charming as I do living in it.Also a fun fact, Mostar gets so hot during the summer, that the reason the official weather report states 39 degrees Celsius (102 Farenheit) is only to prevent the possibilty of calling it a natrual disaster so the city can take funds out of the state budget. So if you see 39 degrees for Mostar, that means it's rather about 45 degrees (113 F) in the sun. Also, I live usually about 200 meters from the hospital you visited, but being a student myself, I have to live in a dorm in Sarajevo for the time being.

  4. Welcome Rusty :)
    I read your love story on, googled you and found your blog (the guys from did not post the url *weird*). anyways - rusty+blog+bosnia are the keywords to find it :)
    Just wanted to wish you and your girlfriend all the best for the future and hope to read more about the bosnian-australian culture clash :)

    Cheers from Germany,

  5. Hej Rusty welcome to Bosnia :))

    While I was reading this blog in some point i was laughing, it was funny but also it was sad to see how much bad things is happening here expl. dogs on the street. But the way you wrote it, was funny.It is interesting fackt that some things that are normal for people in Bosnia are so unusual and wierd to strangers.Due to the fack that you are 50% Bosnian :D get used on it, and enjoy in hidden beauty of our (yours, mine and everybody elses) lovely country ;))