A letter of thanks to people for the warm welcome during my first year in Serbia.

Dear friends,

One year ago, and 6 weeks, in June, I came to Serbia to take up the position as head of the OSCE office in Bujanovac. I am writing this note to thank people for their warm welcome. From the border guard when I arrived at Belgrade airport on 5 June 2020, and when I came to Bujanovac on 10 June, nearly everyone I’ve met has been friendly and welcoming. In Bujanovac, Preševo and Medvedja, and elsewhere.

Because I came from the UK, in between the first waves of Corona, I have been here for most of the time throughout this strange year. It has meant it was slow for me to meet people officially and though I have met very many people over my first year there are still others that I have not met yet.

As the only British person, the only person from England, maybe the only foreigner, in Bujanovac and the other municipalities I am pleased that many people stop me to chat. Serbian, Roma and Albanian residents. Including those who are surprised to see me when I am cycling or driving or walking round the towns and villages. I regret there is no train or bus between Bujanovac and Preševo as I prefer to use public transport at home.

As I speak only English (I have a few words of Serbian and less Albanian) I must apologise that I cannot to talk to you in your own language(s) – or German which nearly everyone seems to speak. Even my local tailor is multilingual in several languages. South Serbia is very different to my home of Liverpool – especially the food and weather – but it is a nice place and people are friendly. The Albanian coffee is especially strong, the tea is strange or terrible (except the Russian or Turkish tea), the beer is certainly not like traditional British beer (nor are the fish & chips), and it’s a crying shame there are plenty of Chinese businesses but no Chinese food south of Niš. And no traditional British food like curry 😊.There is a lot of politics here (like in my home city), people all know more about football than me, waitresses and barmen alike, the traffic is crazy, and I hate the dumping and plastic waste and refuse that people strew around the beautiful countryside. The street sweepers in Bujanovac do a great job in all weathers – I see them. I always remind people that the positives are much better than the negatives. I am privileged to work with a great team here in your region and country.

With best wishes,

Kiron (the British guy / Liverpool Irish guy).

PS Though our weather in Liverpool is rather mild, I am enjoying this nice rain 😉.

First published on my Facebook account, 18 July.