Year of return: 2019
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW
MOVED TO THE USA
After many years spent in financial business, Stefan lived what he referres to as a “burnout”. He wanted to spend more time with his children instead of staying long hours in the office. This provoked raising questions about “what comes next”.
PLANNING THE RETURN
It took his family about two years of preparation to move to Serbia.
He describes the decision making process as an evolution in which
he had to negotiate with his wife about all the positive and negative
aspects of coming back. Her career was also a point of consideration important for bringing a decision that they are going to be confident about.
Stefan was developing his business plan, he was recruiting the team
and setting legal framework so that they can start working immediately upon the return to Serbia.
Stefan was born in Belgrade, Serbia. He grew up in Zemun and at 16 he moved to America because his father lived there. In America he completed his high school degree, graduated from the Faculty of Economics and obtained two Master’s degrees – one in Economics and the other in International Economics. For over 15 years he has worked in a global company dealing with finance which was located in New York. In the meantime he got married and now has two children. After 22 years in America he has decided to return to Belgrade.
The turning point for his decision to come back to Serbia was, as he says: ’’the work burnout in the financial world in New York’’. The original idea to return to Belgrade was caused by the feeling of work burnout and self-reflection – through conversation with friends of the same age, he realized they were all wondering: What`s next? That’s when he asked himself the same question and started considering returning actively.
Even though he spent 22 years in America, Stefan visited Serbia each year, especially in the later years when he had children. In time, he realized that Belgrade had developed as a city, that it had become more international, that there were plenty of foreigners in the streets and that it was brimming more and more with activities and services one could also find in the west. Other than the development of the city, what was significant to him was the fact that he could find an apartment in some areas of the city where the middle class is being established, in areas that suit his lifestyle and in which he could make friends that don’t have the same issues as most citizens of Serbia.
Stefan likes to travel with his family, so it was important to him and his wife that they could reach the airport as quickly as possible, that the time to reach the gate was brief and that they would be a short flight away from any European city. In addition to this, he highlights the geographical position of Belgrade, which is convenient, for one can visit some places by car as well.
Before returning, Stefan had also considered business opportunities in Belgrade. If he were to return to Belgrade, he wouldn’t like the idea of working for someone. He would instead like to start his own business, in the domain of finance and IT, which is a domain familiar to him. He knew there were plenty of talented and expert people in Serbia with whom he could cooperate and easily make contact with.
Bringing up his children was also a significant factor in the decision to return to Belgrade. He wanted his children to experience Serbian culture, learn the language and grow up surrounded by their grandparents.
Taking all of this into account, he had decided to return to Belgrade. He put the plan into fruition two years after making the decision, and now he and his family live in Belgrade.
Life in Belgrade
After moving to Belgrade with his family, Stefan has had both positive and negative experiences.
The negative experiences mostly have to do with the gigantic red tape apparatus and the needless and lengthy procedures. He thinks the administration is too complicated because it hasn’t been digitalized. He had a feeling that he was always a form short and he always had to carry his seal. He was spending a lot of time in banks due to procedures he was used to having executed in a short time span, as well as in other institutions where he was taking care of paperwork with regards to the citizenship of his children and the change of his wife’s last name. He felt he was losing a lot of time when it came to red tape, time he’d have much rather spent focusing on developing his business and time he would have liked to have spent with his family. Administrative procedures in Serbia, as far as he’s concerned, are generally unclear and create difficulties for him. He also noticed that IT equipment is a lot more expensive than anywhere else, even up to 40-60% more expensive.
As far as a social life goes, he didn’t much like the fact he had to smoke indoors everywhere. That is why he couldn’t see some friends in certain spaces, because they all smoke.
Some of the positive experiences have to do with the people in the IT sector. Stefan thinks that there are many educated, professional people in Serbia that deserve the same financial compensation their colleagues in the global market are getting. He was filled with a feeling that he could help these people by offering them a business opportunity and working conditions as per world standards so that they wouldn’t necessarily have to leave the country. He had the notion that he could bring IT experts into the world of finance, and in turn, they could usher him into the world of IT.
He also liked that he could easily start a business with the help of friends and acquaintances. The general impression was that everyone knew someone and through networking via those people, things get resolved quickly. Acquaintances and easy communication have led to an easy team formation.
As for the social aspect of things, the positives have to do with a sense of belonging. He felt that he was from Serbia; he liked the fact that he could speak in his native language and not feel like a foreigner. His conversations with people are also less superficial compared to those in America, as are the friendships of his children. His daughter, who is ten years old, told him how she feels her conversations with girls her age were much more honest and had more meaning to them. Other than that, he likes the fact that the children can go to the park on their own after school and socialize with their friends without him having to drive distances or plan weeks in advance.
View into the future
Stefan has been living in Belgrade for a few months now, and so far he is happy with how his life in Serbia is progressing. He hasn’t come back to Serbia due to patriotism, but because he likes being in Serbia with his children and he likes the people he is surrounded by. The moment there are no more positive experiences, Stefan knows he has the option of returning to America and working in finance.