Country: South African Republic
Year of return: 2016
MOVED TO SOUTH AFRICA
Gordana reminisces that just a year before moving
back she thought that she would never come back.
The moment when she and her family changed their
minds was when her brother in law got shot in the
head while someone tried to steal the company car
he was driving. It happened on the street, while he
was waiting for a green light to go
Gordana’s parents, her sister with her family, her husband and her
five-year-old daughter, they decided to move back together. Since
they lived abroad for so many years, they were thinking of the return
as moving to a “foreign” country with a perk of knowing the local
language. They sold most of their real estate and were working on
plans to start a business in Belgrade. She did not plan to terminate
the accountant work she was doing for a few South African
companies, as that was going to secure her financial safety in
Gordana was born in 1975 in Belgrade. Gordana and her family left Serbia in 1993, back when one couldn’t find anything in shops even if one had the money to pay for it. She just graduated from high school when they moved to the South African Republic.
She got married in South Africa and now has a daughter. She had a happy family life. The only downside to living in SA was a decreasing safety so wearing a panic button and super-tight safety regulations become an inevitable part of everyday life.
Gordana reminisces that just a year before moving back she thought that she would never come back. The moment when she and her family changed their minds was when her brother in law was shot in the back while someone tried to steal the company car he was driving. It happened on the street, while he was waiting for a green light to go.
Gordana’s parents, her sister with her family, her husband, and her five-year-old daughter, they decided to move back together. Since they lived abroad for so many years, they were thinking of the return as moving to a “foreign” country with a perk of knowing the local language. They sold most of their real estate and were working on plans to start a business in Belgrade. She did not plan to terminate the accountant work she was doing for a few South African companies, as that was going to secure her financial safety in Serbia.
Professional life and businesses ventures in Serbia
Gordana is an auditor by profession. She graduated from the Faculty of Economics, and she worked as a financial manager. Her professional life was quite dynamic and very successful. She never did one job for more than three years, because as soon as she mastered a job, or how she puts it, learned how to perform it “with her eyes closed,” she looked for a new challenge. She still keeps the books 8 companies from South Africa via a server. But her heart, as she says, has always been in being a kindergarten teacher.
The decision to return to Serbia was sudden as well as her decision to start a private business in Serbia. That was probably her only mistake since she left South Africa since she listened to other peoples’ poor market analysis and not her gut feeling, shared Gordana.
She purchased a big amount of high-quality baby clothes in South Africa and opened a boutique in Kosovska Street. It didn’t go well. But she didn’t complain. She took the loss and started a new venture. This time it was a playroom for children. She ran it for two years but that wasn’t satisfied either. Finally, she decided to follow her heart and opened a kindergarten.
When talking about what the hardest thing about money and business culture is, Gordana says that it may be the fact that you are responsible for everything – when you fail and when you succeed and the way you go through those difficult moments.
As for the work environment in Serbia, Gordana thinks their work ethic is poor. Gordana is annoyed by the way workers are harassed, the way they don’t get paid properly. Gordana shares that adequate pay gives the workers a sense of security, and they, in turn, keep your business secure and provide your customers with that very same sense of security. It took her a year to develop a great team of teachers, and she is very grateful for having an opportunity to work with good people.
It is a great pleasure for Gordana when she can show people that it can be better and that you may not have to work for the same company for 15 years, where you earn 25,000 RSD a month. Sometimes you need to take a risk and it won’t be the end of the world if you do so, claims Gordana.
Frustration with the business administration
Gordana says she hasn’t had many problems, but she did get used to getting everything done online abroad, while in Serbia you have to go somewhere every other day. When a bank card expires, for example, Gordana says in South Africa you do not have to go to the bank, and the procedure of starting companies gets a little nerve-wracking for her.
Gordana recalls an incident when she suspected an inspector wanted a bribe in order for him not to write her a ticket. Gordana says that she doesn’t have the patience for such things anymore.
Issuing and verifying documents
Gordana remembers how a government employee accepted her papers but she refused to certify the papers of her brother-in-law. Gordana told her sister to take all his papers and that they will come back when the shift changes. As soon as they did that, Gordana claims, everything went smoothly. Another challenge for repats she noted is that all documents are written in the Cyrillic alphabet only. This causes additional issues if her daughter with a foreign name wanted to obtain a passport, for instance – the names in Serbian and South African passports do not align.
Healthcare and corruption
Gordana recalls a very sad incident in her life. She lost her mother to a doctor’s mistake. In the end, officially it was no one’s responsibility as the doctors covered it up by writing another, fake cause of death. The entire family was devastated.
The corruption in healthcare and poor quality of it is her biggest fear. If she ever decides to leave Serbia, it would be for better healthcare.
Friends and family
Gordana says that upon returning to Serbia she hasn’t felt close to her extended family. They see each other on birthdays, but she is only close to her uncle. He was her biggest support in Serbia during and upon the return. However, she emphasized liking being independent – when you learn that you can do it yourself, you don’t need anyone – she shared.
She rarely sees her old friends, maybe once in six months because there is no time for them to meet up. She is very focused on her business. Her new friends are the people she met through the work.
View into the future
When someone asks her if she plans to stay in Serbia, she answers that she doesn’t think much about it. She has plans on buying a house here and is willing to stay here as long as she feels good. If her peace of mind is threatened she is going to find a way to move to a place that offers her and her family better conditions.