Country: United Kingdom
Year of return: 2016
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW
MOVED TO UK
SEEKING LIFE-WORK BALANCE
It was for multiple reasons that Lazar and his wife started mulling over the notion of moving out of the UK. Brexit was one of those reasons. Lazar also felt ready to change his career path and find a more balanced way of living and doing what he was truly passionate about. Moving to other big economic centers worldwide would have meant having the same lifestyle, which they wanted to avoid because he no longer wanted to spend 12 to 15 hours in the office not being able to see his children.
IMPORTANT CAREER DECISIONS
Lazar has spent years in leading marketing positions in one of the biggest companies globally. While his career was on an upswing, he had less and less time for his family. The job was exhausting, both physically and mentally. Then an opportunity for promotion was coming but he wasn’t looking forward to it, as he recalls:” The worst thing that could have happened was to get promoted” since that would have meant that he would have ended up traveling and seeing his family even less.
It was important for Lazar’s family to know exactly where they were going, so they had planned everything – they bought an apartment, found schools for the children, and secured financial stability. Lazar found a teaching job at a Faculty that was aligned with his values and standards of high-quality education.
At the time of utmost hyperinflation, tired of the wars and the political crisis, Lazar was contemplating fleeing Milosevic’s Serbia to Budapest. Along with his wife, he was open to taking simple jobs until he could find better professional opportunities, but very soon, he received a letter of invitation from an old friend he knew from his hometown of Smederevo. In the letter, his friend told him he would need some marketing consulting help. Thus began Lazar’s 18-year stay in England.
Pondering the idea of returning
The motivation for Lazar’s return was of a personal nature. He never thought of doing private business in Serbia. He had a very successful career in the UK. Yet, realizing that he was wasting all his mental and physical capacities at work and not seeing his family much, he discovered that that was not the life he wanted for himself and his family. It was for various reasons that Lazar and his wife started mulling over the notion of moving out of the UK. Brexit was one of those reasons. The fact that English nationalism was taking its toll did not help the whole situation. Lazar also felt ready to change his career path and find a more balanced way of living and doing what he was truly passionate about. Moving to other big economic centers worldwide would have meant having the same lifestyle, which they wanted to avoid because he no longer wanted to spend 12 to 15 hours in the office not being able to see his children.
The entire family has started a thorough process of looking at all aspects life of all family members. Lazar was thinking about what was important to him for a long time, what was important to his wife and their children, and what the directions of development for his family were. A number of factors had to be taken into account. There were probably more than thirty of said factors that played a role in deciding to move back to Serbia. Finally, they concluded that Serbia was the country in which they can have the most balanced life.
Preparations for the return
As he did not follow the news much, Lazar was somewhat oblivious of the events and people from Serbia. He no longer knew who the “important people in the city” were or the political players. However, he and his wife kept track of the economic situation. Seeing that the economic situation and infrastructure in Serbia had changed was encouraging. Additionally, the business ecosystem was evolving and new types of businesses were emerging. This was an unthinkable concept twenty years ago.
It was important for Lazar’s family to know exactly where they were going, so they had planned everything – they bought an apartment, found schools for the children, and secured financial stability. Lazar found a teaching position at a Faculty that was aligned with his values and standards of high-quality education. He was also planning to open a consulting agency. All these conditions made their transition smooth.
Public administration takes time
Lazar recalls waiting for hours at the police station in Smederevo just to submit the request for issuing an ID card. This was just one of many occasions of wasting precious time while dealing with the administration in Serbia. For example, walking long distances from one institution to another only to carry papers from one office to another seems unnecessary since the system already has all data in a digital form.
Lazar shared that he wasted a lot of time waiting in lines for trivial matters, or for instance, going into a space with none of the rooms having any markings on them, which makes it difficult to know which room one is being sent to. On a positive note, Lazar was surprised when he was at the Serbian Business Registers Agency because he did not expect that level of commitment from the agency, and although he acknowledges the problem of having to go there personally, he says that this is one of the institutions that really functions well, resembling the Western level of public service.
We could have a better country if we used all our human capital
Despite the visible transformation of the country, Lazar is disappointed at the state governance. He observes that changes happen only when the European Union imposes them, despite the fact that we have more than sufficient human capital to make this country thrive. However, it remains unused. He himself feels that he cannot contribute as much as he could and would like to.
Lazar shared that there are Serbian experts in every domain of human activity who gained recognition all over the world, but not in Serbia. He states that those people weren’t offered a chance to form an institute or at least to build a foundation here to teach people how to build specific public policies, laws or other processes. Those people, in fact, are invisible in Serbia, and that’s the main issue, he says.
Lazar admits he isn’t really fond of hanging out with business people, not in Belgrade, nor in London. He prefers a somewhat more casual ambiance and situations that are not business related. Over the course of his time in London, Lazar remained in contact with the people closest to him – family and friends with whom he can reconnect over a cup of coffee, so in that sense, he had friends when he moved back from London.
Talking about assistance while moving back to Serbia, Lazar states that him and his family organized everything before coming back, so no assistance was needed, but it was important to have an expert to call if needed, if anything, it felt good just having that option.
As for his children, Lazar says that they enjoy going to school and having many friends. They have a richer social life here because of the cultural factors, but also because everything is at a walking distance.
View of the future
Lazar is satisfied with the decision of his family to move back to Serbia, but just because he lives the life that he chose. However, he is not sure whether they will stay here or there – such a decision will be based on numerous factors. Looking at the future, he can imagine his wife and him moving abroad with their daughters if they choose to study abroad.
When asked what he would advise to those who are pondering the return but perhaps feeling confused about it, he shared a piece of advice: “The most important thing is to learn what it is that you want. If you are not sure where you are going, make sure you know where you don’t want to go”.