Country: United Kingdom
Year of return: 2016
LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW
MOVED TO UNITED KINGDOM
A LACK OF LIFE-WORK BALANCE
Working as a financial consultant was great and provided an
opportunity to earn well and travel for work, but soon his life turned
into not much more but the work itself. Working overtime was a daily
routine. Frequent business trips did not allow creating an optimal
work-life balance. He had to plan his free days weeks before and it
was hard to have a social life.
At some point, he realized he needed to change his
profession and decided to find a way to become a writer,
something he’s been wanting since his youth. Since he did
not have any connections within the world of media in the
UK, it was going to be hard to change his career path.
Srdjan would have started from scratch which was
unsustainable in terms of the finance needed for a living. In
Belgrade, it was much more affordable to work and have
more free time, travel and invest time in discovering new
GETTING A JOB IN SERBIA
He came to Serbia for a visit during which he was going to decide
whether to stay or return to the UK. He suddenly got a job for a
foreign media company and that was a huge encouragement for
Srdjan to decide to move to Belgrade.
After graduating from Mathematical Grammar School, Srdjan moved to the UK. He enrolled in the University of Warwick’s BSc in Philosophy Politics and Economics at then, straight after, an MSc in Economics for Development at the University of Oxford. His chosen fields were part of the reason why he left Serbia – he wanted to experience the interdisciplinary approach to social science and humanities, which he did not expect to find at universities in Serbia. Srdjan says that his family had always claimed that, in order for someone to achieve anything and succeed, one must go abroad. In 2011 and 2012, Srdjan spent a gap year in Serbia. He remembers that t at that time, Serbia was still affected by the global economic downturn of the economic crisis, and the jobs that were offered in Belgrade, especially economy-related jobs, didn’t seem as appealing as the jobs in London. Srdjan claims that those jobs seemed like torture for far less money, and far less opportunity for growth, as well. Since London is one of the global financial capitals, were Srdjan completed internships at two investment banks, he decided to apply for a jab. After receiving an offer from one global firm, Srdjan worked as a management consultant in financial services for three and a half years.
Changes in the emotional landscape
Srdjan soon realized that, despite offering great career opportunities, consulting took a toll in other areas of his life The working hours were exhausting. Traveling all the time at first seemed like a great benefit to the job but at some point, it became unsustainable for him. He was unable to achieve a satisfactory balance between his working life and personal one. Financial reward was good, but it didn’t feel emotionally rewarding as he saw very little purposeful impact being made. The work was taxing and he wasn’t able to create a normal routine for himself in London. He didn’t feel like he had stability. He remembers that he was working for 12 hours with not much sleep and eating and that he needed to plan his weekends weeks ahead. Even the “big prize”, getting UK citizenship or saving more money, didn’t seem so fascinating as time went by.
Srdjan started to contemplate what it is that he wanted to dedicate his time to, and he rediscovered his old passion for writing. It was not a simple decision. Yet, after a while, Srdjan decided he wanted to pursue a writing career. Making that happen in the UK was difficult because his network was in the world of finance so going into a new business without any connections was hard. He would have had to start his career from scratch.
Back in 2011/2012, he didn’t see himself returning to Serbia because there were no job opportunities. However, this time around, however, he decided to take a risk and try to find or create a good position for himself
Writing felt good
When he returned back in May, Srdjan had been traveling a lot for the first year while writing for his blog The Nutshell Times and for BIRN’s local English language newspaper Belgrade insight and their portal Balkan Insight He first wrote a fortnightly op-ed in Belgrade Insight and later he progressed to the position of co-ordinating editor Srdjan was grateful for how easily things unfolded in the desired direction. He felt great writing and soon received very positive feedback and compliments that gave him credibility.
Over the years in the UK he noticed that all facets of Serbia and the Balkans, were not fully represented in the media and he wanted to offer a different perspective. Since the Belgrade Insight shut down in 2018, Srdjan has been working as a freelancer in Belgrade, writing a blog about Serbia and running The NutshellTimes.com and Porketači Podcast featuring stories about successful entrepreneurs and inspirational stories from the region.
Srdjan says he felt a lot of pressure from his parents because they were advising him to go somewhere else, but after a year and a half, he realized he needn’t to go anywhere else because he thought he was doing well for himself in Serbia. He says that he had misconceptions and a “twisted perception” of the situation in Serbia. In the long run, Srdjan claims that he feels it is much better for him to be in Serbia. He had a decent paycheck as a writer and he could make a living for himself with what he earned. He feels emotionally invested in everything that has been going on here, and, although it felt good being abroad, he feels that it is not an optimal way to live if you care about living and the environment.
Srdjan maintains contacts with his friends abroad. In Serbia, he remained in contact with his friends from high school and elementary school, and he is also in touch with his extended family.
When coming to his decision of returning to Serbia, Srdjan says that two of his very close friends from college, originally from Croatia, supported him in the best possible way. They encouraged him but also were realistic with their approach, Srdjan claims.
When he first came back, he saw that his social life was changing – first, he was meeting people from his high school years for the first year, but then he started meeting people he hardly knew but who had a similar story – returnees or people with experience abroad.
It meant a lot to him that he could meet people on a business day, because in London that wasn’t possible. He remembers the days in London when he was sick, not being able to get out of bed, and that he thought about who he could call – his initial thought was calling his close friends, but there was always a possibility that they were out of town or busy given the fast pace of life in the city. While in Belgrade, Srdjan claims, he has a family with whom he is closely connected and also a broader network of people that he can always call if he needs any sort of assistance.
What’s keeping me here and what worries me
Srdjan shared that his biggest motivation is the podcast and the people involved in that project. The podcast is not focused on famous people but on enthusiasts and their stories. The fact that those people remained in Serbia, finding their meaning and place was quite motivating for Srdjan.
The main worry, claims Srdjan, was the existential issue – the fact that he returned to a place with far fewer job opportunities. Srdjan says that he often contemplates leaving, but that he also travels a lot, visiting his friends in London, Italy or Switzerland, and that he always has this “oh, it is so nice here” impression, which makes him question his decision on a monthly basis.
One a year, Srdjan “draws a line” and analyzes a pros and cons of his life decisions. Every year he finds that his goals have been fulfilled and that he’s made progress. He remains open to leaving but decides to stay in Belgrade for as long as he feels it makes sense.
It is easy to migrate again but good to stay as well
Srdjan suggests that it is important to know the benefits of living abroad and the benefits of living in Serbia and to have the most realistic picture of it. He advises people to try to come back to Serbia because it is not as scary as one might think it is, and that we shouldn’t be so dramatic about the perception of leaving and returning.
He feels that it would be easy for him to leave. On the other hand, Srdjan is aware of the fact that his career path and international education is making it easier for him to stay, because he has an edge in the domestic and international market. That level of confidence in knowing you can work anywhere is essential.