Out of The Mainstream
Usually, the countries in the somewhat ‘underdeveloped’ regions of the world have selfishly preserved their customs and traditions and always managed to charm their visitors with the uniqueness they possess.
Traveling south, straight to the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, you’ll find the smallest country in the region: Macedonia.
Along with few other countries in the Eastern European Peninsula called Balkan, Macedonia once upon a time shared the same history as part of one country. Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. Starting from the language, each one having its own but still able to understand the others, they share the same traditions and customs, even more than they are ready to admit. What they also have in common are the puzzled faces of foreigners when they ask “Where are you from?” A situation which usually ends up with a lot of zooming on Google maps.
What’s the most viral thing so easily accepted among people on and off the internet, except videos of cute kittens, of course? Food. Well, the Slavic countries have tons of different specialties that they all claim are theirs, but in fact not just that they share among themselves, but many of the dishes are traditional in Turkey as well, due to the ruling of the Ottoman Empire for around 5 centuries in the region.
The Bizarre Side of The Customs And Traditions
Museum on Water – Bay of the Bones in Lake Ohrid
To continue the story of the funny traditions, here are some situations that every tourist comes in contact with when visiting Macedonia. And yes, many of them are shared with the rest of the Slavic countries as well.
Were you bitten by a mosquito? Put some Rakija on it. Is your nose stuffy? Sniff Rakija, it will get better. Is your grandma cleaning the windows? She’s using Rakija for sure! What’s the strongest and most common alcoholic drink drank in the restaurants and family gatherings? You guessed it, it’s Rakija. This is their magical all-in-one potion and the craziest thing about it: it actually works!
Did someone mention food? Macedonians go nuts over food even if it’s just talking about it. Also, their grandmothers do not perceive the sentence “I’m full, I cannot eat anymore” They will cook for you and offer you food until your pants don’t fit anymore.
It’s all about the money. When you befriend locals they will always ask about the price of what you just bought. Doesn’t matter if they like it or not, the first question is the amount of money.
Speaking of money, although they constantly complain of the lack of it, what you’ll notice is that the cafes and restaurants are full, day in day out. And should I mention the betting houses that outnumber the population of 2 million?
What you’ll notice when you meet locals is that Macedonians aren’t very creative with names. It’s usually either Nikola or Aleksandar for the guys and Marija or Ana for the girls. But wait for the best part. They have funny nicknames for everyone, totally unrelated to the names yet helpful when you think about it. For example, the nickname helps you in order not to call the wrong Ana.
Until you go and see for yourself, you will think I’m overreacting on this one, but trust me when I tell you there are two versions of the same people you’ll meet. One is the nice and kind, friendly Macedonian, one is the mad suicidal driver who’s perfectly fine with driving backward on a boulevard or park on the right line of it just because.
Although very warm and welcoming people, they have some signs when it’s the right time for you to leave their house. Let’s say you were invited for a visit. You chat over snacks or some light meal after which they offer you coffee. Now you should know it’s time to go. This is why coffee is drunk at the end of every gathering. Another sign is the cake. If you go to a birthday party, you’ll see that cake is eaten at the end, which also means you should pack your stuff and leave.
Nothing related to history or even tradition, but the entire older generation of Macedonians knows Spanish. How come? Thanks to the millions of Spanish soap operas on TV in the past, many grandmothers wept with Fernando when Luciana left him for Sebastián. Right now all they have is poorly synchronized Turkish soap operas, so no more pro-bono language lessons.
The world is one big global village. People are more similar than they think and borders are only fictional. The more you travel, the more you are able to familiarize yourself with the differences you see in foreigners you meet along the way. So how many differences of The Balkans can you identify yourself with?