Bethany Yonts: Sarajevo from Foreigner’s Perspective

bethany yontsMorning greets me with the refreshing smell of car fumes, cigarettes and the corner pekara (bakery).

The strangeness of BiH is what draws me back. Sarajevo seems to be in sync with the rules of the U.S. improvisational TV show, “Whose Line is it Anyway”: where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.

It’s easy for foreigner’s to find fun activities around town, especially during the summer. Meeting new faces is not a lengthy task in a town that is so social. Men are generally friendlier than women here. Granted, these men are usually interested in more than friendship. There was an occasion when I was sitting alone on a bench, and a man approached me. In a manner of fact way, he told me I was beautiful. I said thank you, and he walked away. It was uncomfortable and hilarious, but it taught me something. To protect my reputation, I have to be more careful with my actions here than I do in my home country.

coffee Sarajevo bethany yontsThe social challenge lies with making friends with women. Women are competitive amongst themselves anywhere, but the tension runs high in Sarajevo. But I can understand why. Women are the ones that keep this country going. I think even the men know that. I both fear and admire these warrior women who have a job, a family, and a social life in a city like this.

Young and old are dressed well for all occasions. Along with this, Bosnians tend to look younger to me than they actually are. I’ve mistaken people in their 30s for being my peers. I feel an unspoken pressure to dress up to even run down to the market.

There’s not much reason to leave the city with so much to do within Sarajevo. This time around was my first trip here that I actually left Sarajevo and explored other towns in BiH. Public transportation is awesome for a foreigner like me who doesn’t have a car. On the other hand, taxis have proven to be interesting. The drivers usually don’t understand my Bosnian because of pronunciation errors. I have to show them the address via writing it down. More often than not, a taxi driver doesn’t even know the street I need to get to, so they just drop me off at the wrong place.

The city I come from is far more polished than Sarajevo. But I like fearing that I’ll break my ankle when I go for a run thanks to potholes. I’m oddly fond of the bad customer service and the communist block apartments. It’s a fun challenge to see if I can go a whole summer without a distressing trip to the hospital. These aspects, and many more, give Sarajevo its character. It’s a gritty town with a lot of gumption.

Bethany Yonts is a foreigner speaking about her perception of Sarajevo, as she says, a very dynamic city. She came from the USA and is currently living in Sarajevo. Ms. Yonts has been to Sarajevo three times over the last three years. Previous to that, she has traveled in the southern Balkans, and is familiar with the general culture of the region.

Written by Bethany Yonts/ photo by Bethany Yonts Photography

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