Of course as soon as you start living in another country you will learn plenty of new things. As I was thinking about how to write this article I want to point out the stuff that changed me for the better. The stuff that’s making me happier. This probably sounds weird to many people including Macedonians. I often get the question: ‘But why here? Why Macedonia? You are from the Netherlands, it is so much better there!’ Yeah, stop looking at the gross income of Dutch people, ask for the net income and ask how much they have left after they have paid all their bills… it ain’t that pretty as you might think it is. Besides that, every country has its own manual on how everything works. And some manuals are tougher, some are easy, some are completely insane, but there is always one that fits you. And well as it turns out till now, Macedonia fits me.
1. Stop rushing
Coming from a country that always seems to be in a rush and loves deadlines, it is really hard to adapt to the ‘laid back Macedonian style’ of living. Even when I’m walking it seems like I’m running for most Macedonians. But since everyone here is taking their time, it slowly sneaks up on me as well… Poleka Poleka
Just one thing, if you ever see Macedonians running, start running as well because there is definitely something going on.
2. Have patience with institutions
Ok, I thought that the institutions in my country were slow until I came to Macedonia.
O-MI-GADO. It is truly bizarre how the system works or doesn’t work? And since no one is ever in a rush here, don’t think they will make an exception for you. So I learned to have patience with institutions.
3. Meat doesn’t taste that bad
I have mentioned it before, and I will repeat it again (sorry, but many will understand me) the food is awesome here! In my country I didn’t like to eat chicken or pork, it was dry, no matter how you cook, bake or fry it, and tasteless no matter the seasoning. Here… I love pork. Especially when its prepared for hours in the oven so it falls apart as soon as you put your fork in the meat, and the meat melts on your tongue… well you just have to try it.
4. Eat with the seasons
Well most fruits and vegetables you can find the whole year in the supermarkets. Sure, they get a little more expensive now and then, but at least you can always prepare your favorite meals in the Netherlands. Here in Macedonia I really needed to change that habit. Every season offers different fruits and vegetables, which makes going to the market much more interesting and challenging.
5. Reconnecting with nature
Although the Netherlands also has some pretty nice spots to offer you, it is nothing compared to Macedonia. Nature is all around you and you don’t have to travel far to get to beautiful lakes, forests and mountains.
6. Planning is useless
I love planning things ahead, knowing what I’m going to do on the first Friday of next month. It makes me comfortable and gives me structure. Well forget it here! If I ask on a Wednesday: ‘Hey what are you up to for the weekend?’ I see question marks popping up above the Macedonian heads. Knowing in March where they will go to for the summer holidays? Nope, they don’t. They will see when the time is there… first it was frustrating, now it is just slightly annoying. Maybe I will get the hang of it in 5 years?
Probably the best thing that I have learned, is that I enjoy everything a little more. I appreciate way more what I have and I know just how valuable friendships and family are for me as a person. And these six things mentioned above, makes it how I can ‘survive’ the Macedonian manual.