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Wall Street Journal: Owl Spotting in Serbia is Not Your Average Safari

KIKINDA, Serbia-It’s a familiar sight  to the residents of Kikinda, Serbia: people of all ages and descriptions standing under the trees that line the town’s large square, looking ridiculous as they cock their heads back, mouths agape, fingers counting in the air. I dubbed it the “Kikinda stance,” and my husband, Vladimir, and I perfected it recently on a visit to the town.

What is everyone counting? Birds. A picturesque town of about 40,000 people less than 10 miles from the Romanian border, Kikinda is home to the planet’s largest roosting population of long-eared owls. Every year from early November until the middle of March, hundreds of them roost each day in the trees of the square. Read more

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Wall Street Journal Expat: Lessons from A Successful Expat

VIENTIANE, LAOS— Lao Textiles is a must-stop for visitors to Vientiane, the lovely, if somewhat sleepy capital of Laos. It offers everything from gorgeous silk weaved scarves to tablecloths and silk tapestries to frame or hang on the wall, and it employs more than 40 local Lao women, who create the exquisite pieces on weaving looms in a workshop at the back of the shop. Read more

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Wall Street Journal Expat: How Expet Betsie Came Home

Betsie a black Labrador standing in back of car

LONDON–BETSIE, MY ADORED and spoiled black Labrador, has just come back from wintering in Serbia. A proper Londoner, she was born in Hampstead and spent the first nine months of her life traipsing around north London, learning to swim—avoiding those territorial swans and ducks—in the ponds on Hampstead Heath. But when my husband had to go back home to Serbia for several months, while his spousal visa to the U.K. was being processed, he refused, point blank, to leave without Betsie.

I was hesitant about taking her, because I knew that transporting pets in and out of the European Union could be stressful—though, luckily, the U.K. got rid of its archaic six-month quarantine laws in 2012. However, he was insistent, so we started looking into all the requirements for both getting her out of the U.K. and across the EU to a non-EU country, and then for getting her back to London. Read more

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Wall Street Journal Expat: An Expat in Search of Serbian Kajmak

Kajmak on wooden plate

LONDON–DURING A RECENT stint living in central Serbia, I became obsessed with kajmak, which, if you can imagine, is like a lovechild between cream cheese and salty French butter. Made from the skimmed fat of cows’ milk and then mixed with salt, its consistency can vary from rather runny and milky (new) to more like clotted cream (old).

My mother-in-law and her sisters run some sort of kajmak mafia in their hometown of Kraljevo: There are frenzied meetings to discuss which of the sisters—or their one friend they also allow in on their operation—will make the kajmak pick-up, how much they will pay and how they will transport it (each sister seems to have a specific kajmak plastic container they use).

By the way, there is a huge debate in Serbia about whether the kajmak from Kraljevo or Čačak is the best.

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WSJ Expat: To Kiss or Not to Kiss, That Is the Question

Two girls kissing on cheek

BELGRADE–FOR ME, IT’S one of the biggest expat conundrums: to kiss or not to kiss. I grew up in the Midwest of America, where we were all about giving big bear hugs to friends, family and colleagues. But then I moved to London and I was thrown into the deep end of European kissing culture, which still remains awkward for me as it feels rather false and I have never worked out the unspoken understanding there seems to be between two people of whether the greeting should be a kiss or a handshake.

I once had a very cringeworthy exchange with a British army colonel at an exhibition opening. We had met a few times for interviews and also exchanged friendly emails, but in my mind our relationship was still on the handshake level. So when we saw each other, I went for the handshake and he went in for a kiss. It ended up being a very cloddish and uncomfortable greeting. Read more