I Serb, Therefore I am

As a Serb in Vienna, you can make your way without substantial knowledge of German. Whether is it on the street, in the metro, at a grocery store, in a café or restaurant – Serbian accents are around every corner. I’ve therefore found that gossiping in English or German is safer, because Serbian ears are like antennae. In order to not blow our cover, we incognito-Serbs like pretending we don’t understand, but we’re definitely listening. 

Many Serbs will have strong opinions and have a hard time letting go – just look at our one-sided marriage with Kosovo. And when we lose at something, we redefine ourselves as the moral winners – it’s an unbeatable mindset! We love a good laugh, tasty food, dancing and singing until we’re hoarse. In fact, we relive our emotions through songs. We’re not complainers, we like to share, help friends in need, yet are also direct and wear our heart on our sleeve.

Perhaps it’s due to our lack of trust in politics back home that we’ve never elected any important politicians of Serbian heritage to the Austrian Parliament. It’s in our blood to be skeptical to the point of even inventing conspiracy theories. But I assure you that you will never meet anyone more persistent and stubborn than a Serb. We will overcome the toughest challenges, which makes us great leaders. One exceptional example is Bogdan Roščić, born in Belgrade, who is the new Director of Vienna’s State Opera, like many other Serbian performers and creatives who enrich the Austrian art scene.

Serbs are the biggest community in Vienna, counting over 100,000 people. From cleaners and bus drivers to nurses and police officers, many of us are instrumental to sustaining the infrastructure of Austrian society. Serbs are also successful doctors, lawyers, professors, architects, engineers, public servants and journalists. You name it, we do it! But above all, Serbs lead by forging their own path and running their own businesses. There is no better feeling than being independent and running your own empire!

We are no longer just descendants of Gastarbeiter (guest workers), nor are we refugees like our predecessors in the 1990s. Thanks to our dedicated parents and their parents working as nurses, truck drivers, cashiers and construction workers, the next generation was able to obtain degrees and become successful doctors, lawyers, managers, artists and IT-engineers. Stubbornness is in our DNA and helps us overcome any challenge that stands in our way.

We have a glorious yet painful history, which makes us very passionate when getting into political discussions. Especially when it comes to voting rights and integration in Austria. In Serbia, we are considered Schwabos, here we are Jugos. But, regardless of the labels, we feel at home in both countries. We are proud Serbs and, most of all, we are proud Viennese!

Srdačan pozdrav,

Alexandra-Anna Panić

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