Hello Caspar, tell us something about yourself for the start.
I’m born in Amsterdam, Nederland.
I am a musician/music producer, who (via a rock&roll tour, and the involvement of a wonderful Serbian woman) got stranded in Belgrade.. that’s where I live now.
How long have you been living in Belgrade and what brings you here?
I have been living in BG since summer 2005.. Like I said, I “fell off the tour-bus” and got stranded here, hooked in love… Later on, many practicalities and combinations of both our lives made it easier for us to live here than in Amsterdam, where I am from. In those days I was a touring musician who made his living all over the world, so I really did not need to live in Holland for that. later on, when I quit the band I was touring with, I was already kind of settled down here, and we decided it would be easier to stay here than to relocate all three of us ( we have a Serbian son) to Holland.. I am not always completely convinced that was the easy choice, but I believe life has pros and cons everywhere you live.. I am still happy here.
What do you like about being here, and what are the things you don’t like?
Gosh.. there is so much..First of all, I had no expectations, all I knew about Serbia before I came here where the horrible war stories from the nineties.. other than that I was what you’d call a “tabula rasa” when it came to Serbia. What I like here is actually hard to describe. It’s a feeling, a vibe, a groove… something about this place made me like it instantly, even before I met my wife… I’m guessing you are actually also asking me to compare Serbia with my home country a bit? The climate is great in comparison to Holland. life here is much more insecure and unstable which kind of sucks.. But, at the same time, I feel more free here… Sure, in Serbia I’m broke much more often than in Holland.. but fuck it ..money ain’t everything.. 😉 Local produce( fruit meat etc) is good, and, as a foreigner, I feel very welcome here.. (much more welcome than my wife would be in Holland). Local food/cuisine are very tasty. But on the other hand the quality of Exotic food (in restaurants) is pretty bad..I could go on and on about stuff I like and dislike but a lot of that has more to do with me than with Serbia…
What are your favorite spots / tourist attractions in Belgrade?
Hmmm.. well, I live right next to Kalemegdan.. At certain times I really like to go for a walk ( 200 mtrs to the right from my house) and then go to the fortress and just sit on the wall and look out onto new Belgrade.. It’s a very good place for contemplation.. It feels very wide and big and makes me really feel and realize where I am, and how crazy it is that I am here, which is healthy… I think.
What is your favorite local food / drink? Are there some things that you are missing from your country?
My favorite local dish is Karadjordjeva steak. It’s a sick dish actually! It’s so shamelessly unhealthy and full of calories, I love that! It’s like a big fat Rock-riff. And if it’s prepared the right way I almost can’t finish it.. I really like the way local food is served in big portions. Serbian food in general is very unsophisticated, primitive peasant food.. but when It’s done right, I really love that simple good food. The only food I really miss from my motherland is “Hollandse Nieuwe” Haring .. you can google that. It’s a very Dutch way of eating Fish.. the Haring is actually rotting,kind of, which many people find disgusting.. But It’s a very exclusively Dutch kind of preparation which is not easy to export and that’s why it’s so rare.. I really miss it. come to think of it.. I miss it now!
What do you think about locals?
First of all, I really don’t like to make ethnical generalizations, and I can only speak from my personal “foreigner” perspective, but most Serbs I know are very warm hearted people. I really like Serbian hospitality, also on the other hand Serbs can be very petty and small minded and strangely conservative sometimes…at the same time generous, not stingy like us Dutch people. But hey, people come in all kinds and sizes… I like Serbs, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Professionally speaking I think the music culture in Serbia has both good and bad sides. There are many great musicians, but very few good bands.. The working mentality can be great depending on who you meet, but many Serbs I know are also easily satisfied with their own work and are kind of lazy… but again, it really depends. I have done business with Serbs having great results and terrible results. The hardest working people I know are also Serbian.. In general I tend to trust Serbian people to work with and to be honest in business. So yeah, maybe my answer is a bit vague but Let’s just say, I have been around the world and people are people. The only people I have really bad experiences with in business are Americans.. but let’s not go there now.. next question?
How does the cost of living compare to your country?
Many things are cheaper in Serbia.. but generally speaking live is much more expensive here.. just because things that we use a lot, that are supposed to be cheap, are expensive here.. cheese, electricity, rent, bus-plus, simple stuff. If you have to buy that with our Serbian income it’s very expensive.. The reason people in Holland have lots of money for luxurious stuff is because basic needs in life are comparably cheap there, so people have much more expendable income… luckily I am really not very materialistic, I don’t like shopping and I like to live a simple life.. that is probably one of the reasons I don’t care so much about the money situation here.. I don’t need much.
Any other tips for fresh expats and travelers?
Travelers should just do what they do everywhere..my advice would be: Try local food and drinks, and never mind Skadarlija but go to a splav or something more typical Belgradian.. Also, traveling through the country (mostly the south) is very beautiful, don’t miss out on the experience of having lunch in a kafana in the mountains or in a southern Serbian village.. It’s very special. If you come to live here? Don’t wait learning the language. do it immediately! everyone I know who didn’t do that (myself included) ended up with everyone speaking English to them and that makes it very hard to learn Serbian.. So my advice is to go straight for it.. and learn Serbian.. It’s one of my biggest regrets in life that I didn’t do that, and now I am still struggling like an idiot…after 11 years, my Serbian is shamefully bad!
Thank you Caspar for this interesting interview! Enterbelgrade’s crew had a chance to hear Caspar’s amazing work with some of the top artists in Serbia and abroad. For more info check out this page: