Serbia Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022
Basic data
Capital Belgrade
Population 6.87 million
Language Serbian
Religion 85% Orthodox
State system parliamentary republic
Head of State Aleksandar Vucic
Head of government Ana Brnabić
Currency name Serbian Dinar (RSD)
Travel
Time shift 0 o’clock
Economy 2021
Nominal GDP (billion USD) 147.6
Economic growth (%) 7.5
Inflation (%) 4.0
Unemployment (%) 11.0

The Republic of Serbia was established as a successor state of the former state of Serbia and Montenegro after the declaration of independence of Montenegro in June 2006. The political system of the Republic of Serbia is a parliamentary democracy. The Serbian parliament is unicameral. Serbia is a candidate country of the European Union. Recently, Serbia has been called the “Balkan Tiger”, mainly because of the fastest growing economy in the region. Serbia is the only European country that has signed free trade agreements with both the European Union and the Russian Federation. Despite the economic crisis in the world caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Serbia has managed to maintain production capacities and prevent a significant decline in the country’s economy. A package of comprehensive economic measures adopted by the Serbian government contributed to the resilience of Serbian exports and the overall economy, favorable structure of the economy and increased sectoral and geographical diversification of exports achieved in previous years. Last year, an increase of 7.5% of GDP was achieved, which is one of the best results in Europe. Another high increase is expected for 2022, at the level of 3.5% of GDP, and in the following years, sustainable growth of approx. 3-4% of GDP in the medium term.

Trade exchange between the Czech Republic and Serbia for the year 2021 reached almost EUR 1,578 million. The value of Czech exports amounted to EUR 80million and has increased almost 3 times over the last ten years. The Czech Republic has a positive trade balance with Serbia. Czech exports are dominated by cars and parts, electrical energy, automatic machines. data processing, receiving and broadcasting devices, TV receivers and monitors, electric accumulators. Prospective sectors are, for example, the transport industry and infrastructure, railway and rail transport, the construction industry, the water management and waste industry, agriculture and the food industry.

From the point of view of business dealings, it is possible to state that local customs do not differ much from the Czech ones. There are certain differences in the freer perception of time, more expressive rhetoric, etc. Serbs make a great first impression, which lasts for a surprisingly long time, and which is difficult to change. They don’t pay much attention to details, often seeing them as something annoying to be solved by lawyers or accountants. The important thing is to make a deal and feel good about it. It is inherent in the mentality of the Serbs that in the interest of a favorable course of negotiations, they easily promise something that they cannot fulfill. Serbians don’t always like to plan and we can come across improvisation in their work. They don’t like to give way, and if they don’t know where to go, they make excuses about the lack of authority and limited decision-making possibilities. Doing business and trading in Serbia, like in other countries, is primarily about people and relationships. You need to arm yourself with patience and be able to come to an agreement, find compromises and points of contact even where it seems impossible at first. Personal presence cannot be replaced by e-mails, and checking the implementation of agreed arrangements is absolutely essential.

Culture of business dealings

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

This chapter provides a basic orientation in the informal rules and customs of business dealings in Serbia. For the purposes of negotiations with Serbs, it is possible to state that local customs do not differ much from Czech ones. However, Serbia is a country of extremes. The northern part historically belonged to the territory of Austria-Hungary, while the south was under the substantial influence of the Ottoman Empire. The differences between these two cultures also permeate today’s life in Serbia and are also felt in the business sphere.

Addressing

It is optimal if the Czech company is recommended to the partner by a third party whom the partner trusts. The presence of an ambassador or trade diplomat at meetings in Serbia should be reserved primarily for important meetings. Our embassy offers this support to Czech companies, but it is always necessary to assess the appropriateness of such support. This applies especially to dealings with state authorities, state-owned or large enterprises. We also try to support Czech companies through our personal participation in trade fairs. PROPED’s economic diplomacy projects also contribute significantly to establishing contacts. At the embassy, ​​it is also possible to organize company presentations co-organized by business associations and unions (under the conditions set by the relevant directive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic).

Business meeting

Most meetings take place in the partner’s office, during working hours, which in most companies start at 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. Negotiations are rarely concluded after the first meeting, rather negotiations can be expected in stages. Discussion of the issue is often continued during a working lunch or dinner. It should be noted here that lunches in Serbia usually start around 2pm, and dinners from 8pm. The usual suit for a business meeting is the same as in the Czech Republic. For meetings with long-term clients, a more relaxed, sporty-chic style is appropriate. Serbians prefer an informal approach, and they don’t put up much with etiquette. The content and editing of business cards is not uniform and fundamentally important, but business cards must be carried with you. Offices and restaurants are the main place for business meetings. As trust is established, you may be invited to your home or chat.

  • PaulSourcing: Tips and recommendations for doing business with Serbia. Also includes country basic data and information for entering the its market.

Time is not of the essence in negotiations in Serbia. However, Czech negotiators are advised to follow the principles of polite behavior and arrive on time for the agreed meeting. You should also not be surprised if a larger number of people are invited to the meeting despite their unclear connection to the subject of the meeting. The meeting is led by the highest official, his subordinates get to speak only if the leader agrees or invites them to do so himself. Compared to Czech customs, business meetings are longer and usually require considerable patience. In general, the larger the Serbian company, the shorter the familiarization or orientation phase of negotiations. Mostly, however, Serbs want to get to know their partner better, establish a friendship with him and find out as much information as possible about him. In any case, business negotiations are preceded by a longer informal conversation.

In Serbia, emotions are part of business. Serbs do not hide their emotions, they show their mood, satisfaction or dissatisfaction, even in front of people they do not know well. They behave openly and spontaneously. Due to their strong temperament, they often make impulsive decisions. During meetings in restaurants, hard alcohol, wine or beer is usually consumed with the meal. When negotiating in a company, it is possible to close a successful negotiation at the end, if the partner suggests it.

Communication

In general, from the point of view of Serbia, inappropriate topics of conversation include internal and foreign policy, the war in the Balkans, relations with Kosovo, etc. Addresses are addressed with the words Mr. or Mrs. in conjunction with the position or surname. Serbs quickly move on to calling by first name and touching, often without prior consent. Academic titles, with the exception of doctorate or professorship, are usually not used, priority is given to addressing a more important job position (e.g. Mr. Director, Mr. Deputy, etc.). Visit Aparentingblog for more information about Serbia culture and traditions.

The official language in the RS is Serbian with the Ekavian dialect and the Cyrillic script, Latin is also commonly used in everyday life. Knowledge of the Serbian language can help to make communication much easier. Especially smaller companies will appreciate any effort to express themselves in the Serbian language. If we do not speak Serbian, a high-quality interpreter is necessary, especially when negotiating the details of the deal. It is possible to communicate with young businessmen or in large companies in English, German or French. The older generation has very little language skills.

It is necessary to go to Serbia, communicate with partners and maintain relations. Operational details can be resolved by phone, very often via Viber, which is popular in Serbia.

Recommendation

Serbs are very particular about first impressions, which last surprisingly long and are difficult to change. They don’t pay much attention to details, often seeing them as something annoying to be solved by lawyers or accountants. The important thing is to make a deal and feel good about it.

It is inherent in the mentality of the Serbs that in the interest of a favorable course of negotiations, they easily promise something that they cannot fulfill. Serbians don’t always like to plan and we can come across improvisation in their work. They don’t like to give way, and if they don’t know where to go, they make excuses about the lack of authority and limited decision-making possibilities.

Doing business and trading in Serbia, like in other countries, is primarily about people and relationships. You need to arm yourself with patience and be able to come to an agreement, find compromises and points of contact even where it seems impossible at first. Personal presence cannot be replaced by e-mails, and checking the implementation of agreed arrangements is absolutely essential.

Public Holidays

January 1 – 2 – New Year

February 15-16 – Statehood Day of the RS

May 1 – 2 – International Labor Day

November 11 – World War I Armistice Day

January 7 – Božić – 1st day of Christmas

Moving holiday of Easter (Uskrs/Vaskrs), 3 days – Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday (calculated according to the Julian calendar).

It is fundamentally not advisable to plan meetings in the first half of January, when Serbs celebrate the New Year and Christmas.

Serbs of the Orthodox faith (85% of the population) individually worship the day of the family saint, the so-called “Slav”, when they have a day off from work. These days are mainly in the period from October 27 to January 27, but they also fall on other dates, such as May 6 (St. George). St. is celebrated the most. Nicholas (December 19).

Serbia Culture of Business