26 September 2017

Katia Novet Saint-Lôt - Expat in Belgrade, Serbia

Katia Novet Saint-Lôt - Expat in Belgrade, Serbia

We’ve had the chance to talk to Katia Novet Saint-Lôt , 53, a French expat who has moved to Serbia with her family. Mrs. Novet Saint-Lôt  who has been living there for four years, now works as a translator and writer. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: France but my mother is Spanish.


Q: What made you move out of France?

A: Learning a new language, a lust for travel.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Belgrade, Serbia. My husband was posted here.


Q: How long have you been living in Serbia?

A: Four years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: With my husband and our youngest daughter. They’re fine.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I have lived outside of France half my life, so I miss the friends and countries I have left as much as I miss France or Spain. Too much Facebook, Whatsapp and Skype.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Warm, family oriented, tradition-loving, with a bit of a baggage when it comes to their torturous history and a split identity between east and west.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in the country? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: Not this time, but I’m partly responsible. After coming from more challenging countries like Bangladesh, where expatriates are immediately embraced by the community, returning to Europe proved easy from a logistical, comfort of living standpoint, but more difficult socially. As I’m a bit of a loner, anyway, I did not make much of an effort to make friends.


Q: How does the cost of living in Serbia compared to your home?

A: Cheaper.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: 1 Euro.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 10 euros.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: 30 Euros.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Starting at 5 Euros. No idea for cigarettes, but probably very cheap. Smoking is an inescapable scourge here.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Serbia?

A: My husband’s office took care of these matters, as it is quite complicated. Lots of red tape.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Again, my husband’s office takes care of these matters, and thank goodness for that, as I hear it can be a headache.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Serbia is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: We use Belmedic - they are on the expensive side, but covered by Cigna (which used to be Van Breda) and quite efficient.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in France or Serbia? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: We use Cigna, formerly Vanbreda.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Serbia? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Compared with other moves, this one has been seamless for us. We used Move One to deliver here, and unpack. No issue.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: This would be years ago when we moved to Nigeria with a small baby: security issues and lack of supplies. School issues can be all-consuming and nerve-wracking. Our children’s education is of paramount importance, obviously, and when the school does not deliver, sometimes in spite of their hefty fees, it is very frustrating. Also, having our children in international schools often means that the local children whose parents can afford this type of establishment tend to be insanely wealthy and if the school is not clear and firm in its approach to discipline and rules, well, it can be tricky.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in the country?

A: Positive: very easy to navigate; beautiful scenery; English is spoken quite well practically everywhere; easy to travel to and around Europe; overall an easy expatriate experience. Negative: smoking is everywhere, and if it bothers you, it makes going out quite a challenge as they don’t understand (nor wish to) the concept of non-smoking sections in restaurants for instance; the Serbian way of driving is pushy and aggressive, and there is very little concern for civic manners or attitude (utter disrespect for traffic or parking regulations, whether you are a driver or a pedestrian, for instance).


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Nature (gorgeous hikes, caving, kayaking, etc.) and sightseeing. Good wines in the region. Spas. Traveling to all the neighbouring countries as well.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Yes.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Don’t worry. It will be easy. Join the Facebook group Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club.