Agency Novelus Blog

Serbian Business Culture and Serbian Negotiation Style

Posted by Matej GRABROVEC on May 8, 2018 1:26:31 PM
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Serbian business style is not a typical one. It is strongly influenced by the history of wars, conflicts and betrayals.

 It is colored by culture and shaped by very strong national mentality.


Serbian Business Style

Southeastern Europe or Balkan peninsula is a very interesting region with many different stories and conflicts. Entering southeastern Europe as a business is not an easy task.

When interested in foreign market entry and doing business in a certain market, it is of a great importance to reflect on the country’s culture

So, if you are into Serbian market entry or you want to do business in Serbia you should understand Serbian business and Serbian negotiation style. In this blog you will find out in details how to do business in Serbia.



Serbian Communication Style

Serbian people prefer informal behavior and communication. They gladly share their private information and openly talk about all kinds of subjects.

Serbs are broad-minded and before or during negotiations with them you could be engaged in a range of different topics for a conversation including leisure, holidays, sports, family, politics, religion, etc.

They highly value personal relationships and try to establish and maintain them for a long period of time. This is also a consequence of collectivistic culture.



Business Meeting in Serbia

A common practice in Serbia is to take your business partner to a lunch or a dinner. What is really interesting is that best business transactions and deals are arranged at these lunches/dinners.

Serbs enjoy food very much. They are proud of their national cuisine. Besides delicious food, drinks (read: alcohol beverages) are an inevitable part of the business lunch/dinner, as well as the tones of special Serbian music genre.

It is not rare to be invited to your business partner’s home where you will be served with a home cooked meal but bear in mind that it is considered impolite to present yourself for the first time in someone’s house without a small gift (a bottle of wine, flowers and/or some small souvenir from your home country if you are a foreigner).

If a restaurant is chosen, it is usually of the highest quality and with traditional food and environment. Sometimes, foreign partners could be taken to a small street stand with traditional barbecue which is Serbia famous for.

When doing business for the first time, business partners usually do not immediately negotiate, but they use the first meeting to get to know each other and build up trust. And for this purpose previously mentioned options are used, whereas the negotiation itself will take place either in a very good restaurant or in comfort of an office. With old business partners, the place of negotiation is usually already known without saying.



Serbian Business Ethics

If you are a foreigner negotiating or doing business in Serbia, don’t be surprised if at some point you are offered with a bribe (gifts, money, etc.). This practice is still present although less than before. It is the residual of the former regime when corruption was regarded as a common accelerating factor which made the process of obtaining licenses, permits, various documents and decisions more efficient.

These days, the picture has changed a lot. Government institutions and ministries are also more professional then they used to be. Nevertheless, bribery still exists although today it is handled with more care and secrecy.



Serbian Business Manners

The dress code is usually professional and appropriate for the business situation.

Serbs are rather punctual and respectful towards their business partner’s location and time preferences.

Regarding both business and everyday manners (when eating, greeting, etc.), Serbs do not differ so much from Westerns. In short, you are not going to be expected to burp after a meal (like in some Asian countries) but a firm handshake, eye contact, exchange of business cards, etc. – those business activities are in order.

Serbs tend to respect the reached agreement and contractual obligations. This characteristic might surprise Westerns who often have prejudices about Serbian business culture.



Serbian Power-based Negotiation

What could be even more unexpected for foreigners is to find that Serbians have strong negotiation style and abilities, as well as fluency in foreign languages. dating back to centuries of skillful trading.

Serbian strong stands in negotiation are usually manifested throughout bargaining and taking the position. So, Serbian negotiation style is power-based negotiation style.

The reason for this lays in the historical and cultural background. Serbs are used to defending their territory – turf protection.

Due to the same reason Serbian culture is more “masculine”. Raising voice and showing emotions is not a strange thing for the negotiations in Serbia.

Concerning the knowledge of foreign languages, American English is widely spoken due to the presence of American movies and American culture in Serbia, especially through mass media.  


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Tags: serbia, doing business in serbia, market entry, south east europe, market entry in serbia, serbian business culture