The Café Conundrum of Eastern Europe
Now, I’d be the first person to tell you that I’m very fortunate. Fortunate to be born Stateside, where the hustle is ingrained in you from a young age. Certainly, the rat race catches many people out – and you just work, work, work to pay for all the things you can’t afford.
Until you die.
But, that attitude and hustle is a beautiful thing to take to a cheaper country. You can live a fantastic life for very little, all while continuing to scale out whatever it is you’re working on (making you even more money).
But here’s something that I’ve noticed my first two springs out here. I’m noticing it again as I type this at the “Kafeterija” here in Belgrade, Serbia.
(It’s a brilliant little place that has coffee from every major coffee country in the world — even Cuba.)
And you know what I see here?
The entire city.
The weather is stunning today. 75 degrees. It’s the first real week of spring. So everybody is coming out of hibernation to hang out in all of the outdoor cafes. You can hardly get a seat at any place on the main street.
It’s also a Tuesday at 1:30 in the afternoon.
And the whole city is out…in the cafes, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee and beer. Nobody is working. Everyone has F’d off the job for the week and is just having a grand old time. I’m the only one with a laptop out, and there are probably 75 people sitting outdoors at this specific cafe right now.
Here’s the deal:
Not to generalize, I love the people of EE. And Serbs are an especially fun and friendly bunch. And this spring cafe vacation certainly isn’t unique to them. I saw it in Poland in 2014 and 2016, Hungary in 2015, Ukraine in 2016, and so on.
Here’s the killer question, though:
How do you POSSIBLY expect to get ahead in life if you are sitting in a café for 3 hours on a Tuesday afternoon? The typical pattern seems to go something like this:
Step #1: Complain that your country is poor, salaries are too low, you can’t afford anything.
Step #2: Head to café when it’s nice weather and spend all afternoon, every weekday, sitting at café
Step #3: At café, wonder why your country has no money
Step #4: Complain more, and go back to the café the next day
Step #5: Rinse and repeat the Café Rat Race until you die
Now, I’d make the honest argument that people are much happier doing this as opposed to working slave jobs to buy more consumerist goods. There is genuine connection, love, and friendship out here. But, those things come at a cost.
In the States, it’s hard to make good friends.
But it’s easy to get money.
Reverse engineer it out here.
Great friendships, but almost impossible to make money given the circumstances.
The solution, is, of course, to have the best of both worlds.
Make money from a western source and spend it in the east. You can even make those friendships and connections if you’re willing to put in the work.
Just don’t get sucked into spending all day, every day at the café…