By Isabella Navia, YES Abroad PY2018-2019, Macedonia
In Macedonia, taking time to talk with friends is something that is an absolutely essential aspect of the culture and of life here. People value close, intimate friendships and spending quality time with each other. This is an aspect of the culture that is honestly my favorite. These close intimate friendships are typically built over several cups of one thing: coffee. I have always been a coffee enthusiast; however, Macedonia’s take it to another level. My friends here have introduced me to some of the best coffee I have ever drank (sorry Starbucks). Some of the best friendships I have made here have been in a coffee shop after school over several Nescafé’s, my favorite coffee drink. It is not that life here is necessarily slow, people are just as busy here as they are in the U.S. However, the priorities of this society are different than they are in America. People here, from my point of view, value time spent sitting and talking face to face with each other much more than I am used to. I can think of a number of meaningful conversations that I have had that would have never occurred without my nightly outing for coffee. To Balkan people, coffee is so much more than just coffee. It’s a time of the day that we can sit and connect with each other and talk about the ups and downs of the day. I have discussed everything from American politics to funny stories from my childhood, a cup of coffee and a café background being the perfect place to facilitate these important discussions.
Going out to eat is another aspect of the nightlife here. I could dedicate an entire blog post to the incredible food here and it still wouldn’t do it justice. My friends and I eat everything from salap (a thick pudding hot chocolate like dessert) to different pastries such as Nutella covered croissants from our favorite bakery Silbo. Every late night that we spend out together always ends with my group of girlfriends at Silbo, each eating our favorite dessert or pastry. Other traditional Macedonian night food are burgers with fries stuffed into them and one of my personal favorites’ sunflower seeds. Friends here each pitch in 5 denars and buy a huge bag of un-cracked sunflower seeds, an uncommon snack in the U.S. Then, you walk around the city park, talking and eating the sunflower seeds. It is not uncommon to see huge piles of the seeds scattered among the walkways as this is an activity that is very popular among the youth here.
Lastly, the night activities here are second to none. There are several places to go and always something to do. The discos here are a very popular place to socialize. Most people from the U.S would think Saturday Night Fever and the 1970s when I would say the word discos, however here they are the same as an American nightclub. On a night in which I would go to the disco, my friends and I will typically meet at someone’s house to get ready together. Outfits include dresses or black pants, crop tops or blouses and the ever-popular leather jacket. Many of the discos here open at 12, however there are a select few that are open from 9-12 for those who are underage. The music played at the discos demonstrate just how multicultural Macedonia is. The evening typically starts out with music that can be heard on the top fifty charts in the U.S. Next, the Macedonian D.Js play a mixture of electronic and Spanish music. By far the most popular music that in my experience is played is Serbian music. Serbia is very close to Macedonia and the influence of Serbian culture can be seen through the use of Serbian words in conversations and the popularity of Serbian music. If one isn’t in to mood for dancing, there are several other activities to partake in. Center, the central point of the city, is a fun place to walk around as there are several restaurants and shops where one can buy clothes. City Park is also a popular hangout spot. Groups of friends gather here to chat and have snacks. When the weather is nice, there are street vendors where you can get pancakes stuffed with Nutella and eat them with all your friends.
The night life in Skopje offers everything from dancing at the discos to relaxing over coffee in cafes. No matter what you choose to partake it, it is guaranteed that the emphasis put upon spending time together will be seen while participating in any of these activities.