„North Macedonia? Is that in Asia?” – Well, my friends had absolutely no idea what I will have to expect from this country. The same was true for me. I only knew, that this small country with several cultures and populations groups sounds very interesting and will definitely be a more exciting experience than a gap year in another similar developed industrial country like Germany.
After 2 months I can proudly say that I was right all along the line! Indeed, I already had multiple interesting encounters, conversations and most importantly a lot of fun. And just by the way I got the feeling, this one year in Skopje will teach me more for life than 12 years of school. The improvement of my English, the chance to learn another language by actually also using it in practice, all the impressions from different cultures and people with different ways of living and thinking are just the most obvious examples.
The most important lection I already learned is, to appreciate the privileges I used to have in Germany. Always grumbling on the bureaucracy in Germany, I now start to understand how pleasant and useful systems can be if they actually work. In my opinion every resident of an industrial country should also live in a developing country for some time (vacation in a 5-star beach reservoir doesn´t count). I am sure people will stop complaining about many of their petty problems and finally start to enjoy every day by just being grateful.
What definitely works better than North Macedonian systems, is socializing in this truly warm-hearted country with a, for me as a German, mind blowing friendliness to foreigners. Acquaintances with strangers on the street, in bars or in parks are the order of the day and if there is a country, where hitchhiking works better than going by bus it is definitely North Macedonia. This balkan mentality made me soon feel so comfortable. My work colleagues and the Macedonian volunteers from the environmental educating organization “Go Green” also made a major contribution to this. The relaxed but still constructive working atmosphere makes me really enjoy my time in the office.
For a boy from the countryside like me it is also important to have some nice nature around, to avoid being swallowed up by the urban jungle. Even though Skopje itself isn´t the greenest city, the surrounding environment and North Macedonia´s landscape in general are breathtaking. Skopje is located beneath the Vodno mountain, nearby the Matka canyon and also not too far from national parks like Mavrovo or the Ohrid lake; and for sure many many other beautiful locations I will discover during my next months in North Macedonia.
Till is hosted by GoGreen on the project “Volunteers for a Green Future”, financed by the European Solidarity Corps and Jugend für Europa.