Serbian Work Culture
To succeed in business in Serbia, it is vital for both employers and employees to have a strong understanding of the business culture.
As a global PEO (Professional Employment Organization) it is our goal to be familiar and updated with the business culture in the country we work with and in. By sharing our knowledge about Serbian work culture, we want to support your global expansion plans. Therefore, we will address all the aspects of the work culture in Serbia to start your expansion well-informed.
Work Culture in Serbia
Building relationships is a key element of life in Serbia, both inside the workplace and outside. Unlike some northern European business cultures, where work and social life are kept strictly apart, Serbs are often happy to mix the two.
The Republic of Serbia is intent on building stronger worldwide connections. The relatively young nation is a member of the United Nations and Council of Europe, with plans to join the World Trade Organization and membership of the European Union expected from 2025. Serbia is also a member of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). Serbia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by over 7% in 2021 and was expected to reach 60.67 billion US dollars.
Serbia is in the south-east corner of Europe, landlocked by Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, and Montenegro. The region is a mix of cultures, customs, and languages, and each country is rich with its distinctive heritage.
Incomers need to be up to speed to make their mark in this highly intriguing but competitive environment as Serbia proves to be an increasingly powerful magnet for foreign jobseekers with the right skills, qualification, and experience.
Ready for the challenge? Now it is time to get down to business. So here are a few tips on taking the right steps and avoiding the pitfalls:
- Language: English is used increasingly in the business environment. However, if it is necessary to take an interpreter for meetings, ensure they are a Serbian-national or local as Serb-speaking nationals from other countries in the region may not be appreciated by your hosts.
- Punctuality: Be on time for the scheduled meeting; hide frustration if no-one else is
- Attitudes: Serbs often prefer introductions to come through a third-party business connection known to them, before agreeing to a meeting. Take time to build relationships as this will lead to trust.
- Business Environment: Serbian companies are keen for links with international companies.
- Negotiations: Hierarchical business structures and bureaucracy can still get in the way, so deadlines and progress can suffer.
- Meetings: Serbs are generally very hospitable and interested in others, so ‘small talk’ is usually a feature at the beginning of meetings and at the end too. Also, avoid arranging meetings during the holiday months of July and August, or around public and religious holidays. Business discussions will also stretch into coffee breaks and lunches.
- Greetings: Handshakes and eye contact. Serbs are quite expressive so once relationships have been established three kisses on the cheek (men and women) may be acceptable. Shake hands with all attendees, women first. Address by title and family name. “Bolje te našao” (Pleased to meet you) will go down well.
- Business Cards: these are generally exchanged and without too much ceremony.
- Dress Code: Fairly formal to be safe – smart suits, shirt and tie for the men and dresses or trouser suits for female members of the team.
- Gift-giving: Wine or flowers will be acceptable.
Serbia Minimum Wage
The 2022 minimum wage for working 160 hours in a month is RSD 43,174 (€367, US$417), as set by the Ministry of Finance, a 9.4% increase over 2021. Serbian employees automatically receive a 0.4% increase in salary for each year they work with the same employer.
Probation Periods in Serbia
Probation or trial periods can be for a maximum of six months, during which either party can terminate with five days’ notice.
Working Hours in Serbia
The normal working week comprises 40 hours at eight per day in a five-day week, excluding overtime. An employee cannot be asked to work more than one week of consecutive night shifts unless there is a written agreement to the contrary. Employees have a 30-minute break after six hours during a normal working day, a minimum rest of 12 hours between workdays and one rest period of at least 24 hours during the week.
Overtime in Serbia
The Labor Law restricts overtime to a weekly maximum of eight hours and employees cannot exceed 12 hours a day (including overtime). The mandatory minimum for overtime pay is 26% above the normal hourly rate, although workplace agreements and contracts can allow for more. Employers must maintain daily records of overtime and hours worked.