Montanan abroad: First-timer overseas finds Serbia a study in contrasts

When a New York City construction worker joked with us at a crosswalk for hesitating, I was pleasantly surprised.

A wedding party pauses for photos under an arch at the Belgrade Fortress.

Brett French

Later the same day, an unknown bartender greeted us with a hale and hearty shout, and his coworker printed off a personalized sign welcoming us.

The final straw came on our way out of the city when a custodian advised us about the correct train connection in the subway.

What is going on here? People in one of the world’s largest cities were being nice to complete strangers. Is this some kind of pandemic aftereffect? Did COVID-19 alter our “be nice” genes? Or is it the simple fact that many of us are just happy to be healthy and on the move again after two years of concern and self-confinement?

Danged if I know, but I like it. I’m used to being grumpily greeted by workers and residents tired of tourists, also known as “tourons,” a combination of tourist and moron.

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