How to Meet People And Make Friends in Macedonia

by Eugenie Tiu Radevska
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People posed for a photo during dinner

Moving to a new country can be tough when you don’t have a group of people to help you adjust and find your way around. Not having a circle you can rely on in good or bad times means you can learn the language but you won’t have enough opportunity to practice it, you can observe the culture, but might not be able to comprehend it the way they do. Let’s face it, it’s easier to adjust anywhere if you have a strong support network beside you. 

In this post, I will share why I moved to Macedonia, how I adjusted, and the concrete ways I found that can help foreigners how to meet people and make friends in Macedonia. 

Why I moved to Macedonia

When I first moved to Macedonia, I was content with the basic daily conversations I had with my parents-in-law.

I moved to Macedonia for matrimonial reasons. My partner was convinced that moving here would help us save more money faster, and have a better work life balance. As someone who doesn’t have a strong opinion on most things, I took his proposal to heart. I quit my job in Japan. Flew to Macedonia. Got married. And started a new life.

In the beginning, life was great. I was always with him and his parents were there to support me. And although they don’t speak English, I have always been satisfied with conversations that involved merely my and their daily routine. I didn’t need chit chats about politics or what happened to this relative or to that friend. 

But after a couple of years of just being content with simple conversations, I got bored. I started feeling left out when there were social gatherings in the family or among our friends. I too, started wanting to understand the funny stories that happened to our family friend at the airport, what my parents’-in-law opinion was regarding the Russia and Ukraine war, or where my husband’s friends go for a good workout session and what kind of exercises they do there. 

How I am adjusting to the culture in Macedonia

 Turkish series dubbed in Macedonian and Macedonian shows for kids help me improve my listening skills.

Of course, everything starts with learning the language, but it doesn’t end there. I thought that learning the language is enough to adjust here, but it’s not. Unlike Japan, Macedonians love coffee and conversations. They love to socialize. When you have lunch or dinner with a Macedonian family, you’ll notice that most of them talk at the same time. You can easily find one person cutting someone who is still talking, and that is perfectly normal. 

I started learning the Macedonian language even before I moved here. And then I enrolled for a private class after getting married. Recently though, I have been traveling a lot between Europe and Asia. It’s become harder to get a consistent schedule in learning the language. And so I try to do the following whenever I am in Macedonia:

1. Watch Turkish dramas dubbed in Macedonian language.

I know not everyone is a fan of watching drama. But I realized that this is a good way to listen to common expressions and understand how they are used. It’s also a good time for me to relax my brain after working at my full-time job. At night, I would sit in front of the TV, hold my phone with the Google Translate app, and check out some words I don’t understand. I’ll click the “saved” icon in Google translate so I can always review the words whenever I’m free.

2. Listen to kids’ songs.

I will eventually have kids with my husband. And since I have a Macedonian husband, I would love to have my kids embrace the language too. I know all English songs by heart, but Macedonian songs for kids broadens my vocabulary and fluency even more.

If you are also interested, check out Stela i Sani, Svetot na Bibi, or Darko Biberko. If I’m not mistaken, these are all original Macedonian characters.

3. Talk to Macedonians in Macedonian.

Before, I felt so uncomfortable doing this, and most of the time, I still do. I don’t like the idea because when I speak to them in their language, what if I don’t understand their response? What should I do then? I don’t want to look foolish or to look proud for trying to speak something that I won’t understand as a recipient. But I learned that one way or the other, I have to deal with it.

It’s not healthy to depend on my husband to do all the talking on behalf of me all the time. If I really want to learn the language and their culture, I have to put myself out there. Sure, dealing with the bank or tax applications or re-applying for the renewal of my driver’s license might be a different story. Those are areas I would definitely need some help with. But I have to deal with things myself whenever I can up until a point I really need help.

Five Ways to Meet People and Make Friends in Macedonia

Regardless of the reason you move to the country, you can easily find yourself enjoying a good cup of coffee with the locals and foreigners living in Macedonia. And if you’re struggling to find avenues in English, check out my suggestions below:

1. Join a Facebook Group

If you still haven’t made a profile in social media, now is a good time to do so. The reason is because there are actual Facebook groups created for international people moving to, living in, and traveling to Macedonia. One such group is called Expats and Foreigners in Macedonia (Skopje, Ohrid and other cities). The group has about 7.5k members and serves as a portal for anyone who has questions about Macedonian cities or living in the country in general.

The group sometimes launches events such as karaoke parties or meet ups, but it entirely depends on who set it up and where that person is based. One important thing to remember is that the rules of this group are quite strict. There are only five, but they’re very crucial – perhaps the most compelling one is that the suffix “North” is forbidden.

Another Facebook group worth mentioning is japa.net.mk (take note: “japa” not “japan”). Even though most of the posts here are written in Macedonian, it might be a good idea to join this page because they hold events and festivals in the country. You don’t have to be an anime-lover or a Japanese-culture fanatic to join the group if your purpose is to meet locals and foreigners in the country. The group has over 2k members and is obviously created for people who are interested in Japan.

2. Enroll in a Language School

You can meet international friends when you enroll in a language school.

There are language schools offering Macedonian language classes whichever city you may be based. Ask if they offer semi-private or group classes and maybe you can take classes together if you’re in the same level. It won’t be that boring and you’ll have a study-buddy with you that can not only be your language partner but also can share her similar experiences with you in the country.

Here are some language schools you can find in Skopje:

2.1 Center for Foreign Languages – Skopje
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CSJSkopje/

2.2 Ananija School for Macedonian Language for Foreigners
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/learnmacedonianlanguage/

2.3 CES Academy
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cesacademymk/

3. Join Tech Seminars

Pelister Tech has an aim to connect the local tech community.

If you’re into tech or if you work for a company that has something to do with software, hardware, cloud computing, crypto, online banking, github, etc., you get the point, there are some workshops organized by people who are really into the world of IoT.

In Bitola, a group called Pelister.tech launches tech talks twice a month. The presenters are done via a volunteering basis, and anyone can present about their interests, hobbies, or work at a company. When there are no presenters, sometimes the organizers just hold coffee or beer meet-ups because they have the same purpose as you – to meet people (especially those ones who have a strong interest in the field). 

The group has over 340 members and the meet-ups are held in Bitola. If you’re not based in that city, you can check out Јавна Соба (Public Room). Public Room is mainly a coworking space in Skopje but they also hold tech events from time to time. You can check out their Facebook page here

Other honorable mentions include https://www.techevents.online/skopje/, a general site that houses announcements about tech conferences all over the world. And while not entirely tech-related, you can find https://ecommerce.mk/ (Facebook page) hosting large conferences about ecommerce from time to time as well. 

It’s easier to meet people and make friends in Macedonia if you share the same interest in a specific field. So even though the presentations are held in Macedonian language, don’t worry – I think many people in Macedonia work at international companies so 90% of the time, they can speak English.

4. Attend events launched by SFERA International

SFERA always organizes events in different parts of Macedonia.

SFERA International is a non-governmental organization that focuses on community development and international relations. Although the target audience of this group is mainly the youth (as in the case of most attendees), there isn’t a rule that says they have an age limit. So go ahead and test the waters! If I’m not mistaken, the group organizes monthly events in the different parts of Macedonia.

Although SFERA is founded, based, and focuses on the community in Bitola, you can easily find events outside of the city on their Facebook page here.

There are other organizations in Macedonia aimed at international partnerships in the country. You just have to find them where you are.

This post will be updated every time I find groups similar to it.

5. Visit American Corners in your city

Anyone can borrow books and join the events launched by American Corner (ACM). ACM has branches all over Macedonia.

Sponsored by the U.S Embassy in Skopje and Macedonian host institutions, American Corners Macedonia is available in the different cities of the country. 

American Corners has resource centers in Skopje, Bitola, Tetovo, Stip, and Struga. Inside their centers, you’ll be able to find English books and information about the different events they host. Some of the events they launch include film-showings, holiday celebrations, speeches, crafts and outdoor activities, contests, and meet-ups. You can borrow books in their library section too. There is no need to pay any membership fees. You just need to observe the policies around borrowing materials from the center.

You can check out their facebook page for more information:
https://www.facebook.com/AmericanCornerBitola/

Other Avenues

There are most likely more ways to meet people and make friends in Macedonia. The ways written are great to try out especially if you don’t speak the Macedonian language yet. But even if you don’t know the language, you can still try and expose yourself out there. Go and be a gym member, attend sports classes, cycling groups, or start your own using the app called MeetUp

Do you think you can try and meet people today or later this weekend? What do you think of the suggested ways above? If you find other ways to meet people and make friends in Macedonia, share it in the comment section below.

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