He lived in Germany, England, France, Russia and Tajikistan, spending his holidays in the Netherlands, Israel and Montenegro. He is a regular visitor of Belef, the Belgrade Jazz Festival, Exit and Guca Trumpet Festival and loves Chinese and Indian cuisines and "cevapcici" (grilled minced meat). This "man of contrasts" jokingly says that he gets nervous when nothing changes.
His career brought him to Serbia in 2005, when he assumed the position of an advisor first in the Ministry of Economy and then in the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development. He is well-known among domestic businessmen who work with German companies and among German companies investing in Serbia because he has been helping all of them achieve their business goals.
Michael Schmidt, director of the German Business Delegation to Serbia and the coordinator of the German-Serbian Business Association, begins the talk with eKapija by citing the reason why he came to work in Serbia:
- I came to Serbia out of a wish to return to Europe because I had previously been engaged in projects in Tajikistan. I applied for the post of an advisor in the Serbian Ministry of Economy. Being an economist, I love to work with companies in addition to managing projects. My role in the Serbian Ministry of Economy depended on the extent to which they accepted me as a foreigner. The work for the government prepared me excellently for my later work with the economy sector because it enabled me to see the other side of the coin and get very familiar with how government structures function.
He points out that has never been bored at work, but he thought about leaving Serbia after three of four years in the country.
- In the meantime, I got a chance to work for the German Chamber of Commerce to Serbia. The process of bringing German companies to Serbia was very hard. Some of them wanted to enter the country back in 2000 and then gave up, but they tried again ten years later. However, we've managed to establish good relations between the economies of Germany and Serbia to date.
The first job he got was with the Council of Europe in France, where he worked as a trainee. Then he moved to Moscow to assume the position of a research associate of the German Institute for Economic Research. He got familiar with journalism while working briefly for Deutsche Welle.
- Many jobs were interesting, but I did not find them appropriate for me in a long run. All that is a very important experience to learn from and helps you discover yourself. While I was a student, I worked for the Berlin Institute for Economic Research on projects in Russia financed by the EU and the German government. I spent several months in Moscow helping on projects and doing researches. Following my graduation, I worked with Germany's KfW Bank on projects in Russia and Ukraine.
He loves to think about his school days in Germany, Great Britain and Russia. He says it is "another of his contrasts."
- After attending a Catholic school for boys in Germany, I moved to England, where the education system is completely different. When you are in England, you must very quickly learn to "swim" by yourself. It was interesting for me to see Russia, which, unlike England, has a strong tradition of collectivism and underwent frequent changes in the 1990s. I later came back to Germany to pursue a master's degree at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy and deepen my knowledge of economics.
How he learned to speak Serbian?
He speaks with his children in German, with his wife in Russian and with his business partners in both English and French.
The only sentence he knew to say in Serbian before 2005 was "give me the ball." Then, while working for the Serbian government, he had to learn the Cyrillic alphabet.
- My mother was born in Osijek and I often stayed in Serbia as a kid because we have many friends here. I knew only several sentences in Serbia, but my knowledge of Russian made it easier for me to learn Serbian too.
Life in Belgrade
Mr. Schmidt is a frequent guest of restaurants "in his neighborhood," including Prolece, Vuk, Kolarac. It was not difficult for him to get used to living in Belgrade. The thing he finds particularly interesting is that "Belgrade changes with the season."
- People in large cities in Germany can buy anything they like at any time of the year, while here everything depends on the season. Even the cuisine in Serbia changes with the season. We've just finished the cabbage phase - Schmidt says jokingly.
He finds it easier to order food at Serbian restaurants because he always knows the whole menu in advance.
- I got used to Chinese and Indian cuisines in Enland, while Belgrade lacks eastern restaurants. Even Russians love exotic cuisine, which is why there are many Afghani, Vietnamese and Indian restaurants in Moscow.
He loves to go to Belef in summer and to the Belgrade Jazz Festival in October. You can also see him in front of a stage at Exit in early July and at the Trumpet Festival in Guca in August.
Holiday in Germany
Michael Schmidt enjoys spending holidays with his family. Last year he had his first holiday in Germany.
- When it is hot here, I go to the Northern Sea, mainly to the Netherlands. I also love to spend holidays with my family in Montenegro and Greece. The type of our summer vacations changes as my children grow. We've also visited Israel, which is now much easier to reach because there is a direct flight to that country.
Our interlocutor also spends much time traveling on business because in addition to the office in Belgrade, he also runs the branch office of the German Business Delegation to Macedonia and Albania.