Lost in Translation: “That American Girl” vs. Serbian News/Tabloids

Click here for serbian translation. (Pritisnite ovde za prevod na srpski.) Scroll below if link not working!

A few days ago, one of my blog posts, “That Serbian Girl” went viral. This was unexpected news for me, as I am sure it was unexpected news to Serbians when tabloids revealed that some American girl had criticized them. But not just “some” American girl… That American Girl!

The first thing I want to say is that I, as the writer of this blog, was saddened and frustrated by most of the media response. Not only were huge chunks of my blog mistranslated from English into Serbian, but entire sections were taken out of context and sensationalized. I have no idea how many people *truly* read the blog in English, and I have no idea how many people *only* read the media’s version. It is disheartening, in many ways, to think that some people did not seek out my original blog post. 

I realize the irony in creating a response to this situation in English. But with the help of my Serbian friends, and a few little books here and there, I mostly understand what was said in response to my piece. And although I don’t have to do this, there are a few things I want to clarify before closing this conversation. 

For one, information is lost in translation. A few media posts describe that I have Anglo-Italian roots, or that I am from England. Whoever originally attempted to paraphrase my blog misunderstood a section that said I had a “New England childhood.” New England is a region of the United States that refers to six states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. I was born in Connecticut, one of those six states. New England is known for beautiful autumn foliage and for its strong coastline community. The name is derived from America’s colonial past. In some ways, I might not be what you think of when you think of “American” — whatever that might mean — but I am from a region where this country began. It’s where my ancestors, from Italy, decided to settle.

Unfortunately, this slipped through translation and sparked a conversation that wasn’t based on any truth. I’m not English, I’m not Anglo-Saxon. And I point this out as a microcosm for other mistranslations and paraphrasing that went on with my piece. 

There are many things I want to say, but at the very least, I will say the articles mischaracterized me.

I will not dive into it all, but here’s a few areas I want to clarify. I am supplying you, dear reader, with what a few Serbian news dailies wrote as well. However, I am translating from Serbian into English (what irony) for you to understand. I hope I have not mistranslated things, since I do have the help of some friends. But the reality is, information might get lost in translation. Keep that in mind, always. 

On the “matter” of coffee:

What I wrote in my blog: Serbian women like to hang out in cafés. They will nurse what appears to be the same coffee for two hours. And then they leave. Rarely do they seem to order the pastry or the sandwich. Sometimes, they order a bottle of water. 

What Serbian news dailies wrote (translated): She finds it strange that we do not have the habit of ordering a croissant, cake or sandwich with a drink.

Me clarifying now: I do not find it “strange” or bizarre that Serbians take their time with their coffee. It was only an observation — an observation I can make because I, too, take my time in cafes whenever I visit Serbia. (I’m sitting with Serbian people, so of course, I am getting the true cafe experience!) It’s not a bad thing. When American girlfriends get coffee, it can sometimes mean they’ll grab a small bite to eat, too. Like a pastry. All I meant was I didn’t see that. 


This somehow got contrived as me judging you for being lazy, which isn’t true, and which I didn’t even say. As for gossip … what country has people who don’t?” I wrote that “[Belgrade] feels like New York” when it comes to that! 

On the “matter” of pink hair and boots:

What I wrote in my blog: If you do happen to spot the occasional woman with pink hair and edgy boots, there’s a 99% chance she’s a tourist visiting Belgrade. 

What the dialogue was (translated): Why is it bad that there aren’t many people with pink hair and boots? (from qwerty,, September 7, 2021 11:42 PM)

Me clarifying now: I was surprised that many people interpreted this poorly. I don’t own either of those traits. So why would I condemn people for not possessing it, too? I never said it was bad. All I said was that I didn’t see a lot of that aesthetic. And that’s okay; that is cool! That’s what makes Belgrade’s fashion unique to Belgrade. Unfortunately, all the cool bits about fashion that I did discuss seem to have slipped through most article translations.

On the “matter” of plastic surgery:

What I wrote in my blog: It seems the closer you get to the city center, like any major city, the more high-fashion and plastic surgery you start to encounter.

What Serbian news dailies wrote (translated): “The closer to the center – the more plastic surgery.”

Me clarifying now: This is the headline that captured a lot of attention. It set the precedent that I had said negative things about the Serbian girls. And the writer of this piece wanted it to come across that way — I know this because they follow this sentence with [translated] “However, the American also writes about positive things…” 

I will stand by this: there is plastic surgery in a major city, as I originally wrote. Nothing is a lie. The closer you are to the city center — and it is the same with Midtown Manhattan, and probably Trafalgar Square in London, and etc — the more luxurious things you will see. And plastic surgery, like Chanel bags and Prada perfumes, is a luxury that not everyone can afford. City centers often cultivate a large sum of the city’s money (partially due to tourism, partially due to the businesses and shops offered there, sometimes for maintaining historical archives, etc.) That’s all. I don’t care who has or hasn’t had plastic surgery. This sentence was an observation about the metaphysical aesthetic of any city — that Belgrade, in a lot of ways, is like New York in that regard. I can tell you that this sentence was not meant to insult people. But because this headline had such a robust response, I do want to apologize to anyone who was offended. I had no idea that was going to be taken out of context. I wish it hadn’t been. But here we are.

And finally … on the “matter” of dating:

I wrote a lot on my blog about dating. And I made sure to specify that dating can mean different things in different regions of the USA, let alone the world. 

Dating, within my experience, has always meant you’re not in a relationship with that person. You might not even kiss them. A date means two people hang out and feel if there’s a vibe. If dinner goes well, maybe they’ll go on another date. If dinner doesn’t go well, they call it quits without possibly ever even holding hands. Two people can go out for ice cream and, by the end of their ice cream cone, realize they’re better off as friends. Or, two people can go out for cappuccinos one rainy afternoon, and realize there’s something there, and plan to go to a museum the next day. That’s what Aleksa and I did, after all. 

When girlfriends complained to me that they wished there was a stronger dating scene in Belgrade, as there seems to be with NYC, I listened. Is that the case for all of Serbia, for every person, for every situation? No, of course not. And I wrote my blog aware of that … even starting off my blog with this: 

Let’s get the obvious notion out of the way: everyone is different. There is no standard Serbian woman, just as there is no standard American woman.

And expanding on that, there is no standard Serbian person, or Serbian mentality (as Momo Kapor urges us to believe!) Everyone is unique, and every culture has its varieties. 

There is the idealized. There is the realized. And then there’s the truth, which lies somewhere in the middle of all of that. Right now, my blog and these articles responding to my blog are in a similar situation. They exist in a plane of translation and mistranslation, of words skewed over digital screens, and of people who have ruminated on facts and fiction.

If you take anything away from my blog, take this: 

I encourage you to always seek out the truth. Because there’s often more than one truth. Or better yet, your truth might not be someone else’s truth.

In these articles, there are certainly more areas where I was mischaracterized, mistranslated, and misinterpreted. But I think I’ve covered all of the major zones here. 

Funny enough, this is how I know the original writer didn’t read deep into my blog: they wrote that Aleksa and I are engaged and to be married soon.

Anyone who has ever known me … knows that I never shut up about my amazing husband or our beautiful wedding in Belgrade! You can look through my blog archives to find all the wedding content you could desire. 

With all this said, it felt imperative for me to address what’s happened before continuing to write posts. Especially since the blog has taken on a new life! 

all my love, and until next time …

That American Girl

____________________________________________

Pre nekoliko dana, jedna od mojih blog objava, “That Serbian Girl” je postala viralna. Ovo su za mene bile neočekivane vesti, kao što sam sigurna da su i Srbima kada su tabloidi otkrili kako ih je neka Američka devojka kritikovala. Ali ne bilo koja Američka devojka… “Ta Američka devojka”!

Prva stvar koju želim da kažem je da ja, kao pisac ovog bloga, sam bila tužna i frustrirana većinom medijskog odziva. Ne samo da je veliki deo bloga loše preveden sa engleskog na erpski, nego su celi delovi izvučeni iz konteksta i senzacionalizovani. Nemam ideju koliko je ljudi zapravo pročitalo blog na engleskom, i nemam ideju koliko je ljudi “samo” pročitalo medijsku verziju. To je obeshrabrujuće, na mnogo načina, što neki ljudi nisu pročitali moj originalan blog post.

Razumem ironiju prilikom pravljenja odgovora na ovu situaciju na engleskom. Ali uz pomoć mojih srpskih prijatelja, i par knjiga tu i tamo, uglavnom razumem šta je rečeno u vezi sa mojim komadom. I iako ne moram da radim ovo, želim da razjasnim par stvari pre nego što zatvorim ovu konverzaciju.

Kao prvo, informacije se gube u prevodu. Par medijskih objava opisuju kako ja imam anglo-italijanske korene, ili ta sam iz Engleske. Ko god je originalno pokušao da parafrazira moj blog nije razumeo sekciju gde je pisalo da sam imala “Nju Ingland detinjstvo”. Nju Ingland je region SAD-a koji se odnosi na 6 saveznih država: Konetikat, Masačusets, Mejn, Vermont, Nju Hempšir i Roud Ajland. Ja sam rođena u Konetikatu, jednoj od tih 6 država. Nju Ingland je poznat po prelepom jesenjem lišću i jakoj obalnoj zajednici. Ime je izvučeno od kolonijalne prošlosti SAD-a. Na neki način, možda nisam ono što neko pomisli kada pomisli o “Amerikancu” – šta god to značilo – ali ja sam iz regions gde je ova država “počela”. Tu su moji preci, iz Italije, odlučili da se dosele.

Nažalolst, ovo je bilo loše prevedeno i započelo konverzaciju koja nike bazirana ni na kakvoj istini. Nisam Engleskinja, nisam Anglo-sakson. I ovo ističem kao mikrokosmos za druge pogrešne prevoded i parafraziranje koji su išli uz moj komad.

Ima mnogo stvari koje želim da kažem, ali u najmanju ruku, reći ću da su me članci pogrešno okarakterisali.

Neću da ulazim u sve, ali ima par delova koje bih htela da razjasnim. Ja vas snabdevam, dragi čitaoce, sa onim što su par srpskih novosti ispisale takođe. Međutim, prevodim sa srpskog na engleski(ironično) kako bi ste vi razumeli. Nadam se da nisam neke stvari pogrešno prevela, jer imam pomoć par prijatelja. Ali realnost je, informacije mogu biti izgubljene u prevodu. Uvek to imajte na umu.

Na “temu” kafe:

Šta sam napisala u blogu: Srpske žene vole da se druže u kafićima. Ispijaće će ono što izgleda kao da je ista kafa dva sata. A posle toga izađu. Retko kada naručuju neko pecivo ili sendvič. Ponekad, naruče flašu vode.

Šta su srpske novosti pisale: Njoj je čudno što nemamo naviku da naručimo kroasan, tortu ili sendvič uz piće.

Moje razjašnjenje: Nije mi čudno niti bizarno što Srbi polako piju svoju kafu. To je bilo samo moje opažanje – opažanje koje mogu da napravim, jer ja takođe provodim svoje vreme u kafićima kada posetim Srbiju.(Sedim sa Srbima, pa naravno dobijam pravo iskustvo kafića!) To nije loša stvar. Kada Američke drugarice uzimaju kafu, to može ponekad da znači da će uzeti i nešto malo da prezalogaje, takođe. Kao neko pecivo. Sve što sam mislila u blogu je da to nisam zapazila. 

Ovo se nekako pretvorilo u to da ja osuđujem vas da ste lenji, što uopšte nije tačno, i što uopšte nisam rekla. A za tračarenje… koja država ima ljude koji ne tračare? Napisala sam da “Beograd je sličan Njujorku” kada je to u pitanju!

Na “temu” roze kose i čizama:

Šta sam napisala u blogu: Ako vam se desi da vidite ženu sa roze kosom i čizmama, 99% su šanse da je turista u poseti Beogradu.

Šta je bio dijalog: Zašto je loše što nema puno ljudi sa roze kosom i čizmama?

Moje razjašnjenje: Iznenađena sam da je toliko ljudi ovo pogrešno shvatilo. Ja lično ne posedujem ni jednu od ovih odlika. Pa zašto bih ja osuđivala ljude što ih oni ne poseduju? Nikada nisam rekla da je to loša stvar. Samo sam rekla da nisam videla puno te “estetike”. I to je okej; to je kul! To je ono što čini Beogradsku modu jedinstvenom za Beograd. Nažalost, svi kul delovi o modi o kojima sam pričala su se izgleda provukli kroz pogrešan prevod.

Na “temu” plastične hirurgije: 

Šta sam napisala u blogu: Izgleda da što si bliži centru grada, kao u svakom većem gradu, više možeš da naletiš na visoku modu i plastičnu hirurgiju.

Šta su srpske novosti pisale: Što bliže centru – to više plastične hirurgije!

Moje razjašnjenje: Ovo je naslov koji je privukao pregršt pažnje. Ovime je postavljen presedan da sam ja govorila negativne stvari o Srpskim devojkama. I pisac ovog dela je očigledno želeo da to tako ispadne – znam ovo jer ovu rečenicu prati: “Međutim, Amerikanka takođe piše o pozitivnim stvarima…”

Ja stovim pri ovome: ima plastične hirurgije u velikim gradovima, kao što sam originalno napisala. Tu ne postoji laž. Što si bliže centru grada – i isto je u Centru Menhetna, i verovatno u Trafalgar Skveru u Londonu, itd. – videćeš više luksuznijih stvari. I plastična hirurgija, kao Chanel torbe i Prada parfemu, su luksuz koji ne mo-e svako da priušti. Centar grada uglavnom kultiviše veću sumu gradskog novca(delom zbog turizma, delom zbog prodavnica i biznisa u ponudi tamo, ponekad zbog održavanja istorijskih arhiva, itd.) To je to. Briga me je ko jeste ili nije imao plastičnu hirurgiju. Ova rečenica je bila opažanje o metafizičkoj estetici bilo kog grada – da je Beograd, na mnogo načina, kao Njujork u tom smislu. Mogu da vam kažem da ova rečenica nije namenjena da bi bilo koga vređala. Ali zato što je ovaj naslov imao ovako opsežan odgovor, želim da se izvinim svakome ko je bio uvređen. Nisam imala ideju da će to biti izvučeno van konteksta. Volela bih da nije bilo, ali tu smo.

I na kraju…na “temu” dejtinga:

Na mom blogu sam puno pisala o dejtingu. I potrudila sam se da specifično naglasim da dejtovanje može da znači različite stvari u različitim regionima SAD-a, a kamoli u svetu.

Dejting, po mom iskustvu, je uvek značilo da niste u vezi sa određenom osobom. Možda ste čak niste ni poljubili. Dejt znači da dvoje ljudi izađu i osete da li između njih postoji “vajb”. Ako večera prođe dobro, možda neko drugo veče ponovo izađu. Ako ne prođe dobro, oni tu završe priču i da verovatno se nisu ni držali za ruke. Dvoje ljudi može da izađe na sladoled, i do kraja tog izlaska, da shvate da je bolje da su prijatelji. Ili, dvoje ljudi može da izađe na kapućino kišnog popodneva, i da shvate da tu nešto postoji, i da isplaniraju da sledećeg nada odu do muzeja. To je ono što smo Aleksa i ja radili, posle svega.

Kada su mi se prijateljice žalile da bi želele da postoji jača dejting scena u Beogradu, kao što postoji u Njujorku, slušala sam ih. Da li je to slučaj za celu Srbiju, za svaku osobu, za svaku situaciju? Naravno da ne. I pisala sam svoj blog svesna toga… počinjući svog blog ovako:

Sklonimo očigledan pojam sa puta: svi su različiti. Ne postoji standardna Srpkinja, kao što ne postoji ni standardna Amerikanka.

I proširujući na to, ne postoji standardan Srbin ni Srpkinja, kao ni srpski mentalitet(kao što bi nas Momo Kapor naterao da verujemo!) Svako je jedinstven, i svaka kultura ima svoje varijacije.

Postoji idealizovano. Postoji i realizovano. A postoji i istina, koja je negde u sredini svega toga. Trenutno, moj blog i ovi članci koji odogovaraju na moj blog su u sličnoj situaciji. Postoje u ravni prevoda i pogrešnog prevođenja, sastoje se od reči izvrtenih preko digitalnih ekrana, i od ljudi koji su se premišljaji oko činjenica i fikcije.

Ako nešto treba da izvučete iz mog bloga, to je ovo:

Podstičem vas da uvek tražite istinu. Jer uvek ima više od jedne istine. Ili bolje, vaša istina možda nije nečija druga istina.

U ovim člancima, ima sigurno još delova gde sam bila pogrešno okarakterisana, pogrešno prevedena i pogrešno protumačena. Ali mislim da sam prešla sve glavne zone ovde.

Evo kako znam da originalni pisac članka nije čitao previše duboko u blog: napisali su da smo Aleksa i ja vereni i trebali bi uskoro da se venčamo.

Bilo ko ko me zna, zna da ne zatvaram usta o mom previdnom mužu i o našem predivnom venčanju u Beogradu! Možete pogledati kroz arhive mog bloga da pronađete sav svadbeni sadržaj koji vas zanima.

Sa svim što je rečeno, deluje imperativno da pomenem šta se desilo pre nego što nastavim da pišem objave. Posebno od kada je blog dobio novi život!

Sva moja ljubav, i do sledećeg puta …

That American Girl

2 thoughts on “Lost in Translation: “That American Girl” vs. Serbian News/Tabloids

  1. America has their own metaphors, sayings, and ways to describe things and it’s totally a mistranslation. I don’t know much about tabloids. I do think that they’ve always been this way though, stretching the truth to get a few clicks. Don’t let them get under your skin!! Beautiful writing.

    Liked by 2 people

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