All cultures use idioms and phrases to describe themselves, but in my experience none seem to do it in so biting a way as the Balkans. One of the memorable ones from my childhood translates to “Balkan Business” and is used as a euphemism basically anytime a interaction with someone is shady or ends up being exploited. Did a used car salesmen fail to disclose a replaced engine just to sell you the car? Balkanska posla. Did you buy a bunch of shirts only to have the logo fade after one wash? Balkanska posla. My dad used to invoke it every time a contractor was being particularly unscrupulous, thinking aloud that he left this sort of behavior in Yugoslavia.
Anyway, I had chalked that up to my dad’s outdated jargon and forgot all about it during my preparation for leaving. I had everything set up to arrive, with a great apartment on the main street. The only thing I needed to figure out was how to get my key, since I would be arriving late at night. Before getting on my flight I sent a message to my landlady to clear this up, and thought no more of it. I arrived in Frankfurt and was much more fixated on getting a burger than checking my phone. It was only after I had sat down with my Big Mac that I almost immediately dropped it when I saw the response of, “We already have a tenant that has moved in, sorry”. I can’t rightly remember every emotion that ran through my head, or how I quantified the fact that I was going to be in Rijeka that night and did not know where I was staying. After a few panicked seconds that seemed like days, I did some preliminary research on apartments and texted my dad an update. After five minutes of Facebook messages I looked down from my laptop to three words from my dad; “Balkanska posla, son”.