Cadence Community Spotlight: Dragana – Interview

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Cadence Community Spotlight: Dragana

“Dragon” + “ana”, ya. The person is even cooler than the name, and this interpreter speaks Serbian, Chinese, English, Norwegian and Dutch

One of Cadence’s interpreters Dragana joins me for a fireside chat. We discuss normal things: everyday life, Ernest Hemingway, Salmon and Desert Island.

Dragana, let me first point out that Dragana is a ridiculously awesome name.

Thank you. Working in the professional world I often go by Lana, an international nickname that’s a bit easier to pronounce. Dragana is pronounced something like “Dragon + na” with a slight furling of the tongue on the Dr part.

Who is Dr(tongue furl)agana? Where are you from, how was your childhood, what are your interests?

I was born in Bosnia and grew up in Croatia and Serbia where I studied Chinese from 2000 to 2004. I have always been fascinated with languages, communicating is something I do well and I think I do it better than other things. As an interpreter you work with people, which is very enriching and also a good way to make a living. I see it as win-win on many levels. 😊

Why Chinese?

I was always interested in their exotic characters and Chinese philosophy. It was compulsory for students at my university to take two languages, I chose Chinese as my main area of focus and Dutch as a side project. So it would always be Chinese lectures in the morning and Dutch lectures in the afternoon and evening. I was even lucky enough to study in Belgium on scholarship for a bit. That being said the University of Belgrade was where I studied Chinese language and literature. At the same time I also became very passionate about journalism. I wrote for a local paper in Serbia while studying in 2002 and now I work as a freelance journalist for Chinese media in Norway. I was lucky enough that my Chinese teachers at Belgrade were very passionate about teaching and introducing Chinese culture to Serbian students. We did tai chi together in our spare time with our Chinese professors and made dumplings for Chinese New Year. After graduation I got a job offer to work as an English teacher in Fujian province so I moved to China in September 2005 and stayed there for a year until September 2006.


I ended up taking the HSK three times, two of the three times while studying at Belgrade and the last time in China. After my time in China I returned to Belgrade where I worked for a few Chinese companies across various industries like telecom, building and trading.

You’re like a Serbian Swiss Army knife.

Yes…In 2009 I moved to Oslo. It’s actually interesting to note Norway and Serbia have a very good relationship dating back to WW II, Norwegian food is quite similar to food in the Balkans, especially the mountain areas in Croatia where I grew up. You know Eastern Europe is famous for meat and potatoes but Norwegian food is just as delicious!

I have had Norwegian food once before and all I remember is that it was incredibly sweet.

Not sure but that might have been the tyttebær sauce (English: Cowberry, Red Whortleberry, Lingonberry, Lowbush Cranberry, Mountaain Cranberry, Partridgeberry, Red Billberry, Rock Cranberry) with mashed rutabaga: its a traditional Norwegian Christmas dish usually served with lamb meat, sausages.

How was the switch from Serbia to China to Serbia to Oslo?

People here are so friendly and have a different way of thinking. Culture shock is quite normal when moving to a place you’ve never been before. It is most times unavoidable to experience culture shock and it is interesting to note that people moving to a new place often experience the same kind of psychological states known as psycho-stages: enjoying the exotic, glorifying the homeland and full integration.

It goes a little something like this: 1st year is falling in love with the exotic culture, 2nd year is glorifying your own country and comparing it to everything that you see around you and 3rd is full integration.

{Gurgle}. I have lived in Beijing now for 10 months so in two months I should technically be moving into the second phase of integration?

Well, you might feel culture shock here and there, that is natural. But you are from America, right? I believe you will not have a difficult task in finding something to glorify your country for, considering its natural diversity.

What types of journalism do you like to cover?

Culture, health, education and social everyday life because I think these are the most important. I have a lot of freedom and feedback for covering things I want to cover, I have only been here for 3 months and there is a lot of communication between me and the news agency. My colleagues and I often communicate in Chinese when preparing the articles but I write in English for Xinhua. That being said, Norway doesn’t have any toupee-turning stories, it isvery stable. There are no big breaking news stories. theres 10 political parties but it is nearly impossible to decipher the differences. In spite of the recent oil crisis as you know, the economy is good compared to the rest of the world and salmon prices seem to be eternally going up up up.

Any good Chinese food in Olso {gurgle gurgle} ?

YES! There is a place called Dinner which is the most famous Chinese restaurant, I believe! Chinese friends that live in Norway probably have other good suggestions about where to go to eat good Chinese food the first people that migrated from China to Norway, had to cater the cooking to the local palate. Actually the first migrants from China mostly started their own restaurants, and a lot of them are still around so you know it’s good.

I have been subconsciously steering the conversation back to food this whole time. I will try to get back on track but if I mention food one more time please tell me to shut up. Ok. What is it like working for Xinhua?

Its actually different than my prior journalistic experiences. Back when I worked in Belgrade as a journalist, I was a local there and worked full time. Now I work for a international agency in a foreign country, it is quite special. As for my side-hustle, I work as a part-time freelancer and we cover happenings that are of interest for foreign communities; for example there is an annual culture festival here in Oslo during August called ERAS where people from all over the world gather in the city center and show their traditional costumes and food from their home country.

Desert island: you can bring three books with you on a desert island and those will be the books you will read for the rest of your life, what are they and why?

OOo, tough question as I am constantly reading. 1. Ernest Hemingway (for his short stories and even shorter sentences), 2. something psychology (not the self help kind, something more professional, maybe how the human psyche works), 3. third book could be something of a female author I really like, her name is Marija Jovanovic, she studied psychology as well and has a beautiful writing style. She knows how to express her self through only a word of two, something like Hemingway, but also uses long sentences. I could say that I like to read Hemingway because of his journalistic background and Jovanovic because of her psychology background — might be that is what makes me so connected to them when I read their work.


Talk business, anywhere

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