How to say no politely and stop overeating without offending your hosts

by Magdalena Petrović Jelić


Maybe you know exactly what is slatko and what to do with it. If you don’t, you will find out on this page. But do you know how to refuse food or drink without offending anybody? How to say no politely in Serbia?

The Serbs can be very insisting when offering food or drink to their guests. Read on or watch the video to learn how to deal with that!


Dobro došli! Ja sam Magdalena.

Welcome! I’m Magdalena and I will be your teacher in the Natural Serbian Course.

In this video I will explain three things to you:

  • What is “slatko” and what exactly you should do with it
  • How to politely say NO in Serbian and stop overeating or overdrinking, without offending anybody
  • How to learn other little tricks that will help you act and sound genuinely Serbian and impress your Serbian friends!


Šta je to slatko?

Slatko means “sweet”. You can use it as an adjective.

(Čokolada je slatka. Sladoled je sladak.)

As a noun, slatko is the name for the traditional Serbian dessert made of different kinds of fruit cooked in a thick sugary syrup. Think of it as a marmelade made of whole fruits or big chunks of fruits. The same kind of sweet is made in Greece as well.

It is a tradition to serve this sweet to the guests in a small crystal bowl, or simply in a jar where it’s normally kept, with a glass of water. Here’s what you’re supposed to do: take the teaspoon (uzmete kašičicu) and take one mouthful (i uzmete jedan zalogaj). Then you should drink some water (onda popijete malo vode) and leave the little spoon in the glass, if there’s no other place reserved for that. Sometimes the spoons are in a special container, like this, where clean teaspoons are held on one side, and used spoons are put on the other side, but it’s always the safest to put the spoon you’ve used in your glass of water.

If you want to take more slatko, then you should take another clean teaspoon.


Kako reći NE? (How to say NO in Serbian)

If you have friends or family in Serbia, Bosnia or Croatia, you’ve noticed how insistent they can be in offering food and drink, and making you take some more (još malo), another glass (još jednu čašu), another piece (još jedno parče).

You don’t want to offend anybody, and you don’t want to harm your body. How to reject them with no offence? You want to be firm and polite, and you want to learn a few simple words: Ne mogu. It means “I can’t”. So it’s not your fault, it’s not that you don’t want or that you don’t like what they’re offering, you just can not eat or drink.

Ne mogu.

Stvarno ne mogu. (I really can’t)

Ne mogu više. (I can’t /eat or drink/ any more)


How to learn other tricks that will help you act and sound genuinely Serbian and impress your Serbian friends?

If you liked what I explained here and if you want to learn more about the Serbian language, lifestyle and customs, you’re in the right place: enroll in the Natural Serbian Course!

As a welcoming gift, I will send you my grandma’s secret recipe for “slatko od smokava”, in Serbian AND English.