I came across Chasing The Donkey’s 12 month review of living in Croatia from Australia and found it rather uninspiring. Sorry guys, otherwise I appreciate your content. How can you live in the glorious land of Croatia for 12 months and not learn a thing? I find a lesson in every breath and step I take in this country, 12 months… it has been rather interesting.
In their post, three points were made that revolved around loneliness, caring what others think about you and the currency being weak.
While I agree in some aspects, living in Croatia can be lonely for an expat because Croatian people tend to stick to their own tribes and people they’ve known for a long time. There are people around who will embrace you with open arms, I was lucky to come across one of those and courtesy of her my time in Zagreb became one open door after another.
As for caring what others think of you, in Croatia I couldn’t care less what others think of me. I accept that I am an “outsider” and to the majority, a weirdo. Some may see this as a weakness, I see it as my greatest strength.
And yeah, it’s true, the Croatian Kuna sucks. It is not the best currency.
So, what have I learned in 12 months living in Croatia?
One. Life is much slower.
Being raised in Sydney then having spent a few years in London meant that my life was chaos. I was always in a hurry, always thinking ahead, problem solving problems that didn’t exist. Then I moved to Zagreb and had to slow the fuck down. For example, I’d send an email on Monday, get a response on Wednesday to confirm a meeting for the following Friday afternoon. It drove me insane, I wasn’t used to pace of the people. But this was normal in Croatia and I should have considered myself lucky because people were replying to my emails. It literally took me 4 months to adjust to Croatian life and pace. The positive in all this is that for the first time in my life, I am living in the present moment.
Two. Nothing happens online.
In Australia or United Kingdom, if I changed my address or needed to update some formal information about myself, I could do it either online or over the phone. In Croatia? You’re dreaming. You must physically walk into what they call “policija” and pray you have all the right paperwork with you and a nice assistant to help you, especially if your Croatian is a little scratchy like mine. Be prepared to waste a good chunk of your afternoon there waiting in line, with no air-conditioning.
Three. Salaries are shite.
Minimum wage in Croatia is 350€. Life is a lot cheaper here compared to Australia or United Kingdom but salaries aren’t that high. Depending on what you do for a profession or how self sufficient you already are, you can easily live here comfortably or be skimming by. That said, Croatia has a lot of opportunity in the world of start-ups, influencer marketing and creative agencies. This is where the money is emerging so if you’re an outsider with these types skills already, you could be laughing financially in this land. However, on the contrary, the local tax rate here is 25%. We will talk business in another post.
Four. Finding a decent flat is a miracle.
Minimum wage in Croatia is 350€, a decent flat in Zagreb costs between 300-500€ plus bills a month. I don’t know about you but I have always prided myself with living in a nice home in a nice area. Finding my dream flat in Zagreb was a mission but I’m fortunate to be where I am today. Some of the properties I saw in the city were so atrocious, they should have been reported to authorities.
Five. There are decent people in Croatia.
Before I moved to Croatia, I had my publicist in London telling me not to trust anyone and not to get too close to a single soul except my family. Naturally, I don’t listen to anyone telling me what to do in my life so I decided to make friends left right and centre. Some people were exclusively mental cases and in a league of their own bullshit and a handful were normal decent human beings who were not hovering around to suck your blood dry.
But if you’re expecting all people you come across to be all open arms about meeting you and to like you because you’re from Australia then you’ve got another lesson in life coming because this is certainly not the case. You are lucky to have one real friend in this country as an outsider.
Six. It’s who you know & who you blow.
Times like this I wish I was still drinking and carelessly fucking around because back then, when I was that girl- I made friends much more easily. “Friends,” I use the term loosely. I’ve observed in Croatia and experienced first hand that people here look after people they know- And everyone knows everyone. Sure, this is normal everywhere in the world but no body likes fresh meat in Croatia, or Zagreb. So, they stick the same boring narrative in the media and the same people are always mentioned- despite no point of difference or actual influence at all- All because it’s the “safe” option. People pulling favours and other things all over for a mention or something free…anywhere.
Seven. Croatia’s biggest shame.
I don’t think I am the only one who thinks this for sure but there is nothing more that disturbs and saddens me about Croatian society than watching the elderly looking through trash bins for empty plastic bottles that they are then reimbursed .50Lipa. If I got a euro for every single time I watched a woman that could be anybody’s grandmother scavenging through rubbish, I would be richer. This to me, is Croatia’s greatest shame, one I see with my own eyes each and every day and it burns my soul right down to ash.
Eight. There’s a difference between Croatian boys and Hercegovci
When I first arrived to Zagreb I was going out and dating, yes – I should’t have been during recovery but I calmed my flaps afterwards. I kept hearing the same 3 questions from several different guys.
One. Can you cook?
Two. Do you believe in God?
Three. Do you go to church?
I was in a conversation with my cousin over coffee one morning telling her that I just don’t understand Croatian boys, they kept asking me these stupid primitive type questions, I was literally confused. “You’re not dating Croatian boys, you’re dating Hercegovci, Adriana.” Problem solved & lesson learned. Now when a boy tells me they are from Hercegovina, I smile, nod and walk away.
I’ve gone a little hard on my own country here and I don’t mean to sound like a negative Nancy, trust me- I love living here, there is no where in the world I would rather live. There is an inner peace in my heart that I feel each and every day that no money can buy. I am constantly inundated with messages from fellow Croatians all over the world asking me how I just “did it” and moved back home. A good friend of mine called me earlier today while trying to sort her Serbian Citizenship and her exact words were, “I envy you, you have created the best life and you literally live in the best part of the world.”
With Istria only a few hours away, a rapidly growing fashion business & the best audience from all over the world engaging with my life daily, what’s missing in my life right now? I have it all at my feet. Thank you for a precious 12 months Croatia, I look forward to many more.