I moved to Croatia from Sydney with an open heart and open mind four years ago. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy but I grew up in Sydney and spent three years of my life in London, there was nothing I wasn’t prepared for so a bit of “Croatian mentality” wasn’t going to scare me. I spent my whole life daydreaming of building a life in Croatia. I thought it would be easier to what I experienced but Croatia is by far the most difficult country I have lived in. The obstacles that I as a Croatian diaspora have had to face are usually unjustifiable and time consuming, testing my patience and sanity. Croatian bureaucracy deters many people from following their hearts and returning like I did. Despite being born in Vukovar and migrating to Australia before the war, I always felt Croatian, it was how I identified myself from a young age.
What Croatian people in Croatia don’t realise is that in countries like Australia, we don’t “belong,” we are considered “wogs” or people of European descent. You’re not Australian, you just adopt the Australian way of life. Then you return to your own country as a proud Croatian but are treated as an outsider, like you are not Croatian at all. Throughout the past year and a half I’ve come to realise that the Croatian diaspora have a real difficult time assimilating back to their homeland but it’s funny because if a Croat moved from Croatia to Australia, the Croatian community would help them in every single way possible.
I’ve been blogging for ten years, I started when moved to London at age 21 and kept a blog more like a diary. It was a time when blogging was far from the platform it is today, it was the era of Chiara, Susie Bubble and Bryan Boy. No one could predict what it would evolve into. In my mid 20s I was a celebrity fashion stylist and kept my blog as a way to inform the fans of my clients on what they were wearing and where to purchase them from. I worked a lot and I worked hard, every single day- there was no such thing as a day off. Along with maintaining job in fashion retail, I was also a freelance stylist, visual merchandiser and assistant to Australia’s top production and events coordinator, Colleen Cuneo. I loved my life in Sydney until I realised it no longer fulfilled me. Sure, there was money in the bank but I felt lost and empty on the inside.
Not one to live in limbo, I decided to pack my bags and literally “slip” out of Sydney. My family thought I’d lost my mind because I had many opportunities at my feet in Sydney but what do all those mean if you can’t get out of bed in the morning to meet them? I decided to rebrand my blog into the journey of my new life abroad. I wanted it to be as transparent and personal as possible with my travels and struggles.
Not one to live in limbo, I decided to pack my bags and literally “slip” out of Sydney.
My biggest personal wins began when I moved to Zagreb after my cousin Iva convinced me that the city “would be good to me.” Moving to Croatia full time had it’s challenges, my language skills being the biggest one. I met many amazing people who wanted to exercise their english skills with me, which was great and made communicating easier but then also didn’t put me any steps closer to learning Croatian properly.
Considering my vast experience in fashion, production and events back in Sydney, I thought it would be easier to find work while I settled into society in Croatia. Most people looked at my resume and said I have too much experience and others assumed I’d want a lot of money. I didn’t want a big pay check, I just wanted a job to wake up to every day and have some sort of purpose while working on my blog. Fortunately, I had a few lucky breaks last year with the National Tourism Board of Croatia that ended up opening the doors that are open for me today.
A lot of people look at my social media and think my life is easy and perfect but it’s far from the truth. I removed myself from my westernised life to conquer my demons with alcoholism, depression and a traumatic abusive relationship from my late teens that started to resurface in my late 20s. I’ve spent a lot of time in my room crying and trying to understand my pain so that it could not hurt me anymore. I can easily say that being in Croatia has saved my life. It’s the only place where I feel at home and have peace in my heart. I also feel safe. I can walk down the street and not have to look over my shoulder, in Sydney you don’t really have this luxury. You also won’t be leaving your phone on a table in a cafe in Sydney or sitting in a cafe for a few hours, everything is “on the go.”
I’ve spent a lot of time in my room crying and trying to understand my pain so that it cannot hurt me anymore. I can easily say that being in Croatia has saved my life.
Another thing I find interesting here in Croatia is the whole idea of “trend” items. I find it hilarious how a portal can announce a trend piece and automatically it’s on all the top local instagram profiles. In Australia the general rule is, “if everyone has it then I don’t want it.” Style is more individual and no one cares about what’s trending in Zara.
My life is a prime example of risk and reward. My whole life I had a feeling my life would begin once I moved to Croatia and it really did. I found love for myself in Croatia and I found true love by just being here and meeting the man of my dreams. I met my fiancé in Zagreb on Tinder, an App that I had this love and hate relationship with. One of my girlfriends told me to treat my dating life the way I treat my career… to never give up. I took her advice and at the age of 30, fell in love for the first time in my life.
We are all just one plane, one corner or swipe away from a moment that will change our lives forever. I knew everything I wanted would happen for me in Croatia, it’s a feeling that you trust when you’re aligned with your purpose. My greatest passion is showing off my country and I do it and get paid for it on my blog and on my social media.
How the hell can I complain in this country when it’s given me everything I ever dreamed of?
I see so many reports that people are leaving and never returning, that the grass is greener outside of Croatia’s borders. I say let them go and don’t give their hate speech any air time. Croatia needs love and needs more people here who love to be here, who genuinely want to be here and help make it a better place to live. I dream of and am working towards creating a Croatia that my children don’t have to leave in order to survive in this world. And there are plenty of Croatian diaspora who have returned and who are returning with the same ideology.
In Sydney, Australia
For a coffee, I recommend-
The Grounds of Alexandria, one google search and you already understand it’s allure. I wish places like this existed in Croatia.
A cocktail in a bar costs-
A cocktail in a reputable bar or club in Sydney costs around $20-30.
The cost of rent per month is-
I lived in Wolloomooloo, moments from Sydney Harbour before leaving for Croatia and my monthly rent was about $1500, sharing with two other housemates plus bills.
Cost of transport (bus, train)
I used to either drive or walk everywhere, so I’m not too sure.
I’ve don’t ever remember sitting in a taxi in Sydney for 15 minutes for anything under $20.
A lunch in a restaurant costs-
A good lunch in a decent restaurant will set you back between $40-60 per person.
Most expensive thing compared to Croatia
Everything is more expensive from rent to bills to maintaining a social life. The standard of living in Australia is a lot higher but the quality of life in Croatia can’t compare, it’s of higher value here.
What’s cheaper in Australia compared to Croatia?
Ugg boots?! And by the way, Ugg Boots are only worn indoors in Australia, you wouldn’t be caught dead in them outdoors on that end of the world. That’s like fashion suicide.
Best place to drink coffee in Croatia & why?
Caffe Bar Finjak in Zagreb, it’s central but a little away from the usual city noise, stunning & unique atmosphere. A well heeled crowd from locals to tourists who’ve done their research.
Best club in Croatia to go out to & why?
I don’t really go clubbing anymore, I prefer a good restaurant with a top chef probably because I am in my 30s. I find Croatian nightlife a little boring and repetitive.
Best shopping in Croatia?
Something to grab a quick bite at…
Best cultural event in Croatia?
I love Advent. This is my favourite time of year in Zagreb.
Best location for a walk in Croatia?
Maksimir Park in Zagreb or Greetings to the Sun in Zadar at sunset.
Best local speciality & where you can eat it?
Anything straight out of the Adriatic!
My favourite and most recommended restaurant in Croatia is Pellegrini in Sibenik, where I recently celebrated my birthday. They deserve that Michelin Star.
For anyone looking for the best Japanese in Croatia, it’s at Takenoko in Zagreb. Pricey by Croatian standard but worth it if you can afford it.
Both restaurants use local produce which I love.
You must see…
Rovinj! What a picturesque city.