6 Years Living In Croatia: Top 6 Things I’ve Seen, Done & Experienced
It’s like you become Croatian when you marry a Croat and move to Croatia. There is no escaping the traditions, traveling and embracing all things Croatian.
And, I would not have it any other way.
It’s been almost six years since we made the move from Australia to Croatia – and I’ll be celebrating the anniversary of our move in Split at a conference around the ideas and challenges of Croatians moving back to Croatia – at what would seem like ‘sudbina.’ That’s ‘fate’ for you non-Croatian speakers. Wink.
Mate Pavković actually was the one who taught me that word, he is one of the organizers of the ‘2nd International Conference on Diaspora Tourism’, and the same person who invited both Mr. Chasing the Donkey and I to speak at the conference.
This is not the first event I have been asked to speak at – but it’ll be the first one that I accepted.
Sudbina (fate) made it possible. We had no plans that weekend, and it’s a conference on a subject that we know all too well, and this is the year I said I’d spend more time attending conferences, learning, and networking.
The conference will cover topics like, how do you move to Croatia and start a business? What culture shock is to be expected? How do non-Croatian speaking partners cope? How to find and manage tourism & investments? Plus, there are other great topics like health and wellness tourism in Croatia.
The overarching goal of the diaspora conference is to find ways to integrate all Croatians as one and to forge the future of the Croatian identity both in Croatia and abroad through social, economic and political solutions. The best part is that the event will be full of stories of successful returnees who have made Croatia home.
If you can be in Split, come join us by registering here. If not, you can watch the panel discussions on YouTube later!
So, yay, as I said it’s been almost six years since I packed up and shifted my life to Croatia. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know I already wrote about
- 12 months living in Croatia – and how I came up empty with not much to report on
- Five years in Croatia – What have I done? Plus tips on surviving Croatia
- Living In Croatia Tips – My view on what you need to know about moving to and living in Croatia
Living in Croatia – is as I say time and time again, is not a breeze. Choosing to move to a Croatia, whether it’s where you were born, where your parents are from or coming to live in Croatia as a partner of a Croat has, it’s challenges – and those are different for everyone.
Some people experience culture shock in a few weeks, some after a few months others never.
If you’re like one of my friends you’ll hate the first year and cry every day – and then suddenly you’ll find friends, have a baby get invited to playdates and make a wonderful life.
Or, maybe you’ll be like someone else I know, who after five years still isn’t sure what to do for a living, and be fumbling over new idea after new idea – though loving the life and friends as you go.
If you’re like me you’ll spend the first year just going through motions of trying to find your way, and it won’t be until the 2nd and 3rd year that you’ll have worries and doubts – then in the 4th year things go from good to GREAT!
The point is, no two stories are alike. Which is why I always tell people several vital things if they are planning to move to Croatia:
- Do not take advice from anyone who does not live in Croatia 24/7 – 365 days a year – for at least a full year. Anything less than a year (or two or three) they are too fresh to really know. If they do not live here, 365 days a year, they have a skewed view of real life here.
- To be prepared, you should come live in Croatia for at least six months, and try it out, and do not come when its summer, sunny and everyone has pockets full of cash.
- Join Facebook groups, talk to others living in Croatia and asks tonnes of questions before coming.
Top 6 Things I’ve Seen, Done & Experienced While Living In Croatia
Ohhh, now let’s get into some spine-tingling fun stuff. After 2190 days of making Croatia home – and traveling, of course, I have seen and experienced some cool shit. Met some fantastic people, been helped by people who I have never met. I have given lots of advice to future expats, the diaspora, bloggers, and travelers and found trying to find just six things to make this list super hard to do.
But I did it (it just took me a reeeeeeeally long time). So without further ado, here are my top 6 moments of life in Croatia over the past six years.
Note: Making my amazing friends and spending time with them and our family isn’t on the list – as they go without saying. Oh, and I struggled to make a list when they took up a spot – so I left them off.
Also not on this list, is this blog, though without Chasing the Donkey my life here in Croatia would not be as fun, that’s for sure. Being recommended as a website for info on Croatia by Lonely Planet Guide books was pretty amazing, but I left that off the list also as I wanted to focus on actual experiences.
6. Started To Learn A New Language
Started…. okay, not learned. I am so inept at languages. As much as I have tried and tried, I just can’t remember the complicated grammar rules of Croatian. I forget new words I learn unless I hear it 202982524 times.
Do not get me wrong; I have learned TONNES thanks to these lessons with my two VERY patient teachers. When I arrived, I knew almost nothing. Now I am able to manage my way at the store, restaurants, and even at the doctors – so long as it’s not so complicated.
I have been able to teach my two boys all the basics, and am so looking forward to when they can teach me more.
I am still not sure what I was thinking of moving to Croatia, without taking Croatian language classes and trying to learn this horrifically difficult language before I came. Maybe it was because if I tried and failed, I would have never been brave enough to come…?
I deprioritized learning Croatian to do other things – you know like this blog, starting a business and having kids. And, as a result, my language skills are way short of what they should be after living here for six years. Even by my own standards, I am behind, so judge away if you will – but I am so proud of myself for what I have learned thus far.
I never thought growing up in Australia in a totally Australian house without even hearing a whisper of a second language that I’d ever live abroad and attempt to learn a new language – so, go me!
5. Truffle Hunting
I went on a truffle hunt in Motovun, Istria, and was one of the best travel days I have had traveling in Croatia – even better than when I first saw the Velebit mountains back in 2000 and cried from delight!
I went on the truffle hunt with Miro from Miro Tartufi, and though I did not know what to expect, I was blown away – I was just sad that the boys were not with me to enjoy the excitement that time – so I need to go back to do it again with them in tow.
Truffles are famous all over the world, and the Istrian truffle has a reputation for fetching some of the highest world prices. But, those little fungi are not easy to find – truffle hunting is about patience and of course very well trained dogs. On the tour, I followed the dogs for over an hour – zigzagging over the forest and when we found the ‘Istrian Gold’ I am pretty sure I shrieked.
Now, if you have never smelled a truffle’s musky and intoxicating aroma, you need to add it to your bucket list. You will either love – or – hate the smell. And, I can’t think of a better introduction to the smell of truffles than a hunt with the warm and friendly husband and wife duo at Miro Tartufi.
4. Getting My New Smile
If you missed any of my social media updates or my recent blog post where I was going on and on about my new teeth – let me catch you up.
In January I went to the Poliklinika Bagatin dental clinic in Zagreb to discuss getting dental veneers with Dr. Marin Radić and then went ahead and took the plunge and now have 14 new veneers and a totally transformed smile.
I have hated my crooked-snaggleteeth my whole life. I learned to smile for photographs with my lips sealed shut or to turn my head so you could not see my teeth easily. In Australia, I could not afford veneers, and it wasn’t until I turned 40 and had more disposable income that getting dental work became a reality here in Croatia as the prices are SO MUCH cheaper – I saved at least €6800 up to around €11800.
My life feels a little different with such a fabulous smile now.
3. Rijeka Carnival
I never bothered to go to Rijeka in the past 18 years of traveling Croatia – as I just thought it was a port town with nothing of real interest to me.
Then I went to the Rijeka Carnival, and I saw how wrong I was.
Oh wow. What an event.
The parade starts just after lunch, and the floats take all day to finish. On the day you’ll see people drinking, laughing, singing and just being jolly!
As the parade begins, you can expect nothing less than a show! It’s a joyful experience.
The International Parade blew my mind. I was so excited at one point I cried (yeah, I am a total baby!) I was like a kid in a candy store. I did not know in which direction to look. My camera was going off left and right as I tried to capture the day. My mobile phone was recording live videos which were watched by 1000’s of my social media fans, and I took hundreds of photos.
The day is a long one, so you can easily wander away from the parade, go eat or get a drink and soak up the vibe of the town.
We were kindly gifted VIP seating in a marquee and had access to the balcony in the Town Hall with the foreign Ambassadors and sponsors, which I was ever so thankful for so I could take great photos and let the kids roam about. I did also have a press pass, which made taking photos a little easier – so overall it was a totally amazing experience.
All of that said though, when I wandered about the city people were accommodating for us to get past with the baby stroller – and also when I asked to get close to the edge to take a photo, there was no hesitation from people for me to take a closer look – and I am sure that you’ll have the same experience.
Make sure to be there for the end, the rhythmic bell tolling of Halubaj bell ringers (Halubajski Zvončari) is a spirited and must-see end to a celebratory day.
2. Starting Octopus Transfers Croatia
Living in Croatia is just like living anyplace else – in that, you need money to survive. Jobs in Croatia are hard to come by when you’re like me and do not speak the language, so you have to get creative.
After a few years of living off our savings, and fumbling around with what business ideas might work, my husband and his business partner formed Octopus Transfers Croatia.
We have built up a private transfers business covering the whole of Croatia, and while it’s not without its challenges, it’s job security to make sure we can stay in Croatia and keep raising our family here.
1. Having My Croatian Baby
Oh wow. What achievement. I came to Croatia with Vladimir in tow. He was nine months old; he has his Australia and Croatian passport and citizenships. But, 1.5 years ago, I gave birth to Baby Roko (I know, such a Dalmatian name).
I wasn’t brave enough to give birth to Roko in Zadar hospital, after hearing so many awful stories from my friends, so he was born in Zagreb, and I consider him my little my gift to Croatia.
Roko is the only one in our family to have been born in Croatia, and I am so (weirdly) proud of my little Croatian citizen. Baby Roko is the only one in our family not to have Australian citizenship – and no Australian passport – mostly as I am too lazy to fill in the forms and do the work to get him one – and also as it costs a small fortune to arrange.
After six years of living in Croatia, we have built a house (that never made the list as it was a god-damn-nightmare), started a business, had a second child and together with our family and friends, have a made a life we love in Croatia.
Has our move to Croatia from Australia inspired you to come and join us?