7 things I learned about Croatia in 2019

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I’ve learned a LOT this year. Every new day in Croatia comes with new revelations about culture, bureaucracy, and the social contract.

With every post we publish on this site, more is revealed about this quirky country. Most of the posts we work on are because I’m curious about something and want to know more. The rest are spawned from questions our magnificent fans have sent us.

While the number of new things I learned about Croatia this year could fill an aircraft carrier, I’ve plucked a few of my favorites for a quick list to close out the year.

7. Nobody can own the beaches.

All beaches, e.g. whatever land touches the sea, is preserved for public use. This means that a developer or celebrity cannot lock up a beach for their own private use. How fantastic is that? I hail from America where anything and everything is sold to the highest bidder, so learning this from a Croatian friend gave me great comfort.

As far as beaches in Croatia are concerned, if you can get to it, you can go to it.

6. I should be going to water polo matches.

Have you seen these men? Sweet baby jesus.

When I went to the water polo organization web site to see about purchasing a calendar for a friend, I discovered that I could download a folder of all of the calendar photos but could not purchase a calendar. Because, Croatia.

5. I should have exchanged my Texas driver’s license, like, 6 years ago.

This year, we did 3 posts on getting a driver’s license. In putting together that series, I learned that apparently I’ve been driving illegally for 6 years.

When you move to Croatia, if you’re a non-EU national, you are supposed to exchange your foreign driver’s license within the first year of your arrival. After the first year, driving with your foreign license (even if it is valid in the country of origin) is like driving with no license at all. OOPS.

4. I should have gotten dopunsko, like, 7 years ago.

I was so stubborn about dopunsko. For those who don’t know what “dopunsko” is (kind of like me for the last 7 years), it is an affordable health insurance supplement that pretty much eliminates most if not all health care costs from co-pays at the doctor to medication at the pharmacy to hospital visits and surgeries.

Every time a Croatian friend suggested it or a medical worker passive aggressively shook their head at me when I said “nema dopunsko”, I just shrugged it off out of laziness and ignorance.

That was silly. It’s inexpensive and more than pays for itself in the long run. Now that I have it, I’m covered for the day when I get hit in a cross walk by a speeding Splićan.

3. HDZ cited Expat in Croatia as a reference.

HDZ, the biggest and most powerful political party in Croatia, cites our post on the top political parties in Croatia as a reference on their Wikipedia page. How wacky is that?

I was doing a rabbit hole dive on the sites that link back to us and came across this in the process. Regardless of what one thinks about HDZ, it is kinda neat that they consider this site a reference for Croatian political party information.

2. How to tell time

A Splićani friend of mine, whom I’m confident won’t hit me with his car, shared an anecdote with me about his recent trip to Zagreb to outline a specific difference in dialect. He told me that someone asked him the time and his answer apparently outed him as a Dalmatian. Naturally, this caused me some confusion.  I assumed incorrectly that everyone in Croatia tells time the same way. Apparently not. Can open. Worms everywhere.

This confusion is what inspired our post on how to tell time in Croatia. While the skill to tell time is something one learns in elementary school, I had to learn it all over again in my 30s. Just a day after publishing that post, a baba asked me for the time at the bus stop. And I knew what to say!

1. How freaking hard it is to get answers to questions.

When it comes to dealing with MUP about residency, there are a lot of understandable complaints about conflicting information both in person and online. This government arm is the bane of many an expat and local, alike.

I’m here to tell you that the difficulty to get information from MUP runs far deeper than you can imagine, and it is not isolated to MUP, and it’s not because you are a foreigner. At Expat in Croatia, we have a team of Croatians that are paid to contact the government, banks, and companies to get the information that fuels our posts.

Much of the time, the process of getting concrete information is an endless dentist visit.

This person says they aren’t qualified, so they transfer us to somebody else who moves us to somebody else, who says you need to send an email that then never gets responded to.

OR

The department we are speaking to has no idea what we are talking about. It may be a fairly simple question like “how does an EU national get a health insurance policy?” and the response will be complete and utter confusion as if we asked for the molecular structure of methane.

OR

We speak to one person in one department that completely contradicts the government web site that is contradicted yet again by a different person in the department. We get left with 3 super different directions and no idea which one is right, making it really hard to state in a post that something is accurate. That is why we scream from the hilltops that everyone’s situation is different, because when you’re dealing with the Croatian bureaucracy, it really is.

There are a variety of factors why it is so hard to get information. Some people don’t want to stretch beyond their job description. Some would rather take a smoke break and pass us off. Some just don’t know how to handle the questions, which is not necessarily on them. We are asking for information that is fueled by our experiences in our home countries that function vastly different than Croatia.

Most of the discrepancies and road blocks are caused because immigration is still super new in Croatia. Laws and procedure are being figured out as we go. There is so much that has not been defined yet. There are jurisdictions in Croatia that don’t have any foreign residents, so they don’t know about certain rules or permit schemes. They have no reason to.

The deeper I get into the bureaucracy, the more challenging it is to get information. That is why we always encourage our followers to share their experiences, as it helps to “check” information and provides a guide for when we speak with the government. Despite the speed bumps, we are more committed than ever to uncovering the secrets to living in Croatia.

Thank you to everybody for reading this site, subscribing to our newsletter, following our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! And a massive thank you to everyone who has shared their experiences with us! Your trials and tribulations help others who come after you and fuel our content.

The entire reason we keep going is because of the wonderful, kind feedback and cheerleading from all of you. 🙂

If there is a topic you want to see, please let us know. See you guys in 2020!

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2 thoughts on “7 things I learned about Croatia in 2019

  1. Kathy Litz
    December 31, 2019 @ 1:19 pm

    You have been a life saver! Some things I’ve learned living here since 2016. People are not always polite on public transportation…I’ve had old men push in front of me to get on a city bus….and I’m 70! Don’t open a closed door in a government office without knocking first. Make sure you gave a customs number in case your son ships something from the US and Croatian customs decides to collect a tax. If you deposit a large sum of money in your bank account ( I just sold my first apartment and purchasing a new place) the bank will want you to sign a paper saying where the money came from. If you rent a car make sure you sign up for total ( I mean total) coverage! I got charged 800 euro for a tinie tiny scratch!

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      January 7, 2020 @ 5:46 pm

      Hi Kathy,

      Your point about the rental car is absolutely true! I always get the extra coverage and it has paid off exponentially. Thanks for sharing your great advice with us!

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

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