8 ways Croatia has NOT changed me in 8 years

Croatia is a weird place. Of course it’s weird because I’m not from here, but Croatians find it bat shit nuts too. There is a lot about daily life here that doesn’t make any sense to anyone.

Even though this country, its people and culture have led to an evolution of Sara, not all Croatia-isms have broken through. There are some things I just cannot get on board with.

#1 I will never demonize klima

While I understand that many people here think air conditioning leads to colds, flus, cancers and probably indigestion, I cannot imagine an August without it. Additionally, when I use it, my windows are CLOSED because I’m trying to cool down MY house, not the whole damn neighborhood.

Klima prevents me from dying of exposure during the unbearably hot, sticky, mosquito-infested Split summers.

I will admit that I use klima a lot less than I did when I lived in Texas. Where I grew up, everybody has central air conditioning and every place you go is cooled to the temp of a meat locker. Whenever I go for a visit, I am near hypothermia frequently, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop using it in Croatia.

Klima is mandatory.

#2 I like jugo

Yeah, I SAID IT. Jugo comes with rain and I love it.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, jugo is a warm-ish south wind that brings rain and Dalmatians hate it.

When there is jugo, this wind becomes the sole topic of conversation. Everyone gets jugo PMS and cancels all their plans. Everything bad that happens during this time is laid at the feet of the all evil jugo. Personal responsibility be damned.

Sorry, not sorry but I like jugo. I prop myself up on the couch, glue my eyes to the window and watch the world get tossed around outside as the sheets of rain pound down from the sky. It reminds me of Texas storms and I dig it.

I don’t get headaches. I don’t lose my mind. I don’t contemplate murder. When someone asks “kako si?”, I don’t respond with “Ohhh, jugo…” because to me, jugo is not a feeling. It is a weather condition.

#3 I also like propuh

Yeah, I SAID IT.

Propuh is a draft caused by having more than one window open at the same time. It can lead to colds, flus, arthritis, broken bones and athlete’s foot…apparently.

In my reality, propuh is fantastic. It airs out my house leaving a current of freshness behind. At worst it slams some doors shut, easily avoided by shoving a door stop or pack of crayons beneath them.

via GIPHY

#4 I like being barefoot in my own home

Yet another “rule” that I’ve been expected to follow, but that I absolutely do not follow, is this ban on being barefoot in your home.

It is considered dirty and the cause of more colds and cancers or whatever. You’re supposed to always have your feet covered. Socks are acceptable if you must, but papuče (slippers) are preferred.

First off, NO. It is not dirty if you keep a clean house, bathe regularly and don’t wear shoes indoors, which I do. Second, I’m 37 years old and I’ve yet to get a cold from being barefoot in my home. If anything, it prevents me from getting overheated as bare feet on cold tile is very refreshing especially when it’s hot.

I get waaaaay too much commentary from the peanut galleries on this one.

If you have not yet picked up on my disdain for this particular bit of nonsense, let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, not too long ago in a neighborhood in the heart of Split, my building manager came to pick up the monthly fee to clean the building stairs as she does every month. I came to the door barefoot because that is my right as a rent-paying human.

Pleasantry pleasantry pleasantry. Then she saw my bare feet. She gasped, said a bunch of stuff at a high pitch squeal in one unintelligible stream, grabbed my money and ran for her life! Her response was on par with me rubbing my poop on her face, which I assure you, I did not do.

It took a few months for her to return to our pleasantries. Clearly, I’d scarred her and it took some therapy visits to get over. When I shared this encounter with my Croatian teacher, her response was “She’s told the whole building”.

#5 Big lunches

In Croatia, lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Breakfast is coffee and maybe a pastry. Lunch is a giant, gut bomb that leads to a 2-3 hour nap. Dinner is something light.

It’s not that I’m opposed to big lunches. I’m a big fan of good food in general so I could never shame a nice heavy midday feast. BUT, if I were to eat a 4-course meal every day at lunch, I’d never go back to work. Actually, I’d likely not want to do anything for the rest of the day.

Also, the American part of me that views dinner as the reward for getting through the workday is still a part of my fabric.

I swear I’ve tried on this one. I really have, and I just can’t get on board with it. Of course, I would NEVER turn down an invitation to have lunch at a Croatian’s house. I love being invited to a home cooked lunch in a Croatian home and will take advantage of every opportunity to do so. HINT HINT.

via GIPHY

#6 It’s a hard no on Celsius

I know this isn’t Croatia-specific, but it’s worth a mention. I’ve spent 9+ years in Europe at this point and I cannot get behind Celsius.

It just doesn’t make sense to me. I need a more granular system to describe temperature and Celsius doesn’t get it done. I need to be able to say it’s 105, when it’s 105.

I understand the argument that 0 degrees Celsius as the point of freezing makes logical sense. I will never debate that. It does make more sense than 32 degrees Farenheit, but that’s the end of my understanding.

I’m not saying that Farenheit is superior, I’m just saying I’ve never been able to commit Celsius to memory and I really don’t see why I have to.

#7 I feel guilty and fear when I’m not working

Overworking is in my DNA as an American. I’ve tried to get rid of it or at least lessen it, but I’m not sure I’ve made any headway on that front.

Work is a major part of my life. There are reasons why that is so. I can’t just go get a job here, so I have to create my own income and make my own way. It takes a lot of time and effort and is accompanied by insecurities and worry.

It’s quite a juxtaposition considering I live in Split where locals have perfected the art of not working, so much so that they have a word that encapsulates life without work. “Fjaka” means a deliciously lazy state of contentment, which is a state of mind I’ve been working towards for years.

I get glimpses from time to time, moments when I manage to separate myself from my obligations and achieve true peace. But they are too few and far between.

If I try to take a legitimate holiday, I still work while also worrying about not working enough defeating the purpose of said holiday. A Croatian would leave work behind and never look back, fully embracing their freedom and days of rest and relaxation.

While my workaholic mindset has not changed so much, it’s something I’m actively trying to change.

#8 Travarica is GROSS

Travarica is a type of Croatian rakija (brandy) that is made with a variety of herbs and aromatic plants that may include, but is not limited to, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, rose hips, matgrass, juniper, thyme, currants, mint or sage. Each family has their own recipe.

I find it simply horrendous. With most rakija, homemade versions are better. Not so with travarica. The homemade versions are worse. I had a homemade one about 6 years ago and it gave me PTSD.

Croatians use travarica to aid digestion, but have also been known to use it to solve an endless number of other ills like toothaches, back pain, chest congestion, rheumatoid arthritis, sore joints, carsickness and sore throats. Does it actually help or does the pain of its ingestion just distract you from the problem? Who’s to say.

To me, it tastes like a hybrid of Jagermeister, dirty feet and Robitussin.

To give you more clarity on how important this concoction is to health in Croatia, watch this below Chris Rock bit. Every time he says “Robitussin”, replace it with “travarica” and you’ll get some idea of what I’m talking about.

Any Croatia-isms you can’t get on board with? Share your experience with us in the comments.

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10 thoughts on “8 ways Croatia has NOT changed me in 8 years

  1. Logan Škrtić
    August 9, 2020 @ 9:01 pm

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHa!! Sara, you are brilliant, and I love your absolute truth of candor.

    Knowing that I am moving to Croatia in the near future, I have also TRIED to get behind the Celsius movement. I, also, experienced epic failure and frustration after changing my car, my computers, my phone, EVERYTHING, to show that silly “C” and make myself get used to it… Barely lasted a month when I had to stop myself from chucking my phone out the window of the car, due to my frustration, one day when I came to the same conclusion as you.

    My Croatianisms, already, are how the “.” and “,” are reversed in currency compared to the USA. WTF? LOL

    And the last shining star, are the 24 hour clock times. I’ll have you all know, that it cost my dumb-a$$ $985 extra to get home from Europe the first time in 2018. I had a connecting flight in Frankfurt from Zagreb, on way to Toronto. I got to Frankfurt at 10AM, and convinced myself that my next leg was not until 4:30pm. NOPE. I did not learn that I missed my flight until I was walking up to the gate (very early, at 3:00pm so I didn’t miss my flight) of my Condor Airlines assigned gate that read “GATE CLOSED.” My flight? Departed at 14:30. Talk amongst yourselves….. well, okay, as usual in Europe when things don’t turn out as planned, it is easy to turn Lemons into Lemonade. This mishap wound up causing me to wait to days for my next flight I had to purchase, and learned that Condor sucks. I spent 2 days in lovely Frankfurt. I liked it so much that I would consider living there as an alternative to Croatia, or at least a place I’d like to visit again for sure!

    Oh, and have you gotten used to the power switches on the wall being opposite of America? Up is off, down is on? 🙂

    So glad you are there to share these little things in life that I will be better prepared for as I make this transition, and know that I am not crazy. Thank you for all that you do for people and also for me!!

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      August 10, 2020 @ 9:49 am

      Hi Logan,

      Thanks for reading!

      Glad I’m not the only one who can’t get on board with Celsius. 🙂

      The timing, decimals and light switches I’m totally okay with. Sounds like you really learned your lesson with the timing. That stinks! It’s all part of the transition. There will likely be more experiences like this once you make the jump over here, but I believe it will all be worth it.

      Happy to help with making that jump happen!

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

  2. Kathy Litz
    August 10, 2020 @ 4:01 pm

    Coming to Croatia from Las Vegas………I have to use Fahrenheit! It just sounds better!!! When I told a few young friends last week that it was 115 degrees in Las Vegas……it just screamed HOT! For 4 years I’ve tried to get comfortable with telling time……my 70 year old brain just won’t make the adjustment easily. OMG…..the comma and the decimal point! So many times I’ve had to redo the online payment because of screwing up the mark!!!! Now….as a former mathematics teacher I was all on board with switching to metric….but nooooooo..the USA had to use both systems. So I still struggle with measures. And why can’t I buy a dozen eggs? In both apartments I immediately installed AC and ceiling fans. In 2016 it was almost impossible to find a good selection of ceiling fans…..that has since improved. As a kid in Ohio I use to love the fresh smell of laundry handing out to dry…..now I MISS my warm fluffy towels. Just when I get good at translating English to Croatian I have to add German…..the items at the health food stores!!! And don’t get me started with Creame of Tartar! The first year here I wanted to bake snickerdoodle for friends and no tartar…….at least there is a way to make your own! My husband has a tendency to drop things on the floor so wearing flip/flops in the house isn’t a bother. Being retired I’m all about the NOT WORKING too hard….but I had to make adjustments since I really don’t have hobbies. I do stream movies and I’m obsessed with Animal Crossing. All in all I have no real complaints. I love my new home, I pay attention and try to understand differences. Being judgmental gets us nowhere. This country has taken good care of me during this pandemic….more than I can say for family and friends in the USA. Oh, one last thing………I miss squirrels……

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      August 13, 2020 @ 1:34 pm

      Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for sharing! Nice to hear from a fellow Farenheit-er.

      Man, I miss ceiling fans. I recently rented an Airbnb on Korcula that had one and I was STUNNED.

      I agree with you, Croatia took very good care of us during this pandemic. I’m very grateful to be here and not in the US.

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

  3. Aaron Antwine
    August 11, 2020 @ 1:48 pm

    Seriously though, the aversion to people’s health conditions being tied to the direction of the wind or a draft is something that bothers me daily.

    It is one step away from claiming witchcraft made me do it.

    This is the most psychosomatic BS I have ever heard in my life. I refuse to ever accept it and I will actively correct someone if they tell me if a draft is giving them cancer.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      August 13, 2020 @ 1:30 pm

      Hi Aaron,

      I feel you, for sure. I imagine your coworker isn’t too pleased with your strong opinions. Do not worry though, this is a safe place1

      To prevent your head exploding, find a way to find humor in it. I had to change my reaction so as not to develop a heart condition.

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

  4. Steve Mikic
    August 12, 2020 @ 5:24 am

    Hi Sara,

    Very much enjoyed this article and can relate to a lot of this.
    We visited and stayed with relatives at their home in a small village (Viletinec) in 2017 and the lunches were extraordinary in regards to volume and quality. I woke up at breakfast each and every day not hungry at all…
    Then we traveled to Osijek to visit and stay with family towards the end of May. In Australia in spring its quite normal to be barefoot. My 18 month old daughter who wasn’t a fan of shoes caused all sorts of castigation.

    P.s, Celsius is normal…..

    Regards,
    Steve

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      August 13, 2020 @ 1:24 pm

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Haha, being barefoot is even worse for children. I bet it was a scene. 🙂

      Croatians are incredible hosts. You’ll certainly never go hungry.

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

  5. Lorenzo Benedetti
    August 17, 2020 @ 12:50 pm

    1 to 5: 100% agree
    6 to 8: 0% agree 🙂

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      August 17, 2020 @ 3:47 pm

      Hi Lorenzo,

      5 out of 8. Not bad. 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

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