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.
#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.
#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.