10 brilliant things you can say to make a Croatian smile

man smiles
A Croatian smiling

Croatians are warm and inviting people, and celebrating is a part of our daily routine. If you’ve ever been to a Croatian wedding, party, or coffee bar, or you spent some time alone with a Croatian, you’ve noticed that for sure.

Croatia is a tourist country, so we are especially welcoming to tourists and foreigners. We love introducing them to our customs, food, and small joys and are eager to help with anything they need. Bonding with people and sharing emotions is something we are not afraid of. We are quite direct. We can cry and smile together – often in just a few seconds.

Our Mediterranean spirit makes us and everyone surrounding us cheerful. It’s all about socializing and having fun because life is too short, and we appreciate the precious moments where we can.

The best thing about Croatians is that we do not need a particular reason to smile. We are able to draw something positive and laugh even in the most awkward situations.

To dig deeper into Croatian culture, hop over to this post and this post.

If you’re looking for a way to build connections with the Croatians in your community, just try to make them smile. The bond will be immediate.

In this post, we’ve got 10 suggestions to throw into conversation today.

Jump to a suggestion:

Let’s make Croatians smile…

What to say to a Croatian to make them smile

#1 Sutra je sunčano

When we notice that dinky ray of sunshine on a freezing winter day, all of a sudden, we get a desire to take a walk. Croatians absolutely adore being outside.

After the winter, we are dazzled by the first days of spring when nature blooms and the sun wakes up from winter hibernation. Caffe bars open their summer terraces, hikers hurry up to the hills, the gardening season starts, and biking is trendy again.

[Read: The culture of gardening in Croatia, including history and the most common vegetables, herbs, and flowers]

In summer, we run to the Adriatic coast, rivers, and lakes to swim, get a tan, and fry. We chill in the shadows of tamarisk and pine trees, sniffing their incredible smell and smiling with the sun rays escaping through the treetops. Then we hedonize in Indian summer in autumn, soaking up the gentle sun invented for long coffees and chilling.

Croatians are Mediterranean people – we worship the sun. The sun is our mate, companion, and accomplice. If you want to draw out a spontaneous smile from a Croatian, tell them the weather forecast is sunny. The sun moves us and cheers us up. Sun means positivity and smiling.

Sutra je sunčano (tomorrow is sunny)!

#2 Molim & hvala

Croatians are Balkans. We are lively, warmhearted, and generous people. Chit-chatting with residents and strangers, showing appreciation, and helping others make us happy. Do not ever hesitate to ask for help in Croatia or feel ashamed about it. You are safe with us.

[Read: Life in Croatia: The kindness of strangers]

If you need a favor, honestly and politely ask for it. No way someone will turn you off – they will be frankly glad to jump in. And they will probably do more than you need and ask if you need anything else with a sincere smile.

Molim (te) means please in Croatian. Molim te, možeš li mi pomoći (please, can you help me)? Molim te, ponovi (please, repeat). Molim te, donesi mi čašu vode (please, bring me a glass of water).

After a Croatian helps you with anything you need, do not forget to say hvala (thanks) or hvala ti (thank you). They will most likely point out it was not a problem at all – ništa (nothing) – and they mean it for real. Or they may say molim, which this time means you are welcome.

#3 Nema priše/žurbe, pomalo/polako

On the Croatian coast, you can often hear phrases pomalo (go slow) and nema priše (no rush). In southern and eastern Croatia, we say polako and nema žurbe. Let these phrases become your mantra. Slow down: breathe, absorb, feel, relax. Practice pomalo. Remind them to take it easy when you notice someone rushes, panics, or is unrealistic.

Croatians like to chill, so they also use these phrases on other occasions as a reminder or confirmation to relax. When you say pomalo, you will see a big smile and joy on their faces. And they will most likely say pomalo right back.

#4 Croatian words and phrases

My dear colleague Teri said anytime she tries her “terrible” Croatian, Croatians smile and giggle – especially at the market or a bread shop where they recognize her. Well, my dear friend, you did not imagine this, which is fantastic. I also giggle when you speak Croatian because you sound like the sweetest creature in the world. Your adorable effort makes my day.

The Croatian language is not easy to learn, and Croatians appreciate anyone who makes an effort. We smile and encourage them to speak. Sometimes we correct the pronunciation, but our intention is innocent. I noticed I occasionally do this to Sara, especially with words including č, ć, š, and đ. My dear, apologies if I sound rough because my only aim is to help. Anytime I hear you speak Croatian, my proud heart melts like crystallized honey in hot chocolate.

#5 I love Croatian food

Croatia is rich with countless traditional food, fruits tasting like the sappiest exotic mango, and wild herbs smelling more hypnotizing than the most refined perfume on the globe. Croatians are aware of this fortune, and they are proud of it.

Mention to a Croatian that you like Croatian food – especially if they prepared it – and why you appreciate it. We will instantly imagine its gold taste and smile like we are eating it for the first time. Štrukli. Bučnica. Pršut. Paški sir. Brancin. Oysters. Smokve. Jagode. Paprenjaci. Lavender. Continue the sequence and smile along with them.

[Read: Famous Croatian produce and where it comes from]

#6 Ajmo na kavu

Kad ćemo na kavicu (when we will have coffee)?” may be the most common question a Croatian may ask in their life. Instead of the word kava (coffee), we even use the word kavica, which is a diminutive of kava. See where I am going? Coffee is our small sin and sweet delight.

Drinking coffee in Croatia is a ritual of long conversations and relaxation. We share our innermost thoughts with our beloved ones over a cup of delicious coffee in our favorite caffe bars and homes. We drink coffee for hours, drop by drop, and laugh and cry together.

Suggest grabbing a coffee with a Croatian on any occasion, especially if you crave a new friendship or would just like some company for a little while. Coffee can be had with anyone – a new friend, your landlord, the car mechanic, a client, a colleague, or someone you randomly meet and have only known for 5 minutes.

Do not be surprised if they immediately reorganize their schedules and take you to their favorite place. Watch the smile on their face growing titanic the longer the cups are on the table.

#7 Si za rakijicu?

Croatians enjoy making toast. An appropriate occasion for a toast is principally anything you can think of. If you want to offer an aperitif, ask who’s in for rakija. When celebrating or going out, order rakija to celebrate. If you are picking olives or hiking, take a sip of rakija to fuel up.

Ask who is in for rakija whenever you want. Just say “Nešto kratko (something short)?” and your proposal will be immediately evident. Šljivovica, travarica, ruža, višnja, smokva… Homemade Croatian rakija tastes palatable and makes us tender and chatty. No wonder we say rakija connecting people.

Don’t forget to raise the glass and say živjeli (cheers) before draining that little cup of joy. Cheers to the accomplishment, future, happiness, health, or friendship! These are the things we strive for.

[Read: Rakija, Croatia’s legendary liqueur]

#8 Bilo je super!

Bilo je super (it was great!) or zabavila/zabavio sam se (I had a great time). You can’t go wrong with expressing your delights after hanging out with a Croatian. If you had an extraordinary time together, let them know, and they will appreciate it. It is nice to know someone enjoyed our company, especially a foreigner or a stranger. This gives us enthusiasm for the next gathering.

Share your excitement with us while it is still fresh. Tell us which part of the gathering was outstanding or exceeded your expectations, and you can expect the next meet-up very soon.

[Read: How to understand Croatian culture: Part 2]

#9 Produženi vikend

Christmas falls on Sunday this year, are you serious [grumpy expression on Croatian’s face]? Aargh, I am guilty, your Honor. Like every Croatian, I deify extended holidays. When I realize a holiday is on Friday, which means a longer weekend, no creature in this universe is happier than me. The feeling itself may be related to gratitude for hard work.

Produženi vikend (extended weekend) means whatever you want. One or two days off (i.e., national holidays) added on a classic weekend is a precious opportunity to travel farther, meet more friends, drink more coffee, or stare into nothingness if this is what your Highness needs. You’ve earned it.

[Read: Croatia National Holidays]

#10 Kako si?

Is there anything better you can ask your Croatian than how are they? I bet there isn’t. Kako si (how are you) can turn their day around in the best possible way. Maybe they had the time of their life and want to share it with you, or they feel like crap and need a crying shoulder.

Everyone needs someone who cares: family and friends, neighbors, colleagues at work, your children’s nanny, workers in the store and market, grandma you meet while buying bread in a local pekarnica, a lady you meet when running in Maksimir, or a guy who plays online games with you. Ask kako si and make them smile.

[Read: 6 reasons to visit Park Maksimir]

Laugh with Croatians until your bellies explode from the dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin you invoke! :)

View our other culture posts

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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