Crushing it in Croatia: Carol Anne Škorvaga (CAM), EIC’s consultant
Welcome to Crushing it in Croatia, a series where we feature expats who have moved to Croatia.
In this series, we take a deeper dive into the realities of moving to Croatia, including how long it takes, what drew people here and the things they hoped to leave behind, experiences of dealing with the infamous Croatian police, shocks and challenges, how Expat in Croatia’s resources made the transition easier, advice for the next wave and whether or not it was all worth it in the end.
Today, we speak to our dearest colleague Carol Anne Škorvaga, known to us as “CAM”, a first-generation Croatian-Canadian living in Jastrebarsko with her family. She grew up entrenched in the Croatian community surrounded by culture and folklore, attended Croatian school in Canada, and then returned to Zagreb to attend Filozofski Fakultet.
Take it away, CAM!
Crushing it in Croatia: Carol Anne Škorvaga
Marija: Hey CAM! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
CAM: Hi! My name is Carol Anne, but everyone calls me CAM. I’m a Croatian-Canadian… or I guess now that I’m here, I’m a Canadian-Croatian… or Croatian-Canadian-Croatian… geez, how did this intro get so complicated?!
I was born in Canada to Croatian parents. A first-generation Croatian-Canadian who grew up entrenched in Croatian culture, language – u Hrvatskoj kući se priča hrvatski (everyone speaks Croatian in Croatian home), community, folklore, tambura (lots of tambura) – all of it, even Croatian school on Saturdays – I loved all of it, except for hrvatska škola (school) on Saturdays! Being Croatian has been and always will be a huge part of my identity. It is something I have always been proud of – something my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents entrenched into me by sheer osmosis, I think!
Marija: What drew you to Croatia?
CAM: As a child, I came to Croatia many times to visit my family, and after the war, I even moved back for a time to attend Filozofski Fakultet (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) in Zagreb – it was at that time that my deda (grandpa) and I did all the leg-work to register my citizenship.
I remember the exact moment I held my domovnica in my hand for the first time and became a Croatian citizen – what. a. feeling! I know that the Croatian bureaucracy of today has its challenges, but it’s nothing compared to the hoops we jumped through back in the late ’90s, talk about trial by fire… but I digress…
School here was VERY different, and while I enjoyed every minute of my time here, I had a difficult time envisioning my future in a country that was still very war-torn, so I headed back to Canada to complete my studies and pursue my degrees.
Croatia didn’t fall to the wayside though, I returned virtually every summer and spent EVERY moment here that I could. I was straddling two worlds constantly. In Canada, I felt the security of a system and bureaucracy I was familiar with, and with a future I could envision that felt familiar, while Croatia continued to tug at my heartstrings with the feeling that it was my true HOME, a sentiment that I know many people in the diaspora feel.
Fast forward to getting married (to a Croatian-born boy who emigrated to Canada), having 2 amazing children, and making it a point to bring them here as often as we could to have them feel just as connected to Croatia as we were.
Eventually, it became obvious that THIS was where we had to make our home. The decision wasn’t difficult, but moving your life to a new country is HUGE! It’s overwhelming, exhilarating, scary, nerve-wracking, exciting – all the feels!
Marija: Where do you live in Croatia? How did you decide on that city, and what do you like about it?
CAM: I live in a beautiful little village just outside of Jastrebarsko, which is situated smack dab in between Zagreb and Karlovac. This is the village where my mom, her parents, and the rest of my family on her side are from. Cool tidbit – we are currently living in the house where she was born.
I love this area for sentimental reasons, but from a practical standpoint, I love its proximity to everything. We live out in the country (on the selo), but are just a few kilometers from all the amenities we could need. Zagreb is easy to visit, and if I don’t want to deal with the traffic in Zagreb, I can go to Karlovac and get whatever I need there.
I feel like we’re getting the best of both worlds. It also helps that the more (sea) is only an hour and a half away!
Marija: Was there anything about daily life in Canada you hoped to leave behind?
CAM: Oh yes! When locals hear that we moved from Canada to Croatia, they always want to know why, and so I tell them this: In Canada, we live to work, and in Croatia, you work to live. I wanted to leave behind that live-to-work mentality. The lifestyle, priorities, and values placed on a work-life balance is something that is engrained in the culture here in Croatia, and it has given me and our family a new outlook on life.
Marija: When you decided to move to Croatia, how did you prepare? What did you do first to plan your move?
CAM: Fun fact: I started my journey by digesting AS MANY blogs as I could from the Expat in Croatia website! I knew right away that the Expat team was who we needed to help us figure out how the heck to do this, cause seriously, how the heck do you just move your life across an ocean?!
So, like many people who may be reading this blog post, I booked a consulting session with Sara. In that 30 minutes, I was able to see my path through all the “red tape” (by the way, thanks for that Sara)!
Marija: How did you find Expat in Croatia?
CAM: Expat was recommended to me by other Canadian-Croatians who had returned to live in Croatia. It was the first thing to come out of their mouths: “You need to check out Expat in Croatia” – so I did! If someone had told me then that I would be working here now, I wouldn’t have believed them!
Marija: How did Expat in Croatia help you transition to Croatia? Which resources did you use?
CAM: Oh my gosh – which resources DIDN’T I use?! While we were packing up our lives in Canada, I would spend countless hours reading the blogs before bed. My particular favourites (yes, there’s a u, I’m Canadian) were in the “daily life” section, especially understanding the school system, as well as the health care system.
Our children have a rare genetic-metabolic condition, so it was imperative that I knew how to navigate both of these systems right from the get-go. The information I got from the blogs was immensely helpful.
Marija: Even though you were familiar with Croatia, were there any shocks or challenges you experienced once you settled? How did you overcome them?
CAM: I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t. What I found (and still find) particularly challenging is that most things are still paper-based. When we were signing up for HZZO, I had to take this paper here, and that paper there – I felt like a private courier service that week! I found it quite frustrating.
But now that we’re IN the system, I have a better understanding of how it all works, and kind of have an appreciation for it (especially the prescription system with the ljekarna (pharmacy)).
Another thing that I’m still finding it hard to get used to is that this is a cash-based society. In Canada, I NEVER had cash in my wallet, and here you need it EVERYWHERE. Good luck getting a delicious pecivo (baked good) from your local bakery or having a cup of coffee if you don’t have cash!
Marija: Why did you apply to be a consultant in Expat in Croatia? What motivates and excites you the most about this role?
CAM: When the Consultant position became available, I knew in my heart of hearts that I could help others like Sara helped us in reaching our ultimate goal of moving to Croatia! My previous job in Canada was, in a strange way, very similar to what I’m lucky enough to be doing here – helping people, helping families during a hugely important transition, event, and decision in their lives.
Our journey in moving here allowed me to experience firsthand many things our clients are thinking about or in the process of doing: have navigated citizenship for myself and the kids, registered our marriage, changed my name, registered our address, made all the trips to the matični ured (registrar’s office) and my local MUP, to Global Affairs Canada, to Ministarstvo europskih poslova, waited in line at the Hrvatska pošta (postal office) and at HEP – so many buildings!
We signed our children up for school, bought a car, bought a gorgeous piece of land that we are in the process of building a house on, imported all of our belongings in a container, navigated the healthcare system (shout out to Nada at my local HZZO), managed some special needs… we did ALL the things and more. And you want to hear the best part? I actually LOVED doing it!
All of my friends and family in Croatia were blown away by my efficiency, patience, and the speed at which I got things done – because if you know anything about Croatian paperwork, you know that things move slow (like molasses), so my efficiency was pretty impressive!
Marija: How would you compare your current work experience in Croatia to Canada?
CAM: I think this is a hard one for me to answer. While I do get to interact with Croatians, much of my communication is with people outside of Croatia – from around the world, actually, which is really cool. The Expat team is (obviously) amazing. Having such a tight-knit team of talented colleagues is such a bonus, and they were there for me every step of the way on my very steep learning curve. For me, working at Expat feels very familiar. A fabulous team, an incredible boss and mentor – what more could a girl ask for?
Marija: We live in a world of content hyper-production flooded with data, so finding relevant information is challenging. Expat in Croatia processes an enormous amount of information daily. How do you stay updated without being overwhelmed at the same time?
CAM: Honestly, I use Expat in Croatia. I look forward to the EIC Tuesday newsletter in my inbox. I particularly like the “From Croatian News” section as it alerts me of the most important news topics of the week. I left a 24-hour news reel way of life back in Canada – I’m not interested in constant news updates. I just want to know what I need to know and live my life.
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Marija: Are you satisfied with your life here so far, what is your experience? Do you ever miss Canada, and what exactly?
CAM: While I miss our family and friends in Canada, I don’t miss life in Canada. Since moving here, we have spent more time as a family, and I’ve seen my husband so much more than at any other point in our marriage! Life here is about people, community, spending time, going for coffee, and listening to music (I LOVE tambura music). I was born for this lifestyle and this pace. [Read: How to understand the Croatian culture]
Marija: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to move to Croatia in the future?
CAM: Do it… but be prepared. Bureaucracy runs differently, so do most businesses here (good luck getting a response same day), and doctor’s offices (ever heard of the term padobranci (parachutists)?)! Do your homework, be patient, plan, plan, and plan… And then jump and enjoy the ride!
Marija: Would you like to share anything else with us?
CAM: I would. This past year has been absolutely AMAZING! Here I find myself being interviewed by my Expat colleague, this Croatian-Canadian-Croatian (that’s what I’m going with), living life with my family in a beautiful little Croatian village, teaching my neighbors how to speak “Crolish” (ask me if you wanna know more), surrounded by buildings and history older than the country I was born in.
There’s a tambura song that I LOVE by a group called Otrov (Poison), and the chorus goes Selo moje malo, selo najmilije, najlipše na svitu, u srid Slavonije (My little village, dearest village, the most beautiful in the world, in the middle of Slavonia). Every day, I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe that this is our life now, that I get to live in my selo malo, selo najmilije. <3
If you’d like to consult with CAM about your transition to Croatia, click here.
View our other crushing-it-in-Croatia articles
- Alex uncovers his community
- Alexandra and her many MUP miscommunications
- Hailey’s volunteering for udruga Vestigium in Zagreb
- Julia and studying design in Dubrovnik
- Kathy from Britain bakes better cookies
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.