Oh, the places we went: EIC in 2023

Woman at Vidova Gora lookout on island Brac
Sara at the Vidova Gora lookout on island Brač for her 40th birthday

Did you know that 2023 was the 10th birthday of Expat in Croatia? YEP. Ten years we’ve been around. A solid decade of existence.

We should have celebrated it. We should have screamed about it from the mountaintops.

It didn’t even occur to me that it was 10 years until halfway through the calendar. Once that revelation came out, we put our heads together and came up with a plan with giveaways and promotions and fireworks. But, then we realized we didn’t actually have the time to do the giveaways and promotions and fireworks.

That may sound like a bad thing, but I’m proud. I’m proud because I know what we were doing instead – and what we were doing was already incredible and who says we can’t celebrate an 11th birthday?

In honor of another fabulous year of Expat in Croatia, here is a recap of all the adventures, improvements, milestones, and new additions – in case you missed them. We also must heap praise on the lovely individuals who made it all possible.

In this article, we cover:

The facts are these…

For our supporters

Slušaj, we are here to serve you – the reader, the client, the Croatia lover. We are constantly churning out ideas to make your life in Croatia easier, or more enjoyable at the very least. And sometimes, we get suggestions from you about what we should do differently… and then we do them!

New web site

On September 1, the new look of expatincroatia.com was launched with one goal in mind – making the site easier and more enjoyable to navigate.

You kept telling us you didn’t like the infinite scroll of blog posts on the home page, so we got rid of it. Now, you can see all posts from the start of time on this dedicated page.

You told us it was hard to figure out where to locate content, so we created journey-specific landing pages where you can find all the blog posts and services related to your situation in one place.

We also made the search function much easier to locate and use. Some found the red a bit too intense, so we switched to a soothing warm blue.

Speaking for myself, I love it so much that I just look at the home page sometimes and it gives me the feels. We still have a lot of changes and tweaks on the horizon, but this was a big move and we are so happy you like it.

Upgraded our newsletter

We kicked the Tuesday newsletter up a notch and added a bunch of new stuff, packing it with even more value to keep you connected to Croatia.

A clickable table of contents was added so you can easily hop to different sections. Maybe you want to read the news first or check out the latest word and phrase of the week. You can do that without all that troublesome scrolling.

In addition to our new articles, we added a section for Updated Articles. We update our content constantly to make sure that no matter which post you visit, it’s current because our posts are FOREVER. In this new section, we share which posts have been updated and what was changed. When HZZO releases the new premium for basic health insurance early next year, you’re sure to see that post in this section.

We also added a Photo of the Week where we share photos from around Croatia, taken by our team or by you. You can easily submit a photo here or just sit back and enjoy.

Lastly, we added a spot for Five Question Friday. Every Friday, at 5 pm Croatia time, I answer your questions about Croatia live on Instagram. The following Monday, the episode is published on YouTube. In this wrap-up, you can see the questions that were answered on last week’s episode with a link to watch on either platform.

Not subscribed yet? Join 9.000 other subscribers here.

Launched our Experience page

I’m certain you don’t know about this because we didn’t tell anybody about it.

Often, we get asked what it’s like to live or travel in Croatia as a person of color or from the LGBTQIA+ community. The trouble is we are not part of those communities, so we cannot accurately speak to their experiences. All we can do is share what others have shared with our team.

This just didn’t sit right with us. If you are a Filipino living or traveling in Croatia, you should be able to hear experiences from other Filipinos rather than play a game of telephone with us as the intermediary.

To solve this, we created a page where you can share your story of living or traveling in Croatia so that it is visible to anyone who needs it. Whatever you share is anonymous unless you want to share your name. It’s filterable, so you can easily view stories from people who share your nationality, identity, religion, sexuality, race, or culture.

This page is brand new, and like I said, we didn’t tell anyone about it, so we only have a few submissions so far.

If you’d like to share your experience, click here. If you want to read the experiences of others, click here.

Launched our Spotify channel

No, EIC has not become a band. Steve will not pluck the bass while CAM howls into a microphone – although that sounds AMAZING.

This channel is for taking you to a deeper level into Croatian culture – specifically music. To understand a culture, it’s vital that you become familiar with its tunes and melodies.

We already have a series on the blog called Croatian Music Guide where we highlight legends of the Croatian music scene, which includes 5 songs to get you started with each artist.

On Spotify, we’ve got playlists for significant artists, playlists curated by our team, as well as themes like football, weddings, love, the sea (of course), birthdays and dance. I must give a big shout out to Linda Bakotić Valčić and Želimir Škarpona of Radio Split who helped us with our themed playlists. We will keep refreshing songs and playlists, so stay tuned to the channel to see our updates.

Follow us on Spotify here.

Overhauled our consulting service (PLUS we’re offering a special discount until December 31)

sara cam jaska
CAM Škorvaga and I in Jastrebarsko this year

Oh man, this was a big one – for you, for the EIC team, but especially for me personally. We made 3 significant changes, which were in the works for more than one year.

If you haven’t had a session with us yet, we answer all of your Croatia questions – whether it’s residence, citizenship, or something else – in as little as 30 minutes. That means you can save weeks or months of agonizing research accompanied by the confidence of having correct information.

First, we brought on a new consultant – Carol Anne “CAM” Škorvaga. Having a second consultant had to happen. It was obvious since at least 2 years ago. There was no way I could continue doing it all on my own if I wanted to accomplish anything else, like shower or eat.

It is such a huge privilege and honor to be a part of your Croatia journey on such an intimate level. Whether we meet in person or on Zoom, you bring me into your life, share things you wouldn’t share with strangers, cry when it’s just too much. It’s very personal for both of us, and I love doing it.

Thankfully, this service was super popular, but given that I was the only consultant, the popularity resulted in long wait times for some. If I was at a conference or traveling or sick or on vacation, I couldn’t do sessions. Sometimes people had to wait more than 1 month to get in.

Bringing on a new person was the solution. It took a solid 6 months from start to finish before we found CAM. With her on board, we can help more people without the wait.

Second, we added more value. The reality of Croatia is that you need a good lawyer that has your back. While we’ve offered you access to our vetted legal network for the last 5 years, it became clear that some were hesitant to engage because all they needed were a few answers or pieces of advice.

In collaboration with our legal network, we figured out a way to give you legal advice in a bite-size for those who only need a little assistance at a fraction of the cost if you consulted with a lawyer independently. All of our first-time consulting clients now get a 30-minute consultation with a lawyer in addition to your 30 minutes with EIC which you can use whenever you need it.

Lastly, we built a comprehensive FAQ so that you can learn more about how we can help make your life in Croatia easier through our consulting service. We’re super proud to enter our 5th year of this service in 2024.

As a thank you for supporting EIC, we are gifting a free 15-minute follow-up call on all sessions purchased through the end of 2023. You can use your session and follow-up call whenever you please. You’ll also receive a 10% discount voucher on a second session that you can use at any time during 2024, or you can gift it to a friend or family member.

Read our reviews here.

Book a session with a free 15-minute follow-up here.

Milestones

Our team reached a few milestones that were big deals to us, so we definitely want to share them with you.

Our bench is stacked

team of 9 people
At our weekly meeting; from left to right: Teri, Sara, CAM, Tamara I., Steve, Lorena, Danijela, Marija, Tamara P.

In the last couple months of the year, we added 3 new team members – two of which fill roles that we’ve been wanting to fill for a loooooooong time.

Watch full of writers

Danijela Horvat joined us as a Copywriter and Researcher. Given that content is our core, having a proper content department is vital. Danijela is a superstar, and we are so thrilled to have her join us. Additionally, we have a growing team of contributors whom I’d love to shout out.

  • Dragana Pavičić – Dragana is part of my Writer’s Group in Split, so working with her felt quite natural. Read her post on acclimating your child to Croatian schools here.
  • Isabel Putinja – We’ve been collaborating with Isabel since the early days of EIC, and she has helped guide us tremendously on Istrian culture for a variety of posts. Check out her post about summer in Istria here.
  • Katherine Pepper – Kit of Cheers Croatia Magazine has helped us fill out our wine content. Check out her posts here.
  • Marija Gabrijela Perić – Gaby is from the Split Library, and she contributed a list of books on Croatian history in English. Browse the titles here.
  • Martina Vujović – Martina sang the praises of Croatia’s legendary journalist and freedom fighter Marija Jurić Zagorka. Read this post here.
  • Maša Virag – Maša wrote a love letter to her unique town of Koprivnica. Read it here.
  • Scott Radovich – Scott brought us the story of Grk wine from the island of Korčula.
  • Valentina Sertić – Valentina wrote a post about Josip Juraj Strossmayer, who left a lasting impact on Croatia. Read it here.
  • Victoria Sussens – Vicki is a journalist and one of our most prolific contributors, with 13 posts under her belt so far. Browse them here.

If we’re talking content, it’s impossible not to shower some praise on Mary Ellen Radovanić, who has been behind the scenes, helping us with content updates and changes including the tedious kuna to euro conversion, which was NOT FUN, to say the least.

Our Content Manager (and very first employee) Marija Tkalec now runs a full-fledged content department, and we are all overjoyed about that.

More awesome folks

Tamara Pletikosić joined as an Executive Assistant, which really means that she’ll help us execute all the giant plans we have to grow and expand.

I’m super jazzed to shout out Tamara Ilić! Tamara freelanced for me in the blog-only pre-company days of EIC when I was a one-woman show. She helped with research for posts, which was invaluable. I was so sad to see her move away from Croatia years ago. Then, she came back to us this year as our newest Relocation Specialist. I feel so lucky to have her skills in our arsenal. Tamara is the ultimate problem solver and can make miracles happen.

100 episodes of Five Question Friday

sara fqf
Checking the lighting and sound in our Split office before I get into costume for the 100th episode.

Have you heard of Five Question Friday yet?

This little series is something I’m personally proud of. When Teri Maxey came aboard in 2021, she took over communication with our audience. That shook me more than I thought it would. I’d been the sole communicator with all of you for years and years. All of a sudden, it wasn’t me on the other side of the email.

All of us on the team who communicate with our audience absolutely love it. It’s the best part of our jobs so that change had an impact on me personally.

To fill the void, I launched Five Question Friday. Every Friday at 5 o’clock Croatia time, I answer 5 questions submitted by you live on Instagram and any other questions viewers submit in real time. I love it. You seem to love it, too, because this year, we reached 100 episodes, which is totally bonkers.

For our 100th episode, 7 fans joined live from all over Croatia. Missed it? Watch the replay here.

Not on Instagram? We post new episodes every Monday on our YouTube channel here.

Super cool things happened

As the face of Expat in Croatia, I get to do a lot of cool stuff. I travel around the country, meet interesting people, attend conferences, and explore all that Croatia has to offer. I feel super grateful for the privilege. Each year builds on the last.

All of my successes are Expat in Croatia’s successes. I could not do what I do without our incredible team behind me. While everything that comes next is personal, it would not have happened without the expertise, hard work, and support of my colleagues.

Before I dive into the experiences that I cannot believe happened to me this year, I want to personally thank my extraordinary colleagues Marija Tkalec, Teri Maxey, Steve Fierens, Lorena Curavić, CAM Škorvaga, and Dani Schiebel.

Lucija Perić and Andreja Jurić left EIC this year to pursue additional education, but they also played huge roles on the EIC team and all we accomplished.

Okay, let’s dig in…

Croatian Women of Influence Award

Sara Dyson of Expat in Croatia holding her Croatian Women of Influence award in 2023
Croatian Women of Influence Awards, 2023

So, it went like this.

Caroline Spivak of the Croatian Women’s Network emailed me and said, “Hey! You were nominated for an award!”

And I was like, “Nah, me? You mean the girl behind me, right?”

“There is no girl behind you.”

“Are you sure? You know I’m not Croatian, right?”

“Yes, we know and it’s alright.”

“Awesome and thank you. I’m honored.” (*virtual curtsy*)

Then I got to wear a fancy dress to a schmancy event and walked into a big ballroom in Zagreb behind the Croatian flag. After we ate beef and carrots, a gentleman I did not know said some nice things, which was my cue to go up on stage then Caroline gave me a pretty award with my name on it and EVERYTHING.

Sara 1 Imposter Syndrome 0

The only awards I’d ever “won” were for perfect attendance and a 5th-grade spelling bee. This was waaaaaaay better. It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized for my achievements in entrepreneurship (a topic near and dear to me) with an award meant for Croatian women. While I do not have Croatian blood, hopefully, I’ll be a Croatian citizen in 2024. Fingers crossed.

Thank you to Caroline Spivak and the judges Ivana Rora, Antonija Trupinić, Ana Marija Frković, and Jan de Jong for making this a reality.

Learn about the Croatian Women’s Network here and view the other incredible 2023 winners here.

Watch our mini-recap below.

I met two presidents!

Sara Dyson of Expat in Croatia with Former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and current President of Croatia Zoran Milanović
(Left) Me with Former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović; (Right) Me with President Zoran Milanović

In July, I attended the Association of Croatian American Professionals conference in Zagreb. This was my first time at ACAP and it already set a high bar for future conferences.

I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of remarkable professionals and lead a discussion on how to build an ecosystem so that Croatia can better retain its citizens. Thank you to Irena Weber of the Croatian Employer’s Association, Ante Medić, and Matt Sertić for joining me in the discussion.

I’ve been on a bunch of panels and have done a number of speeches, but this was my first big-time moderation. It was a pretty rad experience for me, which leads me to someone influential who saw my panel…

Madam Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the 4th president of Croatia, was in the front row for my panel, which was super mega cool. Since her fireside chat was after mine, I figured there’d be a chance to meet her, so I made her chocolate chip cookies, which means a president of Croatia ate my cookies!

Then, THEN, at the end-of-conference gala, I got to meet the current president of Croatia, Zoran Milanović. It took all the courage I could muster, but I introduced myself and spoke in Croatian! I went as far as I could and that felt pretty good.

Politics are irrelevant at this moment. It is a privilege and honor to meet the heads of state in the country where I love to live and consider to be my home. For that, I’m proud and grateful for the opportunity.

Check out our mini-movie of Team EIC at ACAP below. Can you spot Kolinda?

Sisak surprised me

Two women on a hill in Banovina, Croatia
Marija and I at a lookout near Gornja Bačuga

I also attended the Meeting G2 Conference in Sisak, which is a town about 50 kilometers from Zagreb that you probably have never been to but should visit at your earliest opportunity while it’s still off the beaten path.

Sisak was a magical experience for Marija and me. I’m in the midst of crafting a love letter to Sisak that’ll be published in the new year. In the meantime, I would like to share that this town really surprised us.

We were lucky to see its beauty because of a few people that deserve a shout-out. Zvonimir Rajković, the director of the Sisak Tourist Board, personally guided us around his Sisak, fed us with spectacular food, and shared why his hometown is so special. I gotta say, we see it too, Zvone.

Tonči and Mirela Buterin are the founders of the Meeting G2 conference. This was the first time they took the conference outside of Zagreb and I’m so happy they did. The conference was carefully crafted to let Sisak and Banovina shine. The last day was full of excursions on the Kupa river, lunch in Hrvatska Kostajnica on the BiH border, and visits to a lavender farm in Zrin and its nearby castle.

I got to see a side of Croatia that foreigners never get to see. As a Croatia superfan, this was substantially meaningful to me.

Since I left Sisak, I’ve been telling everyone who will listen about this town, which is why this little nugget feels too short. Keep a look out for the full story next year.

My Croatian immersion course on the island of Lošinj

sara linda
Me with Linda Rabuzin of the Croatian Language School during my immersion course.

I’ve been open and honest about my struggles with learning Croatian. I love learning this language, but it’s super hard and especially challenging for me for a variety of reasons.

In September, I took my first immersion course with Linda Rabuzin of the Croatian Language School. Linda has been my teacher for a little over a year. This was the first time we met in person.

The whole week, the challenge was to only speak Croatian. It’s easy to fall back on English when you don’t have the words. This week showed me that I speak a lot more Croatian than first thought. It gave me the confidence to speak much more than usual, both in daily life but also on our social media.

I gave myself a few assignments that week to push myself even further, amplify the course, and show you how I really speak. It led me to tell my first story in Croatian and do my first episode of Five Question Friday in Croatian as well – which I translated in real-time.

In the below video, I tell the whole story of the immersion course, what it included, what my days looked like, and how it helped me. Thank you to Linda and the Croatian Language School for the opportunity. I look forward to returning in May!

A few last bits…

And that’s not all! Rather than keep you reading for the next month, here are a few quick bullets on some other awesome stuff that happened in 2023.

  • Maj Juico of Insight Matters, Geoff Bratton of Fig Restaurants, and myself formed an udruga called the Foreign Business Owner’s Association to unite business owners and entrepreneurs in Split-Dalmatia for the purposes of networking, continuing education, local representation, and philanthropy. This association is open to anyone, regardless of your business status. Learn more here.
  • Damir Ljubičić of HRT interviewed me for Glas Hrvatske, which is my first radio interview, recorded as we were walking to the fortress in Zrin. We will publish an English translation in the new year, but in the meantime, you can listen to the Croatian version here.
  • A German documentary crew came to Croatia and interviewed me about operating a business in Croatia. This was their first interview of a non-German speaker. I’m on pins and needles waiting for it to be ready. Expect a feature on this in 2024.
  • Camila Beovic Vega of Croatian Tutorials also interviewed me about operating a business in Croatia, and this was their first interview in English too. Croatian Tutorials is focused on Spanish-language resources for Croatian diaspora. Watch the interview here.
  • I turned 40! And celebrated on island Brač! You can see my home movie of the adventures here.
  • I climbed the Sveti Duje tower for the first time, which may seem small, but I’m scared of heights, so this was huge for me. And I did it in a thunderstorm, because once I decide to do something, there is no changing my mind.

What’s next?

Our team is already working on 2024, which will be our biggest year yet. Here are a few hints at what we have in store for you…

  • A new brand that you can wear
  • Approval of my Croatian citizenship (hopefully), which will come with a big fat party, and we’ll be inviting fans to join in on the fun
  • New products to help you get closer to Croatia and the Croatian language
  • ACAP 2024 in Vegas

First a little holiday break, then we’ll dig into our 11th year at Expat in Croatia.

What we do doesn’t happen in a silo. It’s made possible because of you – because you read our content, follow us on social media, subscribe to our newsletter, give us suggestions, tell your friends and family about us, share your experiences, and support our services to make your life in Croatia better and simpler.

THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts! We are grateful and lucky to serve you year after year. We wouldn’t be here without you. 🙂

P.S. Follow our holiday adventures on Instagram.

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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