How to understand the Croatian culture: Part 2

people on a beach
Croatians chilling on a beach during summer

When speaking about ourselves, we would probably say that we are passionate with a good heart and always ready to help. We love and respect our stunning mother Croatia, our fellow Croatian people, nature, and our culture.

Like every other nation, we have good and bad ways. There are certain things to which we pay a lot of attention and appreciate like our family, language, and athletes. And then there are other things that garner less attention like politics and work.

To better understand Croatian brains, check out our first post on Croatian culture in Part 1. My people cannot possibly be understood in one post, so here you go with Part 2.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to understand the Croatian culture: Part 2

#1 Croats are family-oriented

Our families are everything to us and our whole world is built around them. It is common for a single household to include moms, dads, children, grandparents, and grandchildren.

Young Croats usually live with their families until they get married or move to a bigger city to work or attend university. Some of them may live with their families even past the age of 30, or forever, in some cases.

The majority would like to own their own sweet place to live – the sooner the better. However, they often don’t have enough money to rent an apartment, much less buy a property of their own. Some are lucky to inherit property and only a few have financially stable parents who can support them.

Parents often give one floor of the house to children so that they can settle down in their own space, while still being under the same roof. Many Croatian houses were built during socialism and are big enough for two or three apartments.

Croats also respect their extended family including aunts, uncles, and cousins. We often grow up alongside our cousins and have a close relationship. Of course, it’s not the same close relationship we have with our brothers and sisters, but nearly. We often play, learn, and grow together during our childhood, so this is nothing strange.

For example, my dad doesn’t have a brother or sister, but he grew up with his cousin and they are as close as brothers would be. This stems from the past (our parents and grandparents) when more than one family would often live together in the same household. Logically, they were very connected.

#2 Croats emotionally connect with their properties

Croats take property ownership very seriously, whether it be a house, apartment, land, vineyard, or orchard. Most of us inherit property, so we consider them personal and valuable. In Croatia, djedovina refers to land inherited from parents or grandparents. Djed translates as grandfather. We also use this term as an equivalent for home and homeland.

Owning their house or apartment is probably the biggest priority in our lives. We keep it clean and presentable, both inside and out. We enjoy nurturing our own gardens and planting fruits and vegetables.

Vineyards are also appreciated, especially in Hrvatsko Zagorje, Slavonija, Istria, and Dalmacija. Within the vineyard, there is often a house called klet or klijet, intended for chilling. Croats like to spend time on their land whenever possible. Some Croats also possess holiday houses called vikendica, usually on the Adriatic coast or the islands.

Although many of us are obliged to rent, everyone craves their own home.

#3 Social circles are vital

Croats consider their friends a family that they have chosen. We adore spending time with friends regardless of the occasion. We share everything with them and collect a life experience together as we grow. We do everything with our closest friends – we go out, drink coffee, go on the sea, prepare gatherings, celebrate, complain, watch football matches, travel, or chill on movie nights.

Our closest friends are usually from high school. At university, we expand our circles and meet a bunch of people with various interests. Sometimes we meet someone at work since we spend the biggest chunk of our day there.

Croats appreciate loyalty, trust, and empathy. We keep our circles close and tight, but if you can work your way in, you have a friend for life.

Since Croats are an open nation, there is usually no taboo between us and our closest friends. Political correctness has no place. We talk about everything with a big dose of passion. We chit-chat about how we spent our days, what we cooked for lunch, and the best movies we watched recently.

More serious topics like our biggest problems, close relationships, and health issues are more than welcome. When something happens to us, we can’t wait to share it with our friends.

#4 Long coffees are a Croatian trademark

Anyone who has visited Croatia cannot miss the intense culture of drinking coffee. It can feel like there are more cafe bars than people and they are always full. We adore sitting on terraces and enjoying long coffees – especially with friends.

Coffee is so important that we have the phrase “Idemo na kavu”, which means “Let’s go for a coffee”. Coffee drinking isn’t even required. You can have tea or Pipi or Jamnica, but you’re still na kavi. Most Croats have a solid handful of these “coffees” each week.

Coffee is suitable for any time, regardless of whether it is during your free time or the workday. It gathers friends, families, colleagues, students, and everyone else together. Cafe bars are great for first dates as well as business meetings.

If you cannot stand to have a coffee with someone, then you won’t be friends, you won’t date and you definitely won’t be doing business.

[Read: 5 hidden garden bars in Zagreb]

#5 Croats love to talk about themselves and their country

You can’t go wrong with asking a Croat what’s going on with their lives. When you meet someone for the first time, ask them what they do in their free time and their hobbies. Then ask additional questions based on what they told you.

The ones who like their jobs will be thrilled to share more with you with a lot of passion and probably fill you in with too many details (oops, like me). Those who have problems at work will talk about them openly accompanied by a bit of complaining.

Croatia has an endless list of athletes to be proud of from all fields of sport and many of our players are recognized globally. You can’t go wrong with mentioning our skier Janica Kostelić, tennis player Goran Ivanišević, basketball player Dražen Petrović, athlete Blanka Vlašić, handball player Ivano Balić, or football player Luka Modrić.

If you notice that you have a common interest and you enter into a deeper conversation, this is the way to go! The conversation may never end and you are likely about to get a new Croatian friend FOR LIFE.

#6 Croats work to live, not live to work

Of course, money is important because you have to pay your bills and food, but we prefer peace over stress. We are not a nation that likes to work all the time, from Monday to Sunday. It is not the top priority in our lives.

Instead of constant work and demanding careers, we would rather have more free time to relax and clear our heads. There is nothing more we like to do than to grab a coffee or enjoy a weekend with our closest circle. We are always looking forward to Croatian national holidays because they can often result in a long weekend, which we use to go on a trip somewhere.

Many Croats are excellent, loyal, and worthy workers, but no one wants to be used by their bosses. Unfortunately, this happens very often. People often work too much and are usually underpaid.

[Read: Your rights as a worker]

#7 Public protests are not getting enough attention

People are tired of the government and many think that fighting for change is futile. When a public protest happens, it doesn’t get enough attention and is not very well attended. Changes are happening in Croatia, but too slow.

Croatia does have activists who are dedicated to fighting for a better tomorrow despite how extremely emotional, exhausting, and often painful it can be. Sometimes they achieve success. When that happens, no words can describe the surreal feeling. Justice for all!

#8 Croats cook at home

We are proud of our local food, but let’s be realistic – who isn’t amazed by Croatian food?! Every Croatian region has its own specialties that are often on our daily menus at home. This food is very tasty, so maybe that’s the reason we do not branch out into more exotic or foreign dishes.

Nothing is better than a warm home-prepared meal. Croats like to cook at home and many of us are excellent at cooking. We like to cook healthy and fresh food often picked right from our gardens and orchards. We often prepare winter stores called zimnica like jams, tea plants, and wildflowers.

[Read: Wild plants you can pick and eat during spring in Croatia]

The matriarch of the family, whether it be the mother or grandmother, commonly makes lunch every day. Even if the family is dispersed, they will all come home to have lunch together. Given this, some younger Croats do not know how to cook. For others, this daily lunch is a great opportunity to learn.

Most of us were taught the basics of cooking by our grandmothers and mothers. They also taught us to prepare local Croatian food like purica s mlincima, štrukli, and sarma.

So, when visiting Croatia, don’t hesitate to try local specialties – it is a must. If you hear the word DOMAĆE (homemade), then you’re in the right place. Yummy! 🙂

View how to understand the Croatian culture: Part 1 here.

View our other Croatian 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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