Your experience in Croatia

Everyone has a different experience in Croatia shaped by their personal identity. We speak to people from all over the world with all kinds of identities in many different circumstances. We’ve collected first-hand stories from people from all backgrounds and identities so that you can read what people like you have experienced in Croatia.

If you’d like to share your own experience, you may do so here. Your submission will be anonymous unless you choose not to be. Your identity is safe with us. :)

Community experiences in Croatia

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Anonymous
United States
January 28, 2024
Resident
Gay, Male, Queer

As a single gay man from the US who has lived in several large US cities, living in Croatia for the past six years has been a challenging and lonely experience. I have never had more difficulty making friends in the gay male community anywhere and dating is a complicated and frustrating endeavor.
There is no gay community in Croatia. There are very few “official” gay bars and no cafes or other hangouts. Remarkably, there are several (way too many, in fact) LGBTIQ+ organizations, but those do extraordinarily little to foster community. In a couple of larger cities, there are small sports and hobby groups, which plan events, but those are sparsely attended.
Going out to a gay bar alone, while normal in the US, can be an awkward and uncomfortable experience in Croatia. People tend to go out with their friends and are not interested in interacting beyond their social circles. So, it is unlikely that you will ever have a conversation with anyone.
Going to a so-called “gay-friendly” bar or club can be risky. Same-sex public displays of affection or interest are not acceptable in these spaces. Every year there are reports of people getting harassed or beaten up for acting “too gay.”
Since there are few venues to meet other gay men, dating takes place on the apps, which are more geared toward hooking up. If you prefer casual no-strings-attached encounters and have your own place (since many gay adult men in Croatia live with their parents), there will not be a lack of offers. Cruising select parks is still common but can be highly dangerous.
On the other hand, arranging to meet for coffee, a drink, or a walk can be extremely complicated. It is often difficult to pin down a date and time, and then there are frequent last-minute cancellations, due to a sudden high fever, for example. It is not unusual to chat with someone for years who lives in the same town without ever meeting up.
Lack of accountability on the apps is a universal given, but it reaches a whole new level in Croatia. Expect significantly more “ghosting,” endless chats (without meeting up), disappearing profiles, blocking, and general rudeness. Be prepared to repeatedly ask for pictures because many profiles do not have them.
There is an extraordinarily high number of “bi” men in Croatia. One might think that there is something genetically unique about the Croatian population. In fact, identifying as “bi” in Croatia is done for the same reasons it was done in the US in the 1980s. Socially, being “bi” is not nearly as awful as being gay, and there is still a chance a “bi” person will find a partner of the opposite sex, marry, produce children, and make their family happy.
Gay couples who “pass” and do not indulge in public displays of affection will be OK in Croatia. There are plenty of allies in the heterosexual expat communities, which are more progressive than the local population. However, it will be difficult to meet other gay men for anything other than sex; single or coupled.
Things are changing slowly. The annual pride parade in Zagreb has grown and begun to take on a celebratory feeling, rather than just a somber march for rights. Do not expect cheering onlookers, though. Life will become easier for LGBTIQ+ people as Croatian society becomes more tolerant and accepting. It is difficult to say when that will happen; maybe in another generation or two. In terms of public opinion and LGBTIQ+ acceptance, Croatia is much like the US in the early 1980s.
If you are looking to connect with other gay men while traveling in Croatia or are thinking about moving here, I would suggest that you consider other options. Countless Croatian gay men (and LGBTIQ+ people) have done just that and are now living in London, Berlin, Munich, and Vienna among other cities.

Anonymous
Canada
August 16, 2023
Tourist
Gender fluid, Non-binary, Other, Queer, Trans

As a queer, non-binary white person, I appear cis-het passing, and I was traveling with a cis-het friend so I felt safe in Croatia. However, in the smaller villages I would not feel comfortable being “out”. I also would not be able to bring my spouse with me, unless they also were to hide their identity and dress in cis-het-passing clothing. There is still a strong traditional, patriarchal and religiosity to the country which is palpable to anyone who is different. While many people are friendly and curious about others, the sense of Croatian Nationality is deeply tied into traditional cis-het families, restricted beliefs around gender roles and white-ness. There are so many things that I love about Croatia that make it an excellent vacation destination but I would not feel comfortable moving here at this point in its history, my marriage would not be recognized and I would worry about my children. Every country has a long way to go with its acceptance and support if queer and trans peoples, and it is nice to learn that Croatia is making some strides in this area. If you are traveling to Croatia, I would encourage queer, trans and BIPOC (people of colour) to visit Zagreb and other high tourist destinations in which you are less likely to be harassed. For context, I live in a large, multicultural city in Canada that embraces the rights and freedoms of all identities so Croatia feels like going backwards in time, however if you are visiting from a less safe or free country than Coatia may feel more open to you.

Anonymous
United States
August 2, 2023
Tourist
African American, Black, Male, Straight

I’ve traveled to Split Croatia several times over the last 6 years and all visits have been a pleasant experience. Being a black man from the states (racism is a big issue here still), you sometimes can be very nervous about going into foreign places that do not have a large population of black people. Those nerves quickly disappeared during my first visit, as people were so nice and welcoming. I do notice that everyone tends to stare at me when I walk into a restaurant or shop, but it is over in a matter of seconds. I’ve never encountered racism, or any foul treatment in Split, which is a big reason why I try to go back every year. I love Split and it is a strong contender as a place I’d relocate to.

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