I remember when I first traveled to London. As a native Croatian, I couldn’t help but find some things quite different in the way people act and spend their days here. I now live in London and every day I come to discover more differences between the culture I come from and the one I live in. This made me somewhat a richer person – I can now combine both and get the best out of it.
Even though you’re maybe traveling to Croatia for only 7 or 10 days, you will notice a lot of differences, especially when comes to lifestyle. So here are some highlights:
1. Eating Out
Okay, this isn’t always the case in the UK, but sometimes you get to go to those places where you’re expected to eat your food as soon as possible, pay and go, as there are loads of other people waiting for a table. This doesn’t happen in Croatia. So don’t think it’s strange when a group of people spends 3-4 hours in a restaurant. Of course, they wouldn’t just sit there at an empty table after they’re finished eating, they would order a dessert of a coffee, or both. But the point is, eating out isn’t primarily about eating – you can do it at home for a lot lower price. It is about chatting and socializing, and if you’re at some place really nice, you want to enjoy the ambient. One more useful tip – no matter what kind of restaurant you’re at, the waiter will always take your order. You don’t have to do it yourself.
2. Coffee Culture
Very similar to the previous point, coffee drinking isn’t about coffee. Most of the time, when Croats say “let’s go for a coffee”, they don’t drink coffee at all, but maybe beer or juice. By going for a coffee, you’re letting the person you’re with know that you’re at her/his disposal for at least an hour if not longer, as the coffee drinking act means socializing. Brits, on the other hand, shocked me once by slurping their coffee quickly as if it’s a shot of tequila, and leaving the coffee place within 20 minutes. Whaaaaaaaaat? There’s no point going for a coffee if you’re only going to stay for 20 minutes.
You’ll find all coffee places in Croatia full of people, and nobody will be alone at the table (unless waiting for someone). If you want to be like a local, find a nice table in the sun, order a cup of coffee with milk (and a glass of water to go with it), and stay for AT LEAST an hour. Note: smoking is allowed in almost all cafes in Croatia.
3. Having Guests Over
Croatians love having guests over and they’re always fully prepared, even when they’re not. How? My mum, for example, would send me to the nearest shop to get some cake and juice as soon as she spots unannounced guests coming. Unannounced? Yes, that’s normal. They may give you half an hour notice. For example, if your friend is just passing by your house and feels like coming for a coffee, he’ll just come by. And bring his wife and kids over.
The host’s job is to serve drinks (coffee, cappuccino, tea, juice, beer, wine, rakija…) and some food if the guests are staying longer. That’s why Croatian mums always have a bit of that cake they baked last weekend in the freezer. Just in case.
4. Staying For The Night
Even if you don’t know each other that closely, but are only acquaintances, Croatian family won’t let you pay for a hotel if you’re coming to their town. They will kindly offer you to stay with them for as long as you need. If you’re a relative or a really close friend, they won’t let you eat at expensive restaurants either. Instead, you’ll be served breakfast, lunch and dinner with them, because you’re their guest and they want to take care of you.
5. Weird Food Combinations
I love English food, I really do. I also like American and Indian and Chinese, I’m not picky. But one thing I noticed is that Brits will only eat food in proper combinations. For example, in Croatia it’s normal to grill the burgers and serve them with potatoes or rice and salad. I find it a very quick and affordable meal. I once cooked it for my boyfriend here, and he was looking at me as if I lost my mind. Burgers with rice??? You know what to do with burgers! He got a burger bun and ate it in a proper way, ignoring my rice and salad. The only problem was, there was no chips – and you don’t eat a burger without chips!
Bottom line is – you can see us eating a lot of different combinations that don’t seem to go together. Give it a go and try, break the habit and it won’t be that bad!
If you want to go out to a bar or club, don’t bother getting out of the house before 10 pm, specially in the summer. Croatians don’t start their night out at 7. You might go earlier if you plan to go for a dinner first, and then continue to a bar for a few drinks. After that, you go to a club, as serious clubbing doesn’t start before 1-2 am. Clothing tip: pack your nicest clothes when going to Croatia for holidays. It’s sometimes hard to walk in heels across London, where you have to take a tube to get to and from your destination. Places you’ll go in Croatia will be a lot smaller and if you’re lucky enough to stay in the centre, the nearest bar will be just few minutes away. So if you like dressing up, this is where you need to go!