Oh how many debates and blogs have been developed on the matter of difference between the U.S. and Europe – I can say that with great assurance. After living in Zagreb for 1.5 months, I think I am capable of fairly judging and pointing out the differences between living here and living in the U.S. (both, I kindly ask you to note, were being observed by a third-party – me, a Russian girl moving around here and there).
- Croats are way more relaxed, about every single thing and always. Late for a bus? Nema problema. Documents are not being delivered for your official registration when supposed to? Nema problema. Weren’t accepted for a dream job/internship? Nema problema. This phrase I keep on repeating means “no problem,” and it is literally a slogan many Croatian people live their entire life with. It is wonderful and can be applied to virtually any situation. The last thing Croats would ever spend time on is stressing out, rolling over and over in their minds the ways they might have gone wrong.
- Croatia is a ‘no-rush’ country. People value their time, especially free time – the process of sipping espresso on a lovely sunny day with friends can go well over 3 hours. While this might confuse some of my American acquaintances, I find a special charm to it.
- Everyone is serious. And I mean it! You won’t receive tons of smiles from every random person you meet in the street, nor is everyone going to wonder and ask how your day is going. It is unusual, quite an adjustment after overly polite grocery store ladies and bus drivers in the U.S., but in turn – when you get a smile from someone, you know it is the most sincere of them all.
- No psychologists! This job is doing really poorly here, as in most of Eastern Europe, because your best psychologists are your real-time friends. From what I’ve noticed, “I am doing okay” is never enough of an answer. People are used to talking to each other, to sharing problems and fully expressing their griefs. Not only are they used to sharing, they are used to listening to, and to actively advising friends who are in trouble.
- No short talks – which kind of derives from my previous point. Because Croatian people are used to talking their problems out, meeting a friend in the street is never over with “Hey how are you? – Good thank you” type of a conversation. You have to talk about weather, current events, this awesome party last night – at least something else meaningful before you part ways.
- People can be, unfortunately, very judgmental. Based on your outfit, your current relationship status, your goals – or something else. While in the United States, I got a feeling that it is a very individualized society (if it is correct to use such a word) – people are more concerned with themselves, not as much with other people. In Croatia (and Eastern Europe as a whole) people place a higher value on the opinion of the masses. Moreover, if you rent an apartment from an older lady like I do – forget about privacy. She is going to ask and wonder who your boyfriend is, when you are getting married, why you decided to break up and will bring you a pie if you do break up and have formed a good relationship with her (pies are a good thing, of course 😉 )
- Bread, bread, meat, potatoes, more bread! I’ve never seen any nation consume this much protein and carbs, so if you’re not used to calorie-dense and heavy dinners – Croatia is a difficult place to live in. It is not the bad, deep-fried kind of food, though – meat and potatoes are usually stewed, boiled, or grilled and absolutely delicious. For bread – bakeries are also on every corner, and the variety of pastries there is mindblowing.
- Almost every Croat has a summer house/apartment on the coast, or in the mountain region (this is more of a fact rather than a point of comparison). Croats are very proud and in love with their beautiful coast, and whoever can buys real estate down the seashore. Who cannot is almost guaranteed to have grandparents live in Slavonia – the region of fine wine, cheese, dried meat and fresh air (not too bad of an alternative, huh?)
I am sure there are more differences and similarities between the two cultures, which I am due to discover soon. For those, keep an eye open for the future posts – I will be sneaking in one or two every so often 🙂