5 Years Living In Croatia: What The F!*k Was I Thinking?

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5 Years Living In Croatia: What The Fuck Was I Thinking?

Jesus H. Christ. What the fuck have I done moving to, and living in this Croatian insanity for the past five fucking years?

I never thought about the longterm realities of living in Croatia before packing up and leaving the sunburnt country I called home for 35 years.

Australia, the land of opportunities. Where government administration offices are open all day, without a ‘Pauza,’ and the staff can hand you a brochure with a complete list of what you need to know.

Before relocating to Croatia, I only daydreamed about the Croatian beaches, raising bilingual kids, having coffee with my newly-made Croatian friends and living a European lifestyle.

Oh, how I foolish I was.

How foolish I still am. After all, I am still living here.

Heels stuck in the sand, desperately trying to make it all work. Often faking the easy breezy coastal life, making it look like it all comes so naturally.

It does not. Not even close.

Croatia is flawed. This place is filled with nepotism.  Bureaucracy gone mad – actually, sometimes, not even gone mad – often not even moving at all. Insane taxes. Bullshit builders. Workers who don’t show up on time – or never at all. A giant wind that’ll keep you housebound. Fake people always trying to get you to blog about them for free. A place where on an almost daily basis, I have to justify my desire to live here. In some cases (like at my doctors’ office), I have to explain my rationale every visit.

So, you may ask, why in Gods name am I still doing living in Croatia?

I love it. That is why.

I love it in equal parts as much as I hate it.

Three of us - Milina - Travel Croatia Beach

Sometimes it does not sound like I do, but sincerely, I cherish Croatia. I am so thankful for my life here.

Kids are free to roam about. The playgrounds are plentiful and safe. In fact, the whole country feels safe, I have wandered the streets late at night, and never once felt like a mugging was around the corner. The landscape is extraordinary – and right on my doorstep.  I have made a family out of new friends. We are in the process of building an excellent business. My travel blog, THIS BLOG, has become insanely popular (2.6 million page views in 2017, and already 1.3 million this year)  – despite never getting a single shred of help or financial assistance from the Croatian National Tourist Board – I have asked several times, but alas they won’t help me in anyway.

Family - Living in Hospital
Friends, that are now a part of my family

My good days are fantastic. The days spent with family and friends eating and laughing, seeing my kids happy, playing, and loved by others, and when I am traveling and exploring.

My meh days are when I barely manage to stay optimistic when faced with an onslaught of bureaucratic challenges, or when I spend days at a time alone without speaking to or hearing from a single friend, and all I can think about is calling my sister and telling her to pop over for a visit.

My dark days are rare. But sheesh they are harsh. Being an expat is much harder than I ever imagined. I try never to speak of them, as they are the days when if spoken about, it is all people will focus on. I will hear people tell me to “go back home’, and that “nothing is stopping me”.

But there is one big problem with that. There is something stopping me. Croatia is my home now.

I can not imagine moving back to Australia.

Croatia is all my sons know. One came here when he was 9 months old, and the other was born here.

I spent all my savings in building a (wonky-as-fuck) house. Despite the fact my windows and walls leak in the rain, and that the basement has been flooded three times, and more than one neighbor won’t speak to us,  I can’t leave my home. I love it too much.

And more than that, I feel I have given too much, spent too long pushing forward to give up – not yet anyway. Each year that passes gets a little easier to adjust to the situations that might edge me toward me those rare dark days.

I am a traveler and have to keep exploring, so maybe one day I will move away. But, there are no plans too, and I would say the same thing no matter where I live.

In my first year of living in Croatia, I had short bouts of depression and anxiety. I still have them, but they are small periods, not everlasting.

The first 24 months came and went very fast in all honesty, I was so busy building this blog. Building a house, and being a new mum. I wrote a post back in 2015 about my experience and remember writing that:

Life abroad is fun. Life abroad is scary. Life abroad is rewarding. Life abroad is crazy. Life abroad is what you make of it. 

I also, wrote that when you make the ballsy-ass move and leave everyone you know, everything that is comfortable, known and easy behind you and choose to throw caution to the wind and move abroad, there is stuff about the move that you simply can’t know until you’re ‘living the dream‘.

Read any expat blog and you pick up re-occurring themes of loneliness, adjustment periods and exploration.

Back in 2015 when I wrote about my 11 struggles of being an expat, I thought I had come a long way in my first two years. Now, looking back over the past five, I laugh. The issues that held me back them, still do, but I have grown as a person, and there are just some things I no longer care about.

Back then, I was always worried about being the ‘freak’. I am ashamed to say, but this still holds true. I am often too shy to join new social situations, make new friends, for fear of being a freak, and being rejected.

Then, of course,  there was the major issue of speaking zero Croatian in my first two years. What the heck was I thinking of moving to Croatia, without taking classes, and learning this horrifically hard to learn the language? Like, der, wind the clock back and let me correct that colossal fuck up, please.

After 5 years, I no longer have sweaty palms and suffer from my heart racing when I walk into a store and need to find something. Shopping, coffee shops, and all basic doctors appointments are now done in Croatian. Yay, go me.

Let me not kid you, I am not fluent. Far from it in fact. Notwithstanding many readers over the years telling me things like, ‘Oh I moved to Germany and became fluent in a year, so you should too’ or ‘Just watch Croatian TV and make more Croatian friends and you will learn’, I have come to learn that I am a slow learner. So judge away as you will, but I am not fluent and often need help.

I deprioritized many things to focus on building this blog, and then having a new baby, and then starting a business… and oops, as a result, my language skills are way short of what they should be after 5 years. Even by my own standards, I am behind.

Roko and Vlad - Living in Croatia

But you know what, imagine if I did not spend the time building a business model to maintain our life here as I have – and had instead focused on speaking the language and making more local friends, that would have all been in vain. I would have gone back to Australia, broke and with my tail between my legs. Admittedly that would have meant that I could have told the story of our failed Croatian adventure in Croatian – but for what?

I think I chose the correct linguistic path. Or, at least that is what I tell myself. Only more time here in Croatia will tell. And, I plan many more years here. God willing.

Expat living SJ on the balcony Croatia - Chasing the Donkey
Me one year on… more wrinkles, but happy.

Sorry Croatia, I promise to try much harder over the next 5 years about learning to communicate better with you. In fact, I restarted my Croatian lessons again a few weeks back,  after an 18-month hiatus, and I was super impressed with myself for how far I have come. I completed the first few pages of the workbook with 98% accuracy – okay so it was the beginner book, but, heck 5 years ago I knew zero on those pages. Literally not one question.

The daily game of charades I once played, now is more like once a month. I had some tradesmen return to my house recently, and I held a small conversation with them in Croatian – and one commented that 5 years ago I was unable to understand anything he said. Which was in fact true. He smiled and seemed proud of me. Warmed my heart for days.

3 years ago, I missed my friends more than I ever could imagine – ack, that was damn painful. But now, I am just sad that I have lost so many of them. Thrilled with my new friends, but uber sad deep inside those relationships with my girlfriends that I once thought would last a lifetime, now, no longer exist. Not even on fakebook.

Way back then, I could not accept help. I remember once I had no power for 4 days when I was alone with a baby, and I had people offering to have us come stay with them. I declined. I despised the idea of needing and accepting help.

Not anymore.

Olive Garden - Chasing the Donkey

Now, I can proudly say I take help. I even ask for help – and at one very low point, last year accepted more help from several friends that I could never have imagined I could. I realize that you need a community around you – no matter where you live – and even more so as an expat without any family of your own.

I have been back to Australia twice in 5-years, and have zero desire to go again anytime soon. Not even for a vacation.

I don’t dislike Australia, I just don’t have a life there, as I do here in Croatia. I would not have the work experience to get my old job back. My kids would be in daycare all week, and I’d probably be stuck living out in Western Sydney again, with no access to the beach, cafes and traveling opportunities like I do here. No thanks.

Instead, I encourage the family and friends I do speak to, to instead, come to visit us here – we have a big house, and live opposite the beach. Hint, hint.

And, when you come, please bring food – I miss so many Aussie treats.

Food from Australia

I have declined many requests from Croatian TV, radio, and some print publications to interview us in the past 3 years. I had a horrible experience with one newspaper article that took what I said out of context, and made the dumbest click-bait style headline – for which I was roasted – and still feel the effects of now. Since then, I have hardly written about my personal life – having two kids now makes me even more wary of sharing details about my life here.

Even this blog post took me weeks to write, and days of editing before I was ready to click publish.

I also have declined many coffee requests from people who just moved to Croatia, or were planning a move – as I did not want to expose myself, and wanted to stay in my cocoon. But, that’s slowly changing now. I feel more settled and ready to meet new people, which I now realize is an essential part of making Croatia home.

So, yeah, what the fuck was I thinking moving to Croatia? I guess I wasn’t, but I am okay with that, as I do (mostly) relish the life I have here.

Living in Croatia is no picnic, but neither is living in a ‘richer’ country like Australia, so you just have to decide what is more important to you and go with that.

For me, I value working for myself for much less, being with my kids at the beach after work, and having time for coffee with my friends on a Tuesday, over a corporate career, driving a luxury car and $5 lattes which I only have time to enjoy on the weekends.

Tips For Moving To Croatia

Sigh, I really do get sick of being asked this question, because moving to Croatia is not the same for everyone.

That said, if you are planning to move to Croatia, do not take advice from anyone who does not live in Croatia 24/7 – 365 days a year – for at least a full year.

Anything less than a year (or two or three) they are too fresh to really know.

If they do not live here, 365 days a year, they have a skewed view of real life here.

I would say you REALLY need to be prepared. Come for at least 6 months, and try it out, and do not come when its summer, sunny and everyone has pockets full of cash.

Come between November and April when the tourism, and apartment money has been spent, and the weather is less than outstanding. Keep your eyes open, and be honest with yourself.

Don’t quit your job, pack a shipping container or anything until you really know what you are in for. I have spoken to many people who returned back after a failed attempt, and almost always they returned home, as Croatia did not meet their unrealistic expectations about finding work, cost of living etc.

Remind yourself that there is a reason that hundreds and thousands of Croats have moved abroad these past few years. This country can be a tricky place to live and survive – it is not for everyone.

Also, join all of the ‘expats in (city)’ facebook groups (see below for the list of them), and start making connections with others who have situations like yours. Just don’t take anything that one person says as gospel. Not even mine.

How to Get from Split to Zadar Croatia

Getting a Croatian visa

Oh god, what a head fuck.

Getting a visa as a foreigner in Croatia is like winning a fluffy toy at the carnival – sure it can be achieved, but it ain’t easy, and will take many attempts. The only difference is it is free.

Oh wait, it is only free so long as you are from the EU. If not be prepared to fork out thousands of Kune for the mandatory health insurance back payment fees. When you go to your local Hrvatski Zavod Za Zdravstveno Osiguranje (HZZO) office, you’ll discover that you have to pay for the 12 months you were not in the country. Ours was over 4,000 kuna each.

The legislation is changing all the time, so be sure to ask at your the Croatian embassy where you live – more than once. But, be warned most embassies are hopeless. They don’t always know the current legislation, and what I have heard from many people over the years – many embassies just do not want to deal with helping new people move back to the motherland. Head straight to the Ministry of Police (MUP) when you arrive and start the lengthy process of getting your visa.

While we are on the topic of the MUP, be and sure to take someone with you who speaks Croatian fluently. Even in the foreigner’s line, getting an English speaking staff member is not something that is always possible – and if it’s like the one in Zadar, the service will also be provided without a hint of trying to speak English.

My recent trip there to inquire about getting my citizenship was met with a deathly look of disgust, the women at the counter had to ask a colleague what the process was – and all they could agree on was that I should just come back when it expires and see what the rules are then.

I was told 5 years ago, that once I made it to the 5-year mark, I could come back to MUP  and would be given my Croatian citizenship. But, now I am not sure. So, back I go in a few months time to see what rules apply and or have changed now. I am mentally preparing to take the citizenship test. 

KRKA - Day Trip From Split

Language

If you don’t speak Croatian, life will be tough. I know that everyone says that Croatians speak English – and they do, but not in all cases.

You’ll be able to communicate with the majority of people that are younger than 40. But even then, maybe the doctor just will refuse and you’ll find yourself explaining your symptoms with hand gestures.

Croatian is a damn hard language to learn and even harder to speak correctly. Why must there be so many crazy grammar rules? I mean, 7 noun declensions……

Don’t leave it too late to take lessons, and get help. Trust me you’ll need it.

I restarted my Croatian lessons, and can truly say that life here would have been even tougher had I not taken them. Read more about my online lessons here.

Money

The salaries in Croatia very low when compared to most developed nations. Once you pay bills, rent an apartment, and buy food – not much is left over.

Now, on the other hand, if you have a salary from abroad, you’ll live like a King or Queen. If you plan to work local, you’ll have to live like a local.

Eating out, traveling, or paying for services like a babysitter are affordable, so long as you earn more than minimum wage (or have those dollars from aboard on hand), otherwise you’ll be hard-pressed to get someone to look after your child while you work, so you’ll need to enroll your kids in a kindergarten.

Want a job as soon as you arrive? Good luck. It’s not as easy as you think. Make your own plans to freelance or set up your own business if you need money straight away. Or else have savings to get you by until you can find work.

Travel Tips First Time to Croatia - Zadar Croatia Travel Blog

Schools

If you plan to move to Croatia with school-age children, then you’ll be happy to know that a public education in Croatia is (almost) free. Just be sure to have money for lots of books, and appropriate school clothing as there are no school uniforms.

Kindergarten (suitable for ages 1-6) is not mandatory, and while this is subsidized, it is not free and will set you back at least 600 kune a month, up to several thousand if you plan to go to the Britsih kindergarten in Zagreb.

Primary school education is of course, compulsory – that begins at seven years of age.

The secondary education system is vastly different from what I am used to in Australia, and have yet to master the complexities of it – so be sure to ask people with kids the same age as yours how it all works.

Tips for Travel to Croatia: Hvar Island
Hvar Island

Healthcare

Hmm, this one is tricky.

You can obtain primary healthcare all over the county no matter where you live. You’ll just wait. And wait, and wait. I have heard of people wait 6-12 months for an MRI. 6 Months for a mammogram to check a breast lump. We waited four months for a specialist appointment for my newborn son.

That said, my son was treated with quick and astounding care when he was born with serious complications. He spent several weeks in Zagreb in the NICU  at the country’s best hospital – all expenses paid. The treatment of me was less than stellar (think plenty of tears and confusion),  but I never once doubted the care he was receiving.

He also spent a week in Zadar hospital, and I have zero complaints. Sure the place is old and run down, and I had to sleep overnight sitting up on a desk chair, but his medical treatment is what I would have received in Australia.

Roko in Zadar Hospital - Living in Hospital

If you have a job, your employer will pay your basic healthcare contributions, and you can also pay a small amount extra to avoid paying fees when going to the hospital or each time you go to the doctor or dentist. If you do not work, budget around 400 kune a month per person to pay for this.

BUT, and now this is the tricky part – getting access to this ‘free’ service (should you be eligible) is a royal pain in the ass. Leave around 2 or 3 days over a three week period to achieve the steps necessary to get access to this service, and then about another six months for your card to arrive in the mail.

My advice is to have a savings fund for emergency healthcare to go private. You can find blood tests, MRI’s, doctors, dentists, etc. all over the country that you can see fast, provided you have money in that pocketbook.

As a rough guide, we paid between 200 and 300 Kune per appointment for private doctors to see my newborn son to avoid waiting months for the hospital to get him into an appointment.

Pula, Istria. Driving Zagreb to Dubrovnik

Retiring in Croatia

Sigh. Yeah, yeah, Croatia is an excellent place to come to live out the end of your days. But really, where are all of the young families, singles, hard-working movers, and shakers? This aging country does not need any more grey-haired residents. #SorryNotSorry.

Travel

What a place to live. After five years of traveling this magnificent country, I can tell you, there is no shortage of things to do, and new places to discover. And, when you are bored with Croatia, we have so many neighboring countries just waiting for your euros.

Zagreb in Two Days - Croatia Travel Blog

Visiting new friends

You’d be hard-pressed to find any Croatian family where there is not an emphasis on family, friends, and with that food. Hospitality towards your guests is critical. Offering drinks, pre-meal snacks, a meal, a second helping, even third helping, cake, coffee, and then more drink to your guests is a must. Then your responsibility in return is not to decline… ever. Saying no would be plain rude.

To avoid being rude (or in some cases being nagged) here is what I suggest you do:

  • Take a small serving the first go, thus allowing plenty of wiggle room in your jeans for that second helping that you will be required to consume. Failure to heed this warning will see you having to hear over and over again how you are too skinny; you must be hungry and so on.
  • Your host may also use guilt to force you into a second helping. My favorite one (yes, I have become one of ‘them’) is “Oh, did you not like the food”? Boom! Host 1-guest 0.

If you have listened to this very sane advice, by this stage, you are still hungry, so when your hosts ask you to take another serving – you eagerly oblige. Everybody wins.

The tricky part is the third serving; you may want one, but chances are you’ve already indulged in two plates of  Kiseli Kapus and yummy ribe sa žara, so when that time comes you’ll need to be polite and say no thanks. If you want to show off, you can use the phrase “ne mogu više, hvala” which means you can’t take (eat) anymore.

Word of warning: be sure not to overuse this phrase, as your hosts may come not to believe you.

PLITVICE LAKES - Day Trips From Split

People

The same people in Croatia who will tell you that you look fat and gained 10 pounds are also the same people you can call when you need help. And you will need it.

Be warned that the Croatians are brutally honest – some too much so for my taste – but for the most part, you have to just roll with it. It will be worth it; my Croatian friends are worth their weight in gold – I treasure them dearly.

It is also the case that people can be such bullshitters. The plumber will tell you he will be at your house at 7 am, and by 10 am, (if you are extra lucky), and you are into your second cup of coffee, he will knock on the door like nothing happened. Either that, or he will show up, and have forgotten his tool, and say that he will be back tomorrow – which can quickly turn into a week. True story.

It’s always who you know. So network. You will have to ask a lot of people for references and help along the way. We never networked at the start; it seemed so fake. But now I realize, here in Croatia, that old saying rings true, it is not what you know – but who. Don’t fight it, just go with it.

Government Administration

You will have to do a lot of rubbish admin types jobs, just like you would any place in the world. But here, things are beyond disorganized.

While at government offices (and doctors), be warned. There are these breaks known as ‘pauza.’ Its when the whole place goes on a lunch break, and you just have to wait the 30 mins till they come back. Do your homework, find out when they are and avoid them like the plague.

If your request is out of the ordinary, or you need extra help, or the staff member is having a bad day, you’ll probably end up leaving in a bad mood and with nothing accomplished. I always now assume that I cant complete a task, and then if I do it’s a win. But, usually, when I do not, I take myself to a cafe and shake it off, and try again in a few days.

Tips For First Time to Croatia - Croatia Travel Blog

Racism

Racism in Croatia. I do not have any firsthand experience with it. I never confirm, nor deny racism rumors in Croatia on my blog, social media or in any form.  And I do not plan to start now. That said if you want to read a post which covers both sides of the topic I suggest you start here.

Croatia Expat Facebook Groups

  • Internationals Living in Croatia
  • Expats in Zagreb
  • Expats in Zagreb
  • Expats in Zadar
  • Expats meet Split 
  • Expats in Split
  • Split Expats
  • Croatian Australians NZ-ers and Friends in Split
  • Expats in Dubrovnik
  • Expats in Istria
  • Expats in Osijek 
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Comments (34)

  1. Just thinking of moving to croatia,just wondering if things are getting any better or worse.I was thinking of buying some property or something existing and renting it out on airbnb. My wife and i have an apartment we rent in warsaw and its working well.I am coming from america and she lives in Poland.She can use her EU citizenship.
    We are coming to Croatia in Sept. Would love to meet if it is possible.
    Thanks
    Ken

  2. I’m Croatian by naturalization; I will retire as soon as I’m prepared! with prepared I mean deciding whether I moved to Croacia or not. It is a very strong option. I will receive my retiring money for life, international insurance, etc. My concern is my husband, he is not Croacian, he does not have any retirement plan, only insurance, furthermore my daughter and 3 kids want to come too!
    The more I read the more my concerns grows!
    Please just tell me that things are not that bad!!! it is scary….

  3. Hello, do you know if permanent residents or citizens are exempt from paying the 400kn (now 500 plus as of 2019) HZZO monthly fees? Also have you heard of how as a citizen you can work a job that pays your fees and then even when you’re no longer working at all become exempt from the HZZO monthly fees? Thanks a lot, Dan

    1. When you move here from abroad – citizen or not – you have to pay. And yes, if you have a full-time job your employer pays this contribution.

  4. You have what you wanted and knew where you were going to. Life in Croatia is challenging and a bit of both, positive and negative. However, you shouldn’t feel you are a slow learner. In time you will get how to live and be happier.

  5. Hi,
    I really liked your post :). I am Croatian (Split) but living my whole life in Germany. Its like the 3rd time I am here for longer, now for 3 months exactly. I do have contacts here and family, but I find it VERY hard to connect openly with new people. Maybe it is just a coincidence , but I feel like everyone is just like: lets meet for a coffee and then NOTHING happens. They never call, so unreliable. I think its bc they are from here and have their friends for ages and no need for new contacts. Thats my experiencee. So here is my question: where can I find people to connect with. Open people that want to hang out? I have 2 very small kids, so talking to other adults is super necessary hahaha. I am super open and love meeting new people.

    Cheers,
    Mel

  6. HI
    I’m at the cross roads of asking my self, how much longer can i call myself Croatian! i was 5 when we arrived to Australia 51 years ago, my wife and kids all born he. so i ask my self is it my dissection to change my history of origin for ever! we can all say I’m Croatian, the fact is it means nothing really more damage then good especially with the kids! i am a bit of a racist old basted its my life experience that has made me who i am. so my question is do i go back and be Croatian or forget it. my parents and my grandparents answer is obvious, as long as its archivable. i think we or i take this as the only chance you will ever get to be who you say you are, as the possibility is more possible then ever will be. i admire you determination to be Croatian, the problem is we who are are not, so for us who are afraid to make that decision, will change our history of origin for ever make no mistake about that, its your call as hard as it might be. you might say whats your problem just go back and forth and be Croatian, the point is my kids more than likely will marry other origins or religions, so that will be the end anyway. the odds are more than likely if the live in Croatia it docent matter who they marry they will be Croatian. what dose this mean to you?

  7. Hi
    I think I know how you feel. I was born in Croatia and left almost 30y ago. I have live every year 6m in UK and 6m in Asia.
    UK there is no sun and had enough of it and Asia again too hot dirty not easy visa situation.
    I am coming back to Croatia to Brac this summer to work…I am not so happy about it but I have to.But everywhere is difficult, something good something bad..People in Croatia not so nice very insesitive but honest and veryhelpful.
    I Never had any help in UK but people are quite polite in a unsincier way.
    But I dont think I can settle forever there not yet..maybe when I am old and no money to travel anymore.In meantime I come back and forward to Asia India is my beloved country.
    All best to you and your lovely family.

    1. Yes, no place is 100% perfect. Each place has something, but for me Croatia’s lack of ‘x’ makes up for how much I love my life here. I wish you every love and success in finding your happy place/s. xx

  8. Sarah, I admire you. I have been following you since you moved to my homeland and think you are very special. People of Croatian roots who move back have it much easier than you do being Australian. Yet you make it look so easy. You do not give yourself as much kredit as you deserve. Do you really know how far you have come? Croatia is blessed to have you as an example for many reasons, not just for your efforts to promote travel in our county better than anyone but for your willingness to share with the world how you can move and be a great success. God Bless you and your family now and always. Hvala

  9. I agree with most of what you say SJ………..but, in many areas whilst brave you have not gone far enough.

    You have not hit the corruption, nepotism issue hard enough. It is so bad that I find many of my Croatian friends so disillusioned with this and the dire state of Croatian Politics that they are moribund and no longer even see the injustices all around them. In Starigrad Paklenica the Director of tourism was reported in the local papers, having been accused of giving favour and jobs only to family members close to her, it was not denied as it is true. I have not named the person here but Zadarski List did!

    It is sad to see a beautiful race in such a state of apathy that when you ask Croatians why they don’t protest or complain, the only answer you get is “What is the use, nobody listens to us”.

    I believe the population of the Country with the recent exodus of the young (2014 youth unemployment level was 45%) is now in reality below 4 million and the pool of people working is around 1.7 million these are employed in a roughly 50/50 split by the Government and Private Industry.

    I include under the Government employees those who work for local government, HAK etc. This means that the economy is hugely bureaucratic in structure, you could lose 50% of the government employees and not miss them. Sadly there is nobody else to employ them so the burden on public finances would absolutely rocket, it is already unsustainable, so they may as well carry on “acting busy”.

    The next major problem is the pensioners, there are around 1.3 million of them and 25% are war veterans who are a powerful political lobby. The war veterans are often drawing pensions related to not physical disability but PTSD which they suffer from as a result of their service. The level of these veteran pensions can be 2 or 3 times that of old age pensions so as a proportion of the total pension payout they are even more significant. The old age pension rate is around 50% of average monthly earnings of around 4,000Hrk. It is therefore obvious that the working population cannot financially support a retired person apiece, so the Government is constantly borrowing to pay the bill.

    Now we come to lawyers which you did not discuss, I am fortunate to have an excellent lawyer who has done sterling work for me. Generally speaking though in Croatia there are no specialist lawyers as we find in the rest of Europe. Every lawyer here covers property, commercial, company, fraud, criminal, family, immigration etc. and under the complex minefield which is EU Law this is plainly ridiculous.

    Finally I come to the good old Kuna, which is supported by government at great expense to stick at a level of around 7.3 to the Euro. A more sensible level in relation to international currencies would be in my estimation nearer to 10 or even 12 to the Euro.

    The effect of letting the exchange rate float and find its real level would be to:

    Upside
    Bring about the return of a domestic economy that made and grew things for the people.
    Reduce the import of foodstuffs and simple items, we could grow and make ourselves.
    It would also do amazing things for the only Industry we have Tourism, the numbers would be 30 to 40% up as Croatia became a cheap destination for tourists, the season would extend to match our beautiful weather from Easter to the end of October.
    It might also allow the government to use the vast amount spent on propping up the Kuna on things we need, infrastructure, health, schools, investment in new business. (Although I accept we would have to find a way to stop the politicians simply trousering the extra hundreds of millions of Euros).
    Downside
    Imports would be more expensive, but how often do any of us buy a car or television, washing machine?

    In short before Croatia joined the EU we grew and raised up to 80% of our food. Now the whole of Slavonia is a wasteland as we import 80% of our food from the EU. 50% of Croatia’s precious youth are working outside their own Country as the whole economy is broken, there is no work for them in Croatia.

  10. I love this. I relate as I am currently living in Sarajevo. Life choices make you wonder what the fuck is going on in our heads sometimes.

  11. Thank you for this post. My husband and I have always dreamed of moving to Croatia (also to Zadar since that is where are families are). We are aware of all the drawbacks (all of which you nailed on the head) and yet we still dreamed of the move…..and then we had children….three of them. And those drawbacks that I brushed off in my thoughts, turned into my biggest fears. My daughters are 3, 5, and 7. I guess my biggest fear is for the oldest and how she would adjust not knowing the language. She is starting second grade in the fall here in the states and I feel the longer we wait, the harder it will be for her. I’m really sorry to bother you with this but I just wanted to know what your thoughts were of the school system in Zadar. I know your children started from the beginning at the schools there so it was always their normal, but do you have any information on others that have transitioned later. I think my children being acclimated well is my biggest fear. As long as they are happy, I would be too, regardless of the other drawbacks because that stress would be on me and not on them (at least that’s the plan). Any information would be appreciated. Good luck with all your ventures and thank you for all your posts which I have read dozens of times. I applaud you for your bravery. God bless!

    1. My eldest son is 5, so he is not at school yet (he will start when he is 7). But I have heard that the public schools do not offer any support for transitioning, that said, you could look at the private school which I hear has some wonderful support to help with the language and transition. Good luck with your choice, as I can imagine how hard it is with kids to think about.

      1. I have just moved here from Australia with my 3 kids, 1, 4 and 6 yes old. We are in a village on an island and the oldest two are in kindergarten. We have only been here 3 months lol. Fresh as! But they are loving it. As for us… The jury is still out. Kids adjust amazingly. They have friends they ride their bikes with around the village every day. They can speak English, mine speak limited Croatian but they manage! If it’s the kids your worried about, don’t. That’s the least of our problems! Haha.

    2. I moved to a small town (Metkovic) when I was 17 (year 12), and my sisters were about 14 and 12. I went from 6 subjects in Australia to 16 in Croatia, along with having to complete a ‘difference of subjects’ for all the subjects I never had in Australia (Latin etc.). While there was no formal transition program, I would not have completed my final year of high school there without the amazing support of certain teachers/professors and the school counsellor/psychologist. Of course there were some horrible teachers, but the ones that did help really went out of their way to make sure I passed all my subjects. Also, the support I had from my class was amazing. One thing that made high school so enjoyable was the absence of bullying, which unfortunately in Australia is a big problem in schools. I couldn’t believe how the whole class was able to get along and support each other without any problems. I just wish I had moved earlier. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other issues in Croatia which I’m sure you are aware of. That’s just my experience at one school, so I can’t speak for them all. While your kids are at school there you will need to be the one that teaches them creativity, practical thinking, and application of all the theory they’ve learned. I went to university there, worked there, and even got married there. We are currently in Australia (thought we’d give it a go here), and are planning on moving the family back to Croatia within the next four years. I definitely want my kids growing up in Croatia and I long for the life I had there – if you can, just try to go while the kids are still young, it will make the transition a little easier.

  12. Brilliantly written, I moved from Ireland to rural Hercegovina 2 years ago and your story is so apt. Thank you

  13. I think your article was great very honest. Pointing out the good and the bad equally. Very helpful to anyone considering the move. Keep up the good work

  14. Every time I read your posts about bureaucracy it reminds me of moving to the Canary Islands in 2005.

    My parents are doing it all now, they speak no Spanish at all & I regularly take and make phone calls to sort out their residency and health care. The whole thing changes all the time, but because of the people I know & that I sound like a goat farmer when I speak Spanish (hooray for learning the local dialect) I get taken wayyy more seriously than when my mum attempts the same thing!! It is so incredibly frustrating, even now, but I’d say the infrastructure has gotten sliiiightly better in time.

    Does your youngest automatically become Croatian because he was born there? I can’t imagine waiting 6 months for a mammogram- I got diagnosed in weeks. Now recovery!

    Your blog is a huge testament to what you’ve achieved!! Such a shame the tourism board won’t help— you must be doing their work for them.

  15. Last time I read your post you had just moved here and started this amazing chasingthedonkey blog. We worked together on a project (or two) and you did great. Today I see you have grown even more. Now you see Croatia as it really is, full of flaws, fake people, fake news, shallow, yet beautiful and irreplacable. I wish you and your family and business only great things!
    Ps. – Last year I renovated my house (before moving in with my newborn) and it’s true, if you have no connections nothing gets done! I even thought about building everything myself 😂 Hope to see more of your posts 😉

  16. My dear dear friend Sarah Jane – I try to call you SJ but it just doesn’t always flow.
    You are truly one of the most bravest of friends. I love to read and watch and see your life – I imagine and remember all the food we cooked and ate ( dumplings was always my most fondest ). I see your beautiful children and hear your voice speaking another tongue – I see Mate and can still hear him saying ‘ fat George ‘ to me it’s like I’m still so there in your life but I just can’t touch you. I miss you and in those moments a little more terribly.
    You have done amazing , you are living your dream.
    I love you lots and lots ❤️

  17. Wow SJ – great post. You guys are amazing. What a journey and inspiration to pursue a sea change!! Xxx

  18. I normally love everything you write, but totally turned off by your title and using God’s name in vain like that. Sure as an unfortunate way to capture attention.

      1. Why don’t you ask some people of colour about their experiences in Croatia? Maybe some of the refugees trying to get to west Europe.

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