Coming to Croatia or planning to visit Croatia one day? Dont know what to expect and how to behave? Afraid maybe? You dont have to be since Croatia is one the safest and kindest countries.
But lets go through some major parts of Croatia.
First we have the capital city, Zagreb, then regions: Slavonija, Istra, Kvarner, Lika and Dalmacija. Other city that I would like to include is Dubrovnik.
If you are tourist, places that you are probably going to visit are capital city Zagreb and cities that are on the cost (whole Istra, Kvarner, Dalmacija and Dubrovnik) Regions Slavonija and Lika are most visited by people who have someone there because those are not touristic places although it is possible that you will go through Lika and maybe even stop in city Slunj which is becoming touristic place as well because it has lots of untouched nature. Following from Slunj you might stop at Plitvice Lakes, the biggest national park in Croatia. Many people consider it to be a miracle of nature.
However, biggest number of tourist are visiting the coast to enjoy beaches, sea, swimming and whole summer vibe.
But lets start with Zagreb.
Zagreb is a city that you can visit at any time of year, it doesnt matter if it is summer or winter. It is modern city, fast life, big rush, full of coffee shops and restaurants. During the winter, Zagreb is in spirit of Christmas advent. The whole city is in Christmas spirit, specially around the center of city. So it doesnt matter which time in a year you come, Zagreb will be full. There are museum, historical monuments, parks and something for everybody.
How to behave when you are in Zagreb? As I said, Zagreb is very modern city so people are the same. They are open, kind, have modern outlook on life, modern topics and conversations. If you need help or directions, everybody will be so happy to help you and you will be able to find friends very easily there. Good thing is that many young people in Zagreb understand and hopefully can speak English.
Me personally, I was born in Zagreb, in one place that is little bit outside of the city. I can tell you that I am sick and tired of Zagreb. Fast life, many people on streets, roads…chaos. And another reason why I am not a big fan of Zagreb is because Croatia is so rich with nature, untouched nature, forests, lands, sea, hills, mountains, rivers, lakes…it has everything… And Zagreb is so limiting… It has buildings and thats it. But however, I do highly suggest to visit Zagreb and I am sure that you will have good time there.
Now lets go to coast and sea. Croatian coast is on Jadransko more (Adriatic sea) which is in reality one of the cleanest sea in world. Major regions on Croatian coast are Istra, Kvarner and Dalmacija. Off all of this, Dalmacija is considered to be the most beautiful.
What to expect if you visit Croatian coast? Well, probably you are going to visit it during the summer because in the winter, there is nothing going on. Summer brings lots of tourists… Just as in Zagreb, you can be relaxed. Local people are very nice and kind towards tourists… Although there are some stories where local people were behaving arrogant towards tourists… but in general, people are very polite, kind, talkative… But the fact that cities on the coast are not modern cities, local people are open in a way that you as tourist will not be able to get in some kind of deeper conversation with them. You will realize that they are living in some strange small, very limited world. But that doesnt have to worry you since there will be lots of tourists around and you will probably be able to find friends and people to spend time with…if that is what you are looking for in the first place.
Here in Zagreb, very often we joke that people in Dalmacija are some of the most lazy people. Most of them are taking advantage of the fact that they are living in touristic places so they are renting all they can and not working or producing anything. So whole day they are laying around, enjoying their drinks and talk for hours. Then there was a joke that Nirvana in Buddhism is a state of complete peace where you have no desires, and to achieve this states, monks are spending years practicing it…but people in Dalmacija are born with this state. They dont have desire to do anything.
So humor in Croatia is very sarcastic, dark humor, very offensive, but not evil in its nature. It is direct, aggressive…but you have to understand that it is just a way of communicating. Really, it is not evil. In fact, we have a saying, that be careful of person that is quiet and acting nice, dont be afraid of person that is loud-mouth.
In Zagreb, as I said, being modern city, people have more civilized, sophisticated and intelligent humor. But even in modern people you will find this sarcasm. It is so funny.
But however, lets continue our journey through Croatia. We have covered Zagreb and Croatian coast. I mentioned city Dubrovnik. It is also on the Croatian coast but I wanted to mention it individually because it is very-known city. It is famous for many historical sensations that are in city… But today, it is famous even more because a lots of famous movies and TV shows have been reordered there. The town is full of celebrities. It is so crowded that I have heard that if you want to visit it, you will have to reserve your place one year prior just to enter the city. Not to mention reserving your hotel or apartment. But I am sure if you are ready to offer big amounts of cash, that you can reserve your place whenever you want. So it is a town mostly for people that are part of some elite.
In the beginning I mentioned city Slunj in region Lika. I would like to give some attention to this city as well because my grandparents are from there and I had a chance to spend a lots of time there. The whole city is very small, you will go through it in 10 minutes. But it is not becoming popular because of that. It is becoming popular because of nature and villages around the city. You have Rastoke-village, a village that is built on rivers, has mills, wooden houses, waterfalls… I mean it is just beautiful. As I said, Plitivice lakes are close as well. The whole area is full of possibilities and activities. You can ride horses, go on kayaking, rafting, go to swim in rivers, jump in rivers, visit caves, go hiking and every year they are adding more and more activities. It is very cheap touristic place.
Although city is full of tourists, local people are suffering greatly. There are no young people. All young people went to Zagreb and other bigger cities. Only old people have stayed in villages. Old people are dying, young people are not coming back. In couple of years, it will become even worse.
Regions like Lika, Slavonija and many other smaller regions are consider to be a heart of Croatia. In those places you will meet true Croatians. When you go through these villages, you will be surprised, happy and sad at the same time. All this places were damaged…war, poverty, young people running away from their traditions…They were forced because if they stayed there, they would die of hunger. These people that still stayed in this villages, they are so lonely… If you visit them, they will treat you like king. They will force you to eat, drink, to stay sleeping there…they will give you all they have. So nice people, so kind. But real kindness. They are not manipulative. If you call them in 3 in the morning, they will be ready to help you. But when you see them, you will see that they all have wounds in their heart. War, poverty, they lost their loved ones during the war, their houses, their land was destroyed…they had really hard life. When they talk, you will get an impression that they are arguing, but it is not true. Once again, it is only a way of communication. Although they are some of the most damaged people, they are as well some of the toughest people. They can endure unimaginable pain and suffering.
In Croatia main religion is Catholicism.
So Croatia is a mixture of modern societies and old traditions, although these traditions are unfortunately disappearing more and more.
When it comes to behavior, you dont really have to worry about it. As long you are nice and kind, people will be the same. You can be relaxed, outgoing, free, in fact, you will be encouraged to be very expressive in communication. Not expressive in a way as Italians are, but you will see Croatian people that when they speak, they always put passion and emotions in their speech. It is very lively communication. It is not boring, without energy. So you can come and feel at ease. There are no special rules.
If there is anything else you have to know is maybe the fact that we are big soccer fans and most famous soccer clubs are Dinamo from Zagreb and Hajduk from Split. Split is a city in Dalmacija. There is a lot of rivalry going between these clubs but you got nothing to do with it.
I am sure you will enjoy your stay here. Thank you for reading. And I hope that I was able to spike your interests even a little bit.